SOM­ER­SET

In­hab­ited since an­cient times, this county at the heart of Eng­land of­fers his­toric build­ings and fine land­scapes, says Bry­ony Symes

Practical Caravan - - Travel County Counsel -

1 Sa­cred hill­top

Glas­ton­bury is far more than just a fes­ti­val ground; the Tor is steeped in the myths and leg­ends of King Arthur and Avalon, hav­ing been a sa­cred site since an­cient times. There are also breath-tak­ing views across three coun­ties from here. Visit the ro­man­tic ru­ins of Glas­ton­bury Abbey, where cos­tumed guides roam the grounds from March to Oc­to­ber. Web www.glas­ton­bury­tic.co.uk

2 Nat­u­ral won­ders

Ven­ture down into the sta­lac­tite-cov­ered cav­erns of Ched­dar Caves, where you can dis­cover all about our pre­his­toric an­ces­tors or have an ad­ven­ture at this in­ter­na­tional cen­tre for cav­ing and rock climb­ing. Of course, there’s also the tow­er­ing cliffs of the gorge above to con­tend with; while you are here, check out the fan­tas­tic views from Ja­cob’s Lad­der. Web www.ched­dar­gorge.co.uk

3 Steam­ing through the coun­try­side

Take a nos­tal­gic trip back in time on the West Som­er­set Rail­way, the long­est her­itage rail­way in Eng­land. The line takes you through the Mendips for a scenic jour­ney, with 10 stops that take in ev­ery­thing from his­toric Dun­ster Cas­tle to Mine­head’s tra­di­tional sea­side charm. Web west-som­er­set-rail­way.co.uk

4 Fam­ily heir­looms

No trip to Som­er­set would be com­plete with­out vis­it­ing one of the many his­toric houses. Per­haps the most im­pres­sive is Stourhead, a mag­nif­i­cent Pal­la­dian man­sion that was the fam­ily home of the Hoare fam­ily. It is sur­rounded by pris­tine lawns and park­land, with the bank­ing fam­ily’s Re­gency trea­sures and Chip­pen­dale fur­ni­ture dis­played in the grand rooms. Web www.na­tion­al­trust.org.uk

5 Geor­gian life

The an­cient city of Bath is the beat­ing heart of Som­er­set, packed with at­trac­tions to suit the most dis­cern­ing trav­eller. From the Ro­man baths and the Geor­gian town­houses of the Royal Cres­cent, to the Ther­mae Bath Spa and the huge se­lec­tion of shops and mu­se­ums, there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one here. Web www.vis­it­bath.co.uk

6 Raise a glass

One of the county’s most fa­mous prod­ucts is cider, so it would be re­miss not to find out a lit­tle more about it. Head to Torre Cider, where they have been pro­duc­ing scrumpy for more than 20 years. You can take a tour of the farm, or sim­ply go to the shop for a tast­ing and visit with the farm an­i­mals. Web www.tor­recider.co.uk

7 Mak­ing tracks

Dis­cover the rich his­tory of the Avalon Marshes, a unique land­scape of low­land wet­lands that has been slowly re­claimed from marshes through­out the past 10,000 years. There’s wildlife ga­lore, and if you visit Shap­wick Na­ture Re­serve you can fol­low the route of the Sweet Track, a wooden track­way that was built across reed-swamp in 3806 BC and pre­served in peat. Web www.aval­on­marshes.org

8 Quite a col­lec­tion

Any­one with even a pass­ing in­ter­est in cars will love Haynes Mo­tor Mu­seum, home of the as­tound­ing col­lec­tion of cars, mo­tor­bikes and so much more that was started by John Haynes. There are nearly 400 ve­hi­cles in the col­lec­tion, with dis­plays about ev­ery­thing from the dawn of mo­tor­ing through to mod­ern su­per­cars and mo­tor­sport. Web hay­nes­mo­tor­mu­seum.com

9 Where an­cient meets mod­ern

Fit­tingly, the Mu­seum of Som­er­set is in the heart of the county town, within the walls of the his­toric 12th-cen­tury Taun­ton Cas­tle. The gal­leries tell fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries of the area, ex­plor­ing a his­tory that started 400 mil­lion years ago. Web www.swher­itage.org.uk

10 Her­itage on Ex­moor

Two-thirds of the land in­cluded within the ex­pan­sive Ex­moor Na­tional Park falls in­side Som­er­set’s bound­aries; that’s a lot of very spe­cial land­scape to ex­plore, so strap on your walk­ing boots and get out in the fresh air. The area is a haven for wildlife, par­tic­u­larly birds and but­ter­flies. Keep an eye out for the elab­o­rate Grade I-listed churches, a rem­nant from the area’s dis­tant past. Web ex­moor-na­tion­al­park.gov.uk

Ex­moor Na­tional Park’s wide-open spa­ces make for great walk­ing and you might even spot a pony or two

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