Somerset boasts 4,171 square kilometres of natural beauty, with two magnificent gorges, a one of a kind tor, a breathtaking National Park and some of the highest and most impressive sea cliffs in Britain. Every corner of the county is bursting with adventures, and it’s the perfect place to spend time in nature. Here is our guide to the best outdoor activities in Somerset.
Somerset has some of the more impressive crags, quarries and rock faces in the country, making it an ideal location for climbing. One of the most popular spots that’s open all year round is Cheddar Gorge, a 3 mile limestone valley in the Mendip Hills AONB. It also happens to Britain’s largest gorge, and has hundreds of climbs spread out over 27 crags. Some of these crags can reach up to 450ft tall! If you’re after some fantastic sea views, then head to Brean Down. There are a number of sport climbs here, as well as several routes along the coastal cliffs of Exmoor for more experienced climbers. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, Somerset has climbs for all abilities.
Somerset is home to an impressive network of natural cave systems. Walk, crawl and scramble through a series of caves and see how fantastic Somerset is below the surface! A great cave for beginners is Goatchurch Cavern in Burrington Combe on the Mendips. This dry cave has several walking passages as well as wriggling passages if you’re feeling more adventurous. If you’re not afraid to get dirty, Pridhamsleigh Cavern is a muddy cave on the edge of Dartmoor. Make your way down to an underground lake as you go through the different passages and caverns. Swildon’s Hole on the Mendips offers plenty of fine formations to admire. As you follow the stream, see how the surrounding rock has been sculpted by water over time.
Kayaking and canoeing
A fantastic way to admire the Somerset scenery is from the water. Kayaking and canoeing offer a sense of freedom and empowerment, whether you’re doing them solo or as part of a group. It’s possible to kayak along the coast of the county, but it’s worth noting that the tidal range of the Bristol Channel isn’t always the best condition to kayak in. A much better alternative, but no less beautiful, is to kayak down Somerset’s many rivers. Head inland and navigate the River Barle, the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and the River Brue, gliding through peaceful countryside full of wildlife like kingfishers, herons and otters. For more of a thrill, tackle the rapids on the whitewater River Lyn.
Visit Exmoor National Park
If there’s only one place you visit in Somerset, make sure it’s Exmoor National Park. Boasting breathtaking coastal scenery, heather moorland, lush woodlands and steep combes, it’s definitely deserving of its reputation as one of the most peaceful National Parks in Britain. When it comes to activities, you’ll be hard-pressed running out of things to do. As well as the usual walking, cycling and horse riding trails, you can also have a go at a wide range of water sports, as the National Park stretches all the way to the coast. While the area is bursting with beauty spots, make sure you stop by the Valley of the Rocks, a section of coastline where you can climb the cliff tops for some inspiring views. Another great spot is Tarr Steps, an ancient clapper bridge across the River Barle. Fancy something a little different? Head out after hours for some stargazing. Exmoor has some of the darkest skies and brightest stars in the country, and is an International Dark Sky Reserve.
No matter if you’re a beginner or an expert, cycling is one of the best things to do outdoors in Somerset. The county boasts the Exmoor National Park and three AONBs – Mendip Hills, Blackdown Hills and Quantock Hills – so the variety in terrain means there is something for everyone. If you’re looking for something nice and easy to begin with, head to the Somerset Levels and Moors. A good intermediate route is the Blackdown Hills and the Leigh Woods, which is home to the Yer Tiz trail. If you think you can handle a challenge, the mountain biking routes between Bridgewater and Taunton have steep drops and rough terrains.
A favourite pastime in Somerset is to head to one of its many beautiful beaches. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s a family-friendly beach with plenty of entertainment, or a more secluded, peaceful beach. A must-see is Berrow Beach, thought to be the second largest stretch of sand in Europe. Stretching for six miles, it boasts many interesting spots to explore, including The Berrow Shipwreck and Burnham-on-Sea Low Lighthouse. Another large stretch of sand is Brean Down. If you feel a little adventurous, hike up to the top of the Down which stands at 97 metres above the beach and great vantage point to admire the surrounding views of the Somerset Levels and Glastonbury Tor. One of the most unique beaches is St Audries Bay, which boasts two waterfalls that cascade down a series of red sandstone cliffs. Not one to be missed!