DISCOVER SOMERSET

Magdalene St, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9EL – Tel: 01458 832267 

The ancient Abbey’s Romantic ruins are set in 36 acres of lovely parkland in the heart of town. The great church’s ruins, along with the Lady Chapel, are a grade I listed structure that is open to the public. The Abbey Gatehouse, which was built in the mid-14th century and completely restored in 1810, leads up to it. The Abbey Barn, built in the 14th century, is also open to the public. 

Since the Middle Ages, Glastonbury Abbey has been a place of pilgrimage. The legendary King Arthur, as well as Saxon kings, are buried here. A model of the Abbey as it would have appeared in the 14th century can be found in the Visitor’s Centre, as well as the magnificent 16th century Othery Cope. 

Magdalene St, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9EL – Tel: 01458 832267 

The ancient Abbey’s Romantic ruins are set in 36 acres of lovely parkland in the heart of town. The great church’s ruins, along with the Lady Chapel, are a grade I listed structure that is open to the public. The Abbey Gatehouse, which was built in the mid-14th century and completely restored in 1810, leads up to it. The Abbey Barn, built in the 14th century, is also open to the public. 

Since the Middle Ages, Glastonbury Abbey has been a place of pilgrimage. The legendary King Arthur, as well as Saxon kings, are buried here. A model of the Abbey as it would have appeared in the 14th century can be found in the Visitor’s Centre, as well as the magnificent 16th century Othery Cope. 

Places to visit in Glastonbury

Glastonbury Abbey

Magdalene St, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9EL – Tel: 01458 832267 

The ancient Abbey’s Romantic ruins are set in 36 acres of lovely parkland in the heart of town. The great church’s ruins, along with the Lady Chapel, are a grade I listed structure that is open to the public. The Abbey Gatehouse, which was built in the mid-14th century and completely restored in 1810, leads up to it. The Abbey Barn, built in the 14th century, is also open to the public. 

Since the Middle Ages, Glastonbury Abbey has been a place of pilgrimage. The legendary King Arthur, as well as Saxon kings, are buried here. A model of the Abbey as it would have appeared in the 14th century can be found in the Visitor’s Centre, as well as the magnificent 16th century Othery Cope. 

Glastonbury Tor

This is a prominent hill just outside of town that rises to a height of 525 feet. It has been a sacred site since records began and a centre of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. All that remains of a 14th-century church is St Michael’s Tower, which crowns the summit. 

The hill is said to be the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Celtic Lord of the Underworld, and a mystical place where the fairy folk cavort. 

The National Trust owns the Tor, and the public always has free access to it. It is only accessible on foot from a car park on the outskirts of town.

The lake village museum

The Lake Village Museum, which is located on the first floor of the Tribunal, depicts life in an Iron-Age settlement some 2000 years ago, when large areas of Somerset were covered by marshes. Glastonbury Lake Village is located 5km north of Glastonbury, but there is currently nothing visible there. The village was built around 300 BC and occupied until around 100 AD according to legend. It was later abandoned, possibly because of rising water levels. It was constructed on a wooden foundation that was filled with brush wood, bracken, rubble, and clay. 

Chalice well

Chilkwell St, Glastonbury. Somerset, BA6 8DD – Tel: 01458 831154 

The third and gentlest of the three hills that make up Glastonbury’s sacred landscape is Chalice Hill. It sits between the town and the Tor, effectively concealing the bulk of the higher hill. It has long been regarded as the holiest of the hills, with many believing it to be the final resting place of the Holy Grail. A spring with high iron content turns the water red, and a tranquil garden has grown up around it in the last decade, owned and maintained by a local trust.

There are several sheltered spots within the garden, which is surrounded by medieval stonework and rises up the lower slopes of the hill, where the visitor can meditate or dream of the Grail and King Arthur. An elaborate lid with a fine wrought-iron sculpture of the Vesica Pisces, a sign interpreted as representing the overlapping of the inner and outer worlds, is affixed to the well-head. Lower down, the water flows from a carved ornate fountainhead into a series of stepped bowls that echo the well-cover design. Because of the reddish tint of the water, it was once known as the Blood Spring, and it has since been mystically linked to the blood of Christ caught in the Grail. 

Taunton, the county town of Somerset is 20km from Thornhills Farm, a short drive of 22 minutes. 

Taunton has a history that dates back to the 7th century. King Ine of Wessex built a fortification here by the River Tone around AD 680. The king summoned a council of his most powerful nobles to Taunton to draft a code of law. Ethelburga, his queen, later destroyed the fortification to prevent rebels from seizing it. 

Taunton is an Old English word that means “a settlement by the Tone River”. 

