There are few places that can match Somerset for the variety of things to do and range of attractions to see on offer. Along with fantastic food and drink, natural areas, and enchanting towns, Somerset is a county steeped in history. From our doorstep you can visit Tudor manors, medieval churches, and Neolithic burial grounds. Here are some of our favourites to visit and take a step back in time this summer.
Just outside of Yeovil lies Montacute House, an Elizabethan Renaissance house which was completed in 1601 and has remained virtually unchanged ever since. The east front of the house is a stunning façade of glass and local ham stone, while the surrounding gardens are also beautiful. The Long Gallery of the house hosts an exhibition by the National Portrait Gallery of Tudor and Elizabethan portraits, and there is a café and shop on site.
One of the oldest religious buildings in Somerset, Muchelney Abbey was first founded in the 7th century. It expanded over the years, until the principal buildings were destroyed in the dissolution. Visitors today can see the foundations of the abbey, along with the surviving cloister and abbots’ house. The Abbey features an interactive tour for families to tell the story of the buildings and grounds.
Barrington Court is a Tudor manor house, built in the 16th century. After becoming derelict, the house was restored in the 1920s. Old farm buildings now house independent artisan workshops, and the original kitchen garden produces food for the restaurant. The house has recently been used for the location of the BBC’s Wolf Hall.
For commanding views of the local Somerset countryside, it is hard to beat Ham Hill. From the top, the Mendip Hills, Blackdown Hills, and Quantock hills are all visible. The hill is also home to one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Britain and the ruins of a medieval village, while the Ham stone used for many local buildings also comes from here.
Lytes Cary Manor
For a trip through the ages, see Lytes Cary Manor. The oldest part of the manor dates from the 14th century, but successive additions over the subsequent centuries have created an interesting blend of styles. Don’t miss the gardens, which were designed in 1907 in an Arts and Crafts style and feature various ‘rooms’, each reflecting a different theme. There is also a café on site.
The world-famous Stourhead straddles the Wiltshire-Somerset border, and is only a half hour trip from our campsite. Described as a living work of art, the 18thcentury landscape garden is a masterpiece. Inspired by classical architecture and Greek mythology, at the centre is a large lake framed by the iconic Palladian bridge and Pantheon. Events are regularly held here, including open-air theatre.
It would be impossible to limit a visit to Glastonbury to a single place. The famous Glastonbury Tor overlooks the town: follow in the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims by climbing to the top and enjoying the fantastic views over the Somerset Levels. In the town are the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, a place which combines history and legend and regularly hosts events including a ‘Medieval Fayre’. The town itself has many shops, cafes and restaurants to explore.
For a quieter, but no less impressive, alternative to Glastonbury Tor, try Burrow Mump. A prominent hill amongst an otherwise flat landscape, it has been occupied by Romans, medieval soldiers, and even Alfred the Great - according to legend, at least. The remains of a ruined church now stand on top, preserved as a war memorial. It makes a great place for a picnic on sunny days.
There’s lots to do in Wells, but the highlight of any trip must be Wells Cathedral. One of the most impressive in England, it is a great example of early Gothic architecture with the original stained glass still much in place. The Cathedral has a café and shop on site, but venture into Wells and you’ll find a variety of other places too.
Treasurer’s House and Stoke-sub-Hamdon Priory
Finally, although not as grand as the other locations on this list, these two locations are a stone’s throw from our campsite and are both worth a visit. Other than the Bishop's Palace in Wells, the Treasurer’s House in Martock is the oldest house in the county, while nearby Stoke-sub-Hamdon Priory is a collection of 14thcentury buildings once used as a residence for priests.
All of these places can be reached by a short drive from our campsite.