When we first moved to West Somerset, the main attraction was Exmoor itself; we’d lived in cities all our lives and were ready for a change. Moving to a tiny village was certainly that! We enjoy village life: the sense of community, people looking out for one another, stopping for a chat with neighbours…
Minehead is our nearest biggish settlement; our first impressions were not that positive (OK to do a top-up shop, but rather resort-y). We now know that this was rather unfair. Scratch the surface and there’s a lot more to the place; you have to explore a bit to discover its character.
Yes, there are the chain shops you might expect to find in a town of this size, and the normal satellite retail estates with supermarkets and DIY-type stores. On the seafront (again, as you might expect) are amusement arcades, bucket-and-spade shops and all the ice cream, candy floss and chips you can eat.
Go further into town and you’ll also discover interesting, thriving independent shops among the usual suspects (if you’re staying at Exmoor House you can pick up a Minehead Shoppers Guide from us). On Friday mornings there’s a local farmer’s market.
Attractions and things to do include a long-established links golf course, the Regal Theatre and the West Somerset Railway. Butlins (you can’t miss it, with its millennium dome-type structure!) now has the only swimming pool in Minehead. Off The Avenue (the main street that goes down towards the sea) are the Blenheim Gardens, a pleasant place to mooch around, with a café in summer.
Along the promenade towards the harbour, passing old coastguard’s and fisherman’s cottages, you’ll find the start of the South West Coast Path, marked by a sculpture of hands holding a map. Past the harbour is a small nature reserve, leading on to hill and coastal walks. Go up to the old town and North Hill and you’ll get another perspective, with stunning sea views, more pretty old houses and cottages and the famous Church Steps. While you’re there, do visit the church itself.
For me, the main shopping streets, the beach area, the harbour and the old town all have completely different atmospheres; to get a true picture of Minehead you need to take the time to visit them all.