Castles, rivers, hills and history — hiking the West Deane Way
This tranquil trail meanders about west Somerset’s glorious landscape in one big loop. Starting and finishing in the historic, county town of Taunton, the route encompasses 45 miles (72 km) of undulating countryside. Canals, rivers, hills and castles all play a part in this gorgeous expedition.
The West Deane Way is packed with human history as well as intriguing landscapes. From medieval manor houses and 12th-century castles to beautiful old bridges, former Victorian breweries and lime kilns, you can trace the local population’s past with every step as you journey between tranquil rivers and beautiful hills.
I’ve broken the route into four stages, each ranging from 9.7 to 13.3 miles (15.6 to 21.4 km). Much of the hike is rural, passing tiny villages and farming communities, so accommodation can be sparse in places and absolutely needs to be booked ahead. However, you’re never very far from a settlement either. The stages I’ve listed each end in a place with some semblance of accommodation and food.
The first stage leads you from Taunton up to the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). You skirt its south west corner, passing wonderful woodlands as well as historic buildings such as Cothelstone Manor. The second stage leads you away from the AONB and through undulating farmland where pretty villages lie in the folds of the hills.
The third stage introduces you to the River Tone, which you first will have crossed at the start in Taunton. You follow the river for much of the way, discovering churches, a 3,000-year-old yew and a stunning manor house along the way. The final stage continues to use the river as a guide, leading you back into Taunton via some serene, wooded sections.
You can hike the Way in the opposite direction and at any time of year. The region often has mild winters but spring to autumn is the best time for light, flora and warmth. It’s easy to reach Taunton by train as it has a mainline station on the Bristol to Exeter railway. Taunton has excellent links to London, the Midlands and the North, as well as the South West. It also has plenty of wonderful accommodation options, a wide variety of restaurants and some good outdoor shops if you need any gear.
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Last updated: November 16, 2021
This first stage leads you through Taunton from the River Tone out into the Somerset countryside. You hike along the edge of the Quantocks AONB, discovering quaint villages, extraordinary manors and remnants of the area’s fascinating history. The hike ends in West Bagborough, a quiet, beautiful village…
by Kit P
The second stage takes you west, away from the Quantocks and into quintessential Somerset countryside. Farms, Norman churches and industrial relics punctuate a landscape of gentle hills, copses and streams. The stage ends in Wiveliscombe, a lovely town in the shadow of Exmoor National Park and the Brendon…
by Kit P
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This penultimate stage first leads you up a steep hill to get the blood flowing before taking you down to the infant River Tone. You spend a lot of the hike following this growing river, skirting the flanks of hills and exploring pretty woodlands. There are some sections where you leave the river, either…
by Kit P
While the previous stages have all been undulating, this final stretch is largely flat. You return to the river, pick up a section of disused canal, spot a fantastic old bridge and flow into Taunton on the curves of the Tone.
Take the footpath leading south east from Langford Budville, through Runnington…
by Kit P
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