History and Cultural Links

So much more than the Physical Geography, the Quantock Landscape is rich in history with its Great Houses, Parish Churches, cottages and farms. The Hills have inspired many writers and artists and are often used as backdrops and locations for film and television productions.

Ancient Sites 

The tops of the Quantock Hills are peppered with Bronze Age Burial mounds overlaid with later Iron Age Earth works. There are Hill Forts at Dowsborough and at Ruborough along with many smaller sites of unknown origin and purpose. King Alfred’s great road the Herepath crosses the Quantocks. Sometimes old maps refer to castles, ancient settlements, temples or enclosures but few have been excavated and their history remains a mystery. At Nether Stowey there is a text-book Mott and Bailey earthwork. 

Domesday Book records large areas of ‘forest’ attached to several manors around the Hills suggesting that the hills may have been rough pasture, hunting lands and woodland, uncultivated from a very early date. 


Holford 18th century Alfoxden
Alfoxden House

Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to live at Nether Stowey and his friend William Wordsworth joined him, renting Alfoxden House with his sister Dorothy. Walking on the Hills they discussed how they might ‘defray expenses’ by writing and publishing together a narrative poem which became The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. It was a landmark in English Poetry and represents the birth of the Romantic movement. An immensely productive time for both of them, many other poems are Quantock inspired. 

The long list of other writers who knew the Quantocks includes Edward Thomas, Henry Newbolt, Charles Williams, Virginia Woolf, and John le Carre. Walter de la Mare staying here wrote 

Happy art thou to lie in that still room
Under the thick-thatched eaves in Aisholt Combe,
Where sings the nightingale, where blooms the broom

The Idyllists

In the 1860s a number of young artists lived around the Quantocks. Loosely referred to as the Idyllists John William North, Frederick Walker and John Pinwell painted Quantock scenes with the same emphasis on detail and draughtsmanship as the Pre Raphaelites. Their paid bread-and-butter work of engravings for London publishers of illustrated books and journals feature many Quantock locations.  

John William North lived in the area until his death in 1924 and late in his life he campaigned to prevent landowners from enclosing the Common Land of the Quantocks, so although Friends of the Quantocks was not officially brought into being until twenty-five years later in 1949 he is in a sense one of our founders. 


In recent times the Quantocks have featured in many film and television productions and starred in several music videos too.