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A handsome 18th century Somerset turnpike inn of honey-gold Hamstone on the outskirts of Norton Fizwarren village near Taunton. On the edge of the beautiful Quantock Hills in the Vale of Taunton Deane, The Cross Keys serves delicious pub meals and Sunday roasts with fine wines and cask ales.

At the edge of the village of Norton Fitzwarren on the old turnpike road from Taunton to Bishop’s Lydeard stands a handsome 18th century inn of honey-gold Hamstone and red clay roof tiles, The Cross Keys. Once a coaching inn on the busy turnpike, this Somerset village inn is bounded by the gentle rolling Quantock Hills to the north, with its picturesque hamlets and narrow country lanes, while just to the south lie the Blackdown Hills, an enchanting landscape of steep ridges and tranquil wooded valleys on the Devon and Somerset border.

Norton Fitzwarren itself was a thriving market town in the medieval period, larger than Taunton, and the Grade II listed church dates back to at least 1219. Once part of the Taunton Deane Hundred, the settlement of Norton Fitzwarren dates back thousands of years, as evidenced by nearby Norton Hillfort, a large fortified hilltop site occupied since neolithic times. Legend has it that a fearsome dragon once inhabited the hillfort and terrorised the local people, until it was slain by a medieval knight, Fulk itzWarin.

Surrounded by the picturesque Somerset landscape, The Cross Keys is a handsome country pub perfectly located in the Vale of Taunton Deane to relax and unwind after a day spent exploring the area’s sleepy hamlets and stunning countryside. It’s the ideal venue for a delicious pub lunch, with seasonal specials, Sunday lunches, fine wines and cask ales.

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Located at the junction of two important turnpike roads on the site of the Langford Bridge toll, The Cross Keys was built in the late 1700’s as a coaching inn for travellers journeying to and from the coast at Watchet and Minehead, both important harbour towns in the 17th and 18th centuries. Trade in Taunton and the surrounding areas flourished from the introduction of silk making in the late 1700’s, and many silk mills exported their goods to Wales, Ireland and beyond from these ports.

One such mill, known as Back Brook Mill, powered by the fast-flowing Back Brook watercourse that marks the ancient boundary between Norton Fitzwarren to the west and Staplegrove to the east, was located directly behind The Cross Keys. Sadly, no evidence of this once-thriving mill survives, though it gives its name to the nearby Silk Mills Road.

Perhaps the most famous landmark near The Cross Keys, less than a mile distant, is the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Norton Hillfort, set atop a low hill that was a safe haven for Stone Age settlers, who built earth banks and ditches which can still be seen today. Re-occupied in Roman times, the hill was finally abandoned some time after 400 A.D., although folklore has it that the Norton Fitzwarren dragon had its lair here until it was slain by the knight Fulk FitzWarin.

The legend of the red dragon, or wyvern, is still celebrated in the symbol for Norton Fitzwarren parish council, and is recognised in the Somerset coat of arms, attributed to the Wessex dragon of Alfred the Great. It was from his marshland stronghold of Athelney, just 10 miles east of The Cross Keys, that Alfred emerged in 878 to lead the Anglo-Saxon fightback against the Vikings, with nearby Watchet an important fortified port and the site of the Saxon mint.

The coastline of Bridgwater Bay north of The Cross Keys is within easy reach, just 15 miles away at Watchet, today a charming harbour town. Due west is the seaside resort town of Minehead, with its pleasure gardens and sandy beaches. On the edge of Exmoor National Park, a beautiful moorland landscape famous for its Exmoor Ponies, Minehead also marks the start of the South West Coast Path, at 630 miles the longest National Trail in the country. First used by the Coastguard in the 18th century to patrol for tobacco and brandy smugglers, the path traces the rugged coastline of the entire South West peninsula, taking in stunning views and tranquil inlets and coves.

Minehead’s long association with the sailing and the sea is celebrated every May Day by the Minehead Hobby Horse Festival when, for three days, the Sailors Hobby Horse stalks the streets of the town accompanied by a drum, dancing its way from the quayside to Dunster Castle whilst chasing onlookers.

A pleasant way to reach the coast from The Cross Keys is on one of the historic steam locomotives of the West Somerset Railway, which departs from nearby Bishop’s Lydeard, calling at many of the picturesque villages and historic market towns on a 20 mile scenic journey to Watchet and Minehead, where regular Steam Gala weekends bring a host of steam enthusiasts to the town.

Stunning countryside abounds in the attractive Somerset landscape around The Cross Keys, and the jewel in the crown is the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty known as the Quantock Hills, the first in England to be designated as an AONB in 1956. The rich landscape that tumbles into Bridgwater Bay in the north encompasses wooded combes and valleys, heathland summits and patchwork fields, with unspoilt villages and pretty hamlets to be discovered. The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth spent a year here in the tiny village of Holford, close to his friend Coleridge at Nether Stowey, where both took inspiration from the landscape.

The Coleridge Way, a 51 mile walking route that sets out from Nether Stowey through the Quantocks acros Exmoor to Lynemouth, commemorates Coleridge’s time in the village, one of several popular walks and cycle routes in the Hills all within easy reach of The Cross Keys at Norton Fitzwarren.

Located just over two miles north-west of Taunton, Somerset’s county town on the River Tone, and perfectly positioned to explore the tranquil hamlets and poetic landscape of the Quantock Hills, The Cross Keys is a welcome retreat for a delicious pub meal with family and friends, or a leisurely Sunday lunch in a fine 18th century inn. An ideal location for trips to Minehead, Exmoor or a day’s fossil-hunting on the Jurassic coast, refreshed with a seasonal special from our extensive menu, including fine wines and cask ales.

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Cross Keys

Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset, TA2 6NR

 

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  • Historic Pub
  • Waterside Pub
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