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Somerset villages: 9 of the prettiest to visit

PUBLISHED: 13:22 02 August 2018

Thatched cottage in Selworthy (c) bbofdon / Shutterstock

Thatched cottage in Selworthy (c) bbofdon / Shutterstock

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With historical pubs, quaint tearooms, iconic landmarks and thatched cottages, Somerset is home to some of the country’s most beautiful villages. We pick 9 of the prettiest to explore in the county

1. Wedmore

A short drive from Wells, and fondly referred to as the ‘Isle of Wedmore’, Wedmore sits on elevated ground in the Somerset Levels between the River Axe and River Brue. The village’s church is the Grade I listed Church of St Mary, predominantly hailing from the 15th century, although some work from the 12th and 13th century still survives. The pretty gardens that surround the church are best viewed from the top of St Mary’s Church tower.

There are a number of annual festivals that take place in Wedmore including the village’s Real Ale Festival in September where visitors can expect 60 choice of real ales, ciders, perrys and wine to try. Lovers of cider should make a stop off at Wilkins Cider Farm, a short drive from the village. Expect proper, traditional Somerset cider, a range of delicious local cheeses and more. Roger Wilkins and his family live and breathe their craft; and will even give you a tour around the cider farm and offer tastings.

The village is also well-known for its fashion shops and the award winning and pioneering jeweller Erica Sharpe.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? You’re spoilt for choice in Wedmore. The George Inn, near to The Church of St Mary, offers plenty of local ales, tasty pub classics and delightful interiors. Or perhaps head to The Swan, a village pub with rooms with a kitchen led by Tom Blake from River Cottage. The New Inn is a wonderful slice of history; and has served hungry and thirsty visiting patrons and locals for over 150 years.

Don’t miss… The Ashton Windmill, an 18th century flour mill, located nearby is definitely worth a visit. A windmill is mentioned on this site as early as 1317. Expect spectacular views from the mill over the Somerset Levels, Cheddar Gorge and Mendips.

Did you know…? The Turnip Prize, a parody of the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize, was created in Wedmore. Inspired by Tracey Emin’s best known work ‘My Bed’, this award celebrates the worst of bad modern art.

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2. Porlock

Nestled at the foot of Porlock Hill, village life in the charming coastal gem of Porlock is as friendly as it comes. After a steep walk up Porlock Hill, where breathtaking views across Porlock Bay and Dunkery Beacon can be admired, make your way down to the village and stroll past the quaint thatched cottages, gardens bursting with colourful flora and rich history that the village is known for.

The smallest parish church in England, Culbone Church, is a two mile walk from Porlock Weir. Porlock’s The Church of St Dubricius is a beautiful, Grade I listed building with architecture dating back to the 13th century. The 15th century tomb of John Harrington, who fought alongside Henry V in France in 1417, can be found in the church.

All the modern amenities can be found in the village; alongside shops selling local produce and knick-knacks. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes and hotels all offering a warm welcome.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? Pay a visit to The Ship Inn. One of the oldest inns in Exmoor, history and charm are in abundance in this watering hole. Enjoy homemade dishes and a wide selection of Cask Marque ales and ciders to choose from.

Don’t miss… The unspoilt beauty of Porlock Weir feels like a trip back in time. The small harbour is a delightful scenic spot to explore for the afternoon, and the gorgeous coastline of shingle is the perfect place for a contemplative walk breathing in some sea air.

Did you know…? Located around two miles away from Porlock, the dramatic stretch of shingle in Porlock Weir inspired R D Blackmore’s novel Lorna Doone.

3. Holford

Nestled in the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, around ten miles west of Bridgwater and six miles east of Williton, you’ll find the beautiful village of Holford. The village is also positioned on the Coleridge Way walking route, and is surrounded by beautiful ancient oak combes that climb to open heathland hilltops.

Holford Kelting, located just north of the village, is a 13 acre nature reserve run by the Somerset Wildlife Trust and is part of the Quantock Hills Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The village church, the Church of St Mary the Virgin, was rebuilt in the 19th century but records of a church building date back to the 13th century. There are also plenty of pretty thatched cottages to admire as you stroll around the village.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? Indulge in a tasty cream tea at either the Plough Inn or Combe House Hotel.