During the late Saxon period, Taunton grew in importance, and Alfred the Great made it a burgh, or fortified town. It was granted a charter in AD 904, granting the townspeople some autonomy, and a mint was established later in the 10th century. Where The Parade is now there was once a regular market. 

Taunton’s wealth grew during the medieval period as a centre for the wool trade, and fulling mills were built to process the raw wool. Taunton wool was shipped all over Europe and even to Africa. The magnificent church of St Mary Magdalene, with its magnificent west tower, is a reminder of Taunton’s wool merchants’ wealth. 

The Bishop of Winchester owned the manor of Taunton throughout the medieval period. Around 1125, a priory was established, and the Bishop began construction on a castle adjacent to the priory. After 20 years, the priory was relocated outside the town walls, but the castle remained. The modern street name Canon Street and Vivary Park, named after the Bishop’s ‘vivaria,’ or fishponds, are both references to the priory. 

Taunton was granted a new charter in 1627, which gave it a mayor and civic corporation and freed it from the Bishops of Winchester’s influence. 

During the Civil War, Taunton backed the Parliamentarian cause. A Royalist army marched into town in 1643, and the locals surrendered without a fight. The town was under Royalist control for a year before being captured by Parliamentary forces in 1644. The Royalists raised a new army and attacked Taunton again, forcing the Parliamentary troops to flee to Taunton Castle. 

During the battle, a fire severely damaged Taunton. The Royalists fled, never to return, as Parliament dispatched a new army to raise the siege.

When Charles II ascended to the throne, he revoked Taunton’s charter because of the town’s support for his father’s enemies. In 1677, he was persuaded to renew the charter, but he had the Castle ‘slighted’ so that it could not be used against him again. However, it remained in use as a prison. 

In 1685, the Duke of Monmouth attempted and failed to take the throne. The people of Taunton greeted him warmly, and he was crowned king in a ceremony on The Parade. Unfortunately, the Duke was defeated shortly after at the Battle of Sedgemoor, and the rebellion was quickly put down. 

By the 18th century, the wool trade had faded, but Taunton had become a centre for the silk trade. The medieval castle was restored by Sir Benjamin Hammet, and the Taunton Museum opened in the castle in 1778. (in 1958 it was renamed the Somerset County Museum). Taunton’s status as a bustling market town was further enhanced when the railway arrived in 1842. In 1935, Taunton was chosen as Somerset’s county town over Weston-Super-Mare. 

Places to visit in Taunton

Taunton castle and museum

Castle Green, Taunton TA1 4AA – Tel: 01823 255088 

Taunton’s Norman castle was the site of many bitter battles during the Civil War of 1642, as well as a “Bloody Assize” held there by Judge George Jeffreys in 1685. Over 500 rebels were imprisoned at Taunton Castle and tried. 144 of the 514 inmates were sentenced to death (though some were never executed) and 284 were deported to the Caribbean. 

The Museum of Somerset is now housed in the castle. With information on local geology, archaeology, medieval, and ethnography, the museum tells the story of Somerset from prehistory to the present day. The Frome Hoard (a large collection of Roman coins), the 4th century Low Ham Mosaic (depicting Dido and Aeneas’ tragic love story), a Plesiosaur skeleton, a Shrunken Head, and Judge Jeffreys’ medical bill are among the exhibits. The Somerset Military Museum is also housed within the museum. 

In addition to its permanent galleries, the museum hosts a rotating series of exhibitions and activities, such as family drop-in sessions, as well as a calendar of special events, such as evening talks, music, and outdoor theatre. 

St James church

A walk along the riverside from the Castle leads to a lovely cast-iron Victorian bridge that spans the River Tone. The former St James Pool, built in 1928, is located just beyond the bridge on St James Street. Over the doorway, look for the ‘Public Baths’ sign. 

Beyond the pool, you’ll find St James Church, Taunton’s possibly oldest church, with a history dating back to the early 12th century. A beautifully carved 15th-century pulpit and a pulpit from 1633 are among the highlights. Look for the grave of engineer and explorer Joseph Whidbey (1757–1833), who sailed on Captain George Vancouver’s expedition and later designed the Plymouth Breakwater.

Somerset county cricket ground & museum

Location: 7 Priory Avenue, Taunton, Somerset TA1 1XX. Tel: 01823 275893 

The Somerset Cricket Museum is located behind the County Cricket Grounds in the historic old priory barn. Exhibits focus on the club’s history, including a collection of cricket memorabilia dating back to the club’s founding in 1875. 

Burnham-on-Sea is a famous seaside town and home to pristine golden beaches, it is 28km from Thornhills Farm, a short drive of 29 mins. 

