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What to do in Somerset

What to do in Somerset

Wondering what to do in Somerset? The list is long and diverse! Many of my favourite things to do in Somerset are less well know. You need some local knowledge to get the best out of a stay in Somerset. This month by month guide should help.

Unique things to do in Somerset

Some Somerset traditions stretch back hundreds of years, other local events are just in their infancy. There is certainly no shortage of things to do in Somerset. Here are a few of my favourites.

January – Wassail

Now, here are 3 things you probably don’t expect to read in the same sentence; loaded shotgun, drinking cider and hanging toast in a tree. These, however, are all key components of the ancient tradition of Wassails (or wassailing).

Somerset apples

Somerset apples are the best!

These gatherings take place on or around 17th January (the old Twelfth Night). The idea is to give thanks for the harvest and return cider to the oldest/largest apple tree in the orchard. Cider is usually poured at the base of the trunk and the crowd make as much noise as possible to ward off evil (hence the firing of shotguns). Cider soaked toast is hung in tree branches to attract robins who help to guard the orchard from evil spirits (worms and maggots).

Attendees often party until the early hours and sing traditional folk songs.  Wassails take place all over the country, but as Somerset is the spiritual home of cider why would you want to witness one anywhere else?!

What to do in Somerset in February

Celebrate snowdrops

Now for something a little more sedate. Very near to my B&B are two fantastic snowdrop festivals. One takes place in Shepton Mallet the other at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells.

Shepton Mallet was home to James Allen, aka the ‘Snowdrop King’. Allen – a keen amateur horticulturalist – was the first person to breed new varieties of snowdrops from wild plants. Each year the aim is to not only celebrate this amazing individual but also to plant hundreds of snowdrop bulbs in Shepton Mallet.

Things to do in Somerset

Snowdrops at the Bishop’s Palace

Also just a couple of miles from The Cross at Croscombe are the beautiful gardens at The Bishop’s Palace. These are worth visiting at any time of year, but visit in February and you’ll find the grassy banks of the moat and the Arboretum awash with colourful snowdrops.

Find out more about Somerset’s array of gardens.

What to do in somerset in the spring

March – Easter ‘Eggstravaganza’

Yes, I appreciate that Easter can often fall in April, but let’s just go with it…There are Easter Egg hunts aplenty around here. Somerset is home to many fantastic National Trust properties. These usually host Easter themed events which kids and adults can enjoy.

Easter bunny

What to do in April? – Films & Flowers

Time for a couple more festivals. The Wells Festival of Film usually takes place over 3 days. There is often a theme and alongside special screenings at Wells’ independent cinema, films are also shown outdoors at The Bishop’s Palace and in Cedars Hall, a state-of-the-art performance centre.

Things to do in May

Somerset Day & a belly full of laughs

It’s been difficult to whittle my favourite local events in May down to a manageable number, but here is my ‘What to do in Somerset’ in May…

May 11 is Somerset Day. The date was chosen in honour of Alfred the Great, who in 878, gathered together the people of Somerset to march against the Viking army. Somerset Day provides a focal point to celebrate all that is great about this fantastic county and many special events take place up and down the county.

St. Alfred’s Tower

Wells Comedy Festival attracts many household names. The likes of Sara Pascoe, Nish Kumar and Rhod Gilbert have graced the stages. Lots of the pubs in Wells host afternoon and evening performances. It is often a chance for comedians to try out new material in front of a friendly audience. Prices are kept low and you can easily catch 4 or 5 different performances in a day. Comedy fanatics could watch over 10 hours of performances in one day!

what to do in somerset during the summer

June – The most famous music festival in the world & others…

Yes, it’s the month of the Glastonbury Festival. Founded in 1970 by Michael Eavis, this spectacular event takes place just a few miles away from The Cross. The festival, along with cider and Cheddar Cheese is probably what most people associate with Somerset. (The Wurzels may also get a mention by some of the older generation.)

What to do in Somerset

The Glastonbury Festival

During the summer months, music festivals take place in many towns and villages in Somerset. Music, Somerset and the Summer. A winning combination.

