The Quantock Hills are a range of, primarily, sandstone hills, in the English county of Somerset. They extend for around twelve miles from just north-west of the county town of Taunton across to the sea at West Quantoxhead. The nature of the hill range make them ideal walking country.
Standing high above the Vale of Taunton the Quantocks afford far-reaching views across nine counties and over the Bristol Channel to Wales. Visitors may also catch glimpses of, and hear, the steam trains which provide a regular service on the West Somerset Railway, which runs between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead, a distance in excess of twenty miles, making it Britains longest working steam railway.
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As with the majority of the British landscape man has left his mark. Evidence of his presence over many millennia has been found on the hills in the form of flint and stone tools and artefacts, it can still be seen in the ancient earthworks and burial mounds which are to be found on the hills.
Later evidence of mans influence on the area can be found in the form of the various villages and hamlets which are dotted across the area. The beauty and drama of the area has long attracted a variety of artists, writers and artisans, providing a home for, amongst others, the poets Coleridge and Wordsworth.
The origins of the name Quantock is thought to stem from the word "Cantuc" meaning rim, or circle. One of the earliest documented examples of the hills name comes from a seventh century Saxon document which gives them the title "Cantucuudu" or "Cantucdio" (depending on which translation you follow), by the time that the Doomsday book was compiled in 1086 this title had become "Cantoche"
The Quantocks have long been recognised as being not only beautiful, but also of great scientific and historical importance. On the first of January 1957 they became Englands first designated "Area of outstanding natural beauty" (AONB) a status that has provided protection from exploitation and over development.
Covering an area of around ninety-nine square kilometres (35 square miles) they rise to 384m (1260 feet) above sea level at their highest point, known as Wills-Neck. (a name derived from the Saxon word for stranger, or foreigner) Wills-Neck provides views of Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Mendips, the Brecon Beacons, the Blackdown Hills, and on the clearest of days as far as Pilsdon Pen, the highest point in Dorset.
Open heath and scrub cover much of the range, interposed with a series of steep wooded combes which provide natural cover for a wide range of animal life, including semi wild ponies, badgers, buzzards and red deer.
The hills are criss-crossed by many footpaths, bridleways and byways and remain popular with walkers, mountain-bikers, horse riders and owners of off-road vehicles. They also provide a backdrop for the Quantock staghounds who continue to use the area for stag hunting.
The visitor to the Quantocks can arrive and depart from many points. One such popular starting point is Lydeard Hill car-park which sits high on the hills on the back road between Bishops Lydeard and West Bagborough. (O.S. Landranger map No. 181, map ref. 181 838 for the map readers amongst you!)
Maintaining AONB status also means that ongoing funding has been available to maintain a Warden service to help protect and oversee the hills. Further information about the Quantock Hills can be found on the Quantockhills.com web site, a link to this can be found on this sites "links" page.