The Quantocks is a beautiful part of England, and there aren’t many places that can match it for the sheer range of landscapes that the Quantock Hills has to offer. Rolling oaks forests sit alongside heathland, with ancient parklands rubbing shoulders with agricultural fields.
But it’s not just in the realm of stunning natural beauty that the Quantock Hills shine – its past is equally as captivating. With that in mind, let’s delve deep into history and see what’s so special about this beautiful area.
The Ancient Past
It’s not just modern humans who are drawn to the Quantock Hills, as archaeological evidence shows sustained human habitation of the area since at least the Bronze Age. Flint tools have even been recovered from the Mesolithic period, which is more than three-thousand years ago!
The Bronze Age influence can still be seen today, with round barrows dotting the Quantock landscape. These would once have been the meeting and living spaces of Bronze Age people, with evidence showing clear signs of long-term habitation. There are also several ancient standing stones in the area, with examples near Holford and Triscombe.
The people of the Iron Age also apparently found the Quantock Hills to their liking, as they also left many traces of their existence all over the area. The Dowborough and Ruborough areas, for example, are the sites of large hill forts built during the Iron Age. Ruborough is a particularly stunning example, as the fort once enclosed four whole acres of land, with steep inclines all around.
Despite some transient Roman presence in the area – a horde of 681 Roman coins was found in West Bagborough in 2001 – the Quantock Hills came under control of the Anglo-Saxons in the late 7th century.
It was the Anglo-Saxon King Ine who built the fort at Taunton, seeking to impress his authority on the area. It seems to have worked because the Anglo-Saxons remained in firm control of the area until the Norman conquest of 1066. There is evidence to suggest that Quantock Common was once a Saxon Royal Forest. Clearly the Anglo-Saxons were as enamoured with the area as we are today!
One of the most significant – and brutal – historical episodes involving the Quantock Hills took place in 1685. The Monmouth Rebellion, which sought to overthrow King James II, was crushed by royal forces and many of the participants were executed in the Quantocks.
Getting a little closer to the modern day, the Quantocks was also home to a WW2 prisoner of war camp. Italians captured during the war in North Africa were held in the 300-plus camp, as were German soldiers captured at the Battle of Normandy.
It’s an abbreviated historical tour, but one that gives you some insight into the rich, varied history of the Quantock Hills. Now all that remains is to see it all for yourself! Visit or stay at the Apple Tree Hotel and see everything that the Quantock Hills has to offer.