Historic Somerset Guide

by Ben Johnson

Facts about Somerset

Population: 910,000
Famous for: Glastonbury, Bath, Over 11,000 listed buildings
Distance from London: 2 – 3 hours
Local delicacies Cheddar cheese, cider
Airports: Bristol
County town: Taunton
Nearby Counties: Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire

Welcome to Somerset! This county is home to the World Heritage Site of Bath, Roman ‘Aquae Sulis’, with its famous Roman baths and pump rooms. This lovely city has so much to offer the visitor that it is rightfully one of the most popular tourist destinations in England.

Somerset is also home to the cathedral city of Wells and Glastonbury, famous for the enigmatic Glastonbury Tor and of course, the music festival! Glastonbury is steeped in myth and legend: it was here that Joseph of Arimathea is supposed to have planted his staff into the ground when it instantly flowered to become the Glastonbury Thorn. The church that was established here was, according to legend, built at Joseph’s behest to house the Holy Grail. It is also supposed to be the burial place of King Arthur and Guinivere.

In the north west of the county you will find historic Dunster, a picturesque town just two miles from the coast and the seaside resort of Minehead. Dunster boasts a stunning castle, unique Yarn Market, pretty thatched cottages, inns and cafes, and is set right on the edge of dramatic Exmoor.

The mighty port of Bristol is also in Somerset. This historic city is home to Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge and the world’s fifth oldest zoo.

As for local food and drink, Somerset is famous for apples and cider, and many cider farms now offer tours and free tastings. And of course there is the world famous Cheddar cheese! Cheddar originated in Somerset around the late 12th century and is named after the dramatic Gorge and caves in which the cheese used to be stored.

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