Spectacular Cheddar Gorge

Somerset: Keep calm and carry on

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Spectacular Cheddar Gorge

Spectacular Cheddar Gorge

This year has certainly thrown out some challenges in the way of weather, but how amazing has it been to see how the regions most affected have rallied? A coming together of communities, local businesses, councils, travel providers and many other organisations and individuals who have committed to helping in any way possible.

Over the last few weeks I have felt honoured to share stories from some of these individuals and organisations, learning how much has been done so that we can all look forward to spring and summer in some of England’s most beautiful counties. To see what I’ve been up to, check out my posts on Cornwall and Devon

This week I have been looking at Somerset, long a favourite holiday destination for not only U.K. holidaymakers but international visitors too. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of visiting the heart of the West Country, now is the time to take a look and learn just why it’s such a popular location. For seasoned visitors, it’s also time to take a look – at what’s going on over the next few months. Somerset is open and ready to welcome visitors; in fact, it’s literally bursting with events and attractions!

View of somerset levels and Glastonbury

View of somerset levels and Glastonbury

The ancient Welsh Celts and the Saxons referred to Somerset as the ‘Land of the Summer People’, which I think captures the spirit and character that makes Somerset such a wonderful county. Whether you are visiting one of Somerset’s historic towns, walking in the rolling Mendip Hills, or setting up camp for a day on one of Somerset’s beaches, you will most definitely receive a warm welcome.

Visit Somerset along with Visit England organised free seminars and workshops inviting local businesses to join sessions, during which experts gave advice and support on moving forward after the storms – and there certainly is a lot to look forward to.

Visit England is running a great campaign called “Spot On”, highlighting great deals and spot-on spring prices for everything from days out and adventure activities, to accommodation and places to eat. Brit Rail also have some exciting offers with money-off admission tickets. Working in conjunction with many top attractions, you will not only enjoy your day out, but have a little extra money left in the bank.

Auto Train - Muddymoor - Steve Edge

Auto Train – Muddymoor – Steve Edge

Sticking with rail for the moment, Somerset has the largest steam railway line in Europe: West Somerset Railway. I have been speaking with the general manager this week and he kindly shared how excited they are in looking forward to Easter and summer, offering some great ideas for days out:

Despite a widespread misconception both nationally and further afield that the whole of Somerset was flooded at the start of 2014 and the rail system devastated, the West Somerset Railway was just one part of the 97% of the county that was unaffected and carried on as usual. The planned track work (note not emergency works) went ahead as planned and was completed in good time for the 2014 operating season to begin as planned in February”.

Rail Motor - Doniford

Rail Motor – Doniford

The West Somerset is England’s longest “heritage” line, running for 20 miles between Bishops Lydeard (near Taunton) and Minehead. Along the route the steam trains pass through the Quantock Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and along the Exmoor Coast. Places of interest to visit along the way can include the ancient harbour town of Watchet with its narrow streets, small shops and Marina, Cleeve Abbey and Torre Cider Farm at Washford and medieval Dunster with its Castle, Mill, Dolls Museum, packhorse bridge and tithe barn. At Minehead the beach is right across the road from the railway station. This is also the 50th year since the filming of the Beatles first feature “A Hard Day’s Night” on the line including a sequence with Ringo Starr riding a bike along the platform at Crowcombe Heathfield station”.

Williton - Auto and Rail Motor - Steve Edge

Williton – Auto and Rail Motor – Steve Edge

Steam trains run on a daily basis from early May to the start of October (except 6th June) and there is a programme of special events to suit all ages and interests. For more information see www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk”.

Another of Somerset’s attractions, the SeaQuarium – which is found on the Pier on Weston-super-Mares’ seafront – gave me a snapshot of what you can look forward to when visiting this Easter and over the coming months:

See anemones and clownfish at SeaQuarium Photo: SeaQuarium

See anemones and clownfish at SeaQuarium Photo: SeaQuarium

If it’s a voyage beneath the waves that you are looking for, SeaQuarium in Weston-super-Mare is the place to visit. Showcasing a range of species from around the world in 8 different zones with over 30 exhibits, it includes a Tropical Reef Zone with Puffer fish, Lionfish and Eels, a Rainforest River Zone with Piranha and the new-for-2014 ‘Fantastic Phobias’ Zone where you come face to face with snakes, locusts, cockroaches and rats!

‘Fantastic Phobias’ Zone

The ‘Fantastic Phobias’ Zone – come face to face with snakes, locusts, cockroaches and rats! Photo: SeaQuarium

Travel links are excellent across Somerset with road and rail links waiting to transport you to your Somerset destination of choice. Mathew Morgan, Station Manager for First Great Weston at Weston-super-Mare had this to say:

transport links are back to normal Photo: FirstGroup

transport links are back to normal Photo: FirstGroup

Following the disruption that we experienced during the flooding, we are pleased that all our services are now back to normal and we are seeing an increase in people heading to the area to enjoy all it has to offer this Easter. With a range of attractions along the line from seaside days out and events at Weston to the famed Somerset carnivals later in the year, there is something for everyone and we look forward to continuing to welcome people into Somerset.”

With world-famous attractions such as Cheddar Gorge, the Royal Bath and West Show and the iconic Glastonbury festival, Somerset remains one of England’s top destinations. The storm has blown over – plan your break to Somerset and be bowled over by this stunning county.

 

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KirstiSomerset: Keep calm and carry on

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