You might roll your eyes when you hear a place described as “magical”, but there are times when that’s exactly how Somerset feels. Underground or above it, Somerset is brimming with incredible features that make it a top choice for a self-catering holiday. It’s a favourite destination of ours, both with the kids or without, simply because it’s so easy to get to and there’s plenty to do when we do get there. When we only have a few days off we don’t want to spend them travelling, we want to get out of the car as soon as possible and get stuck into having fun.
Somerset for Couples
If you’re looking for a romantic break with your other half, Somerset is the place. There are two things I always do when I get the chance to go away without the kids: savour a delicious meal at my own pace; and poke around historical buildings without needing to remind small and grubby fingers to keep themselves to themselves. Somerset has never let me down!
There is no shortage of great pubs and restaurants in Somerset, whatever style of cuisine you’re into. Skip the boring chain restaurants and seek out the independent gems which use sensational regional produce in innovative ways. I love to cook and always make time to check out at least one farmer’s market, such as Midsomer Norton’s on the first Saturday of the month. It starts at around 9am so we do a bit of shopping then finish up with an early lunch from one of the stallholders.
Somerset’s historic buildings will knock your socks off. First timers should head to Glastonbury Abbey in the centre of Glastonbury itself. The traffic around it can be a bit of a headache on a weekend, but the ruins themselves are serene and majestic, with 36 acres of grounds that look especially beautiful in spring. Wells Cathedral is one of England’s finest medieval cathedrals, and another must-see. Free tours run every day except Sunday, but even wandering around on your own is a pleasure, especially if you are there at a time when the choir is rehearsing or performing.
Somerset for Families
School holidays are the ideal time to visit Somerset because there is always something going on. Even the most screen-addicted child won’t fail to be at least intrigued by Wooky Hole Caves, if not amazed. The almost spooky atmosphere really appealed to my two sons, and given that it was a typical British summer day (i.e. raining!) we found it to be a good wet weather attraction. Cheddar Gorge is another impressive geological site. The owners have played up the mystical appeal of sparkling cave walls and stalactites and, while it was one of the more expensive attractions we visited, it was lots of fun.
A walk up Glastonbury Tor is the perfect remedy when you feel like you’ve spent a fortune feeding and entertaining the kids. Legend has it that it’s home to the King of the Fairies, Gwyn ap Nudd. I don’t know how he feels about feet thundering up and down his roof, but we certainly had fun racing each other up the steep path before catching our breath to enjoy the stunning views from the top!
A walk along the front at Weston-Super-Mare is good at any time of year, whether you’re blowing away winter cobwebs or enjoying a summer stroll. They hold an annual sand sculpture festival every summer, and there is also a large pier with ample opportunity to spend pocket money and while away an afternoon or evening on arcade games.
Admittedly not my favourite place, but certainly a top choice with my husband and sons, is the Haynes International Motor Museum. It has an awesome collection of cars and motorbikes dating back more than one hundred years to the present day – including fifty red sports cars – a café and an outdoor play area. We were excited to see the newly refurbished buildings on our most recent visit, and it’s worth checking out their calendar of events for exciting activities like stunt car demonstrations and the opportunity to drive luxury cars.
Where to stay in Somerset
Somerset stretches from Bath in the north to as far west as Minehead, and south to Crewkerne, including Frome, Taunton, and Yeovil. Minehead is convenient for families with kids due to the clean sandy beach. It’s also handy for Exmoor and has some of the larger shops and supermarkets in Somerset. We especially liked staying in Bridgewater as it has a peaceful country feel, yet is just off the M5 and handy for Glastonbury, the Quantock Hills and Taunton. We’re a family who really loves cycling and there are some brilliant trails in this area, but it’s also good if you simply want to find a quiet spot and enjoy the view.
The World Heritage Site of Bath is hard to beat for a romantic weekend away. The Roman spa town is crammed with shops, sights, bars, cafes and restaurants. Sally Lunn’s is part museum, part bakery, and home of the renowned Bath Bun. It can get very busy, but if you’re impatient for your caffeine fix you don’t need to look far for other excellent cafes. I especially like the American Museum; and Jane Austen fans shouldn’t miss a visit to Number 1 Royal Crescent and the Jane Austen Centre. The area around Chewton Mendip just outside of Wells is fantastic for couples looking for a peaceful break; while further south, Ilminster is in a conservation area with good opportunity for walking and bird spotting.
You’re really missing out if you haven’t been to Somerset yet. It’s more than simply a place to pass through before you get to Devon or Cornwall, it’s a stunning county with lots to offer any holidaymaker (including the four legged kind!).