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Visiting Wells, England

The beautiful city of Wells is England’s smallest city with one of the finest cathedrals in Britain, the walled precinct,the Liberty of St.Andrew, encloses the Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace, Vicar’s Close and the residences of the clergy who serve the Cathedral. Parts of the Cathedral date back to the 10th Century and it is a grade I listed building.It is known for it’s fine vaulted ceilings, Lady Chapel and windows, and the scissor arches which support the central tower.The Cathedral is also famous for its magnificent West Front which features over 300 statues and carvings. The Cathedral clock is famous for it’s 24-hour astronomical dial and set of jousting knights that perform every quater hour. The Bishop’s Palace has been the home of the bishops of the diocese of Bath and Wells for 800 years. The hall and chapel date from the 14th century. The Vicars’ Close is the oldest residential street in Europe.Wells is a medieval city situated on the southern side of the Mendip hills, it’s history goes back to Roman times and it has remained remarkably unspoilt. Wells Market Place hosts markets twice a week. There is an eclectic mix of building styles throughout the city which give it its charm and make it a lovely place to visit. Two of the wells which give the city its name are within the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace, the third is in the market place, they are dedicated to St.Andrew.Wells is twinned with Bad Durkheim in Germany and Paray-le-Monial in France.

Nestling at the foot of the Mendip Hills, The City of Wells is a conservation miracle, its historic core preserved almost intact from the Middle Ages with its Cathedral, ancient streets and glorious buildings” The history of Wells goes right back to Roman times when we know that there was a settlement, probably because of the springs that bubble up here. Wells gets its name from these springs which can today be found in the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace. Wells is the smallest city in England with about 12,000 inhabitants. It can call itself a city because of the famous 13th century Cathedral. It remains remarkably unspoilt and has many other historic buildings including the moated Bishop’s Palace, Vicars’ Close, St Cuthbert’s Church and the Wells & Mendip Museum. The Wells Market Place, with lively markets twice a week, the narrow streets and an eclectic mix of building styles all reflect on the continuing development of the town throughout the ages. With everything from cosmopolitan pavement cafes to traditional pubs and inns, specialist independent retailers to major high street names, top quality accommodation to excellent year-round entertainment, Wells is an unbeatable destination for day trips and short breaks alike.” Wells makes an ideal destination for a short break or long weekend and has much to see in it as well as providing an excellent base for exploring the surrounding Somerset countryside.

Wells Cathedral

The present Cathedral in Wells, started in 1180 and largely completed by 1306, is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Britain. It survives with all of the original buildings associated with the cathedral including Vicar’s Close, the Chapter House and Cloisters. It has been discovered from archaeological excavations, that there was a Roman Mausoleum on this site as well as a previous cathedral known as the Anglo-Saxon Minster church of St. Andrew. The foundations of the previous cathedral can be seen in the Camery Gardens just by the cathedral. Wells Cathedral has probably the grandest West Front of any cathedral in Britain. It still retains over 300 of the original medieval statues. Inside the Cathedral are the magnificent Scissor Arches. These were built in the fourteenth century to strengthen and support the heightened central tower. The cathedral clock is unique as it still has its original medieval 24 hour clock face and complicated mechanical figures which move and ring a bell every quarter hour. http://www.wellscathedral.org.uk/

Vicars Close

Vicars’ Close next to Wells Cathedral is a stunning medieval cobbled street. It is said to be the oldest continually occupied street in Europe. It was built in 1360s as an extension of the cathedral by Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury. He built the Vicar’s Hall and Close to give the men of the quire secure accommodation away from the temptations of the town. The Close and Cathedral are linked by a bridge. It still houses members of the choir today and has remained unchanged in nearly 700 years.

Bishops Palace & Gardens

This splendid medieval palace has been the home of the Bishops of Bath & Wells for over 800 years. The first bishop of Bath & Wells received a crown licence to build a residence and deer park to the south of the cathedral. There are 14 acres of gardens including the springs from which the city takes its name. Within the fortified Palace walls lie the ruin of the Great Hall, the Bishop’s private chapel and the gardens with a small arboretum. This uniquely moated palace has an imposing gatehouse with portcullis and drawbridge which give the impression that you may be entering a castle structure, but inside is a peaceful and tranquil residence for the visitor to enjoy.http://www.bishopspalace.org.uk/

Surrounding Area

Within 25 miles of Wells you can visit many attractions which include the famous caves at Wookey Hole , Burcott Mill, Kilver Court Gardens, Cheddar Gorge & Caves, The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, Wilkins Cider, Glastonbury Abbey and Glastonbury Tor, and Muchelney Abbey. The beautiful variety of landscapes ranging from coastal scenery, the Mendip Hills and Somerset Levels provide a wonderful playground for all sorts of activities including, caving, abseiling, horse riding, walking, cycling and nature watching.

Wooky Hole Caves

Britain’s most spectacular caves and legendary home of the infamous Witch of Wookey. Wander through the prehistoric valley of the Dinosaurs featuring King Kong and relax in our magical fairy garden. The 19th Century Paper Mill houses a variety of fascinating attractions, including the Victorian Penny Arcade, Magical Mirror Maze, Hall of Crazy Mirrors, Cave Museum, Pirate Zap Zone, Soft Play Areas and the World of Miniature – The Circus Model Room and Clown Museum.

