Everyone is fascinated by medieval castles. High up on my bucket list was Dunster Castle, an ancient castle located in Exmoor, an area of outstanding natural beauty in the West of England. After several years of anticipation, I finally got to visit the beautiful Dunster Castle and can now tell you how to enjoy a magical afternoon in a medieval English castle.
It's something romantic about being in a place packed with so much history. Perhaps it all starts with the myths our parents tell us when we are young. Fairy tales and ghost stories are the types of literature which captivate our imagination as children. Just before sleep, we indulge ourselves in narratives containing fearless kings and queens, legendary castles and magical dragons. As we grow older, we slowly replace the fictional worriers with actual historical figures and seek to live our own adventures, in castles all around the world.
I know I was always fascinated by the thought that some castles might be hunted. Before moving to England, I created an elaborate folder containing pictures and information about several castles dotted all across the UK, which interested me the most.
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Introduction to Dunster Castle
Dunster is an ancient castle located on top of a wooded hill. It offers dramatic views over the Exmoor area and the nearby forests, all the way to the Bristol channel. With a history of over 1000 years, Dunster has several stories to tell, all alive in each of the castle's rooms. The interior is well kept and local National Trust volunteers are always ready to take you on a historic journey and tell you vital information and facts about Dunster and the Luttrells, the family who last lived there.
At the entrance, you have the option to pick up a booklet and read from it as you go around, to familiarize yourself with the surroundings and ensure you soak up all the relevant tales about each intricate detail. The best part of the tour was reading a book in the Morning Room, where everyone is allowed to take a sit, relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
Getting to Dunster Castle
The easiest way to get to Dunster Castle is by car. We drove from Bristol for 90 minutes. There is onsite parking available (£2.50 per day or FREE if you are a National Trust member). Alternatively, there is the Dunster train station located about 1 mile away from the castle. For a better experience, make sure to check the local timetable and reserve your train tickets online.
What to do in an old castle
There is more to the Dunster castle than meets the eye. Many come to visit Dunster thinking it's just a pretty medieval castle with well-preserved rooms and old furniture, but actually it is the gardens that make this place so special. Surrounded by a huge estate with forests, gardens, subtropical plants and a beautiful Mill House, Dunster castle has plenty to offer to keep you occupied for a whole day. If you are lucky to arrive during a sunny day, you can explore the intricate paths located next to the local river, where you can take amazing photos and allow your kids to have some fun by the log play area.
Enjoying the gardens in an old Medieval Castle
My favourite thing about visiting Dunster castle was having a few hours walk in its beautiful gardens. I loved walking by the river, admiring the impressive views from the hilltop, meandering through the forested path and photographing the subtropical plants. I visited Dunster castle both during summer and late autumn, and because of the plant and flower varieties, I strongly recommend tailoring your visit for later spring or summer time. Nothing beats an in-bloom English garden.
Food at Dunster Castle
There is nothing more English than having an awesome cream tea in a well-kept garden. For such experience, I recommend making your way towards the Mill House, where you will find a cute little tea house. I strongly recommend having lunch outside (weather permitting), where you can enjoy the fresh air. In England, cream tea consists of fruit scones served with jam and clotted cream and accompanied by a cup of black tea with milk. Take a seat next to the river, read a book and relax amongst beautiful roses and colourful flowers.
Other information about Dunster Castle
Admission: There is an admission fee for Dunster castle. Either £11.40 for access to the castle and gardens or £8 for the gardens only. Admission for children is half price.
Dogs: You can bring your doggy to the Dunster gardens only but know that you must keep your four-legged friend on a leash at all times.
The village: If you want to learn even more about Dunster, venture into the medieval village where you can find traditional pubs, intimate tea rooms and friendly locals. You can also take a trip to remember via the steam train which is still operational.
Are you a romantic at heart? Would you like to visit Dunster Castle? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.