What to do in Somerset

The Royal Bath and West Show is an amazing event. The size and scale is hard to convey – to say it’s a full day’s entertainment is something of an understatement! The show takes place 1 – 3 June in 2023.

SOMERSET IN JULY – Planes, theatrics & a donkey

Sounds like the beginning of a sketch you might hear at the Wells Comedy Festival. First the planes.

Yeovilton International Air Day usually takes place in early July. In addition to 5 hours of flying displays there are also various other attractions to enjoy. It should be back in 2023!

Love a bit of culture? Wells Theatre Festival runs over 4 days.

What to do in Somerset

The beach at Weston-super-Mare

Now one for the kids. Riding a donkey on the beach at Weston-super-Mare. There have been donkeys to ride on the beach for as long as I can remember (apparently references to Weston-super-Mare’s donkeys have been found in a diary of dating back to 1824!).

The long and sandy beach is ideal for games and building sand castles. If you need some construction inspiration be sure to visit the incredible sand sculptures which are usually on display from April to September. The pier is also worth a stroll along and has been completely revamped since a devastating fire in 2008.

August – Racing on a moat & more music

On August Bank Holiday Monday, numerous  ‘crews’ take to the water of the moat at The Bishop’s Palace to race in homemade craft at the Wells Moat Boat Races. It’s paddle power only and even the Bishop of Bath and Wells usually takes up an oar. During the course of the races expect a capsize or two. There’s lots of other entertainment to enjoy. The event gets underway at around 11am.

Wells is a beautiful city to explore on foot. Which? readers named Wells Best Small UK City for a short break’ in 2022.

Wells Moat Boat Races

The Glastonbury Extravaganza is organised by Michael Eavis (yes, that one) and takes place in the picturesque grounds of Glastonbury Abbey.

What to do in Somerset

Glastonbury Abbey

The likes of Van Morrison, Robert Plant and Bryan Ferry have all headlined here. This is a one day event (remember a rug and a picnic) and usually sells out quickly.

what to do in somerset in autumn

September – Let’s get arty

My B&B by artist Chris Lee

Somerset Art Weeks was founded in 1994 and celebrates Somerset’s contemporary visual art. This event now has an alternating focus. Open Studios and Exhibitions and Events. You can view works at over 100 different locations around Somerset.

If you are in Somerset in September be sure to look out for the distinctive yellow signs which indicate the various art venues.

October – Food, glorious food!

Wells Food Festival

Wells Food Festival (we do love a good festival in Somerset) takes place in October. From 10.30am – 4.30pm you can walk from stall to stall quaffing incredible produce.  And this is just one of many festivals that Wells hosts in October. Among others is the longstanding Wells Festival of Literature (which continues to attract many household names). 

what to do in in Winter

November – Carnival time

Here in Somerset, we believe that our county’s carnivals are the largest illuminated processions in the world! During the peak November season, tens of thousands of people line the streets to watch the incredible carnival carts go past.

It’s carnival time!

Each cart has a theme. The largest will be 100 feet in length and illuminated with thousands of bulbs. Carnival club members ride on the carts in fancy dress, often dancing and singing to music. Hundreds of carts can take part in each procession, so a Somerset carnival can easily last for a couple of hours.

Carts are judged and prizes awarded at each event. There isn’t a charge to attend a carnival, but please take some change to donate. View the carnival dates.

December – It’s Christmas!

There are plenty of festive markets and incredible illuminations to enjoy around the county, but for me one of the stand out events happens at Wells Cathedral. Every year, the cathedral hosts two very special Christmas Carol Concerts. The cathedral is stunning at any time of year, but when lit with hundreds of small candles the beauty ratchets up another notch. The choristers at the cathedral are world renowned and to hear them sing modern and traditional carols in this setting is magical.

What to do in Somerset

Pic: Nick James

Tickets for the two carol concerts usually go on sale at the beginning of August and are always snapped up quickly. If you don’t get a chance to attend one of these concerts, there are plenty of other recitals worth catching in the cathedral.

So there it is. My ‘What to do in Somerset’ compendium. It feels as though I’ve barely scratched the surface. Do come and explore the county. There are so many beautiful places and fantastic destinations in Somerset. It really is a county worth getting to know (and I know just the place to stay!).

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