Road Trip: Som­er­set

Get be­hind the wheel for an au­tumn am­ble around the Som­er­set Lev­els, en­joy­ing some of the re­gion’s best pro­duce as you ex­plore

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Contents -

FRI­DAY NIGHT Your week­end in the heart of the West Coun­try be­gins in Somer­ton, a Saxon town that was once the cap­i­tal of Wes­sex. Pitch up at the White Hart, a for­mer 16th-cen­tury coach­ing inn on the mar­ket square. The bed­rooms fea­ture four-poster beds, claw-foot baths and weath­ered travel trunks. Sup­per in the cosy bar down­stairs is a riot of sea­sonal lo­cal pro­duce crafted to­gether by Tom Blake, of River Cot­tage fame. Choose from in­ven­tive dishes, such as flat-iron chicken with tomato and caper salsa, or gurnard, chorizo and red-pep­per ke­babs, leav­ing some room for the salted caramel and choco­late tart (mains from £13.50; rooms from £85). white­hart­somer­ton.com SAT­UR­DAY MORN­ING The first ex­cur­sion sees you cruis­ing coun­try roads be­tween hedgerows of hawthorn and beech to the Som­er­set Cider Brandy Com­pany and its 180 acres of or­chards. The air is heavy with the warm musky scent of cider-mak­ing in Oc­to­ber. Book a tour of the farm to see the ap­ples be­ing pressed and to visit 70 -year-old Josephine and Fifi, the two French cop­per stills where cider brandy is made. Non­drivers will have the chance to sam­ple sev­eral ciders and brandies, and you can also stock up on larder sup­plies for au­tumn in the farm shop. Be­fore you hop back in your car, take a stroll around the farm’s or­chards or head up Bur­row Hill (tours £5, cider brandy from £17 a bot­tle). som­er­set­cider­brandy.com SAT­UR­DAY AF­TER­NOON Pick up a quiche or sand­wich from the Kitchen at the Wharf in Lang­port to fuel up for the next ac­tiv­ity: Par­rett Trail Bikes, which rents out two-wheel­ers. We rec­om­mend an 18.5-mile cir­cu­lar route that sees you trun­dle along coun­try lanes through the vil­lages of Dray­ton and Ham­bridge (stop in at Brown and For­rest Smok­ery, sup­plier to Fort­num & Ma­son and The Hawksmoor), past the Tu­dor manor of Bar­ring­ton Court, and on to Muchel­ney, home to Muchel­ney Abbey. This is a great place to get out of the sad­dle for a leg stretch. Ar­rive at dusk and

you may even see a star­ling mur­mu­ra­tion, the mes­meris­ing spec­ta­cle where shapeshift­ing clouds of birds dance across the sky (half-day rental £12). kitchen­lang­port.co.uk, par­rett­trail­bikes.co.uk SAT­UR­DAY EVENING Swap two wheels for four back in Lang­port, as it’s a half-hour drive to din­ner and your bed for the night. The Swan in Wed­more is a re­cently re­fur­bished pub that has seven an­tique-filled gue­strooms, some with ex­posed beams. Ev­ery dish on the menu, taken on rus­tic oak tables in the din­ing room, is a con­tender, but we sug­gest start­ing with some baked Som­er­set camem­bert and crusty bread to share, be­fore mov­ing on to a main of Glouces­ter Old Spot pork belly with chimichurri if you’re fam­ished, or whole-roasted Cor­nish hake for some­thing lighter (mains from £13.50, rooms from £75). theswan­wed­more.com SUN­DAY MORN­ING Prise your­self from your bed for the short drive to Lands End Farm and a spot of cider tast­ing (with apolo­gies to the des­ig­nated driver). Roger Wilkins’ fam­ily has been pro­duc­ing cider for over 100 years and has won awards from CAMRA. There’s no fancy tast­ing room, but Roger will be happy to pour you his best vin­tage and you can buy flagons to take away (from £10.50). It’s then on to the town of Glas­ton­bury – clam­ber up the hill of Glas­ton­bury Tor to St Michael’s Tower for views over the Lev­els. Af­ter rolling back to the bot­tom, head to Jon Thorner’s Farm Shop in Shep­ton Mal­let to stock up on lo­cal pies, ale and West­combe ched­dar. wilkin­scider.com; jon­thorners.co.uk SUN­DAY AF­TER­NOON A fine place to sat­isfy a rum­bling stom­ach is the Tal­bot Inn in Mells. It’s the kind of pub where walk­ers kick off their wellies at the door and set­tle in for the day be­side the fire­place. Sun­day roasts of chicken, lamb or beef come with York­shire puds, cau­li­flower cheese and roast po­ta­toes (£15). If you can heave your­self up af­ter­wards, head to the nearby mar­ket town of Frome. On the first Sun­day of the month, you’ll have a chance to stroll around the Frome In­de­pen­dent, a mar­ket that brings to­gether the best lo­cal food and drink pro­duc­ers, artists, florists and de­sign­ers. Oth­er­wise, wan­der the nar­row cob­bled streets of the old town, lined with in­de­pen­dent shops and cafés. tal­botinn.com

Glas­ton­bury Tor has a special magic in au­tumn. Be­low from left: A star­ling mur­mu­ra­tion; ap­ple har­vest time; din­ner at The Swan

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