Somerset is a county of contrasts and it is therefore unsurprising that it is regarded as one of the best places to walk in the UK.
With national park walks, coastal trails, cliff routes and canal paths, Somerset offers a varied and exciting selection of terrains for people staying in holiday cottages in Somerset. To celebrate National Walking Month, we’ve created a guide to help highlight the best walks in the county.
The nature reserves at Avalon Marshes are seen as nationally important, as wildlife has thrived over the past 50 years at the abandoned peat workings to transform the area into lush wetlands.
The 3,700 acres of reserves boast an array of wildlife, from swans and owls to rabbits and damselflies. There are a number of different habitats and the best way to explore them is via the numerous tracks, trails and hides.
One great trail in Avalon Marshes is around the Lake Villages in Westhay as walkers can stroll alongside the Decoy Rhyne River and see some of the amazing bird life that the marshes are renowned for.
There are plenty of trails near to the Avalon Marshes Centre at Shapwick Heath and Catcott Complex. The routes are predominantly flat and are right beside the marshes, meaning you can see some of the aforementioned birds, insects and animals in their natural habitats.
Walkers should wear good footwear as the paths can sometimes get slightly muddy. Dog owners are allowed onto some, but not all, of the reserves, so check before your visit.
Walks around Hestercombe
If you want to incorporate an attraction into your Somerset walk, then there are plenty of routes on offer around Hestercombe House, near Taunton.
One such Hestercombe walk is an 8.63km (around 5.3 miles) loop, which starts and ends at the house, as walkers can enjoy the stunning Somerset countryside by heading past Volis Farm, Kingston Beacon and through the pretty village of Kingston St Mary.
Either before or after the walk, visitors can head to Hestercombe House as it boasts a unique combination of beautiful gardens, all saved from disrepair and restored to their former glory over the last 25 years.
The 50 acres are steeped in history and teeming with wildlife. Visitors can admire the views from the Victorian Terrace, the intricacies of the Edwardian Formal Garden and discover the lakeside paths of the Georgian Landscape Garden.
Visit Hestercombe to explore around three centuries of garden design, enjoy the work of top contemporary artists at the Hestercombe Gallery and relax with an afternoon tea in the elegant Column Room.
Worlebury Hill lies in between the flatlands of Weston-Super-Mare and the Kewstoke area of North Somerset and Love Weston recommends visitors to head here for a great walk.
Ellie Allen-Somers, a Tourism Marketing Officer at Weston-Super-Mare Town Council, says: “Worlebury Hill dominates the surrounding landscape. It has been a focus of human activity for thousands of years, as it still is today. Signs of its varied history and wildlife can be seen all along the hill.”
There are lots of trails walkers can follow and plenty of sights visitors can see on the hill, including Iron Age pits and hillfort ramparts, Jones’s Quarry and its fossil bones from an extinct type of rhinoceros that lived in the area around 120,000 years ago as well as Monks Steps, an ancient pathway believed to have been built as the old route from the hamlet of Milton to the parish church at Kewstoke.
Portishead Marina offers visitors easy walks as you can wander to the sea lock towards the end of the marina to watch the boats coming in and going out to the River Severn.
You can also see the Severn Bridge over to Wales and watch the huge cargo ships coming into Portbury from all over the world. There is also a small pier at the marina and here locals can be seen fishing.
During your walk around the marina, you can always stop at one of the restaurants and cafés that are dotted along the water’s edge.
Quantock Hills’ Cothelstone Hill Walk
Right on the Somerset and Devon border, this Quantock Hills walk takes around one-and-a-half-hours and covers a distance of around 2.5 miles.
Walkers are highly likely to see an Exmoor Pony herd, who are often seen around the hilltop group of trees known as the Seven Sisters.
There are three bronze burial mounds on Cothelstone Hill and the remains of a folly tower to explore too. If you are staying in one of our luxury cottages in Somerset, which are close to Exmoor National Park, then you will probably see a carpet of bluebells.
Weather permitting, you will be guaranteed a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, making it the perfect destination for a picnic.
The Coleridge Way Route
Staying in the same area, the Coleridge Way route is a walk from the Quantock Hills to Exmoor and is waymarked with Quill signs.
The walk can be enjoyed in both directions and is signed as such and the route directions are written in both directions as well.
You can see the landscapes that inspired the birth of the Romantic Movement and walk from the Quantock Hills into Exmoor National Park.
If you are a really keen walker and don’t mind camping out, then you can extend the walk to Valley of Rocks near Lynton in Devon. In total this is 51 miles from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth and offers walkers breath-taking views, forests, streams and wide open country.
This is one of the most iconic walks in Somerset as you stroll up to the summit of Glastonbury Tor to get unbelievable views across the surrounding countryside.
Starting from Glastonbury town centre, visitors can head to the Abbey before embarking on the walk. The route is signposted and will lead you out of the centre of Glastonbury to the top of the tor. From here, admire views of the Mendips in the north to the Quantocks in the south with the Somerset Levels forming a patchwork of fields stretching to the Bristol Channel.
Cliff top gorge walk at Cheddar Gorge
Any visit to Somerset should consist of a trip to Cheddar Gorge and once there you can go on a glorious 3-mile walk along the top of its cliffs.
Starting at the Lookout Tower, you will walk to its highest point and overlook the Horseshoe Bend and The Pinnacles before walking down to Black Rock Gate. Just walk 200 yards down the road and follow the National Trust’s footpath to walk along the skyline, then jump over a gate and down a stunning wooded gully behind Lion Rock.
The views of the karst limestone geology and the surrounding countryside are the standout attractions of the walk, but you could see a variety of wildlife such as British Primitive goats, Greater Horseshoe bats and rare cliff-edge flowers.
Minehead to Porlock Weir
Minehead is a popular seaside town, but it is also a walker’s paradise, especially for those of you who love coastal walks.
You can leave the pavements of Minehead behind and head off onto the first section of the 630-mile South West Coast Path.
The 9-mile walk will take you through woodland, along steep cliff tops, up and down beautiful wooded combes, farm tracks, bracken, gorse and pretty streams.
Along the route there is a lookout point as the Exmoor coast provides a rich habitat for rare wildlife and plant life such as red deer and whitebeam trees.
Image Credit: Jaqui Lethaby.