Recognised as one of England’s national parks, the Mendips are popular with climbers, cavers and potholers, hill walkers and natural historians for their geological interest and it is easy to see why. The deep emerald greens of the valley farmland roll up and float across hillsides that expose deep grey crags and gorges. This rugged landscape is perfect for those getaways where you want to experience the outside.
Perfect for a UK staycation this year, don’t you think?
We at Humphrey’s of Henley would like to introduce you the best spots in the Mendip hills of Somerset, whether that be exploring the landscape, or some of its rich history in stately homes.Enquire about Experience
There are so many beautiful spots in the Mendips that we wanted to highlight the areas we think you will really enjoy.
1. Cheddar Gorge – Cheddar Gorge is a spectacular limestone gorge with huge cliffs to climb, or hike and amazing subterranean stalactite formations in the caves below. Below ground is also where Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, estimated to be 9,000 years old, was found in 1903. Of course, aside from being a Somerset attraction, the gorge is also store to some of the famous Cheddar cheese, so do not forget to pick some up in the guest shop!
2. Gough’s Cave – Gough’s Cave is probably the most well-known of the Cheddar Gorge caves. It is 15 m deep and is 3.405 km long and contains a variety of large chambers and rock formations estimated at 500,000 years old. Along your walk you will explore secret caverns, see the ancient elders’ meeting chamber, and visit the mesmerising Cheddar Yeo, the largest underground river system in Britain.
3. Chew Valley Lake -Chew Valley Lake is a large reservoir, the fifth-largest artificial lake in the United Kingdom, with an area of 1,200 acres. The lake was created in the early 1950s and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. It is an important site for wildlife and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. The Wildlife Trust now uses the valley park as a national centre for birdwatching, with over 260 species recorded.
4. Ebbor Gorge National Nature Reserve -Ebbor Gorge is a limestone gorge, designated as a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Mendip Hills. Donated to the National Trust in 1967 and is now managed by Natural England as a National Nature Reserve. The gorge itself was thought to have been occupied by humans as early as the Neolithic Era, as their tools and flint arrow heads have been discovered, along with pottery from the Bronze Age.
Wherever you choose to spend your time, we know that you are going to go home feeling truly refreshed.
If you have time to visit slightly further afield then we have some real gems for you, which include an historical look at the surrounding countryside.
Somerset is home to many beautiful properties and historical attractions. Here are a few of our favourites.
1. Lytes Cary Manor – Less than an hour away from the Mendip National Park, is Lytes Cary Manor, a beautiful manor house with a fine example of an arts and crafts garden. Henry Lyte, who lived in the house in the 1550s, was a keen herbalist and gardener and created a very practical, working garden. Sadly, much of the original garden was lost after the Lytes family sold the estate in 1755. When the Jenner family took up residence in 1907, there was not a great deal of land left, but Sir Walter and Lady Flora set about creating a new garden. The Arts and Crafts-inspired design features rectangular ‘rooms’ separated by yew hedges and stone walls, each reflecting a different mood or purpose.
2. Barrington Court – further south and deeper into Somerset is Barrington Court, a Tudor manor house, beautifully restored in the 1920s and 30s by Colonel Lyle and his wife. They employed many skilled traditional craftsmen to uphold the many decadent details of this house and this remains a testament to their dedication to this day.
3. Montacute House – Just a short drive away from Barrington Court is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design, with towering walls of glass, glowing ham stone and surrounding garden. Montacute House also boasts one of the last examples of a Tudor gallery, a real ‘must have’ feature of its time, as it showed wealth and grandeur. From here you can see down into the garden and along the tree lined avenue. They also have a rather impressive cross stitch sampler collection, with international significance and many fine examples of stained-glass windows.
4. Tyntesfield – Half an hour north of the Mendips National Park is Tyntesfield, a beautifully ornate Victorian Gothic Revival house. Saved by National Trust donations in 2002, restoration continues today. The house, garden, woodlands, and many of the original buildings remain intact, together with the possessions amassed by one family, the Gibbs. There is a beautiful chapel inspired by Sainte Chapelle, the chapel of the French kings in Paris and with the largest collection of objects in the Trust, Tyntesfield is a fascinating record of life in a country house spanning four generations. Intriguing clues into William’s Hispanic identity remain dotted around the house: his Spanish motto, dramatic Spanish paintings, and shimmering incense burners from Peru.
5. Clevedon Court -Heading towards the coast is Clevedon Court, a 14th century manor house with 18th century terraced garden. Purchased by Abraham Elton in 1709, this remarkable survivor from the medieval period has been the ancestral home of the Elton family ever since. Today, Clevedon Court remains home to some of the Elton family’s unique possessions, including a collection of local Eltonware pottery and Nailsea glass.
And finally, you cannot mention a trip to Somerset, without mentioning a trip to Glastonbury Tor.
6. Glastonbury Tor – Just a few miles outside of Wells, this iconic hill has been a spiritual magnet for centuries, for both Pagans and Christians. Tales have grown out of history, becoming blended and embellished leaving the truth, whatever it was, literally lost in the mists of Avalon. Beneath the hill, it is said, that there is a hidden cave through which you can pass into the fairy realm of Annwn. There dwells the lord of the Celtic underworld Gwyn ab Nudd.
Later tradition has it that here lies the Holy Grail brought here by Jesus’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. The Cauldron and the Grail were both the object of quests for King Arthur and his knights. Glastonbury has a long tradition of being ‘The Isle of Avalon’ where King Arthur remained after his last battle. The monks of Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have found his grave in 1191.
It seems odd to think that the tower has not always stood alone upon the tor. It is all that remains of the 14th-century church of St Michael. Though now only a tower, there are carvings that survive to give some idea of how it was decorated.
Pack layers of clothing and suntan lotion to enjoy a comfortable stay during your Mendips outdoor and indoor activities.
Somerset and the Mendips are a beautiful exposed part of the country and exploring their many gems and secrets is truly fun for the whole family. Indoors or outdoors there will be a significant difference in temperature, so whilst it seems obvious, we do not want you to forget to pack enough layers of clothing, or sun cream for your trip.