Find and book the perfect apartment or holiday cottage in Somerset, the county of cider and Glastonbury
Visit Somerset: the home of Glastonbury Festival!
Just a short three hours' drive from London, Somerset couldn't be any different to the hustle and bustle of the UK's capital city. The sleepy county is home to some of the most fantastic countryside you can find in this part of the world, with corkscrew lanes, endless green fields, gentle hills, old English villages and more. The very picture of rural English countryside, Somerset is the place to relax, wander, ponder, and drink in the historical sites at whatever pace you feel like it. Try visiting the cathedral city of Wells, or the Glastonbury Tor for an injection of real history into your trip. But despite this, visitors can get a huge adrenaline kick seeing the world's most famous musicians at the annual Glastonbury Festival in June.
How to get to Somerset
Somerset is fairly close to London, which means it benefits from excellent transport routes – whether you're looking to drive, fly, or take the train. If you do fancy taking the scenic route through the country – and a lot of people do, as driving to Somerset is one of the most common modes of transport – then the main route is the M5 motorway, which drivers can join at Bristol and follow southwest all the way to Somerset. There is also the A303 for those that dislike motorways, which runs west from Andover in Hampshire to Ilminster in south-west Somerset, as well as the A37 connecting the north and south between Bristol and Dorchester.
Alternatively, there are regular trains from London Waterloo, and from here travellers can change at Reading and Taunton. There are also a number of main stations in Somerset: Bristol Temple Meads, Yeovil, Crewkerne, Castle Cary, Taunton, and Bristol Parkway. If you're looking to head down to the coast of Somerset, then head to Highbridge and Burnham Station, or the Weston-super-Mare Station.
The county is also served by both coach and air services. The National Express offer a very good coach link to Bristol and Taunton among others, as well as more destinations further south west into Devon, Cornwall, and Dorset. The area is also home to Bristol Airport, which has connections with a lot of destinations around the world.
Where to Stay in Somerset
Most famous for the Roman Baths, Bath itself is an incredible place to visit. The history of the city is connected with the natural hot springs that run through the city, first discovered and inhabited during the Iron Age, when the Dobunni tribe dedicated it to the goddess Sulis, who was believed to have healing powers. By 75AD, however, the Romans had built a religious spa on the site – which still stands today, some 1900 years later. The preservation of the site is incredible, and the museum that can now be found there is a veritable treasure trove of artefacts. More recently, Jane Austen based Northanger Abbey and other aspects of her novels on parts of Bath. One of the best luxury bed and breakfasts in Bath can be found on Great Pulteney Street: Henrietta House is tucked away inside a double-fronted Georgian townhouse, with antiques and art adorning the rooms.
Weston-super-Mare is a charming seaside town most famous for its newly renovated and rebuilt Grand Pier which plays host to an indoor theme park and a number of cafes and restaurants. The classic Victorian resort, the town is practically untouched, standing the same today as it did 100 years ago. When the tide is low, the beach stretches for miles, and sunny weather brings children playing, with donkey rides, amusements, and plenty of sandcastles. If the Victorian aesthetic is what you enjoy, then there are plenty of luxury holiday rentals in Weston-super-Mare that suit exactly that: Albany Lodge Guest House, for instance, is a B&B holiday rental set in a Victorian property just a 10 minute stroll from the town centre, and right on the beachfront.
It might be most famous for the festival that takes place here every year, drawing tourists, travellers and music lovers from all over the world, but the town itself is a charming English village that shouldn't be overlooked. The old village is full of incredible history, such as the Glastonbury Tor – a sandstone hill with a 15th century Tower, the last remining part of a long-disappeared church – and the Glastonbury Abbey from the 7th century.
Minehead is subtle in its charm. The seaside resort is right on the cusp of the Bristol Channel and Exmoor, it was during the late 1800s that a number of grand properties were built on the waterfront, transforming the sleepy town into one of the destinations to be seen. During the summer months, plenty of day-trippers fill the beach, and nearby is the West Somerset Railway where travellers can experience a real-life steam train ride, from Exmoor to the Quantock Hills. For the best hostel in Minehead, stay at Butlins; not a conventional hostel-style, but you're surrounded by plenty of families with fun activities right on your doorstep.
