things to do
Venturing off-site? We won’t stop you. Here are a few recommendations…
Pevlings Riding Stables, BA8 0DA (5 mins drive)
Established in 1985 and run by the wonderful Allison, this really offers a safe, informal, friendly way to ride a horse (should you want to).
Wincanton (10 mins drive)
Our local town and worth visiting for the Workshop at Bootmakers: our friends Safia and Ian run this excellent wood-fired pizza restaurant and creative workshop in Wincanton. It really is wonderful, great value for money, BYOB. Their creative workshops are brilliant. Always something on in the school holidays, and perfect for a rainy day.
Terry Pratchett fans will also want to visit The Ankh Morpork Consulate and Discworld Emporium. Part shop part art installation with its own cat in the window this really is part of the wonderful eccentricity of Somerset. Wincanton is officially twinned with Ankh Morpork. Expect lots of witches and wizards on the street in November.
Cadbury Castle (15 mins drive)
One of the suggested sites for King Arthur’s Camelot, Cadbury Castle is a Bronze and Iron Age hillfort, above the village of South Cadbury. A strenuous walk to the top but spectacular views when you get there.
Common Farm Flowers, BA9 8HN (15 mins drive)
Our friend Georgie runs this excellent cut flower farm which does tours (with tea), as well as full on courses which are excellent.
Hillbrush Museum, BA12 6FE (15 mins drive)
The only museum we know of dedicated solely to brushes and cleaning equipment. Hillbrush have been manufacturing here since 1922 and hold several royal warrants. There’s a good restaurant and tea room and certainly scores highly on the quirky museum stakes.
The Newt in Somerset, BA7 7NG (15 mins drive)
A country estate with magnificent woodland and gardens. Food is modern British, and wine is South African (from the owner’s South African estate). There is also a spa and Roman villa (yes, a real one they found on the estate!) which will opening soon.
Bruton (20 mins drive)
We highly recommend Bruton. It has At the Chapel (great pizzas) and the amazing Hauser & Wirth, a world class contemporary art gallery with a ton of things to do for families, including a stunning garden designed by Piet Oudolf, and the Radic Pavilion (shown at the Serpentine a few years back). Bruton also has Mill on the Brue, which is a great outdoor activity centre for children. Some nice walks around the town and the Dovecote.
Fleet Air Arm Museum, BA22 8HT (20 mins drive)
Devoted to the history of British naval aviation. There are a lot of planes here, including a prototype of Concorde (not known for its naval role) that you can climb into. Despite being the daughter of a pilot, I have no interest in planes but again, if you do, this is a good trip out. You can get a combined ticket for here and the Haynes International Motor Museum.
Haynes International Motor Museum, BA22 7LH (20 mins drive)
Definitely worth it for the petrol heads! Over 400 classic cars and bikes from 1900 to the present. There’s also a go-kart track (but a bit pricey). You can get a combined ticket for here and the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
Sherborne (20 mins drive)
A lovely small town with an ancient Abbey, and lots of ancient people in the street. There are several schools there, so there’s an odd mixture of the very old and the quite young. Sherborne Castle is well worth visiting – once the home of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Also worth visiting the Toy Barn in Sherborne – not just a barn selling toys, but for £2.50 you can play as long as you want on their trampolines, ten go-karts and climbing equipment. The best value around here. There is a café and flower shop there as well.
Stourhead, BA12 6QF (20 mins drive)
A beautiful Palladian manor, with world-famous gardens set around a lake. The gardens, with its follies and grottoes are not to be missed. Close by on the estate is Alfred’s Tower. Built to commemorate the end of the Seven Years’ War against France and supposedly stands near the location where it is believed that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, rallied the Saxons in 878 before defeating the Danish army. The tower is 49 metres high and has 205 steps to the top, where visitors can enjoy the fantastic 360-degree views.
Lytes Cary Manor, TA11 7HU (25 mins drive)
An intimate medieval manor house with beautiful garden (best experienced in summer). Less all round provision for activities than Montacute but charming.
River swimming, Hinton St Mary (25 mins drive)
There is some very fine wild swimming to be had in the River Stour just south of Hinton St Mary. Just ask us and we can show you how to get there on an OS map as there is a 10 minute walk from where you park.
Shaftesbury (25 mins drive)
A sleepy but pretty Anglo Saxon hill town (King Canute died here). The usual high street shops, but worth visiting for the spectacular Gold Hill, made famous by the 1980s Hovis advertisements.