Burnham-On-sea was mentioned as a royal domain in King Alfred’s will, so its history dates back to the Saxon period. It’s mentioned in the Domesday Book as being owned by a man named Walter. Burnham experienced its own tsunami in 1607, when a tidal wave broke through the sea wall, flooding thirty villages. Around Burnham, the countryside was flooded to a depth of ten or twelve feet over a twenty-mile radius. Huntspill, where 28 people drowned, was also badly affected, as were Berrow, Mark, Lympsham, Brean, South, and East Brent. The flood, which wreaked havoc along the coast for miles, inspired a London pamphlet titled “God’s warning to His people of England.” 

The village of Burnham was mostly made up of a few cottages huddled around the church until the early nineteenth century, when several new houses were built and the first hotel, The Royal Clarence, was built on the seafront. Many families began visiting Burnham-on Sea during the summer around this time. 

A south westerly gale swept up the Bristol Channel in early March 1897, bringing with it not only high seas but also driving snow. The Norwegian barque SS Nornen was one of the many ships that became stranded. She was dragged to the Berrow mud flats, where she eventually perished. The wreckage is still visible today. 

Places to visit in Burnham on sea

Burnham on sea beaches

Due to its exceptional stretch of beach, Burnham-on-Sea is one of Somerset’s classic seaside resorts. It’s Europe’s second-longest stretch of sand, and it’s home to several fantastic beaches. With seven miles of golden sands stretching between the resorts of 

Burnham-On-Sea and Brean. It’s ideal for walking, beach games, kite flying, picnics, and splashing in the sea (when the tide is out!). The coast is known for its fine sandy beaches, undeveloped dunes, and high and low tides, which are ideal for bird watching. There are four main beaches. Burnham has the world’s second largest rise and fall of tide, after the Bay of Fundy in Canada. 

Brean down

Brean Down, jutting out into the Bristol Channel and providing a download setting between Burnham-on-Sea to the south and Weston-super-Mare to the north, is one of the most well known features of the Somerset coastline. Brean Down offers beautiful coastal walks and breathtaking views, it is home to some incredible natural wonders. Relax on the beach at the foot of the Down, build sandcastles on the beach, and enjoy an afternoon treat at the Cove Café. Take the exhilarating 1.5 mile walk along Somerset’s greatest natural pier from the top of the Down. At the top of the 97m high down there are spectacular views of the Bristol Channel, south Wales, and the Somerset Levels.

Bridgwater sits next to the River Parrett it is 12km from Thornhills Farm, a short drive of 16 minutes.

Bridgwater has for at least a thousand years had settlers there. Although it is easy to see how the name Bridgwater evolved, it is described as an agricultural community with the name Brugie in the Domesday Book. At the beginning of the 13th century, William de Bruere was granted a Royal Charter for the borough, and he began construction on a castle here. 

The town had grown into a thriving port by the 15th century. The town’s prosperity, like that of several other towns in the area, was based primarily on the cloth industry. During the English Civil War, when the town supported the Royalists, it was subjected to a major siege. The town was attacked by Parliamentarians, and the majority of the timber-framed structures were destroyed. When the town was conquered, the victorious forces demolished the castle. 

The cloth trade began to decline in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a result of the industrial revolution. Larger northern towns became industrial hubs because labour was cheap and plentiful. The port of Bridgwater began to decline as Bristol grew in importance. Following the arrival of the railways, the town benefited from the manufacture of bricks and roofing tiles. During the twentieth century, however, this industry was supplanted by others. 

In the old town of Bridgewater, the medieval street pattern has been preserved, and there are still several attractive historic buildings. In the town centre, there is also a statue of Admiral Blake, one of the town’s most famous sons. This sailor and parliamentarian was born at the end of the 16th century, and his birthplace is now a museum. 

Bridgwater Fair, which has now been combined with an illuminated carnival, is the town’s most famous attraction. The fair, which has been held in the town since 1249, takes place during the last week of September. It was founded as a livestock fair, and this function still 

exists today. The main event, however, is now centred on a fairground with all of its attractions. 

Restaurants, bars, and cafés abound in Bridgwater. It also has a variety of shops and other tourist attractions. 

Places to visit in Bridgwater

The Blake museum

The museum is housed in the Blake family’s restored 17th century home. There are a number of galleries, each displaying a different aspect of past and present life in Somerset, in addition to outlining the life and career of Bridgwater’s naval hero. 

The Bridgwater and Taunton canal

The canal was built to connect the two towns in 1827. It is no longer used for commercial purposes and is now used for boating and there are very pleasant walks to be had along its banks.