History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Beginning in 1571 the castle was transformed into a luxurious mansion by William Arnold, on behalf of George Luttrell. Arnold's patron was not happy with the result, and accused Arnold of poor workmanship. Poor or not, it was certainly an expensive project, costing £1200 rather than the original £462 estimate. One feature surviving from Arnold's work at Dunster is the plasterwork ceiling of the inner hall.
The medieval defences were slighted by Cromwell in 1650, but the Jacobean mansion was left untouched. In 1680 Francis and Mary Luttrell added the wonderful staircase panels that are a highlight of a visit today, as well as a new plasterwork ceiling in the dining room. In the 1860s architect Anthony Salvin was called in to transform the house yet again, this time into a picturesque country home. Salvin built towers for the dining room and drawing room, and created a comfortable residence for a Victorian gentleman and his family - all at a cut-rate budget of £20,000.
Of the medieval castle only the outer gatehouse remains, approached through a Tudor stables. The gatehouse was built in 1420 by Sir Hugh Luttrell, and guards an inner gate built in 1278 by Reginald de Mohun. Reginald was also responsible for the curtain wall that surrounds the bailey, but only fragments of this wall remain.
One of the highlights at Dunster is the wonderful carved staircase, made of oak and elm and beautifully decorated with hunting scenes. Each panel of the staircase was carved from a single piece of elm, and the effect is simply stunning.
The sloping hillside to the south of the castle has been been transformed into a sub-tropical garden, arranged on terraces. Here you will find the 'Dunster lemon', a direct descendent of the first lemon grown at Dunster during the Victorian period.
If you really want to arrive in style at Dunster, you can board the Dunster Express steam train on the West Somerset Railway, which runs between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead. The train runs daily from April-November, and there is a special shuttle bus between Dunster station and the castle.
I've visted Dunster on 3 occasions, and its just about the prettiest village you'll ever find. There is so much to see, from an ancient packhorse bridge to a medieval preaching cross and picturesque yarn market. But the castle dominates Dunster, and it truly is one of the most impressive sights in the south west of England. I can't wait to go back!
Garden: Dunster, home to the National Collection of arbutus, may also be noted for its terraced gardens with subtropical plantings including palms and citrus specimens. Dunster Castle has original 13th century gatehouse and fine interiors.
About Dunster Castle
Address: Dunster, Minehead, Somerset, England, TA24 6SL
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: 3 miles south east of Minehead, on the A39
Website: Dunster Castle
Phone: 01643 821 314
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Dunster Working Watermill - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
Gallox Bridge - 0.2 miles (Historic Building)
Dunster Yarn Market - 0.3 miles (Historic Building)
Dunster Butter Cross - 0.4 miles (Historic Building)
Somerset and Dorset Railway Museum - 3.6 miles (Museum)
Cleeve Abbey - 3.9 miles (Abbey)
Holnicote Estate - 5.4 miles (Countryside)
Combe Sydenham Hall - 6.7 miles (Historic House)
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