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Somerset Map

The West Somerset Railway is one of the longest, if not the longest, preserved railways in the UK.

Whether this is a good thing or not depends on how much of a rail fan you are. Heritage Line operators are increasingly realising that what most visitors want is a good cafe, good toilets, something interesting to look at while they wait, and half-an-hour to an hour on a train.

The journey along the WSR from one end to the other takes an hour and a half. Allowing for the half-an-hour (or more) turn round time, that's at least three and a half hours for the round trip.

To make matters worse, starting from the Minehead end, whilst the line between Minehead and Watchet is interesting enough with the sea in view much of the way, I found myself getting very bored trundling along the section between Washford and Bishops Lydeard at a stately 25mph, and wishing it would end.

Add to that there is precious little to do at Bishops Lydeard, apart from the excellent little station museum and, even for me, the whole thing rather outstayed its welcome. That said, starting from Bishops Lydeard might be better, if only because there is no shortage of things to do in Minehead.

For timetables, ticket prices, etc. Please see the West Somerset Railway's official site.

On the way back I decided to break my journey at Watchet, a pretty town with a fine little harbour, most of which was rebuilt in 1907 following a devastating storm.

Of interest to rail fans are the remains of the West Somerset Mineral Railway, which carried iron ore from the Brendon Hills down to the harbour, from where it was shipped to the furnaces in Ebbw Vale. The remains include the old station house and company offices, along with a short section of track embedded in the west pier.

If you only want a shorter visit to the line, Watchet would make a good destination. If only the timetables were a little more accommodating.