The undulating green swards of Somerset encapsulate rural England at its best. The landscape is always varied, with tidy cricket greens and well-kept country pubs contrasting with wilder, more dramatic landscapes. A world away from this bucolic charm, the main city hereabouts is Bristol, one of the most dynamic and cosmopolitan centres outside London. The dense traffic and some hideous postwar architecture are more than compensated for by the surviving traces of its long maritime history, along with a great range of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Just a few miles away, the graceful, Georgian, honey-toned terraces of Bath combine with beautifully preserved Roman baths and a mellow café culture to make it an unmissable stop.

Within easy reach to the south lie the exquisite cathedral city of Wells and the ancient town of Glastonbury, a site steeped in Christian lore, Arthurian legend and New Age mysticism. The nearby Mendip Hills are pocked by cave systems, as at Wookey Hole and Cheddar Gorge, while to the west, Taunton makes a useful base for exploring the Quantocks. Straddling the border between Somerset and Devon, the heathery slopes of Exmoor offer a range of hikes, with wonderful views from its cliffy seaboard.

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