Burcott Mill

Burcott Mill is a traditional Victorian watermill, producing organic wholegrain flour using traditional methods. The heritage of Burcott Mill dates back over 1000 years to the Domesday Book (1086) and today it is one of only 50 fully working watermills operating in the UK. Follow the path of the organic grain through the Victorian machinery to produce the high quality flour being poured into hand stamped bags. Open daily for visitors. Entrance is free*, but donations are welcomed to help preserve this historic site. As a working mill, on milling days visitors can experience the mighty power of the waterwheel which has been turning since 1864. Watch the miller at work, and ask him any questions.

Kliver Court Gardens

A trip to Kilver Court promises an all-encompassing lifestyle experience, the ingredients being: the gardens and nursery; a farm shop and café. The gardens are Somerset’s best kept secret featuring a millpond and boating lake as well as rolling lawns, parterres and herbaceous borders. In Spring there is the most spectacular vibrant colour of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, but probably the most staggering feature of this Secret garden is the backdrop – a vast Grade II* listed viaduct built for the Somerset and Dorset railway in 1874.

Cheddar Gorge & Caves

At Cheddar Caves & Gorge you’ll find eight great attractions in Britain’s biggest gorge, all covered by one Explorer ticket: cathedral-like Gough’s Cave with audioguide tours; beautiful Cox’s Cave; the Museum of Prehistory with Stone Age survival demonstrations by hunter-gatherers; the challenge of The Crystal Quest; The 274 steps leading to our 360-acre nature reserve; spectacular views from Lookout Tower; the 3-mile round-trip Clifftop Gorge Walk; the open-top Gorge Tour Bus. Take it to the edge with RockSport caving and climbing, shop till you drop in our Cargo Cult shop, watch authentic Cheddar Cheese ageing in our caves or just relax on the Cafe-Bar terrace with a cream tea. We’re also a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation with many rare species, such as Horseshoe bats, dormice and Peregrine falcons. Plenty of parking. The settlement at Cheddar has been an important Roman and Saxon centre and is known for its cheese making as early as 1170 AD. Read More

Mendip Hills

The Mendip Hills are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They extend from just east of Wells almost to the Bristol Channel. Man has lived and worked on the Hills for many thousands of years. There are numerous burial mounds and the Romans mined for lead and what is left of these workings can be found at Charterhouse. These days the hills are enjoyed by the many visitors for the walking, biking, horse riding trails and the fantastic views. One of the best hills to climb is Crook Peak and although not that high it has far reaching views over the Somerset Levels and over the Bristol Channel to Wales. King John’s Hunting Lodge is an early Tudor timber-framed wool merchant’s house dating from about 1500. Ebbor Gorge is not on the scale of Cheddar Gorge but offers a beautiful meadow trail with wild flowers, wildlife and a small rocky gorge to walk through. Brean Down is not part of the Mendips but it is an extension of the hill range that juts into the Bristol Channel. This rocky outcrop is also a nature reserve that can be reached via a coast road from Burnham.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey, lying in the heart of Glastonbury was once one of the greatest abbeys in the country. The ruins of this abbey are on a grand scale and the grounds surrounding them provide a peaceful retreat from the hectic outside world. This is also the possible burial place of the legendary King Arthur. It is believed that the first church was erected on this site by the Saxons in the 7th century. Many further additions were added from the 10th to the 15th centuries until the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century when virtually all monasteries, friaries and nunneries were destroyed in what was termed the Dissolution of the Monasteries. There is an excellent museum that charts the changing times of this site. Read More

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor is one of Somerset’s most magical and mythical landmarks. It can be seen from a great distance and in certain weather conditions, particularly when mists cover the Somerset Levels the Tor and tower can stand out giving it a mythical feel that we may associate with the Legendary King Arthur. A chapel was built around 1100 which was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in 1275 and the tower is all the remains today. The sacred Glastonbury Thorn is thought to have been planted at the foot of the Tor by Joseph of Aramathea. When he landed on the Isle of Avalon he thrust his staff into the ground and when he woke up from his rest he found that it had sprouted into a bush. If you climb the Tor on a clear day you will get some magnificent views on the surrounding landscape. To the north you will see the Mendip Hills together with the City of Wells and its cathedral; to the west the island of Steep Holm in the Bristol Channel; Brent Knoll to the northwest; the Polden Hills and Quantock Hills to the southwest, and the Black mountains of Wales in the far distance

Muchelney Abbey

Muchelney Abbey was once a wealthy Benedictine house and the second oldest religious foundation in Somerset. In 1538 Henry VIII demolished some of the principal buildings during the dissolution of the monasteries. The foundations of the abbey can still be clearly seen along with parts of the richly decorated cloister walk and thatched monks’ lavatory, the only one of its kind in Britain. The 16th century abbots’ house remains intact with its magnificent rooms, and site finds are on display illustrating monastic life

Wells Christmas Market

For further information on the beautiful Christmas Market held in Wells – See here

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