Although the smallest city in England, the atmosphere is more like that of small country market town. The cathedral is one of the architectural highlights of Britain, replete with magnificent Gothic carvings, a unique scissors vault to brace the building against shifting medieval foundations and a marvellous chapter house. It also houses a wonderful clock, with mechanical knights who exchange blows every hour. Adjoining the Cathedral is the 13th century moated Bishop’s Palace - seat of the Bishop of Bath & Wells, famous for its swans who twice daily ring the bell beside the drawbridge for food. The Medieval Vicar’s Close is an architectural gem. Wednesday and Saturday are market days which are held in the central market place. St. Cuthbert's church is one of the most interesting parish churches in Somerset.
Savour the outstanding natural beauty of the Mendip Hills, officially classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. An area of huge environmental importance, both above and below the ground. Situated in Somerset, they are primarily limestone with many caves including the famous Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole (2 miles). Some of the caves show signs of prehistoric habitation. There are also ruins of Roman lead mines and a Roman road.
EBBOR GORGE AND OTHER NEARBY NATURE RESERVES (about 3 miles away)
The nationally recognised beauty spots of Ebbor Gorge, Dearleap, Lynchcombe and Cook's Fields Nature Reserves have been professionally captured by local photographer Jeff Bevan.
There is evidence of inhabitation in this lovely wooded valley of Ebbor Gorge Nature Reserve dating back to Neolithic times (about 3000 BC). Bones, tools, cooking utensils and ornaments have been found in caves throughout the gorge. There is a nature trail through the gorge, which features some outstanding views over the Somerset Levels.
Known as the birthplace of Christianity in England, where it is said that Joseph of Aramethea buried the chalice used at the Last Supper and built the first Christian church in England. It is also said that he thrust his thorn staff into the ground which took root and produced the distinctive winter flowering thorn, the site now of the Abbey ruins. The Museum has a superb model of the medieval abbey in which King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are said to have been buried. Recent local history is recorded in Glastonbury’s Rural Life Museum (entry free of charge), with a farmhouse kitchen and displays of Cider making.
The Polden Hills and The Polden Way are nearby.
The Somerset Carnivals are highly regarded as the largest illuminated procession in the world. They occur late on in the year at various locations including: Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Chard, Ilminster, Glastonbury, North Petherton, Shepton Mallet, Taunton, Wellington, Wells, Weston-Super-Mare, and Yeovil. They go back 400 years, and are one of the most spectacular events in Somerset today. In some of the bigger locations (such as Bridgwater), you can expect to see crowds of up to 150,000. The carnival floats are designed and built by dedicated carnival clubs around the West Country.
THE SOMERSET LEVELS (about 10 miles away)
Inspiring countryside, this former marshland drained over the centuries is now cut by a maze of drainage ditches ('rhines') through the peaty land. There are many species of Wetland birds breeding here. On the outskirts of the village of Westhay is the Avalon Marshes Visitor Centre where you can park to access the RSPB's Ham Wall NNR and Natural England's Shapwick Heath NNR (noteworthy as homes for many rare creatures as well as winter Starling murmurations).
The area lends itself to easy walking and cycling and there are several walking routes and cycle trails nearby: Sustran Route 3, connecting Land's End in Cornwall to Bristol, is about a half a mile away.
Has a fine selection of buildings, including Victorian private houses in the ancient village. Modern stained glass in the partly 12th Century St Mary’s Church tells the tale of King Alfred who signed the Treaty of AD 878 here, following his defeat of the Danes at the Battle of Ethendune.
CHEDDAR CAVES AND GORGE (8 miles away)
At the foot of the Gorge is the village of Cheddar, with olde worlde shops, small cafes and restaurants and the entrance to the fascinating Cheddar Caves, where most recent discoveries of human remains makes Cheddar one of the oldest inhabited villages in the country. Cheddar Gorge is an awesome gash in the Mendip Hills, like a mini Grand Canyon with cliffs towering nearly 500 ft. There is a nature reserve at the head of the Gorge with many species of wild flowers, including the Cheddar Pink, found nowhere else in the world.
Cavers and tourists now tread where Stone Age Man made a home. The approach to Burrington is through a limestone gorge. To the left, almost at the foot of the gorge, is the spot where Reverend Augustus Toplady felt inspired to write the hymn ‘Rock of Ages.’ A plaque marks the spot beside the cleft in the rock where shelter was sought.
Chew Magna and the smaller of the two lakes, Blagdon, are both reservoirs created in the early 1950s but have matured to create a natural lakeland environment. A beautiful haven for plant and wildlife and the fishing is some of the finest in the country. Near to the dam there is a lakeside visitors area, with cafe/restaurant/picnic facilities and visitors centre.
WOOKEY HOLE (2 miles away)
Visit the old Paper Mill and wonderful Wookey Hole Caves, home of the famous witch, with fascinating underground lakes and restaurant facilities.
CLARKS VILLAGE, STREET (about 10 miles away)
For those who like to shop, the popular retail outlet at Clarks Village in Street is just a short drive away (built on part of the famous old Clarks Shoe Factory complex).
WESTON-SUPER-MARE (19 miles) and BURNHAM ON SEA (20 miles)
These bustling seaside resorts have miles of clean golden sand and have a traditional seaside town ambience.