Don’t miss… The village can be found on the Coleridge Way walking route, a 51 mile trail encompassing a vast expanse of beautiful Somerset countryside: the Quantock Hills, the Brendon Hills and Exmoor. The landscape inspired poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge to produce some of his best known work.

Did you know…? The music video for Bryan Adams’ classic song (Everything I do) I Do It For You was filmed at Holford Silk Mills and Kilve Beach in 1991.

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4. Mells

Known for its lovely architecture, ancient streets and traditional thatched cottages, Mells is bursting with history. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086; and the Grade I listed Manor House of Raymond Asquith, 3rd Earl of Oxford and Asquith, dates back to the 16th century.

Every Easter Monday people travel from far and wide to attend the village’s annual Daffodil Day.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? Take a seat in the walled courtyard of The Talbot Inn on a sunny day or in front of the fire among the traditional coaching inn’s chic interiors during the colder months. Pop down on a weekend when fresh trout or a suckling pig is grilled on an open charcoal fire and served upon a long dining table.

Don’t miss… Immerse yourself in the peace and tranquillity among the vibrant floral displays at The Walled Garden at Mells. The Walled Garden was created to supply plants and flowers to the garden of the now demolished Mells Rectory which was knocked down in the 1540s during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Monasteries. There are a wide selection of plants to purchase as well as locally-made sculptures, rose terraces and olive, bay and fig trees to admire.

Did you know…? In the Domesday Book of 1086 the village was known as “Mulne”, meaning several mills.

 

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5. Selworthy

Postcard-perfect scenes don’t get much prettier than in Selworthy. The wonderfully preserved thatched cottages the village is famed for are bound to cause house envy!

The unique white frontage of the All Saints church is stunning; and with its position on the side of the hill that lies in the village, beautiful views over the Vale of Porlock can be enjoyed. Take a peek at the 12th century font and painted nave that lies within the pretty church.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? The Periwinkle Tea-room is the perfect place for diners to quell their hunger pangs. Their delicious cream teas are the perfect treat to tuck into after a morning exploring the Exmoor countryside.

Don’t miss… The village is a great starting point to explore the varied landscape of Exmoor; start at the footpath leading to Selworthy Beacon where mesmerising views across the countryside can be enjoyed. You may even spot an Exmoor pony or two.

Did you know…? The Selworthy village is part of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate, an area boasting 12,000 acres of Exmoor coast and countryside.

 

6. Cheddar

Arguably the nation’s favourite cheese, the origins of Cheddar cheese lie in this pretty Somerset village. Produced in the village since the 12th century, to this day the cheese is stored in the Cheddar Caves to mature and can be purchased in the Cheddar Cheese Factory.

The large village, located roughly nine miles from Wells, is abundant in gift shops, twee tea rooms, ice cream shops and pubs all sat along a winding road leading to the iconic Cheddar Gorge. The award-winning Cheddar Ales brewery, based at Winchester Farm on the slopes of the Mendip Hills, offer evening tours for those interested in the brewing process or perhaps enjoying sampling a few!

There’s plenty of gorgeous countryside to explore in and around Cheddar; from the open landscape above and around the Gorge to near-circular Cheddar Reservoir operated by Bristol Water which as been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The Strawberry Line, receiving its name as the fruit was transported along the now closed Cheddar Valley rail line, is now a popular walking and cycling route starting at Clevedon and finishing at Shepton Mallet. You’ll also spot the historic Cheddar Market Cross on Bath Street which dates back to the 15th century. The Scheduled Ancient Monument has been restored and rebuilt on a number of occasions after suffering damage.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? Cheddar is brimming with pubs, restaurants and tea rooms where you enjoy anything from a coffee and cake to an a la carte dining experience. Decadent afternoon teas can be sampled at the vintage, 50s style Lion Rock Tea Rooms; delicious fare at The Bath Arms; or if you would prefer a quiet round of drinks away from the beaten track, a warm welcome awaits you at the Kings Head. On a warm day, we recommend enjoying an ice cream from Ice Dreams.

Don’t miss… A visit to Cheddar isn’t complete without encountering the spectacular Cheddar Gorge. The largest gorge in the UK, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, has an amazing view from the bottom staring up or from the top soaking in the views across the open countryside. If you get the chance the Cheddar Caves of stunning stalactite caverns are also a wonder to see.

