Historic Somerset Travel Guide
Somerset has something for everyone. From the bustle of the historic seaport of Bristol to the quiet rural delight of the Somerset Levels. The enigmatic Glastonbury Tor soars above the Levels like a beacon, gathering about itself legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. At the base of the Tor lie the ruins Glastonbury Abbey, reputed burial place of Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Legends aside, the ruins are superb, and the octagonal Abbot's Kitchen is a well-preserved example of a medieval cookhouse.
Just a few miles away is Wells Cathedral, supported by unusual scissor arches. Wells is one of the finest medieval buildings in England, but it has to share the limelight with the Bishop's Palace next door, the residence of the powerful medieval Bishops of Bath and Wells.
Wells lies close to the Mendip Hills, and at the northern edge of the Mendips is Cheddar Gorge, home to the world's most famous cheese, and visitors can explore the caves where cheddar cheese has been stored for centuries. Further along the coast is Exmoor, the wild moorland park which Somerset shares with neighbouring Devon. Exmoor provides excellent walking opportunities, as does the Quantock Hills.
Somerset has its fair share of stately homes; Montacute House is a magnificent Tudor mansion that now houses period paintings from the National Portrait Gallery. Lytes Cary is a delightful 15th-century manor with an even older chapel.
And of course there is Bath, one of the great tourist magnets of Britain, and rightfully so. It is less crowded than London, and its attractions are concentrated into an area easily walked in a day of sightseeing. The Assembly Rooms were built by John Wood in 1771 and the elegant chambers now house the thoroughly enjoyable Museum of Costume, which traces the history of fashion through wonderful period displays and over 1000 accessories and jewelry from Tudor times to the present.
Overlooking the Roman Baths is the Pump Room, where you can drink hot spa water (if you can stomach the rather foul-tasting mixture), or take tea to the accompaniment of a string trio. And of course, there is the Roman Baths Museum, preserving the memory of the Roman spa that gave this city its name. A World Heritage Site, and well worth a visit.
Our Top 5:
Out of all the places we've visited in Somerset, these are our own personal top 5 - in no particular order and subject to change at a moment's whim!
Aside from the attractions mentioned above, these historic sites have also been awarded or in our Heritage Rating scheme for attractions.
Stanton Drew Stone Circles