Somerset’s natural beauty, Arthurian legends and historic architecture have earned it the title of ‘Jewel of the South West’, but could it also be your new home?
Somerset is England’s seventh largest county and is bordered by five different counties (Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Dorset and Devon) along with the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel. Despite its size it has a low population, making it a hotspot for house-hunters seeking a rural idyll.
Somerset sprawls across four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and boasts 37 miles of unspoilt coastline. The bustling cities of Bath and Wells are joined by lively seaside resorts and traditional towns stuffed with independent shops and markets.
The cost of becoming a resident isn’t too high either. The present average value of a home is £266,000, but you will need deep pockets if you want to live in a prized area such as Bath, where the average stands at £449,000. You can take a look at the latest figures here.
Has Bath caught your attention? Find out more about the city with our handy guide.
Living in Somerset: what to expect
You can take your pick of period housing throughout the county. Bath has the most iconic architecture thanks to its imposing Georgian town houses, but thatched stone cottages and grand Victorian and Edwardian homes can be found in neighbouring areas.
Beaches, moors, national parks and an extensive cave network are all within easy reach. As well as the Exmoor National Park, residents can spot wildlife in one of the 72 nature reserves, which are teeming with otters and red deer.
But the area isn’t just suited to nature lovers. Bath and Wells are filled with historical sites, shopping centres and theatres. In the evening you can seek out entertainment in the seaside resorts or visit traditional country pubs.
Where to start your property search
Urban living: If you want to be at the centre of all the action take a look at the properties in Bath. If you’re blessed with a flexible budget, snap up a period property in the area of Widcombe, which has both 18th- and 19th-century mansions. Oldfield Park also boasts a selection of Bath stone properties with airy bay windows. For studio apartments and Victorian semis, look to Lower Oldfield.
Wells, Britain’s smallest city, is just 45 minutes from Bath. Grand 1930s properties line Ash Lane and elegant Georgian properties are available on Sadler Street. Quaint 18th-century cottages are also scattered along New Street.
Crewkerne benefits from stunning architecture and a mainline railway station. Its centre is a conservation area and filled with 19th-century properties. For a modern property, take a look at the Wadham and Park View estates.
Wellington is a small market town between the Blackdown Hills and the River Tone. Look along the High Street for listed buildings, some of which have been converted into flats. Smart town houses can be found along Wellesley Park and Waterloo Road.
Rural living: Villages such as Cheddar offer a charming mix of historic buildings, shops and tea rooms. Victorian stone-fronted homes and cottages are tucked down private lanes but there’s also a good selection of 20th-century homes in Tor View and Round Oak Road.
Street is just 2.5 miles from Glastonbury and 8 miles from Wells. Edwardian family homes are up for grabs on Wraxhill Road and attractive Victorian semis can be found on Vestry Road. For more modest terraces, take a look at Glaston Road and West End.
Dunster sits within the Exmoor National Park. This medieval village is virtually unchanged from the 18th century and has a host of character properties. Look along Church Street and West Street for listed medieval cottages with exposed beams.
Coastal living: Burnham-on-Sea has the second longest stretch of sand in Europe and has an array of imposing detached homes. Late Victorian and Edwardian houses can also be found on Sea View Road and Manor Road.
Minehead has a golden beach and a promenade littered with cafés, bars and shops. Look for thatched cottages near St Michael’s Church or pick up a substantial Edwardian house on Martlet Road.
Getting around Somerset
By rail: Somerset is served by the West of England Main Line, the Bristol to Exeter Line, Heart of Wessex Line and the Reading to Taunton Line. As such, residents have excellent connections to the south west and the south east.
From Bath, residents can catch trains to London Paddington, London Waterloo, Paignton, Cardiff Central, Portsmouth Harbour, Bristol Temple Meads, Weymouth, Great Malvern and Brighton. London Paddington can be reached in just 90 minutes.
By car: The M5 runs through the centre of Somerset and connects Bristol with Exeter. Other key roads include the A37 and A38, which also link Somerset to Bristol.
