The Museum of Somerset, located in Taunton, sits within the 12th century great hall of Taunton Castle. This spectacular museum is just one of the many incredible locations and attractions to visit in the area, with others including Barrington Court, Montacute House, and Dunster Castle and village, among others.   

With the rich history of Somerset, there are numerous historic houses and museums to explore. Whether you want to explore the historic architecture or spend time in the great outdoors, Somerset has something for everyone. 

About the Museum of Somerset

Situated inside the 12th century great hall of Taunton Castle, the Museum of Somerset is free to enter, making it a top spot for anyone who wants to steep themselves in rich history. Since it is run by a charity, all donations are appreciated, so bear this in mind when you walk through the doors – it’s not necessary, but it can make a difference. 

There are nine themed galleries within the museum, and the space is also home to Somerset Military Museum, so everyone can enjoy a visit here. The museum goes back to prehistoric times, with fossils, arrowheads, paintings, and so much more within its themed galleries. 

The museum is open 10:00–17:00 from Tuesday to Saturday, and is open on bank holiday Mondays.

The History of the Museum of Somerset

Bishop Willian Gifford oversaw the construction of Taunton Castle between 1107–1129. Over the years, the castle underwent restorations and various construction projects, but some parts are still from the original structure laid down almost 900 years ago. 

In 1874, the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society bought the castle to preserve it. The Great Hall was replaced and refitted to become the museum’s primary space between 1899–1900, and the Adam Library was created in 1908–1909.    

Getting to the Museum

Getting to Taunton should be straightforward enough thanks to the train station near the town centre. This station is along the route from London all the way down to Penzance and is operated by Great Western Railway. 

To get to Taunton, you can also use a coach or bus, with Taunton Station, Taunton Station South Side, and Old Bus Station Taunton being viable options for travel.   

Once in Taunton at Taunton Railway Station, the Museum of Somerset is just a 15-minute walk, and 10 minutes away from Junction 25 of the M5. There are also bus stops nearby where the town centre bus passes, and several taxi operations that will be familiar with the area.  

Taunton Car Parks

Visitors can find 18 council-owned Taunton car parks, so there should be plenty of space for you no matter when you choose to stop by. The nearest car park to the Museum of Somerset is the Whirligig Car Park.

Taunton parking lots include:

  • Canon Street Car Park
  • Crescent Car Park
  • Orchard Multi Storey Car Park
  • Wood St Car Park
  • Castle Street Car Park
  • High Street Car Park

If you are visiting the Somerset museum Taunton in the summer or during school holidays, you can expect the nearest car parks to be crowded. However, with more than a dozen others to choose from, if you aren’t afraid of a few minutes of walking, you can still visit the museum and surrounding attractions without an issue.   

Where Else to Visit in the Area 

There are lots of stunning and historical locations to visit in and around Taunton, including Vivary Park, Hestercombe House & Gardens, Bishops Lydeard Mill, and much more. For those looking for something different, you can also visit motor museums and arts centres, or even spend some time with sheep or alpacas – there is something for everyone. 

Below, we will have a quick look at three of the most popular spots to visit in the area – Barrington Court, Montacute House, and Dunster Castle. 

Barrington Court

The construction of Barrington Court started in 1538 by the Earl of Bridgewater and was completed in 1548 by William Clifton after the Earl’s bankruptcy and death. In 1907, the National Trust took over this prestigious property – inhabited at the time by only a flock of chickens. 

Barrington Court was only officially opened to the public in 2009 after extensive restoration of the manor house was carried out by Coln Arthur Lyle, who leased the property in 1920. Today, visitors can take in the beauty of the court gardens, including the Rose and Iris Garden, the Kitchen Garden, the Lily Garden, and the South Lawn. 

Bring your four-legged best friend along and explore the gardens, or stop by the café and bookshop. There are lots of souvenirs to look at and bring home for someone special. 

Montacute House

Constructed around 1598, Montacute House was home to the Phelips family for over 300 years before it was rented out in 1911. In 1929, this beautiful estate was put up for sale, and eventually bought by the National Trust in 1931.

As one of the few houses that have practically remained unchanged since Elizabethan times, this Grade 1 listed properly is breathtaking. Visitors will notice its E-shape, which was not unusual for the time, and its stunning exteriors, including the mullioned windows. 

For those who want to spend some time in this historic site, you may recognise it in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility as well as 2004’s ‘The Libertine’. With an ice house, orangery, garden pavilions, and a café, Montacute House is a spectacular place to visit in the summer. 

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle has seen its fair share of history over the years, even starting out as a timber castle constructed by William de Mohun in the 11th century. From its humble beginning as part of the pacification of Somerset, the Luttrell family eventually bought the castle in 1376. 

Dunster Castle as we see it today was modernised in 1680 by Mary Tregonwell, where more communal spaces were added and the layout altered. From there, the castle was passed down the Luttrell line until John Luttrell opened the site to the public in 1816 before being passed to the National Trust in 1976.

If you choose to visit Dunster Castle, make sure to stop by the watermill, where flour is still produced and you can select your own treat. You can also explore the subtropical gardens such as the River Garden, the Keep, and the Yew Bank. When you feel the need to rest, spend some time in the stately rooms or visit the eateries on the site. 

Healthcare in the Area

For ease of mind, visitors can rest easy knowing that Taunton Musgrove Park Hospital sits near the Galmington Recreation Grounds and a short distance from The Beacon Centre Musgrove Park Hospital.  

So, while we all want to have safe holidays, you can always feel safer knowing that any emergencies can quickly and easily be handled if you are in the area. 

Spend the Night at Apple Tree Hotel

For more information, why not look at our latest news articles to learn about more things to do? If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us so that we might answer any questions you have about the Apple Tree Hotel and the surrounding area. 

If you are planning on visiting the Museum of Somerset or any of the beautiful locations in the area, why not consider staying with us? Whether you want a stunning place to dine or relax, the Apple Tree Hotel offers everything you could need, including en-suite bathrooms, luxury toiletries, and even hairdryers.

The Museum of Somerset awaits, and it is just a 30-minute drive from our spectacular 3-star hotel.