Walking routes in and around Taunton (that include a great pub)
PUBLISHED: 15:29 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:30 25 October 2018
Somerset’s county town has more than its fair share of good pubs, and a myriad of wonderful walking routes between them, as Laurence McJannet discovers
If you are partial to popping into a pub on your Sunday stroll, or if indeed you amble just to find good inns, then Taunton will be right up your street. Given the expanse of verdant countryside that surrounds Somerset’s county town it’s no surprise to find there are a wealth of wonderful country pubs in which to slake your mid-walk thirst, particularly with the Blackdown Hills to the south, the Brendon and Quantock hills to the north and west and the Levels to the east. But the town itself is bristling with fine pubs, and with the River Tone and Bridgwater and Taunton canal flowing through its heart, as well as a wealth of green space, there are plenty of pleasant strolls through town to be had, and many a pub in which to end them.
There is a lovely loop through town from popular pub The Bank on Middle Street, a delightful place serving great food and boasting church spire views from its enclosed beer garden. Wander west along the river, crossing at the footbridge at Goodlands Gardens. Follow the West Deane Way just beyond Tangier and Frieze Hill then head back along a bridle path into North Town along another branch of the West Deane Way – the Plough Inn on Station Road is a wonderful half-way stop-off, even though the walk barely justifies it. After one of their delicious pies, or one of a wide selection of craft ales, you’ll feel refueled to explore the north bank between Deller’s Wharf and Firepool before crossing the bridge at the basin where the canal and river converge and returning past the stands of Taunton’s famous County Ground, the home of Somerset County Cricket Club.
If you fancy just a brisk stroll before an enjoyable beverage, how about a lap of Vivary Park’s picturesque Golf Club and the surrounding playing fields or a wander up the East Deane Way from Trull, then along Stockwell Stream to the Racehorse Inn on East Reach in the heart of town? Or to the Vivary Arms at the north west corner of the Golf Club on Wilton Street? The pair are very different pubs, but equally charming – the Racehorse is an honest-to-goodness drinkers’ den with Gaelic influences and a decent stout; the Vivary Arms is the oldest recorded inn in Taunton and still retains the characteristics of a rural Somerset pub, with its low-beamed ceilings and cosy, inviting atmosphere. People come for miles for its wonderful cod stew, or to enjoy a local ale in the peaceful, floral beer garden.
On the eastern outskirts of town in the village of Ruishton, its eponymous inn is perfectly positioned for ambles along both river and canal. National Cycle Network (NCN) route 3 and 33 are right on the doorstep of this unpretentious, old-fashioned and friendly end-of-terrace pub. From its front door there’s a lovely stroll east along the banks of the Tone, continuing along Ham Road where the river diverges, then further along White Street, following the course of the river, before crossing by footbridge and back along the opposite bank, into Creech St Michael. From here you can wander back to Ruishton via Lipe Lane, a lovely walk with meandering riverbanks and open fields much of the way.
Monkton Inn in West Monkton is a hugely popular pub with South African influences and a reputation for great steaks. It’s dog friendly and part of the Britstop scheme too, so if you visit by campervan you can enjoy a drink and stay overnight in the grounds. Nearby you can pick up the East Deane Way, which whisks you from West Monkton to Cheddon Fitzpaine and Maidenbrook on the banks of the Bridgwater and Taunton canal. From here head to Bathpool and the New Mill, serving great food throughout the day such as handmade dough sticks and chargrilled lamb koftas or classic mains like beer-battered fish and chips and steak and ale pie. You can walk off any overindulging here by heading back along the towpath to Charlton then latching on to the East Deane Way back to the Monkton Inn.
The Anchor Inn in Hlllfarrance is the perfect pub around which to plan a walk or bicycle ride – it is on both the NCH’s route 3 and the West Deane Way along the Tone, and is the perfect mid-point for a walk or ride from west Taunton. The Anchor promotes a 10km walking route through Hillfarrance, Heathfield and Oake via the Tone (you could always visit the Victory Inn in Allerford, which serves great baguettes and ploughmans for a lunchtime stop-off). The Anchor itself is a picturesque pub with a large garden, friendly staff and is wonderful for big weekend family meals. Not surprisingly it was a Somerset Life Food and Drink awards finalist last year and winner this year.
Galmington and Trull are two bucolic villages just out of town well worth making a lunch stop at if ambling round south Taunton. The Shepherds Rest in Galmington is a good place to start, serving hearty brunch platters as well as robust lunches and dinners, always with friendly service. If you can pull yourself away some enjoyable walks await, perhaps a circular stroll along Galmington Stream then on towards Trull near the low slopes of the Blackdown Hills. Maybe pop into the Winchester Arms mid-walk, a traditional village pub in the beautiful village of Trull. It’s a great place for a light bite for lunch and a quiet pint in the idyllic beer garden complete with babbling brook; or a delicious dinner and a bed for the night if Trull is your destination. Other options include continuing up the East Deane Way to Wilton and the Vivary Arms (or if you are looking for something a little more energetic, take the East Deane Way south to Pitminster then on to the Blackdown Hills).
The Farmers Arms in West Hatch is ideally suited for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, being part of the Neroche Staple Fitzpaine Herepath (old English for ‘people’s path’) – it’s a 13.5 mile off-road trail through rolling Somerset countryside. Or for something a little less arduous, just a short walk or cycle along NCN route 33 takes you to the popular village of Creech St Michael and the pleasant banks of the Bridgwater and Taunton canal.
The Farmers Arms is a converted farmhouse and retains many original features. Whether it’s the beginning or end to your ambling, there are lovely views of the surrounding Mendip, Blackdown and Quantock hills to soak up from the gardens. It has a reputation for fine food, and its gourmet burger night every Thursday is particularly popular.
These are just a handful of the fine pubs to be found in Taunton and on its doorstep. The hospitality of Somerset pubs and their landlords is such that, wherever you go you are bound to receive a warm welcome and quality service. And the best way to discover them by far is on foot.