20 Muddy approved attractions in Somerset
From the big-beast tourist destinations to our cool insider alternatives, read on for our pick of 20 unmissable attractions in Somerset
Whether you live in the county, day tripping or staycaying in the ‘hood, there’s plenty to see and do plus oodles of in-the-know Muddy intelligence to steer you away from the tourist crowds and help you live it up like a local.
Headliner: Glastonbury Tor, Glastonbury
Climb to the top of the iconic Somerset landmark to reach St Micheal’s church tower, far-reaching views of the Somerset Levels, Dorset, Wiltshire and Wales – and maybe a thoughtful moment or two – the site’s known for it’s spiritual vibes.
In-the-know intel: Burrow Mump, Burrowbridge, nr Othery
Take a picnic and head over to Somerset’s ‘tiny tor’, another prominent hill with a ruined church on the top and panoramic views of the Somerset countryside. Set the satnav to TA7 0RB to get to the National Trust car park at the bottom.
Headliner: Hauser & Wirth, Bruton
One of the world’s pioneering contemporary art galleries, Hauser & Wirth is in Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Gstaad – and Somerset. Wonderful – free – exhibitions by leading artists of the 20th and 21st century, like Louise Bourgeoise, Alexander Calder, Don McCullin and more. The Radić Pavilion (a cross between a potato and a space ship) designed by Smiljan Radić is in the fabulous Piet Oudolf garden. The on-site Roth Bar & Grill is one of Somerset’s best.
In-the-know intel: Black Swan Arts, Frome
Vibrant gallery and arts centre in super arty Frome, with constantly changing exhibitions of contemporary, innovative art and crafts, with stuff for sale and a small but good cafe with a courtyard. Winner of the Best Art Gallery in Somerset in the Muddy Stilettos Awards 2019.
Get a bird’s eye view of Bath Abbey, the city roof tops and the hills beyond while floating around in Thermae Bath Spa’s luxuriously warm thermal waters. Six floors, 26 treatment rooms, a multi-sensory Wellness Suite and four thermal baths – a few indulgent hours here should be on everyone’s to-do list. Read our review.
Small and perfectly formed Elements Spa on the Somerset Levels is like having your own personal spa, with a panoramic plunge pool, steam room and sauna; four treatment rooms and a relaxation suite – and great views of the mini Glastonbury Tor (Barrow Mump) in the distance. Read our review.
Headliner: Hestercombe House & Gardens, near Taunton
Fifty acres of gardens spanning three centuries – a Georgian landscape garden, complete with lake, Gothic folly, classical temple and waterfall; a Victorian terrace with tree roses straight from the pages of Alice in Wonderland; and a gorgeous Edwardian formal garden created by dynamic duo architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and garden whizz Gertrude Jekyll. Art exhibitions, family events, a well-stocked gift shop, plant centre and second-hand bookshop.
In-the-know intel: East Lambrook Manor Gardens, near South Petherton
Creator of the original cottage garden, Margery Fish’s conic Grade I listed garden, resplendent with – depending on the season – snowdrops, hellebores, hardy geraniums, roses, euphorbias and more, in abundant borders and between winding stone paths, is a must-see for anyone interested in gardening. Plus an excellent plant nursery, little art gallery and cafe.
Headliner: Original Wild, Bath
Every kind of paddle boarding – sit down, stand up (SUP), on a giant paddle board, with your dog – plus raft-building, canoeing, kayaking and more in the centre of Bath and further afield, with a team of Adventure Experts led by ex-Royal Marine Kyle Worgan.
In-the-know intel: Mendip Activity Centre, Winscombe
Skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, a private limestone quarry for rock climbing/abseiling, archery, rifle shooting and axe throwing, bushcraft sites, a cave system, Archery Active battle zone, woodland orienteering * pause for breath * and an 18 hole frisbee golf course.
Headliner: The Olive Tree, Bath
Bath’s one and only Michelin-star (and 3 AAA rosetted) restaurant. Chris Cleghorn earned his chops with the likes of Michael Caines and James Sommerin, and now heads up the kitchen in The Olive Tree restaurant in the basement of chic Georgian townhouse hotel The Queensberry. The al la carte, set lunchtime, Six and Nine dinner menus with veggie and vegan versions and wine flights – are exceptional. Re-opening mid-Oct. Read our review.
In-the-know intel: Osip, Bruton
Merlin Labron-Johnson (Osip’s his Russian middle name) is one of the youngest chefs ever to have earned a Michelin star (just 24, when he was Head Chef at the Portland). His teeny, tiny, farm-to-table restaurant in Bruton, which opened in Spring 2020, focuses on seasonal ingredients from local farmers, growers, foragers and hunters.
BACK TO NATURE
Headliner: Exmoor National Park
Two-thirds of the sprawling national park, with its moors, heath, woodland, farmland and picturesque stone villages, is in Somerset. Obvs, it’s fabulous walking, riding, biking and hiking country but it’s also an International Dark Skies Reserve with spectacular night skies, with or without a telescope.
In-the-know intel: Avalon Marshes, the Somerset Levels
Once inhabited by prehistoric people who left behind wooden trackways across these wetlands, today the area is home to a multitude of birds and other wildlife, including starlings who roost here during the winter months. At dusk and dawn, the skies are filled with hundreds and thousands of them flying together in huge and fantastical shapes. Not only to be enjoyed by twitchers, these starling murmurations are a magnificent phenomena. Ever seen The Birds?
Headliner: Dunster Castle, Dunster
Your classic castle, with medieval gatehouse and ruined tower set on a wooded hillside, with panoramic views over the Bristol Channel, subtropical gardens and surrounding countryside. The village of Dunster is worth a look too.
In-the-know intel: Farleigh Hungerford Castle, near Bath
Discover the intriguing, gruesome, lives of the Hungerford family who lived in this medieval castle for over 300 years. In amongst the ruins there’s a chapel with rare medieval wall paintings and family tombs, a Priest’s house, and some creepy human-shaped lead coffins in the crypt (eek).
Headliner: Puxton Play Park, near Weston-super-Mare
The adventure area, high ropes, farm animals, tractors, indoor soft play, falconry, mini railway and more, set in 40 acres, should keep the littlies (and some their older sisters and bros) busy for a few hours.
In-the-know intel: Ferne Animal Sanctuary, Warmbrook, nr Chard
Over 300 rescued animals – horses, farm animals through to cats, dogs and birds – in 72 acres of Somerset countryside. You might have to be hard-hearted, though – some of the cuties are up for re-homing.
Headliner: The Roman Baths, Bath
The incredibly well-preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world. Walk on original 2,000 year old Roman pavements, see the ruins of the Temple of Sulis Minerva (and the gilt bronze head of the Goddess herself) and other Roman artefacts. The only thing you can’t do is take a dip in hot thermal waters that still rise up here.
In-the-know intel: Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury
Does what it says on the tin. The museum, housed in buildings around an awesome medieval tithe barn (grain store), tells the story of rural life in Somerset, with a recreated farmhouse kitchen and galleries focusing on village life, food production, schools, celebrations, beliefs and creativity. The combination of original artefacts, cleverly used original film footage and reminiscence is fascinating and poignant.