Somerset… whether you’re a hardy hiker or a first time trekker you’ll love this county of beautiful and diverse countryside; of high cliff tops and coastal paths, wild heaths, rugged hills, a network of quiet lanes and footpaths, and miles and miles of glorious open countryside intersected with wooded coombes and softly rolling valleys.
When you’re staying at a Sleeps12 property in Somerset you know that you’re never far from some great walking terrain; there’s always stunning scenery ripe for exploring right on your doorstep, and more often than not, a cosy country pub to wind up at. The good thing is, as long as you’re properly kitted out it doesn’t matter what time of year it is; walking in the winter can be just as rewarding as in the summer months – the trees aren’t in leaf so vistas are opened out more, there’s not much livestock in the fields, and nothing beats that feeling of getting back to your large group holiday home and having a nice hot drink by the fire, or a long soak in a big bath tub.
You’ll find walks of varying lengths among the high plateaus and rolling valleys of the Blackdown Hills AONB, dotted with working farms and pretty villages. Walk up to Wellington Monument for breathtaking panoramic views, or around Otterhead Lakes, where you can find a quiet spot for a picnic. Explore Castle Neroche and Staple Hill, and time it so you round it off with a laid back pub lunch; the Greyhound Inn at Staple Fitzpaine, the Candlelight Inn at Bishopswood, the York Inn at Churchinford, and the Holman Clavel are all very welcoming.
The wild beauty of the Quantock Hills is a walker’s paradise, with far reaching views across the Bristol Channel to Wales. There are plenty of walking routes including the West Somerset Coast Path and the Coleridge Way. Take in Hawkridge Reservoir, climb to the top of Wills Neck, Cothelstone Hill, or one of the gorgeous combes that these hills are famous for; Holford Combe takes you up through the woods to the bracken clad heaths, and when you get back down into the village you can amble across Holford Glen and see the ruins of the Hugenot silk factory, and then go the Plough Inn for a bite to eat. They say that wherever you are in the Quantocks you’re never much more than 1.5 miles from a pub; our favourites are the Carew Arms in Crowcombe, the Blue Ball Inn at Triscombe, or the Rising Sun at West Bagborough, though equally popular is the Pines Café near Broomfield for refreshments.
Exmoor National Park offers a diversity of scenery, from heather topped moors to oak woodlands and rolling river valleys. Walk in the footsteps of Lorna Doone to Culbone Church, or trek up to Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on the whole of Exmoor, and then drive to Porlock Weir for a bite to eat at the Ship Inn. Stroll the banks of the River Barle to Tarr Steps and enjoy lunch at the Tarr Farm Inn just up the road; amble along the gorge from Watersmeet and when you get back go and find a table in the tea garden and order a big slice of homemade cake.
If you prefer flatter terrain, the Somerset Levels is a unique landscape of wetlands, old drover’s paths and rhynes (pronounced REENS) lined with ancient pollarded willows – a haven for nature lovers and those who like to get off the beaten track. Pick up the Parrett Trail taking time to visit the ruins of Mulcheney Abbey and to pop in the little church to see the wonderful 17th century painted barrel ceiling, or carry on into Langport where Kitchen is renowned for its delicious food; there’s also a scenic level walk along the River Tone to North Curry where the Bird in Hand is good for refreshments. The only high ground you’ll find in this part of the county are Burrow Mump, where you can climb to the top and follow the footpaths to return to the King Alfred Inn at the foot of the hill, and Glastonbury Tor, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views across the countryside.
The Mendip Hills is another AONB and it’s easy to see why; windswept plateaus, deep gorges, and the softer rolling hills of the Chew Valley make this area a gem for those who love to explore on foot. Designated walking trails include the Mendip Way, which takes in the dramatic cliffs of Cheddar Gorge and winds down to historic Wells, and the Butcombe Trail, which links six rural inns across the hills. Plan a walk to take in the grassland and woody caves of Ebbor Gorge, allowing time for a pit stop at one of the quaint watering holes – the Crown Inn at Churchill, The Queen Victoria at Priddy, or the Queens Arms at Bleadon.
So pack your walking boots and your rucksack, book your favourite Sleeps12 property in Somerset and get down to the good old West Country for an inspiring UK walking holiday.