Things to do Wells, Somerset
Not only is Wells steeped in history, it is within easy reach of a number of famous attractions and is an ideal centre for exploring some of the most breathtaking scenery that the county of Somerset has to offer.
Obviously the main tourist attraction in Wells is the cathedral itself. It is a magnificent building which has dominated the city since the late 12th century, when the Bishop of Bath transferred his headquarters there.
The main part of the building has impressive vaulted ceilings and unusual scissor arches which support the central tower. A feature is the 24-hour astronomical clock in the north transept, which was constructed in 1392 and is one of the oldest working clocks in the world.
It has a dial more than six feet across, with moving models of knights that joust every 15 minutes.
There were originally in the region of 400 statues of saints, angels and prophets, carved from the cathedral’s light yellow stone, but about a hundred were destroyed by the Puritans in the 17th century.
The 13th century west font was erected as a backdrop. To the south of the cathedral is the fortified Bishop’s Palace, which is surrounded by a moat. It is one of the oldest inhabited houses in England, bishops having lived there for more than 800 years. Its outer walls date back, remarkably, to 1206. On the approach to the ruined 14th Century Great Hall and Bishop’s private chapel is a medieval gateway, with portcullis and drawbridge, known as the Bishop’s Eye.
There are also 14 acres of gardens in which are situated the springs from which the city takes its name.
Other historic buildings are Vicar’s Close, St Cuthbert’s Church and the local museum. The Market Place is also well worth a visit, with its lively markets at the centre of narrow streets in which there is an intriguing mix of building styles.
A popular tourist attraction close by – just two and a half miles to the north of Wells – is Wookey Hole Cave, which was formed by continuous erosion of the limestone bedrock by the waters of the river Axe. The cave is particularly famous for the ‘Witch of Wookey Hole’, a human-shaped stalagmite which is said to be a wicked witch turned to stone by a Glastonbury monk. The caves are said to have been inhabited by man for 50,000 years.
A little further away, six miles to the north-east, is the very impressive limestone gorge known as The Cheddar Gorge, which, together with its caves, has been voted the second greatest natural wonder in Britain. The oldest complete skeleton in the country, the 9,000 year old so-called Cheddar Man, was found in one of the deepest caves in 1903. while even older remains, dating back more than 13,000 years have also been found. In the caves you will find many curiously sculptured stalagmites and stalagtites.
Within 25 miles of Wells you can visit many other attractions including Cleve Abbey, Clevedon Court, Dunster Castle, Glastonbury Abbey and Tor, Montacute House, Muchelney Castle, Nunney Castle, Stourhead, the West Somerset Steam Railway, and the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
And, of course, mention has to be made of the annual Glastonbury Music Festival, which is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world, with more than 50 stages, and a template for all the festivals that have come after it.