Art Holiday Travel and Vacation information for Somerset

Somerset, maritime county in SW. of England, bounded N. and NE. by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the Severn, and from NE. round to SW. by the counties of Gloucester, Wilts, Dorset, and Devon; greatest length, N. and S., 43 miles; greatest breadth, E. and W., 67 miles; area, 1,049,812 acres, population 469,101. The coast line is generally low and marshy in the E., but lined with lofty slate cliffs in the W. The interior consists of ranges of hills separated by valleys, or by extensive low marshy flats. The principal ranges are the Mendip Hills, the Polden Hills, the Quantock Hills, the Brendon Hills, and Exmoor. The chief rivers are the Avon and the Parret (with its tributaries the Yeo or Ivel, Isle, and Tone), the former forming the boundary on the NE., the latter traversing the centre of the county; the other streams are the Yeo, Ax, and Brue. Both soil and climate are well adapted for agriculture, particularly in the low alluvial tracts; and in the Vale of Taunton heavy crops of the finest wheat are raised. The rich meadows rear large numbers of cattle, and the hilly grounds are pastured with numerous flocks of sheep. In the E. of the county are some small isolated coalfields, the most southerly in England, the quarries which furnish the famous Bath stone, and a large development of magnesian limestone; the W. of the county consists chiefly of slaty rocks, forming the wild moorlands of Exmoor. The chief minerals worked are lead, iron, and slate. The principal manufactures are woollen and worsted goods, gloves, lace, linen, crape, silk, paper, glass, and bath-bricks. There are salmon, herring, and other fisheries in the Bristol Channel. An important chain of internal communication is formed by the Yeo and Parret navigation and the Glastonbury Canal. The county contains 40 hundreds, 2 liberties, 489 parishes with parts of 3 others, the parliamentary and municipal boroughs of Bath (2 members) and Taunton (1 member), and the municipal boroughs of Bridgwater, Chard, Glastonbury, Wells, and Yeovil. It is nearly co-extensive with the diocese of Bath and Wells. For parliamentary purposes it is divided into 7 divisions - viz., Northern, Wells, Frome, Eastern, Southern, Bridgwater, and Western or Wellington - 1 member for each division; the representation was increased from 6 to 7 members in 1885. (Transcribed from Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887. -C.H.)

Two contrasting cities packed with interest, some charming small towns and villages, varied largely unspoilt countryside, and all sorts of places to visit - good value for a short or longer holiday Somerset is particularly good value these days, as most places here have been holding their prices steadier than elsewhere, and there's a great deal to see and do. It's the two main towns, Bath and Bristol, which have most to offer visitors.

Bristol has all sorts of things to pack a day visit with interest, including the first-class hands-on science discovery centre and a splendid zoo, both excellent for families; it also has a full range of big-city problems, so isn't really appealing as a place to linger in. Bath by contrast is sophisticated, mellow, graceful and elegant - again, plenty to see, but also with the overall charm which makes it a very rewarding place to stay in. The Prior Park landscape gardens on the outskirts, opened in 1997, would be a new excuse for a return visit if you've been before.There's also delightful countryside in Somerset. The best of the scenery is around the hills. In the E, Cheddar Gorge and the Wookey Hole caves bring summer crowds to the brooding Mendips and are best visited at quieter times of year - though even in summer there are much less populated parts of the Mendips (such as Ebbor Gorge, and the plateau of poor windswept sheep pasture on top, pocked with unseen caverns used by potholers, and more visible Bronze Age funeral barrows). Over in the W the countryside feels more secluded and self-contained, with each small valley of the Quantocks seeming a private world, and the Blackdown Hills charmingly untouristy, too - classic quiet English countryside with some lovely villages. We describe the Somerset parts of Exmoor in the section devoted to Exmoor, in the Devon chapter (places like Dunster, off the Moor though within the National Park, are included in this chapter).The dead-flat vivid green marshy pastures of the Somerset Levels provide an interesting contrast, rewarding for wildlife enthusiasts, and towards the E richer more rolling farmland with small valleys and wooded hillsides offers some gentle country drives.There's a mass of interesting places to visit. Particular favourites include Dunster and its castle, Wells (a charming largely unspoilt small cathedral city), magnificent Montacute House, the friendly animal centre at East Huntspill, the Fleet Air Arm museum at Yeovilton, Castle Cary (with Hadspen Gardens), Barrington Court with its lovely gardens, the famous manor garden at East Lambrook, the indoor jungle at Washford, the newly extended Hestercombe Gardens at Cheddon Fitzpaine, Hatch Court at Hatch Beauchamp, and one of the enjoyable cider mills at Dowlish Wake or Bradford on Tone. There are plenty of craft centres, some of them unusual or even unique. Glastonbury has the pull of its Arthurian legends. On the coast, Minehead is a pleasant traditional resort, with a long steam railway line below the Quantocks. Weston super Mare is an undemanding family resort with some interesting places to go to, and Clevedon is also quite attractive.Throughout, there are delightful villages, and the countryside is dotted with a profusion of landmark church towers, pinnacled, turreted and gargoyled. In the hillier parts, buildings are generally of stone, varying in colour and character from the Cotswold style of the NE, through the pale limestones of the Mendips and the golden warmth of south Somerset's Ham stone, to the rugged and stolid greys of the hamlets tucked into the green folds of the Quantocks.Somerset tourist information centres have a great deal of helpful material.

Peter Hayes Contemporary Ceramics
After traveling and working in Africa, India, Japan and Korea for almost 10 years, Peter Hayes arrived back in England in 1982 and converted a toll house into a studio on the banks of the river Avon in Bath. He has developed his thoughts and ideas using many of the techniques and methods learnt on his travels.

2 Cleveland Bridge
Somerset England
Pottery, ceramics.

Christine-Ann Richards
Christine-Ann Richards has worked in thrown porcelain for more than twenty years, firing in an oxidising atmosphere and specialising in crackle and monochrome glazes. A study trip to China in 1978 with the Craftsmen Potters Association had a radical effect on her work and way of life. She has pursued Chinese studies and returns regularly to China often accompanying fellow artists.

Chapel House High street
Somerset England
- Christine-Ann Richards

The Two Rivers Paper Company
Two Rivers was formed in 1976 and has been run and located at Pitt Mill, Somerset, UK since 1990. It's one of a handful of commercial handmills still operating in Europe. The owner/manager is Jim Patterson, a fourth generation paper maker who has spent his entire working life in the paper industry, in larger mills both in England and abroad, including Wansborough Paper Company in Watchet.

Pitt Mill Roadwater
Somerset England
- The Two Rivers Paper Company

Arnolfini is one of Europe's leading centres for the contemporary arts. Arnolfini's international artistic programme presents new, progressive and experimental visual arts, live art and performance, dance, cinema, literary readings and a busy education programme of tours, talks and events. There are also occasional music events, design and architecture lectures.

16 Narrow Quay
Somerset England

Superb B&B, Wells, Somerset
Stunning Mendip home dating back to 15th century, lovingly restored, offers luxury yet relaxed accommodation, all en suite. Open fires, beams galore, lovely walled garden. Private Wing available for special romance/getaways. 2 miles Wells. Peaceful. Parking. Kids welcome. Games Room.

Manor Farm Bed & Breakfast East Horrington
Somerset England
bed & breakfast south west england wells somerset wells b&b B&B wells cheddar wookey hole bath accommodation wells accommodation - Superb B&B, Wells, Somerset