- 1 Bristol (often considered a separate county and not covered in this article)
- 2 Wells — England's smallest city.
- 3 Bath — Roman and Georgian spa town with Roman baths and Georgian architecture; the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- 4 Taunton – the county town
- 5 Bridgwater
- 6 Clevedon – seaside resort with pier
- 7 Glastonbury — a town known for its Tor and New Age associations, plus its nearby music festival
- 8 Ilminster
- 9 Langport – small town in the heart of the Levels
- 10 Minehead
- 11 Portishead
- 12 Shepton Mallet
- 13 Watchet
- 14 Weston-super-Mare – traditional seaside resort
- 15 Wincanton
- 16 Yeovil
- The Exmoor villages of Dunster, Oare, Porlock, Porlock Weir, Selworthy and Winsford are found in the Exmoor article.
Because of several local government reorganisations, the exact definition of the county of Somerset depends on whether you are talking about the modern administrative or the traditional county. This article specifically covers the current administrative county of Somerset, plus the unitary districts of "North Somerset" and "Bath and North East Somerset", which constitute much of the traditional county of Somerset. It does not cover the city of Bristol, which by tradition and in modern times is a county in its own right.
A large part of the Exmoor National Park is in Somerset, although Devon has the western part. The Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is also shared with Devon but two fall entirely within Somerset. These are the Quantock Hills and the Mendip Hills.
The variety of English you encounter in Somerset depends on which part of Somerset you are visiting. For example, if you visit Bath, you are more likely to encounter a form of Received Pronunciation (RP), whereas if you visit Yeovil, the chances are that you will encounter West Country English (WCE), the variety of English spoken primarily in Somerset, Bristol, Devon and Cornwall, as well as Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. The difference between RP and WCE is demonstrated by the word Bath itself. RP speakers will pronounce Bath with a long /ɑː/ sound (the same way they pronounce the 'a' and 'r' in car), while WCE speakers will pronounce Bath with a long /æː/ sound (the same way they pronounce the 'a' in ham).
Another significant difference is demonstrated by the 'r' in the word cider. RP speakers will not pronounce the /r/ in this word (they will say SIGH-da), while WCE speakers will always pronounce /r/ after a vowel (they will say SIGH-der or even SOY-der).
In Somerset, as in other counties of England, you will also encounter non-native English speakers alongside the speakers of the local and standard varieties, particularly in the larger towns and cities of Bath, Weston-super-Mare, Taunton, Yeovil and Bridgwater. However relative to other parts of England, Somerset has very few non-native speakers (around 2% countywide, around 10% in central Yeovil).
The region's main airport is Bristol Airport.
There are major railway stations at Bristol (Bristol Temple Meads) and Taunton. Both are served by trains from London (Paddington), Cardiff, Manchester, the North of England, Devon and Cornwall, from the Great Western Railway and CrossCountry operators. Bristol is also served by trains from Portsmouth, Weymouth, Hampshire and Dorset.
By car, the major routes are the M5 serving the north of county (Bridgwater, Taunton) and the A303 in the south (Yeovil, Ilminster).
The best way to get around Somerset is probably by car - while certain major towns and cities are served by rail, many popular tourist destinations, such as Clevedon, have no station, or, like Minehead, are served only by heritage railways with no connection to mainline stations.
- 1 Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar. dramatic limestone gorge and show caves, home to paleolithic archaeology, and the famous cheese
- 4 Glastonbury Tor, Glastonbury. overlooks the historic Glastonbury Abbey, and with their many associations with myth and legend, New Age shops prosper in the town
- 7 Tyntesfield, Wraxhall. Spectacular Victorian Gothic Revival house with gardens and parkland (National Trust)
- 8 Wookey Hole caves, near Wells. series of limestone caverns open as a show cave/ tourist attraction
Truly authentic and cosy country pubs abound throughout this county, as well as rolling rural landscapes. The North Somerset area boasts Cheddar Caves and Gorge, Wookey Hole Caves, Glastonbury Tor and Abbey, as well as the Victorian seaside resort of Weston-Super-Mare.
There are some amazing walks to be done around somerset and its many undiscovered treasures.
- Birdwatching. Somerset hosts numerous RSPB and WWT nature reserves, and the wetlands of the Levels are a true avian hotspot, with literally millions of starlings coming to roost in one of England's most dramatic natural displays
- Caving. As well as the easily tourist-accessible show caves listed under "See", the Mendips is riddled with more challenging and complex caves available to experienced cavers. Paid guided expeditions are available for the brave but inexperienced
- Glastonbury Festival. one of the largest and most famous festivals of performing arts in the world
- Priddy Folk Festival. three days of folk music on the Mendip plateau
At the shore of the Bristol channel, the Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station is worth a visit to those with an interest in science and technology. Visitors first need to register at the 1 EDF Visitor Centre in Bridgwater. An identity check is part of the pre-visit registration process, so do not forget to bring your passport.
- 2 Hinkley Point B Nuclear Power Station, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. An active nuclear power station with 2 operational 650 MW reactors of the AGR (Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor) type, the first of their kind to be connected to the British power grid in 1976. After an introduction, visitors are taken on a tour through the power station, visiting the turbine hall, the reactor hall, and the control room. The tours are guided by Bob, a retired plant operator with over 50 years of experience in nuclear technology, who is able to answer almost any question. A tour takes about 4 hours (including safety checks) and requires a fair bit of walking. Decent shoes and proper clothing are required. Free.
- 3 Hinkley Point C (HPC). Construction site of the Hinkley Point C power station, to be commissioned in 2025. Tours are organized around the site where this megastructure is being erected, including the concrete factory producing the concrete required to pour the reactors continuously for over 50 hours, the excavations for the turbine hall and back-up generators, and the 3 km long pipeline with a 3.5 m diameter to suck in cooling water.
In the summer, local strawberries with Somerset clotted cream.
Don't miss the local genuine farmhouse cheddar cheese, a world apart from the generic factory cheese often sold under the cheddar name.
Cider. There are plenty of opportunities to sample this fine west country drink whilst in Somerset. There are plenty of small farms who will sell you Scrumpy cider, most pubs also serve proper farmhouse cider, especially out in the countryside. Some of it can be very strong so watch out! A good place to purchase is Sheppy's Cider Farm just outside Taunton.
- Gurney Manor Mill, Gurney St, Cannington, Bridgwater TA5 2HW, ☎ . A watermill of 15th Century origins converted into a B&B. Comfortable rooms with character. Pleasant grounds with water features. Good quality home cooked breakfasts. £30-45 per person per night inc. B/fast.
- Helpful Holidays. Is a family business with over 600 high quality, inspected holiday cottages in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.
- Classic Cottages. Established in 1977, with over 750 handpicked and personally inspected holiday cottages throughout Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall.
- Bristol is a major city to the north of Somerset.
- Devon lies west of Somerset.
- Dorset lies to the south-east of Somerset.
- Wiltshire is to the north-east and east of Somerset.