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Axminster, Devon

Located on the banks of the sinewy River Axe winding its way towards the English Channel, the historic market town of Axminster offers pretty aesthetics and a full of programme of activities and attractions. 

Axminster in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty enjoys pride of place between glorious countryside and the rugged face of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. With great rail connections to London and Exeter and an easy drive from most places in the South West, it is an idyllic destination for both leisurely retreats and activity-packed breaks. So, whether you are looking to unwind in a luxury cottage, get back to nature or fill your days with adventure, Axminster has something for you. 

History of Axminster

While you wouldn’t be able to tell from the town’s eclectic architectural assemblage today, Axminster’s history actually predates many of the country’s towns and villages. Dating back to the Celtic times from around 300BC, it sits on two major Roman roads and is one of only a small handful of British towns to appear on the Tabula Peutingeriana. Also known as the Peutinger Map, the Tabula Peutingeriana is an illustrated road map of the Roman Empire from the 13th century – the only one of its kind known to have survived the centuries. 

A thriving market town for hundreds of years, Axminster later found greater fame in the 1700s for its carpet industry. Spearheaded by Thomas Witty in 1755, Axminster Carpets became hugely successful and even today the company supplies Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle with carpets. Back in the day, once a hand-tufted carpet was completed, a peal of bells would ring out from the local Minster in celebration. The same Minster, St Mary’s church, is also believed to be the burial site of important Saxon princes and is still open to visitors and worshippers alike to this day.

Things to See and Do in Axminster

If you are enjoying a luxury retreat near Axminster, you can find out more about the town’s history by heading over to Axminster's Heritage Centre and Museum or following the Axminster Art Trail. Featuring all sorts of different sculptures and art pieces, including Roger Dean’s farmer and cow, the trail portrays the town’s livestock market and heritage. If you visit in June, you can also pop the dates for Axminster’s Axe Vale Festival of Gardening and Crafts in your diary. 

For more local history, the National Trust owned Loughwood Meeting House at Dalwood is nearby and worth a visit, while for fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, there is both the River Cottage farm on the outskirts of the town and the River Cottage Canteen and Deli in Axminster itself. That said, if you’d rather immerse yourself in the Great Outdoors, the East Devon AONB boasts walks for miles through stunning countryside and ancient woodland. 

For booted and two-wheeled adventures, the East Devon Way footpath and Buzzard Route cycle track both run close to the town, while the Blackdown Hills AONB is within 10 miles and offers loads of great routes to follow. A few miles away on the coast, you can slurp ice cream on the shore at Lyme Regis, hunt for fossils at Charmouth and birdwatch over the mudflats of the Axe Estuary, which supports many bird species including curlew, oystercatcher and snipe. 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Devon here.

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