Somerset’s natural beauty, historic architecture and link to Arthurian legend have earned it the title of ‘Jewel of the South West’. Could it also be your new home?
Somerset is England’s seventh largest county. It sprawls across four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and boasts 37 miles of unspoilt coastline.
It’s home to Exmoor National Park, an area of deep valleys, ancient woodland, beaches and coves. It also boasts the highest cliffs in England, with stunning views out to sea.
The bustling, historical cities of Bath and Wells are joined by traditional towns full of independent shops and markets as well as lively seaside resorts, such as Weston-super-Mare, Burnham-on-Sea, Brean and Minehead, all perfect locations for a picnic, kite flying or sandcastle building.
Firstly, where is Somerset?
Somerset is bordered by five different counties (Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Dorset and Devon) along with the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel in south west England. It's relatively lowly populated, making it a hotspot for house-hunters seeking a rural idyll.
How much will it cost me?
The current average value of a home in Somerset is £280,514. The table, below, shows how many properties have sold in the county over the past 12 months, the average sale price, and how values are changing.
But you will need deep pockets if you want to live in a prized area such as Bath, where the average value currently stands at £438,968.
What about renters?
Average asking rents per month in Somerset stand at £732. Renters will need to budget around £634 per month for a two-bedroom flat or £1,264 for a four-bedroom house.
Living in Somerset: What to expect
Urban living: Bath has the most iconic architecture thanks to its imposing Georgian townhouses. If you’re blessed with a flexible budget, snap up a period property in Widcombe, which has both 18th- and 19th-century mansions.
Oldfield Park also boasts a selection of stone properties with airy bay windows. For studio apartments and Victorian semis, look to Lower Oldfield. Thatched stone cottages and grand Victorian and Edwardian homes can be found in Bath’s neighbouring areas.
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.
Best ways to get 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, there’s excellent connections to the south west and the south east.
From Bath, you can catch trains to London Paddington in just 90 minutes. Services are also available to London Waterloo, Paignton, Cardiff Central, Portsmouth Harbour, Bristol Temple Meads, Weymouth, Great Malvern and Brighton.
By car: The M5 runs through Somerset and connects Bristol with Exeter. Other key roads include the A37 and A38, which also link Somerset to Bristol.
By air: You can catch both domestic and international flights from Bristol Airport to 110 destinations, such as Amsterdam, Venice and Tenerife. Flight operators include easyJet and Ryanair.
Types of schools in Somerset range from infant schools for children aged four to seven years old, through to secondary schools, sixth form schools and four further education colleges. There's also a number of fee-paying schools too. For more information, visit Somerset County Council's website.
Somerset has an intriguing past as part of the Roman empire. Roman remains in the county include the Pagans Hill Roman Temple, Low Ham Roman Villa and perhaps most famous of all, the Roman Baths in Bath. In the summer, you can enjoy an atmospheric visit by exploring the baths by torchlight.
Arthurian legend runs deep in Somerset. 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.
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.
Meanwhile, the city of Bath has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a variety of attractions, including the Royal Crescent, the Pump Room and the Jane Austen Museum.
Where to eat, drink and make merry
Somerset’s restaurants and bars make the most of the 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.
A guide on Somerset wouldn’t be complete without mentioning 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.
Bath is the go-to place for shops. Explore The Corridor, one of the earliest retail arcades, and the modern SouthGate centre for high street favourites, independent and specialist shops as well as restaurants and cafes.
Farmers’ markets are scattered throughout the region. The one in Axbridge is held in a 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.
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’.
What’s for sale…
…for the first-time buyer?
Located within easy reach of the town centre, this flat boasts a newly-refurbished bathroom and kitchen as well as a separate loo. It is currently let at £495 per month.
Available via The Property Source
…for the family?
One of 12 homes in a village on the northern slopes of the Mendip Hills, this modern property comes with all the mod cons. Plus, there's a garage with space for two cars.
Available via Cobb Farr Residential
This charming period terraced house is located in the heart of the village. It comes with historic features, such as beams, and a rear garden.
Available via Rogers & Co
…with the biggest discount?
This home comes with Agricultural Occupancy Condition as well as a garage, parking and wonderful views of the Somerset countryside.
Available via Symonds & Sampson
The most popular Somerset property currently for sale is…
Located on the outskirts of Minehead, this property has been maintained to a high standard. It boasts a triple aspect sitting room with views of the surrounding countryside as well as a double garage, car port and off-road parking. There's also potential to create an annexe.
Available via Humberts
The most expensive towns to buy in….
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