UK Staycation: Somerset

With the UK set to reopen and the chances of jetting off to an exotic destination being somewhat slim, it is safe to say 2021 will see the continuation in demand for staycations.

In 2020 I made the most exploring our great island, visiting areas that have always been on the list but were trumped for an international adventure. Just before the third round of lockdown restrictions we took some time out to explore Somerset.

Booking fully refundable accommodation was key, to safe guard any last minute restrictions, along with this I wanted somewhere peaceful with a few leisure facilities. The Best Western Webbington Hotel, in Axbridge, was just the ticket. Though slightly dated in decor, it offered the quiet location, with a sun terrace to enjoy the late Autumn sun and pool to boot, so we could enjoy a leisurely swim each evening after the days adventuring.

Here is what we got up to over the course of two days.

Cheddar Gorge
The limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills has always been high on my list. After years of saying to myself I will visit en route to Cornwall, and failing to do so, I centred the trip around visiting this National Trust site. Located near the village of Cheddar, the gorge is a site of cheddar show caves which provide the ideal humidity and temperature to mature cheese. Traditionally cheddar cheese had to made within a 30 mile radius within the nearby Wells Cathedral. If you are a cheese lover like myself, be sure to stop by The Original Cheddar Cheese Co shop, for your own wedge (or two) of heaven.

The gorge itself is extremely popular with climbers, cyclists and walkers alike, and despite the dip in temperature there were many visitors enjoying the view along the cliff top walk from Jacob’s Ladder. If you can manage the steep climb, it is well worth the effort to see the gorge in all its glory from the top.

Due to the presence of Wells Cathedral, the area has held a city status since medieval times and is often described as Englands’s smallest city. Some may recognise many of the sites within the city, including the market place and The Crown at Wells hotel as the filming location for the film Hot Fuzz. My other half is a big fan of the film and was extremely excited to explore the area.

The medieval city centre has a great number of picturesque views and sites, with the glorious Wells Cathedral which houses the famous Wells Clock. The clock is considered the second oldest clock mechanism in Great Britain. The cathedral also has one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the country.

Adjoining the cathedral you will find Vicars Close, which is believed to be the only medieval street left in Britain. Designed to provide the communal accommodation to the Vicars Choral this picture perfect street is certainly unique and worth a visit when in the area.

The medieval Bishops Palace has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years, and is open for the visitors to explore along with its 14 acres of gardens. Sadly we didn’t get the chance to visit on this occasion, as it was closed. However it is one that is on our list when we are in the area again.

The seaside heart of Somerset was only a short drive from our hotel. Therefore we ventured to the area for dinner, just in time for sunset.

Steeped in Victorian history and with long stretches of beaches, it is clear to see why it is such a popular location for holiday makers, especially families.

A visit to Somerset would not be complete without a trip to the largest city in the county and World Heritage Site, Bath! I have visited the city on numerous occasions, as I am fascinated with Roman history and the Georgian architecture surrounding the city.

The Roman Baths is one of the finest historic sites in Northern Europe and remains one of the greatest religious spas in the world. Attracting over one million visitors every year, it offers a great deal to explore.

Pulteney Bridge is somewhat of an iconic site within the city. Completed in 1774 the Grade I listed building crosses the River Avon with the weir below.

Bath Abbey can be found in the city centre, close to the Roman Baths. Another Grade I listed building, the medieval Abbey is a parish church of the Church of England founded in the 7th century, with beautiful stained glass windows, art and sculptures.

Within a short walk of the city centre you will find The Royal Crescent. The famous location is comprised of a row of 30 houses in a semi circular formation, and is a great example of Georgian architecture. The iconic street, provides a fantastic background for the numerous hot air balloon flights which can start in the nearby park.

Our visit to the city ended with a stop to the famous Sally Lunn’s Eating House. The historic building is one of the oldest houses in the city, dating back to 1680. The menus offer historic refreshments based on the original Sally Lunn bun, which is still baked to a secret recipe, with a choice of sweet and savoury options, along side a nice pot of tea. I opted for their Cinnamon Butter bun, which was out of this world. We even purchased a few buns to takeaway and re-create at home.

Soon enough our time in Somerset was drawing to an end. Leaving the sunny sites of Bath behind we headed home via the quintessential Cotswold village of Castle Coombe.

The small village has seen no new houses built since 1600AD and has 107 listed buildings, with the majority being Grade II listed, offering a picture perfect pit stop to end our two day trip and a great desire to explore the UK futher in coming months.

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