Somerset is a county of contrasts, from rolling countryside, to rugged moors, beaches, caves, gorges and underground rivers, you’ll be charmed by its rich and varied landscape.
A visit to Somerset can't fail to leave a lasting impression. From the long sandy beaches of Weston-Super-Mare, Minehead and Burnham-on-Sea in the north of the county, to the rolling hills of Exmoor, and caves, gorges and underground rivers, visitors to the area are sure to be amazed by the rich diversity of this ever-popular destination.
Families are spoilt for choice in Somerset, where beach holidays with sun, sea and surf are found just a few miles from wonderful countryside that is alive with vibrant colours, diverse wildlife and some of the most beautiful scenery in the South West.
The rugged landscape of Exmoor to the west of the county stretches along the north coast and into Devon, and is a popular holiday hotspot for walkers and families, as well as being a great place to holiday with your dog.
With well over 10,000 listed buildings throughout the county and ancient trades such as cider making and willow weaving still major contributors to the local economy, Somerset is a place that puts a high value on its rich heritage, and can provide all those who stay there with an insight into how the South West has worked for many centuries.
Holiday cottages in Somerset are among the cosiest and most picturesque in the whole of the UK, and as such offer the perfect base from which to explore this warm and welcoming destination. Somerset may be a largely rural location, but it still benefits from a wide variety of first-class amenities and attractions which all that visit will be able to enjoy. Home to the world famous Glastonbury Festival and the city of Bath, a World Heritage Site and without doubt one of the most important cultural spots in the country, the county really does have something for everyone.
There are few places better suited to escaping the pressures of modern day living than Exmoor, where rolling moorland and peaks can be found right alongside wooded valleys and sandy beaches. The moor itself stretches through Somerset and North Devon, offering a huge amount to discover.
Fans of walking, cycling and horse riding have miles and miles of tracks and walkways to explore, while boat rides and kayaks offer a different perspective of the sandstone cliffs and large sand dunes along Exmoor's coastline.
Clear night skies full of glistening stars await those who venture out after dark, while the wild red deer and Exmoor ponies are just two of the amazing animals that can be seen while wandering across the moor.
The Quantocks were the country's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are a haven for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Stretching 12 miles from the North Somerset coast down into the heart of the county, the Quantock Hills are a rich tapestry of diverse and varied landscapes. The stunning coastline offers far reaching views across the channel to Wales while inland, visitors can expect ancient wooded valleys, open heath land and undulating farmland.
Dotting the hills are a number of postcard pretty villages including Kingston St Mary, Bishops Lydeard, Holford and Crowcombe. Picturesque Nether Stowey is another charming village which sits on the start point of the Coleridge Way; a 51 mile long walking route taking in the Quantock Hills, Exmoor National Park and finishing in Lynmouth on the North Devon coast.
Dating back more than 900 years, Forde Abbey House and Gardens is a family home as well as a working estate that welcomes visitors all year round. In more than 30 acres of grounds including lakes, the age and beauty of the property is something to experience in itself, with features including the famous Mortlake tapestries created from the cartoons Raphael painted for the Sistine Chapel. You can have lunch or tea in the Monastic Undercroft Tearoom, there’s a gift shop and plant centre for gifts to take home. The property also hosts guided tours and activities for families and children, and seasonal events are organized, so do keep an eye on the website before you visit. Prices start at £12.50 for adults while children under 15 go free.
One of the best and most challenging locations for off-road cycling, Exmoor enjoys a network of bridleways, lanes and other permitted tracks with ample opportunity for some wonderful rides. The Exmoor OS Explorer Map has details of the many routes available, but it is asked that you take into consideration other users, wildlife and the environment when mountain biking in the area by only using permitted tracks and following the Countryside Code, which you can find on the Exmoor National Park website.
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Offering a range of award-winning outdoor activities, Exmoor Adventures gives you the chance to try your hand at coasteering, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, raft building, abseiling and a host of other adventure sports. Based in Porlock West Somerset, the team are fun, passionate and have lots of experience. Founder Dan was even a British Cycling MTB leadership tutor.
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A holistic horse riding experience on Exmoor, heading out with these guys is pretty magic. You can go barefoot and bitless if you fancy it in the grounds of Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre, just one mile from Porlock, and five miles west of Minehead. Either way you can traverse woodland and moorland with spectacular views to the sea and across the moor to Devon and Cornwall.
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The West Somerset Railway is a historic rail network in Somerset and Dorset, that has given great pleasure to visitors over the last century. It is the longest heritage steam railway in England. Travel along the line and look out at the inspiring countryside, take in the history and seasonal events. Keep an eye on website timetable for more information.
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A pretty riverside pub famous for its homemade pies along with other British classics, accompanied by a good range of cask ales and craft beers. Dog friendly, with a stash of treats behind the bar for visiting dogs.
