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Overview

Although it lacks the fame of Devon, Cornwall or Dorset, Somerset offers a distinctive slice of the English countryside. Sprawling around the Mendip Hills, this is the heartland of the West Country, where locals sip cider in village squares and the accents are noticeably similar to the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings. The rolling countryside is dotted with interesting settlements — most notably Wells, with its towering cathedral, and the sleepy villages of the Quantocks — but the biggest attraction by far is Glastonbury, with its world-famous music festival and legendary links to King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Even if you visit ...

Although it lacks the fame of Devon, Cornwall or Dorset, Somerset offers a distinctive slice of the English countryside. Sprawling around the Mendip Hills, this is the heartland of the West Country, where locals sip cider in village squares and the accents are noticeably similar to the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings. The rolling countryside is dotted with interesting settlements — most notably Wells, with its towering cathedral, and the sleepy villages of the Quantocks — but the biggest attraction by far is Glastonbury, with its world-famous music festival and legendary links to King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Even if you visit outside of festival time, the town boasts a dramatic abbey, healing springs (allegedly) and dramatic views from the hill known as Glastonbury Tor. Conversely, Somerset's county town, Taunton, is underwhelming, apart from its famous cider. For a change of pace, the coast is lined with laid-back seaside resorts, with decent beaches and some surprisingly good surfing around Minehead. Outdoors types head for the Quantocks, the Mendips, and Exmoor National Park, which is crisscrossed by walking and cycling routes. Perhaps the most scenic spot of all is cave-riddled Cheddar Gorge, where the famous cheese was originally produced.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    June to August, coinciding with the Glastonbury Festival (held in late June)