Ahhh Somerset, what a beauty you are!
Located over in the southwest of England, this gorgeous green and rural part of the country really does make for the perfect staycation… as I found out during my recent time there!
From the iconic destinations of Glastonbury and Bath, through to little known gems such as Frome and Wells – the smallest, and in my opinion, prettiest city in England – this beautiful county really does have a ton to offer.
Which is why I’m so glad that one silver lining of the pandemic was that I got to visit it!
And now I want to encourage you to do the same, because it really is true that we never do appreciate what is on our doorstep until we’re forced to!
So if you’re London-based, or located in the south of the UK, and Somerset is on your doorstep, here’s my list of the top 10 things to do there.
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#1 Climb Glastonbury Tor
Without question, one of the best places to visit in Somerset is Glastonbury.
A land of myth and legend, stories swirl around the origin of this town which is supposed to be one of the earliest Christian sites in England.
It’s also a key place in Pagan mythology, as well as Roman history, and all this creates an esoteric atmosphere in the town which gives rise to quite an alternative vibe.
Home to an ancient and very famous Abbey, along with a more modern, but nevertheless iconic festival, creativity and community are at the heart of this English town.
The high street here is filled with esoteric book and gift shops and ancient water holes – both the natural spring and pub variety – all of which make wandering the cobbled heart of Glastonbury a must.
But the top Somerset attraction here really is the famous Glastonbury Tor and the ancient tower that is located at the top of it.
The breathtaking climb (literally) to get up here is well worth it for the amazing 360 degree views it provides, especially at sunset.
Learn more about the top things to do in Glastonbury, as well as where to stay, in this post I wrote all about visiting this iconic town.
#2 Shop in Frome
And just down the road from Glastonbury, we come to the cute little village of Frome.
Now a firm favourite on the hipster map, this cute-as-a-button location sits along a river and is filled with lovely cafes and water-based activities.
But it’s the string of independent shops, along the historic and picturesque Catherine Hill, that really make this spot for me.
From amazing clothes and florists to homeware and gifts, this trendy little stretch is a haven for oat milk flat white loving types.
And yes, I’m shamelessly one of them!
#3 Hike Cheddar Gorge
And once you’ve brunched until you can’t brunch no more in Frome (the Black Swan café is my pick of the bunch by the way), it’s time to work off those calories with some good old strolling in the fresh Somerset air.
And there’s no better place to do this than in the wonderful setting of Cheddar Gorge.
England’s longest gorge and a definite British bucket list classic, ticking Cheddar Gorge off your staycation agenda is a must!
Learn more in this post I wrote, which includes everything you need to know about visiting (and hiking) Cheddar Gorge!
#4 Step Back in Time in Wells
One tip I do have to give you however, is not to stay in the town of Cheddar, which sits at the foot of the gorge.
I know it might sound harsh, but I honestly found this place completely overrated and a bit tacky!
As such, take a leaf out of my book and, after your time exploring Cheddar Gorge, drive the 8 mile short distance to stay in the gorgeous city of Wells.
And, just an FYI, you should certainly leave time to explore this beauty of a city too, because in my opinion, it’s one of the country’s most charming.
Far outstripping the famous pretty villages of the nearby Cotswolds in my opinion, Wells heaps quaint cuteness on quaint cuteness.
From an absolutely mind-blowing Cathedral (and that’s from someone whose not even into Cathedrals that much!) to one of the oldest continually inhabited residential streets in Europe, to beautiful palaces and gardens that include moats and cobbled market squares where you can enjoy an alfresco local cheeseboard and craft cider, this is the jewel in the Somerset crown!
Learn more about why I loved this place so much (and how I discovered it by accident) in this post I wrote all about it.
#5 Visit Bath
And next up, it’s another historic Somerset city, but this time, it’s one that’s a lot more famous.
Yes this is definitely one of the best places to go in Somerset and, if you’re travelling in this county, you really can’t miss it.
Known as rather a posh and wealthy place (probably because it is in large parts) Bath is also famous for its beautiful historic centre complete with an enormous Abbey you can visit and tons of quaint shops and cafes.
The River Avon makes a lovely city setting and this spot is particularly beautiful to visit during the festive season, when the traditional Christmas Markets bring Bath’s ancient streets and walls to life.
However, top of my list when you come is to explore here is the Roman Baths.
Sadly you can no longer bathe in them and they’re not cheap to visit, but they are certainly worth well it.
The excellent audio guide to this famous Somerset attraction means you can easily spend a few hours here learning about the history of the city and these ancient pools.
