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Somerset

Main attractions

Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough Cathedral / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Somerset is very rich with cultural heritage and here it is not that easy to make a short list of most outstanding landmarks.

Highlights of Somerset are:

  • Churches - Peterborough Cathedral and Wells Cathedral are well known in whole world. Somerset though is home to several hundreds of Gothic churches with sophisticated architecture and their beautiful "Somerset towers".
  • Late medieval and Renaissance manor houses - Somerset is rich with these monuments which are rare elsewhere in Europe.
  • Cheddar Gorge and caves of Mendip Hills - sites of amazing, dramatic scenery. The large caves contain remnants of extinct animals, traces of Stone Age human settlements. Many caves for centuries have served for making of the delicious Cheddar cheese.

Natural landmarks

Stalactite curtain in Shatter Cave
Stalactite curtain in Shatter Cave / , Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Caves

  • Banwell Bone Cave - 100 m long cave which contains a rich assemblage of approximately 80,000 years old remains of Pleistocene mammals – bears, deer, ox, bisons, reindeer.
  • Charterhouse Cave - the deepest cave in southern England – 205 m deep and 1,700 m long. Contains fine speleothems – stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Goatchurch Cavern - 750 m (1,500 m?) long cave. Here are found remains of mammoth, cave hyaena, cave lion, bear.
  • Shatter Cave - discovered in a quarry. It belongs to the finest decorated caves in Britain, contains also gours, stalactite curtain, 3 m high pillar.
  • St Cuthbert’s Swallet - second longest cave system in Mendip Hills – 6.7 km long. Contains beautiful cave formations uncluding a 6.1 m high gour, curtains, floating calcite crystals, more than twenty nests of cave pearls.
  • Stoke Lane Slocker - fine, 2.18 km long cave, contains beautiful cave formations – including nests of cave pearls, 3 m high stalactite. Found also a chamber with bones of humans and animals, charcoal.
  • Swildon’s Hole - 9,144 m long cave, very hard to explore.
Cheddar Gorge
Cheddar Gorge / , / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Ashbrittle Yew - giant yew tree in church garden. Trunk of the yew has fragmented into 7 separate trees. Girth of whole group of trees - 11.58 m. It is considered that the tree grows on a Bronze Age barrow.
  • Cheddar Gorge - up to 137 m deep, spectacular gorge, formed in Carboniferous limestone. Contains endemic species of whitebeam – Cheddar whitebeam (Sorbus cheddarensis) with 15 specimens. Stream, which created the gorge, goes underground now. Several caves.
  • Ebbor Gorge - spectacular gorge in Carboniferous limestone. Many rare plants and animals, tools and bones from many eras including Neolithic.
  • Emborough Quarries - in this quarry of Triassic limestone have been found important fossils, including remains of Kuehneosaurus – one of the earliest known flying vertebrates.
  • Snowdrop Valley near Wheddon Cross - deep, forested river valley. In spring it is covered with a carpet of snowdrop flowers. Later it is flowering with countless bluebells as well.

Archaeological landmarks

Stanton Drew, standing stone
Stanton Drew, standing stone / Daz Smith, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Stone Age monuments

  • Aveline’s Hole - this cave is the oldest dated cemetery in Britain. Here have been found bones of 21 individuals, buried here 10,200 – 10,400 years ago. Inscribed crosses on the walls from Mesolithic period.
  • Gough’s Cave - 2,135 m long cave in Cheddar Gorge. Contains Cheddar Yeo – the largest ungerdround river system in Britain. In this cave was found a whole skeleton of prehistoric man – Cheddar Man, who lived approximately 7150 BC. Found remains of other humans – victims to cannibalism. Remains of mammoth. Possibly used in prehistoric times for cheese making.
  • Stanton Drew stone circles - group of stone circles. The largest is Great Circle with diameter – 113 m and 27 remaining stones. This is the second largest stone circle in Britain after Avebury. North East Circle has diameter of 30 m, with 9 stones still visible. South West Circle – 40 m diameter.
  • Stoney Littleton Long Barrow - Neolithic chambered tomb with seven burial chambers. 30 m long, 15 m wide, 3 m high barrow with 12.8 m long passage.
  • Sweet Track - oldest known dated road in the world – causeway, which was built in 3807 or 3806 BC. This timber trackway in fact was built over even older road – Post Track. This track extends for almost 2,000 metres. Walking track consisted of oak plank walkway mounted on supports – crossed woode poles which were driven in marshy soil. This monument shows that for at least 120 years before this construction there were living Neolithic farmers.
Tarr Steps - unique megalithic bridge, England
Tarr Steps - unique megalithic bridge / Michael Clarke Stuff, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other archaeological monuments

