The U.K. county of Somerset has five ranges of hills, three of these, the Quantocks, the Blackdowns, and the Mendips, are designated areas of outstanding natural beauty. There are also the Brendons and the Polders. In addition, Somerset has within its boundaries two-thirds of Exmoor National Park, famous for its wild ponies and purple heather.
The Levels of Mid Somerset is the largest area of fenland outside East Anglia and forms one of Britain’s most important wetland wildlife habitats. The area is also renowned for the making of willow cane baskets and furniture. Hence, Somerset has some of the most varied landscapes of any county in England. In addition, it has a large expanse of coastline to the north from the cliff tops along the Exmoor coastline to large swathes of sandy beaches at Brean and Burnham-on-Sea.
The Mendip Hills are formed of limestone which rainwater has dissolved over many centuries so caves are formed deep below with some amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Some of Britain’s best show caves are found beneath the Mendips, including the renowned Wookey Hole, famous for its “Witch of Wookey”. the village of Cheddar is also famous for its caves and dramatic gorge, as well as being the home of traditional Cheddar Cheese. The local caves have provided the ideal environment for the maturing of cheese over the centuries, locally produced cheese can still be bought here.
For a great view of the Levels and beyond then a climb to the top of Glastonbury Tor will reward your efforts. The path is not too steep and is manageable by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. Great views over the Levels can also be had from a viewing spot near Ebbor Gorge nature reserve in the Mendips. Not too distant from here is Chew Valley Lake, famous as a migration site for birds and very popular with bird spotters.
As well as dramatic and varied scenery the U.K. county of Somerset has a wealth of historic towns and cities. The City of Bath is a World Heritage Site owing to its fine Georgian architecture. The City of Wells, with its magnificent cathedral, is the smallest city in England, it is also home to the historic Bishops Palace and Gardens. The town of Glastonbury is a fascinating place to visit with its Christian traditions and Abbey ruins and its more recent New Age associations, making an intriguing mix. The traditional seaside resorts of Minehead and Weston-Super-Mare have many fine Victorian Buildings, at Minehead, you can also enjoy a nostalgic ride on the West Somerset Railway. The county town of Taunton and further south, the town of Yeovil, offer the visitor a good range of shopping, theatre, and nightlife.
Tourist Information Centers in Somerset
The small town of Castle Cary is one of the most picturesque in Somerset and has some fine medieval architecture. Another very pretty medieval town is Axbridge, set at the foot of the Mendips, not far from Cheddar.
The are many other hidden gems for you to discover in the fascinating and varied U.K. county of Somerset.