Westcombe Dairy, BA4 6ER (25 mins drive)
Westcombe Dairy is located in a beautiful secluded valley in east Somerset called the Batcombe Vale. A small family-run artisan dairy, Westcombe uses a handcrafted approach to make award-winning cheeses from their very own cows’ milk. Visitors are welcome at the dairy where they can taste cheese directly from the aging room, sample some craft beer from The Wild Beer Co, or try one of the amazing apple spirits from The Somerset Cider Brandy Co. We source our cheese cultures from them, and you must see Tina-the-Turner – the automated cheese turner.
Montacute House, TA15 6XP (30 mins drive)
An Elizabethan National Trust property, Montacute is truly excellent for adults and children alike. The house is a beacon of Elizabethan pomp and style with a 52 metre gallery displaying 50 period portraits on loan from the National Gallery. The garden is like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
Yeovil (30 mins drive)
We only really advise a trip here if you want to go to the cinema (Cineworld or Westlands Yeovil), go to the theatre (Octagon Theatre) or you really, really want to go to Tesco’s.
East Somerset Railway, BA4 4QP (40 mins drive)
Just by Shepton Mallett. You can take a steam train ride for 5 miles. A must for any burgeoning Thomas the Tank Engine fans.
Glastonbury (40 mins drive)
Home to the world famous music festival, Glastonbury is an eccentric town, populated by warlocks and witches (or people who imagine themselves to be so). Definitely worth climbing Glastonbury Tor (where King Arthur is reputed to be buried): it’s one of Britain’s most iconic and evocative landmarks, offering brilliant views of the Somerset Levels, Dorset, Wiltshire and Wales. We love the Jurassic coastold well and cave at the bottom of the Tor which is run by local residents as a celebration to pagan beliefs. Bring small change to pay for candles to be lit here.
Longleat, BA12 7NW (40 mins drive)
Amazing house (home to the Marquis of Bath), safari park, zoo, maze, adventure park, art installation. My children are begging me to take them to this but it is expensive…
Stonehenge, SP4 7DE (40 mins drive)
You may have driven past this on A303. This is a world heritage site needing no introduction. We love the new visitor centre, and the stones themselves are awe inspiring.
Wells (40 mins drive)
A small cathedral city, worth visiting, with its own moat, and behind the scenes tour of the high parts of the cathedral. Small (so small it is England’s smallest city) and perfectly formed, there is also a great Christmas market. A traditional open-air market is held every Wednesday and Saturday at the old Market Place.
Tutankhamun Exhibition, DT1 1UW (45 mins drive)
Replicas of the items found within the antechamber and burial chamber of Tuankhamun’s tomb, plus a mummy exhibition. Book tickets in advance. There is also a Teddy Bear Museum, a Dinosaur Museum, and a Terracotta Warriors Museum as part of a wider pass you can buy.
Wookey Hole, BA5 1BB (50 mins drive)
I sigh as I write this, as Wookey Hole is brilliant at marketing and promoting and hardly need our help. The caves ARE excellent, but it is quite touristy and expensive. However, some guests love it so here it is.
Bath (60 mins drive)
Worth it for the amazing Roman Baths, wiggly cobbled streets, and the usual high street shops, a few good theatres and cinemas. If you do want to go, we advise catching a train from Castle Cary or Bruton (1 hour) as parking is a nightmare in the town!
Bovington Tank Museum, BH20 6JG (60 mins drive)
Tanks, tanks and more tanks. A collection of armoured fighting vehicles, tracing the history of the tank. Did I mention they’ve got lots of tanks?
Monkey World, BH20 6HH (60 mins drive)
We have never been but have heard good things about it as they assist governments round the world stop smuggling of primates from the wild. A 65-acre ape and monkey sanctuary and rescue centre.
Salisbury (60 mins drive)
A medieval cathedral city with a truly fantastic cathedral, known for its choirs and having Britain’s tallest spire, and a surviving copy of the Magna Carta. Worth visiting. We are definitely trying to support Salisbury since the Skripal affair, so do visit.
Moors Valley Country Park, BH24 2ET (65 mins drive)
A joint venture between East Dorset CC and the Forestry Commission, guests with children will love this park by Ringwood Forest. They have a steam train, cycling trails, golf, orienteering, fishing, the fantastic Go Ape (where you swing around trees in harnesses) though your child has to be at least 1 metre.
Jurassic Coast (75 mins drive)
A must if you like fossils! The coast is stunning and has some beautiful beaches and spots. We steer clear of Weymouth (though it has a great sandy beach), but going east there are some fine spots (Osmington Mills, Lulworth Cove, Kimmeridge) all stunning in their own way. Charmouth is best for fossil hunting. If you want a good seafood beach café, try The Hive Beach Café in Burton Bradstock – the beach is pebble, but the seafood is fresh and good.