  • Brent Knoll Camp (Knoll at Brent) - impressive Iron Age hillfort, 137 m high, surface area 1.6 ha. Turned into hillfort around 2000 BC, later used also as a Roman fortification.
  • Cadbury Castle - impressive Iron Age hillfort (400 BC) with four terraced earthwork banks and ditches. Site contains house foundations, remnants of temples. Linked to legends about King Arthur.
  • Chalice Well - famous holy well, used as a shrine for at least 2,000 years. Powerful spring depositing iron salts. Interesting legends linking ancient and Christian traditions.
  • Daw’s Castle - hill fort on a 80 m tall sea cliff. Sea has eroded large part of hillfort, but some 300 m long rampart around the remaining part still is visible. Developed since Iron Age, reinforced in the 9th century to provide protection against Viking raids.
  • Glastonbury Tor - hill, which rises 145 m above the surroundings. Ancient site, possible Avalon of the legends about the King Arthur. Now here stand remains of the medieval Gothic St. Michael’s Church. Terraced slopes.
  • Pagans Hill Roman Temple - remnants of unique Romano-British temple. Possibly used as shrine already in Iron Age. In Roman times in the late 3rd century here was built double octagonal structure, possibly a shrine to Mercury. Shrine was active up to the 7th century AD at least, although structure collapsed in the 5th century.
  • Solsbury Hill - Iron Age hillfort, inhabited in 300 BC – 100 BC. Large, roughly triangular area surrounded by 4 m tall rampart. Possible location where took place battle between forces of King Arthur and Saxons in 496 AD.
  • Tarr Steps - prehistoric clapper bridge, built as early as in 1000 BC from enormous stone slabs, each weighing up to 5 tons. 55 m long, with 17 spans.
  • Wookey Hole - cave with a powerful stream – River Axe – coming out. Since ancient times up to present used for maturing of Cheddar cheese. Found archaeological artefacts from Iron Age and Roman times. Reportedly haunted.

Architecture monuments

Ven House, Somerset
Ven House / Mike Searle, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Castles and manor houses

  • Ashton Court - old country house, originally built in the 15th century but major part of present structure is built around 1633 and extended in the 19th century.
  • Brympton d’Evercy - One of the most beautiful country houses in England with harmonious architecture. The building has long history – it was started roughly in 1220 and finally rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century. Unfortunately much of its historical interior items have been lost.
  • Clevedon Court - late medieval manor house, built in the early 14th century, incorporating remnants of an older building. Valuable art collection.
  • Curry Mallett Court - small manor house from the 16th century, incorporates remnants of Norman castle. Site of legends about intense haunting.
  • Dunster Castle - historical home of Luttrell family, massive building in a site where for more than 1,000 years has been located castle. Present structure has been shaped by gradual rebuilding of historical castle, main construction works done in 1617.
  • Montacute House - important monument of architecture, representing a shift from Gothic to Renaissance architecture in England, one of the finest existing Elizabethan structures in existance. Built around 1598. Contains important collection of oils and watercolours.
  • Nunney Castle - small castle surrounded by a deep moat, built in 1373. It resembles a smaller copy of Bastille. Abandoned in 1645. Intact walls, towers and moat.
  • Tyntesfield - magnificent estate in Neo-Gothic style. The building was constructed in the 1860s - 1880s, there was rebuilt an older manor house. Rooms with ornate interiors.
  • Ven House - beautiful manor house, built in 1698 - 1700, enlarged in 1725 - 1730.
Wells Cathedral
Wells Cathedral / seier+seier, / CC BY 2.0