Did you know…? Britain’s oldest complete skeleton was found in the Gough Cave, Cheddar Gorge in 1903. The skeletal remains are estimated to be 9,000 years old.

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7. Dunster

With a wealth of history, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped back in time on a visit to the medieval village of Dunster. Located within Exmoor National Park, the picture-perfect high street is adorned with gorgeous listed buildings, independent shops and plenty of charming tea rooms and pubs all with a viewpoint up to the formidable Dunster Castle.

The village was a centre for wool and cloth production; and The Yarn Market built by George Luttrell in the 17th century remains as a monument to the once prosperous trade. The timbered octagonal building is a visual treat, and one of many charming historic structures. The Dunster Museum & Doll Collection is the perfect place to discover more of the village’s history and the unique doll collection of 1300 figures spans a large history.

Visitors flock to the village at the beginning of December each year for the popular Dunster by Candlelight. Crowds can enjoy a lantern procession, festive historical entertainment and late night shopping.

In need of a drink and a bite to eat? Expect tasty light bites and firm pub favourites at The Stags Head or book an evening meal at The Luttrell Arms and enjoy an a la carte dining menu of inventive dishes.

Don’t miss… Sitting on top of a wooded hill, Dunster Castle was a lavish country home to the Luttrell family in the 19th century who lived there for 600 years. Marvel at the impressive medieval gatehouse and ruined tower pointing at the castle’s dramatic history; and enjoy the visually-pleasing subtropical gardens complete with palm trees and floral terraces. The views are outstanding too, across to Exmoor, the Quantocks and the Bristol Channel.

Did you know…? Built by Norman warrior William I de Moyon shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Dunster Castle was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

8. Crowcombe

Crowcombe can trace its history back to 854 when it was spelt ‘Cerawicombe’ and later again in the Domesday Book of 1086 when the village was listed as ‘Crawcombe’.

The village is nestled in the south-western slopes of the Quantocks, roughly halfway between Taunton and Minehead, and lush, green countryside surrounds the village as far as the eye can see. Explore the beautiful scenery of Quantock Hills or Crowcombe Park Gate nearby, both perfect for a scenic walk or place to settle down for a picnic.

Records show there has been a manor house in Crowcombe since at least the 13th century. Nowadays the luxury setting of the house and manicured gardens at Crowcombe Court proves to be a popular wedding venue.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? The Carew Arms has been at the heart of village life in Crowcombe for over 400 years and visitors can still expect the quirks and charm the historical building boasts from over the years. Expect a great selection of local ales and delicious dishes with locally sourced ingredients. There’s even a pub garden to soak in the sunshine during the warmer months.

Don’t miss… The Grade I listed Church of the Holy Ghost. The beautiful building has a tower dating back to the 14th century while the rest dates back to the 15th. It is believed to be the only church in the country with this unusual dedication.

Did you know… The Quantock Hills became England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956. The area covers 99sqkm from the vale of Taunton Deane to the Bristol Channel coast.

9. Winsford

The charm of Winsford lies in its picture-perfect thatched cottages, its ford, its village green and the pretty bridges that cross the River Exe and the Winn Brook. The unspoilt character of the village makes it the perfect place to while an afternoon away.

Five miles from Dulverton and around ten miles south-west of Minehead, for those rambling through Exmoor National Park, put your feet up with a drink and bite to eat at The Royal Oak.

Positioned in the heart of the village, St Mary Magdalene Church is a Grade I listed building, built in the 10th century and partly restored in 1858. The church has six bells, and the four heaviest were made by Thomas Bilbie in Cullompton in 1765.

In need of a drink and bite to eat? For a place to rest and refuel with a plate of tasty homemade fare, take a seat in the charming thatched inn, The Royal Oak. The Royal Oak also boasts ten en-suite bedrooms all individually designed and bursting with character.

Don’t miss… As well as Exmoor National Park, take a walk up the heath-covered Winsford Hill where you can admire spectacular views to Dunkery, Dartmoor and the Blackdown Hills. Pure-bred Exmoor ponies of the Anchor herd roam here, and the three Bronze Age Wambarrows and standing ‘Caractacus’ stone can be seen here.

Did you know…? Winsford Common is fondly referred to as ‘The Punchbowl’ due to its position in a hollow of surrounding countryside.

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