One of the larger seaside towns that can be found in Somerset, right at the mouth of the River Parrett. Until the 18th century, Burnham-on-Sea was nothing more than a quaint fishing village, but its popularity as a beach destination quickly improved its standing and the number of tourists visiting every year. A holiday cottage in Burnham-on-Sea will put you only a short walk from the second longest beach in all of England, and the town hosts an annual carnival, food and drink festival, and a staggering calendar of events all throughout the year to keep visitors entertained.
Things to do in Somerset
The Glastonbury Tor is visible for miles, but it's impossible to appreciate the beauty until you're up close and personal. One of Somerset's most iconic landmarks, the Tor is home to the Chapel of St. Michael, and is a centre for ancient legends. one of these states that the Tor is home of Arawn or Gwyn ap Nudd, lord of the faeries and King of the Underworld, while another speculates that the Glastonbury Tor is inf act the Isle of Avalon, a mythical island where King Arthur was taken after being mortally wounded in battle.
Famous around the world as one of the best music festivals, Glastonbury Festival is known for its often mud-soaked celebration of all things contemporary performing arts: from music, to theatre, dance, carnival, and general bizarre activities, the festival takes place nearly every year in June in the same farmland in Pilton.
Standing proudly in the centre of Wells, the Wells Cathedral was first built in 1108, and then continually worked on in stages until 1508. The architectural style is, therefore, varied, with different representations of the classic Gothic seen around the building. The West Front is beautiful, with over 300 carved figures and scissor arches – designed that way in order to counter the collapsing of the central tower – while the north of the cathedral is notable for its mechanical clock showcasing the positions of the planets and phases of the moon that dates back to 1392, making it the second oldest in England.
First built in 1590, Montacute House was owned by Sir Edward Phelips, a speaker of the House of Commons. Today, it is home to some of the most beautiful 16th and 17th architectural interiors and designs, from the plasterwork, to the chimney pieces and the tapestries that adorn the walls. The Long Gallery is famous for its incredible collection of Elizabethan paintings, and more recently the House was used to represent Henry VIII's Greenwich Palace in 'Wolf Hall'.
King Arthur's Tomb
In the grounds surrounding Glastonbury Abbey, visitors will find the supposed resting place of one of England's most famous kings: King Arthur. According to legend, in 1191 monks at the abbey stumble upon a hollow log that contained two bodies, and an inscription suggesting the bodies were King Arthur and his Queen. Then, in 1278, King Edward I went to Glastonbury to see the bodies re-interred into a new tomb of black marble.
The Bishop's Palace
Home of the Bishops of the Diocese of Bath and Wells for the past 800 years, the Bishop's Place was first built in 1210 by Jocelin of Wells and Reginald Fitz Jocelin. Roughly 100 years later the chapel and great hall were added, while the walls, gatehouse, and moat weren't added until the 14th century. The real attraction of the Palace today is the incredible gardens that surrounds the property; once a deer park, in 1820 Bishop George Henry Law commissioned a reflecting pond near the springs.
England's deepest natural canyon, Cheddar Gorge was carved out by a glacier that melted during the last ice age, leaving behind limestone cliffs that are 138m tall. Not only this, but the gorge is full of subterranean caverns that are home to some fantastic fossils. Since the ice age, the Cheddar Gorge has been inhabited; a 9000-year-old skeleton was found in 1903, and thanks to carbon dating scientist have assessed that the cave was actually inhabited several thousand years earlier.
Best Time to Visit Somerset
As Somerset is in the UK, it can be visited at any time of the year thanks to its temperate climate and the lack of extreme weather scenarios in either winter or summer. However, the country does get a lot of rain – and the south west is no exception. If you're looking for relatively warm and dry weather, then the best times to visit are in the spring (between late March and early June) or autumn (between September and November) – although with the climate crisis, snowstorms and freak heatwaves are becoming more common. Having said that, the winter can be a very pretty time to visit, with the countryside blanketed in snow while you cosy up by the fire in your B&B accommodation.