Churches and monasteries

  • Bath Abbey - enormous Gothic church, rebuilt from ruins in 1501 – 1539ies. 52 enormous windows cover 80% of wall space. Nave is adorned with exquisite fan vaults.
  • Cleeve Abbey - one of the best preserved medieval monasteries in Britain. Buildings constructed in the 12th - 16th century. Valuable medieval wall paintings.
  • Compton Martin Church of St Michael the Archangel - ornate, old church. Nave is built in the Norman times, in the 12th century. The tower was built in 1370 - 1443.
  • Crewkerne Church of St Bartholomew - interesting, ornate church building, constructed in the late 15th century in Perpendicular Gothic style.
  • Culbone Church - possibly the smallest church in England. It is possible that the church is built before the Normans, with later supplements. It is 10.7 m long.
  • Glastonbury Abbey - old monastery, established in the site of possible pre-Christian shrine in the early 7th century. One of locations where Holy Grail has been searched, linked to legends about King Arthur. It is possible that here are graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Monastery reached large influence in the 11th century. Now only ruins remain.
  • Huish Episcopi Church - late medieval church with beautiful tower. Tower built roughly in 1500.
  • Kingsbury Episcopi St Martin's Church - beautiful Gothic church. Nave is built in the 14th century, the magnificent tower - in 1515.
  • North Petherton Church of St Mary - beautiful late Gothic church, constructed in the 15th century. Highly decorated, 37 m tall tower, built around 1508.
  • Peterborough Cathedral - one of the visually most impressive church buildings in United Kingdom, built in Romanesque and Gothic style in 1118 – 1237 and extremely well preserved since then. Built in the site of an earlier church. Unusual and very original is the West Front facade with three enormous arches. Contains many art values.
  • Taunton St Mary Magdalene Church - magnificent church in Perpendicular Gothic style, built in 1508. Painted interior. Stained glass and most statues are from the 19th century. Original tower was built around 1503, but was rebuilt in 1858 – 1862.
  • Wellow church of St. Julian - Gothic church, built in 1372, tower in 1475.
  • Wells Cathedral - enormous, beautiful Gothic cathedral, built in 1175 – 1490 in the site of Roman mausoleum and older church. Very ornate facade, rich collection of medieval stained glass and other art values.
Pulteney Bridge
Pulteney Bridge, north side / Andy Powell, / CC BY 2.0

Other landmarks

  • Bath Royal Theatre - building of this well known theatre was constructed in 1805, rebuilt in 1863. Represents a fine example of Georgian architecture.
  • Gallox Bridge in Dunster - narrow stone bridge with two arches, built for packhorses in the 15th century. Roadway is 1.2 m wide.
  • Neo-Classic centre of Bath City - unique assembly of impressive Neo-Classic planning ensemble with buildings and infrastructure in the historical spa city of Bath.
  • Prior Park Landscape Garden - Picturesque landscape garden from the 18th century, one of fundaments for the English garden style of parks. Created in 1734 – 1764. Fine views towards the Bath city. Includes one of the 4 remaining Palladian bridges in the world.
  • Pulteney Bridge - amazing bridge over River Avon, designed by Robert Adam and built in 1769 – 1773. One of the few bridges in the world with shops across the full span in both sides.
  • The Circus in Bath - Great example of Georgian (Neo-Clasical) architecture – a group of three curved townhouses located in circle. Built in 1754 – 1768.
  • The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare - a collection of more than 80 helicopters and autogyros from around the world.
  • Tudor Tavern in Taunton - old public house from 1578. Overhanging 3 storey timbered front.
  • Yarn Market in Dunster - historical market building, octagonal structure. Built around 1590.

List of described attractions

ArrowAshbrittle YewTrees

Map of Somerset

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