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Dunster Castle

©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

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Dunster Castle's main claim to fame, besides it being more than 1000 years old, is that it is the home to the British national collection of strawberry trees and to the oldest lemon tree in England.

The crenellated towers of Dunster Castle mark the historic home of the Luttrell family. Given by William the Conqueror in the 11th century to the Mohun family, it has a long and interesting history dating back to the records of the Domesday Book in 1086. After several generations in the Mohun family, Dunster Castle was sold to Lady Elizabeth Luttrell and it remained in the family until 1976.

When Dunster Castle was built, the sea acted as a natural defense at the bottom of
©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie
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the hill, but over time it gradually receded and the land is now an extensive deer park.

By 1571 the property was unoccupied and dilapidated so Sir George Luttrell commissioned William Arnold to redesign the castle to create living quarters in parts of the old fortress. Dunster Castle was besieged by the Roundheads during the English Civil War and after a year the castle surrendered in 1646.

To prevent further use, the historic defences were ordered to be demolished and sadly all that can be seen of the original reinforcements is the gatehouse and the remains of two towers.

It was not until the 19th century that the castle was renovated by architect Anthony Salvin and the existing structure is now a Grade I listed building on the historic register. The house was restored and during the 18th century the landscaping was laid out and the terraced gardens and follies were added to the garden. Much of the furniture on show also dates back to this period.

Children may be fascinated to hear the tales from the guides about ghostly appearances. The shop, formerly a stable block, is frequented by a mysterious figure in green attire. Stock is known to move overnight and a brown
 ©NTPL/Bill Batten
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substance has been spilt overnight which remains unexplained.

More haunted happenings have also been witnessed in the Leather Gallery where historic leather wall hangings depict the history of Antony and Cleopatra. These six colourful panels are painted in bright oils with silver leaf detail and are some of the finest in the world. They have been gracing the walls of Dunster Castle since 1705.

More interesting highlights in the castle are the fine elm staircase with its carved acanthus leaves and Charles II silver shillings. The wonderful plasterwork ceilings are also worthy of notice.

Since the National Trust took over Dunster Castle in 1976 they have installed solar panels, neatly hidden behind the battlements, to provide electricity for the house.

The sloping gardens are a delight to explore down to the riverside garden. Exotic plantings include a handkerchief tree, bamboo, giant gunnera and tender tree ferns. The Mill Walk leads to the stone and brick Lover's Bridge with its delightful love seat.

Some of the best views of Exmoor and the Bristol Channel can be enjoyed from Dunster Castle's lovely Mediterranean style terraces where citrus fruits are grown. Other fun things to do include watching the bats which reside in Tenants Hall using the live bat cam.

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By Bus
First 398 Tiverton-Minehead; also 28 Taunton-Minehead (passing Taunton ), alight Dunster Steep, ½ mile

View local cycle routes on the National Cycle Network website

By road
In Dunster, 3 miles south east of Minehead. National Trust car park approached direct from A39

By train
Dunster (West Somerset Railway) 1 mile

Ordnance survey reference

Dunster Castle Postcode for SatNav: TA24 6SL


+44 (0)1643 823 004 (Infoline)
+44 (0)1643 821 314
+44 (0)1643 823 000

near Minehead
TA24 6SL

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