Somerset or "The West Country" as it's colloquially known, is a county sitting logically in the west
part of England, with only Devon and Cornwall extending further into the Atlantic. Somerset is largely
agricultural and is well known for its products including cider and cheddar cheese. The largest
(on which I have written a separate page) but it has many other pleasant towns such as
Wells, Cheddar, Glastonbury and Weston-super-Mare.
I took a trip through Somerset in summer 2010 as a day out from
and was in Bath less than two
hours after leaving home. It was a case at looking through the map and the guidebook just to see
what I wanted to see, before deciding on visiting Wells, Cheddar and briefly Bristol before heading
home again. I had a great day for it and only wish I'd had more time to keep exploring.
Wells Market Place in the city centre, with the cathedral towers in the background. Wells is technically
a city, although not a very large one, and it was the setting for the Simon Pegg film "Hot Fuzz".
The Bishop's Eye is one of the gateways to the cathedral and Bishop's Palace area from Wells High Street,
and was built around the mid 15th century.
The Bishop's Palace looks very much the archetypal castle, complete with drawbridge and moat. This
gatehouse dates from the mid 14th century, and the moat is fed by
Well, one of the three wells from which the city gets its name.
Wells Cathedral is a fantastic example of sculpted English cathedral architecture, and was dedicated
in the 13th century. I was very lucky to have such a nice day to visit too.
Looking west inside Wells Cathedral in the late afternoon.
The interior grandeur of the cathedral is quite something, and I particularly like the curving stone
bracing at the base of this shot, an unusual feature indeed. This "inverted arch" was built in response
to subsidence discovered over 600 years ago.
The Crown at Wells, another classic ye olde English pub and inn, on the Market Place.
A little further to the west is the surprisingly sudden geological feature of Cheddar Gorge. Just north
of the village of Cheddar, this canyon runs for a couple of miles through the Mendip Hills, and
is over 400 feet deep. To a
such as me,
most of England seems very flat so it's nice to see interesting topography like this now and again.
The walls of Cheddar Gorge to the south are almost sheer cliff faces. See the car at the base of the
shot for scale.
The north side of the gorge is mostly steep grass and climbable (but with warning signs advising against
it). I found it much harder getting back down again, despite such handy features as this natural
South walls of the gorge in the late afternoon sun.
Profile of the jagged edges of Cheddar Gorge. There are frequent accidents with walkers and climbers,
fortunately I am not included among them!
Hillside Cottage tea rooms and garden at the base of the gorge, one of many where the Cheddar Yeo river
re-emerges from underground.
Simply Gorgeous tea room at the Cheddar end of the gorge. Very English.
No visit to Cheddar Gorge would be complete without that most famous of cheeses, the ubiquitous cheddar.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is now the only cheese producer left in cheddar itself, but cheese
is produced under the Cheddar name worldwide.
My last stop before heading back to London was in Bristol, so I took the opportunity to visit the Clifton
Suspension Bridge. It spans the chasm of the River Avon, and is a posthumous masterpiece of Isambard
Kingdom Brunel, one of the great Victorian civil engineers. The bridge carries two lanes of
traffic who pay the princely sum of fifty pence to cross the river 75 metres below.