What it's like
From an outdoor perspective, Somerset’s biggest claim to fame is that it boasts no less than 5 hill ranges: the Mendips, the Blackdowns, the Brendons, the Quantocks and the Poldens. But even that doesn’t really do justice to the huge county that actually forms the real gateway to the south west.
The highest ground is Dunkery Beacon – the highest point of Exmoor too – although technically it belongs to the Brendon Hills, and what a super viewpoint it is, with the coast stretching north and west, and the bleak plateaus of Exmoor on the other side. The walking here is pleasant rather than dramatic, with many of the surrounding hills, swathed in deciduous woodland, but there’s plenty of steep stuff to negotiate too, and any outing is almost certainly going to involve plenty of up and down. The mountain biking in the area is wonderful too – especially the SWCP from Minehead to Porlock and trails that literally circle the beacon.
The often forgotten Quantocks are also worth a visit. This compact little area – really just one heathery whaleback ridge - is littered with tracks and trails that offer intricate walking routes and some very technical mountain biking. Again it can be steep, but again, well worth the toil.
The northernmost range is usually known as the Mendip Hills, although locals tend to shorten this to plain ‘Mendip.’ In contrast to the Quantocks, this is a sprawling area, often split into East and West to keep things concise. The west, boasts the highest ground, and the wildest, and as well as excellent walking and biking, it also conceals some of Britain’s biggest cave systems, while Cheddar Gorge offers top-notch climbing.
- SWCP Minehead to Porlock On foot or on bike, this is spectacular countryside with the steep, heather-strewn hills plunging straight into the ocean.
- Black Down and Beacon Batch Mendip’s high point and a great place to walk or bike. Link it with Cheddar for maximum spectacle.
- Quantock's Coombes Mix and match a plethora of trails for excellent walking or mountain biking. Start at Holford and work upwards from there.
Must see and do
- Rock Climb, Cheddar Gorge As restrictions come off this huge
- limestone crag, so the routes get better and better.
- Glastonbury Tor Forget the festival and enjoy the ambience of this gothic tower at sunrise or sunset.
- Weston-Super-Mare More kiss-me-quick than glitz but it does boast the second biggest tides in the world. Best viewed from Brean Down.
Destination County : Somerset