The Bridge Inn 20 Bridge St, Dulverton TA22 9HJ (T: 01398 324130)
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Lovely pub! Went in a couple of times after walking the dog. Staff very friendly wine good! Didn't eat there but only because they were fully booked.
Very welcoming and dog friendly, excellent food, and squashed us in last minute even though they were full on an off season, weekday evening. Highly recommended.
A traditional family run tea shop in the heart of Dulverton with large, sunny rear garden as well as cosy indoor seating by the woodburner for cooler days. A great spot to enjoy a full breakfast, light lunch, delicious cream tea or a choice of homemade cakes.
The Copper Kettle Fore St, Dulverton TA22 9EX (T: 01398 323697)
Winner of multiple awards, Woods serves inspiring menus championing local produce in a relaxed, stylish setting. Pop in for a drink at the well-stocked bar, or settle around the log fire for some banter with the locals after your meal. Well behaved dogs and children welcome and there is a pretty courtyard garden for sunny days.
Woods Bar & Restaurant 4 Bank Square, Dulverton TA22 9BU (T: 01398 324007)
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Well worth a visit. Staff very nice but food excellent! My only wish is it moved nearer to my home. Very reasonable for the quality of the food. Highly recommend!
Whether you choose to dine in the beamed restaurant or outside in the pretty walled garden, you’re in for a treat at this fine dining restaurant in the heart of the medieval village of Dunster. From the warm welcome you receive front of house, to the fine ingredients used and attention to detail in the kitchen, Reeves is worthy of its glowing newspaper reviews.
Reeves 20-22 High St, Dunster, Minehead TA24 6SG (T: 01643 821414)
Winner of multiple awards and newspaper column inches, The Lord Poulett is a wonderful thatched stone inn with excellent food, a good choice of drinks and a pretty beer garden. Inside the muted colours, open fires and flagstone floors create a thoroughly English atmosphere; a great spot for lunch, dinner or just a few relaxing drinks at the bar.
The Lord Poulett Arms High St, Hinton Saint George TA17 8SE (T: 01460 73149)
Long sand and shingle beaches peppered with alabaster rocks that are perfect for finding fossils, Blue Anchor Bay and Dunster Beach in Somerset are adjacent to one another, and are beautiful places to while away the afternoon, whatever time of the year. Dogs are allowed on the beaches all year round, which is a novelty, there are toilets close by, and a pub as well for those lazy lunches after a morning’s stroll. The West Somerset Railway comes close to the beach, adding an extra layer of interest, and there’s plenty of parking close to both of them as well, which is always a blessing. The beaches are tidal and can get a little muddy at low tide, so careful not to slip and don’t get caught out when the water comes in!
Perpetually featured amongst the best beaches in the area, Minehead Beach is in one of Somerset’s busiest holiday areas. Divided into two sections, The Strand is a wide sand and shingle beach that faces North-to-North West, it looks out across the Bristol Channel towards Wales. Terminus meanwhile is the north-facing part that was almost completely washed away in the early ‘90s. After a multimillion pound project, a sea wall was completed. Today it’s an excellent spot for swimming, kite-surfing and windsurfing. Dog restrictions apply in the summer and there are cafes, restaurants, toilets and shops all close by.
After 30 miles of Exmoor coastline that’s predominantly cliffs, at Porlock the land flattens out and a unique mile long shingle ridge and an inland salt marsh have formed. It’s a short walk from there to the centre of Porlock, where there are lots of marked footpaths to explore. Porlock Weir Beach itself is a pebble beach that welcomes dogs all year round. It’s a prime spot for swimming, fishing, surfing and sailing, and there are cafes, restaurants, toilets, pubs and shops close by to explore. There is pay and display parking close to the beach, so don’t forget your change when you visit, and you will be pleased to know that the water quality is reputedly excellent.
A shingle beach that arcs out into the sea from Lynton, Lynmouth Beach is a popular spot for surfing, but there’s no lifeguard cover so be careful when you go! The area is known for its excellent scenery and pleasant walking along the sea front and along the banks of the Lyn River which flows between the two towns of Lynton and Lynmouth. There is also a cliff railway from Lynton down to the sea front. At Lynton there is a smaller beach with rocks at low tide, while Lynmouth Beach is longer and sandier. Lynmouth has level access all the way along, and there are several car parks in the town as well as road parking by the river and beach. Toilets, cafes and shops are close by, but there aren’t any activities available, it’s all about enjoying the scenery!
On the South West Coast Path, Wringcliff Beach is within walking distance of the little town of Lynton and a number of secluded bays along the coastline. The beach itself is a secluded bay surrounded by high cliffs with a steep access path, making it a tricky one to visit if you have small children with you. Of course, because it’s a little difficult to get to, it’s also wonderfully peaceful with incredible views to enjoy. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year around and it’s perfect for adventurous walkers. There’s parking is in the valley of the rocks which is accessed and signposted through Lynton, but once you’re there it’s not that easy to reach toilets and restaurants, to if the weather permits, take a picnic and enjoy the day!