Welcome to Taunton

A little local knowledge

The county town of Somerset, Taunton is situated 38 miles south west of Bristol, 28 miles north east of Exeter and 151 miles south west of London. The name is derived from Saxon times, ‘Tone Tun’, meaning a settlement on the river Tone and has an interesting and (often quite violent) history dating back to the times of Alfred the Great. The people of Taunton have previously supported two brutal but unsuccessful uprisings against the ruling kings, resulting in the bloody assizes, when presiding Judge Jefferies sentenced 144 people to execution at Stone Gallows with a further 284 being transported to the West Indies. 

A renowned market town of historical importance in manufacturing, notably, the wool and silk weaving industries with the mills powered by the river Tone and it’s sought-after woollen cloth being transported to France via Lyme Regis.  Latterly famous for the growth of the cider industry, hence fans of Somerset Cricket Club are known as ‘The Cidermen’.

The river Tone makes its way through the town centre to Firepool Weir and the junction with the Bridgewater to Taunton Canal, fed by the daily flow of the nearby Blackdown Hills, a rural landscape matched by the stunningly beautiful Quantock Hills and the comparative bleakness of Exmoor, both only a short car journey away.

Voted as one of the happiest towns in which to live, Taunton was most recently awarded Garden Town status and subsequently finds itself the grateful benefactor of substantial Government funding, promoting “a place to live and work, where the outstanding natural environment, diverse and thriving economy and inspiring cultural offer, exceptional quality of life and well-being.” 

Points of Interest

For a gentle stroll, or more adventurous hike, mountain biking or horse riding, the wild and rugged landscape of the Quantock Hills, Blackdown Hills and Exmoor are a short drive away, the perfect location to watch wild ponies gathering under an early morning sun rise.  Heading in the opposite direction the Somerset Levels offer flat lands and an abundance of wildlife.

Vivary Park, a stunning open space of 7.5 hectares near the centre of town, home to a bowling club, pay and play golf club, extensive children’s play area and monorail, tennis clubs, high ropes activity centre, café, sensory garden, extensive planting.  The streamside woodland walk meanders through the park and is a haven for hungry ducks and happy feeders!  

Somerset Museum, set in the town centre next to the Castle Hotel offers a modern and engaging way to learn about the local area, past and present.  It also happens to have a fabulous tearoom!

Things to see

November brings the annual Carnival, a traditional and popular procession of illuminated floats, dancers, and performers. Taunton Flower Show dating back to 1831.

The Brewhouse Theatre sits in on the riverside hosting productions, musicals, cinema screenings and the ever-popular annual local player’s pantomime.  CIC CIC, our creative innovation centre hosts an endless list of musical, cultural, literary, or artistic events in a bright and modern setting.

Several local pubs, notably The Racehorse and Molly Malones, host regular live music gigs, with Vivary Park hosting the annual summertime Party in the Park events, as well as the weekly band stand appearances of local choirs and brass bands.  Somerset County Cricket Club has played host to several large concerts attracting Elton John and Rod Stewart in recent years.  

Another popular date for the local calendar is the annual Taunton Flower Show, in August, aka the Chelsea Flower Show of Somerset, this two-day event in Vivary Park brings together a heady mix of horticulture, local produce, livestock shows and shopping.

Things to eat

Fine West Country produce can be found in abundance throughout the many local restaurants and eateries across the town, as well as in the weekly farmers market found in the High Street every Thursday and the Independent Market hosted on Castle Green.  

Taunton offers a wide selection of eateries from a casual brunch, or morning coffee / cake stop through to afternoon tea, after work drinks, an evening of cocktails or more formal dining.

National chains are well represented by Boston Tea Party, Zizzi, Nando’s and the Pitcher and Piano but it’s the independents that really shine through in terms of offering a unique and varied food scene, including Indian Street Food, Spanish Tapas and Paella, Traditional Italian, French Bistro style, gastropub, a traditional ales house, brasserie, high end tea rooms or the relaxed surroundings of a well-stocked wine bar and deli. 

One thing’s for sure, you’re never far from a glass of something chilled and a plate of something tasty! 

Things to do

Sport rates highly on this list, from world class cricket at Somerset County Cricket Club on the riverside, seasonal meets at Taunton Racecourse, Taunton FC, home of the ‘Peacocks’ playing in the Southern League Premier Division. Taunton RFC offers rugby for all ages from tots to ‘Titan’s’ the semi-pro team, playing at National League level. 

The town also hosts a number of well supported basketball, netball, cricket, bowling, athletics and running clubs as well as a range of water sports from Coach, the activity centre based at French Weir and no fewer than 4 local golf clubs. Gyms, health clubs and swimming pools are situated across the town.

Green spaces are in abundance, Vivary, Victoria and French Weir Parks being the largest and most popular near the town centre.  Long Run Meadow tags onto the side of French Weir Park and is home to the weekly park run and an ever-increasing community of dog walkers and toddlers on trikes.

Things to buy

Taunton’s Independent Quarter includes over 50 unique and independent, locally owned boutiques and businesses set amidst the riverside streets in Taunton’s heritage area.

Despite the changing landscape of town centre shopping, Taunton is well served with a range of high street names both in central and out of town retail spaces.

Go back to the area guide