Discover more, as well as the Jane Austen attractions in Bath, in this top day trip itinerary I wrote.
#6 Take a Street Art Tour in Bristol
And the other nearby and famous city, and certainly one of the best places to visit just beyond Somerset, is Bristol – a hub of contemporary arts and cultures in these parts.
With a vibrant music, performance and street art scene, not to mention strong political, theatrical and spoken word legacy, outside of London it’s the city Bristol that excites me most on the cultural front.
Home to Banksy (doing a street art tour here is a great way to learn more about his famous graffiti artist) and the famous Stokes Croft area, which is chockers with cool venues, there’s also hot air balloon festival, docked ancient ship, family-friendly aquarium and cool Suspension Bridge, which all make a trip to Bristol easily one of the top things to do in these parts.
Although the city lies just beyond the borders of the country, I’m still including it in this list because it’s so good!
Check out my top list of the things to do in Bristol for proof!
#7 Hit the Pier at Weston-Super-Mare
And another top thing to do in Somerset is hit the coast!
Yes in a county more popularly known for its rural green farming landscape (cue. the cheese and the cider of course), it’s easy to forget that Somerset has some coastline too!
It might not be the UK”s most glamourous, but a day at the seaside is a day at the seaside and the lovely old pier at Weston-Super-Mare certainly makes it one of the top places to go in Somerset in my opinion!
#8 Drive the Mendip Hills
And it’s not just green and rural that most people picture when they think of Somerset, but flat too.
Alas, I’m about to put paid to that as well, because one of the best days out in Somerset comes in the form of a road trip around the gorgeous Mendip Hills.
An officially recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Mendip Hills encompasses several gorgeous hamlets, as well as a whole load of rolling hills and beautiful scenic drives, that makes it the perfect place for a road trip.
Absolutely one of the best things to do in Somerset, enjoying a leisurely day or afternoon exploring the area is a must, with Black Down Hill and Blagdon Lake being my highlights.
Cheddar Gorge actually sits at the edge of Mendip Hills, so you can easily combine these 2 into a long day trip or weekend excursion if you like.
#9 Enjoy a Family Day Out on Wooky Hole Caves
And now we move onto a more family affair.
Another top Somerset attraction, especially if you have kids, Wooky Hole Caves is very near the city of Wells.
With a whole heap of attractions on offer including the UK’s largest cave system, there’s also a mini golf course, mirror maze, mystic fairy garden and some animatronic dinosaurs the kids will love too!
For the adults, lovely grounds and walks, with a decent café, complete the picture in this top Somerset day out.
#10 Discover Dunster Castle
And last not least, I couldn’t get through this list of the top things to do in Somerset and not mention a single National Trust property!
As you know, my staycation adventures in the UK (thanks pandemo!) have led me to become a keen National Trust member because, for just 6 quid a month, you can get free entry to a HUGE amount of historical and natural attractions around the country… and free parking at a ton more!
And top of the list in Somerset when it comes to National Trust attractions is Dunster Castle.
An absolutely superb day out in Somerset, this ancient Norman castle turned stately family home, comes complete with beautiful gardens and a historic working watermill, plus there’s amazing sweeping views from this spot across the Bristol Channel too.
A must for history lovers and perfect for those who want a relaxed and gentle stroll, you could easily spend hours here, which makes it great for families and dogs are welcome too!
How to Get to Somerset?
Driving to Somerset from across the south of the UK is easy and straightforward with lots of good motorway connections.
If you’re coming on public transport however, things can get a bit trickier – mostly due to the lack of train stations in the region!
From London, there are good connections to Bristol, Bath, Weston-Super-Mare, Frome and Castle Cary and from any of these places, you can then usually hire a car, grab a taxi, or perhaps catch a bus to where you need to get to.
Otherwise, there are buses from London too.
National Express services Wells direct for example and Berry’s bus, which leaves from Hammersmith, can get you to the Glastonbury area.
As always, I use Trainline to book my UK coach and rail travel as they compare a huge range of transport options, as well as use split-fare features to get you the best deal on tickets.
Their handy app also allows you to track your journey, as well as save all your tickets in one handy place – winning!
How to Get Around?
Hiring a car is probably the best option if you want to explore all of the top things to do in the Somerset area, because public transport in this rural county can be a bit thin on the ground.
This was the transport choice I opted for when I visited the county and I was really glad of the flexibility an electric hire car gave.
If you’re looking to hire a car in England, Thrifty Car Hire offer some very competitive rates.
Worth noting that much of the parking across Somerset is paid parking, but if you’re a National Trust member like me, you can park at some of the places I list in this article for free.