Along the south of the county is the A303, which heads east towards Andover and west into the Blackdown Hills. The A39 links Street with the coast and the A358 heads north from Taunton and south to Ilminster.
By air: Residents can catch both domestic and international flights from Bristol Airport. They have a choice of 110 destinations, such as Amsterdam, Venice and Tenerife. Flight operators include easyJet and Ryanair.
Things to do in Somerset
History: Somerset has an intriguing past as a Roman territory. Roman remains include the Pagans Hill Roman Temple, Low Ham Roman Villa and the Roman Baths in Bath. In the summer, you can explore the baths by torchlight for an atmospheric visit.
Arthurian legends run deep throughout the county. In South Cadbury, a hill fort known as Cadbury Castle is one of the reputed sites of Camelot. Climb to the summit to take in the views of Glastonbury Tor and reimagine life as it was during the Iron Age.
For more historical sites, tour the city of Bath. It’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a variety of attractions. These include the Royal Crescent, the Pump Room and the Jane Austen Museum.
Cultural: Join the community by attending one of the many festivals. The Bath Literature Festival celebrates all the arts over a period of 10 days. Visitors can enjoy poetry and debates as well as a night of free music during Party in the City.
Somerset’s most famous festival is Glastonbury Festival, which is usually held over the last weekend of June at Worthy Farm. Around 170,000 people flock to the festival (which is actually nearer to Pilton than Glastonbury), where they are treated to some of the biggest names in music as well as dance, comedy, theatre, circus acts and cabaret.
Outdoors: Exmoor National Park is an area of contrasts – roam the deep valleys and ancient woodland, or hike along the cliffs and bays of its coastline. It boasts the highest sea cliffs in England and offers stunning views out to sea. On your travels look out for the wild Exmoor ponies and herds of red deer.
Somerset is home to Britain’s biggest gorge, which has cliffs that rise 450 feet. Cheddar Gorge is now an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is chequered with caverns. A visit to Gough’s Cave to meet the Cheddar Man is a must. An adult day ticket for the gorge and the caves will cost you £19.95, although you can save 15% if you book online.
Enjoy donkey rides and fish and chips at one of Somerset’s seaside resorts. Weston-super-Mare, Burnham-on-Sea, Brean and Minehead are all perfect locations for a picnic, kite flying or sandcastle building. At night, the resort’s bars and restaurants offer visitors an active nightlife.
Shopping: Bath is the go-to place for shops. Explore The Corridor, one of the earliest retail arcades, for high-street favourites as well as independent and specialist shops.
Farmers’ markets are scattered throughout the region. The one in Axbridge is held in its 400-year-old marketplace and has 25 stalls. Make sure you try Somerset’s famed strawberries, scrumpy cider and Cheddar cheese.
For high-end shopping, take advantage of the discounts at Kilver Court Designer Village in Shepton Mallet. The outlet has more than 40 designer brands that have up to 60% off retail prices. Clarks Village Outlet in Street also has more than 90 shops including M&S and French Connection.
Food and drink: Somerset’s restaurants and bars make the most of their exceptional local ingredients. The Pony & Trap in Chew Magna holds a Michelin Star and serves organic, seasonal and locally sourced food. It even churns its own butter! Pick from traditional pub favourites such as the best-selling 37-day aged steak.
Meet with friends in a traditional pub such as The Notley Arms Inn in Monksilver. Sit by a log fire in winter or enjoy the sun in its beer garden while sipping a Somerset ale, beer or cider.
The best choice of bars can be found in Bath. The Dark Horse is a current favourite that serves beers from the south west alongside English wines, liqueurs and spirits, which are used to create interesting cocktails.
Nether Stowey was the home of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the 1790s. This was where he wrote some of his most famous works, such as ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.
5 reasons to live in Somerset
- A National Park, rolling hills and a striking coastline
- Lively towns and cities packed with independent shops and markets
- Famed local produce
- Good commuter connections to Bristol and London
- Choice of character cottages, grand town houses and modern housing
Are you planning to make your home in Somerset’s unspoilt countryside? Tell us why in the comments below.