Alternatively, if you want to take a tour to Somerset, that will show you some of the top highlights in the region without you having to fuss about hiring a car or finding a bus, check out these top options:
- Glastonbury and Cheddar Gorge Day Trip from London
- Private Wells & Cheddar Gorge Trip: From Bath
- From London: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath Full-Day Tour
Where to Stay in Somerset?
Glastonbury, Bristol and Bath all have a heap of accommodation options.
However, Wells would be my pick when it comes to a quiet and quaint place to base yourself.
It’s just so beautiful there, it’s hard to pass up!
When it comes to accommodation in Wells, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the Premier Inn Wells.
Just a 15 minute walk away from the centre of the city, including the Cathedral, there’s free wifi here, as well as tea and coffee facilities and luxurious Hypnos bed in all rooms.
An onsite restaurant also makes grabbing breakfast easy and straightforward too.
For something more independent, The White Hart Hotel in central Wells is a top-rated Bed & Breakfast that gets regular rave reviews thanks to its excellent location and good value for money.
Modern décor and brilliant staff complete the good food which is served in the gastropub below.
How Long to Visit Somerset For?
If you can manage a long weekend in Somerset, then you’ll certainly be able to tick a good few of these top places to visit off your list.
A great combination with 3 days up your sleeve is to visit Glastonbury, Wells, Cheddar Gorge, the Mendip Hills and Frome.
If you want to start including Bath and Bristol on your itinerary too, then I’d allow a week as, ideally you’ll have a couple of days to explore both these cities too.
When to Visit?
There’s no question in my mind, the best time to visit Somerset is during the summer season, when the UK’s good weather allows you to get the nicest experience from your time there, especially if you want to enjoy some hiking and rolling countryside views.
The only problem with the summer and the weekend in many of the county’s top attractions is that they are the busiest times, so do be warned.
If you have the option to visit some of Somerset’s most popular days out on a weekday, or outside of school holidays, then I’d advise this, as parking and getting some good snaps without a ton of other people in-frame will be a lot easier at these times!
Somerset Packing Essentials
And now here’s my list of the top 5 packing essentials you shouldn’t head to the beautiful county of Somerset without…
#1 A Good Camera – No doubt you’re going to be snapping like crazy in this amazing region and need to ensure you have a good camera to do the place justice.
I love my Sony A6000 and GoPro, which are both light, compact and great for travel.
#2 Decent Walking Shoes – No point coming this far and not being able to enjoy a walk in the wonderful Somerset countryside.
Get prepared therefore and ensure you have a decent pair of walking shoes – these cross trainers from New Balance are ideal (and totally stylish) for the job.
#3 Light Waterproof Jacket – Whatever the time of year, you have to remember this is England after all, a country in which the heavens can open at any point!
Don’t get caught out there and ensure you have a good lightweight and waterproof jacket with you. This North Face one is perfect.
#4 Compact Hiking Day Pack – I never go on any UK trip without a sturdy backpack to ensure I’ve got everything I need and that the weight is equally distributed across my back and shoulders.
This super featherweight Kompressor from Marmot is my go-to, because it folds down to nothing and is water-resistant – ideal for those sudden showers.
#5 Portable Charger – And finally, I would never head off anywhere without my trusty Anker Portable Charger, which keeps my phone and camera batteries full all day every day!
This means no matter how many top things to do in Somerset I’m enjoying, I can take all the snaps and use all the maps I need during the day!
Where to Go After?
If you’re still keen for more staycation splendour after Somerset (and, quite frankly, why wouldn’t you be?!), then you have some more great options on the doorstep.
From the north of the county – the Bristol and Bath area – it really is just a short hop, skip and a jump to either the Cotswolds or Oxford, which both offer lovely walks and historic settlements by the bucket load.
In the other direction, the beauty of South Wales isn’t a million miles away and both The Gower Peninsula and Brecon Beacons National Parks are treasures here you shouldn’t miss!
Alternatively, you could head east and explore the county of Wiltshire with the Cathedral city of Salisbury (home to a copy of the Magna Carta) and the amazing structure of Stonehenge being the 2 highlights in my opinion.
Or if you’re heading south, perhaps from Wells or Cheddar Gorge, then the beauty of Dorset is just a couple of hours drive away with the UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast and gems of Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove just waiting for you!
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it folks, my list of the top 10 things to do in Somerset, England.
A beautiful county in the glorious southwest of the country, there’s no question this spot should be on everyone’s staycation list!
Have you visited Somerset?
What was your favourite thing to do there?
Tell me all in the comments box below…