Are you looking for the best things to do in the Mendip Hills? If so, you’re in the right place!
Drive 20 minutes south of Bristol, and the city gradually peters out, making way for the rolling, limestone Mendip Hills.
This natural wonderland is among one of the best day trips from Bristol and Bath, but with the exception of the town of Cheddar in the south, masses of tourists haven’t quite discovered it yet!
However, I used to visit frequently when I lived in Bristol and loved the stunning views from every hilltop and the wonderful solitude that a day’s hike in the Mendips offered.
So, I’ve put together all of my favourite things to do in the Mendips, plus a few tips for visiting!
Things to do in the Mendip Hills
The best things to do in the Mendip Hills include hiking some (or all) of the Mendip Way, exploring the mystical Cheddar Gorge, shorter hikes like Three Priddy Droves, hiking to the top of Blackdown and ambling around Blagdon Reservoir. This part of Somerset is underrated and absolutely charming!
Hike some of the Mendip Way
Spanning across the entire network of hills, this is one of the best long-distance hikes in the South West.
It’s a 50 mile/ 80 kilometre waymarked trail traversing from Weston-super-Mare to Frome, taking in the beautiful towns of Cheddar, Wells and Shepton Mallet.
On this route, you’ll take in some of the best places to visit in Somerset, but also enjoy countless sweeping views of the hills in blissful solitude.
It’s actually composed of two trails – the West Mendip Way and the East Mendip Way, with Wells being the central point. This makes it easy to complete in sections!
Be amazed at Cheddar Gorge
The piece de resistance of the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge is easily its most popular attraction.
The UK doesn’t have all that many dramatic gorges, but Cheddar’s is definitely world-class – in fact, it’s the biggest gorge in the UK.
You can do the Cheddar Gorge Loop Walk to explore the entire gorge from above, with spectacular views over the countryside and towards Cheddar Reservoir.
Also, don’t forget to drive and walk down the windy road that goes through the gorge.
Explore the network of Cheddar Caves
When you’re all gorge-d out, there are plenty of ancient caves to visit in Cheddar as well.
Gough’s Cave is the largest show cave in Cheddar Gorge and is one of the best in the country.
It has breathtaking cathedral caverns and audio guides can tell you all about its creation, use in the Stone Age, excavation and how Cheddar Man was discovered here!
Cox’s Cave and Dreamhunters is a cave experience that tells you the story of prehistoric people.
Inspired by the discovery of Cheddar Man in the area, Cox’s Cave is an immersive and educational experience loved by young and old alike.
Enjoy a country atmosphere in Cheddar Town
The gorge is not all this town has to offer. As you might be able to guess by the name, a wide range of delicious cheeses are made here; yes, it’s where cheddar cheese comes from!
There are two cheese shops in town, and you can even do a cheese factory tour.
Delicious locally-made cider and cream teas are also on the menu at virtually every eatery in town.
Hike up Bleadon Hill and admire the view
Bleadon Hill is part of the West Mendip Way; you can walk to here all the way from Weston-super-Mare.
At the top, you’ll see beautiful views around this part of the Mendips and out to the sea.
There’s also a popular 9-hole golf course on Bleadon Hill!
Once you’ve climbed down from the hill, pop into The Queens Arms, the main Bleadon village pub.
Take in the Three Priddy Droves Walk
This is one of my favourite walks in the Mendips, and it’s very accessible from Bristol.
Starting from the village of Priddy, the Three Priddy Droves Walk is a 4.5 mile circular walk, encompassing country roads and green fields.
Look out for the Priddy Nine Barrows on the route, which are round barrows from the Bronze Age!
Check out the views from Blackdown, the highest part of the Mendips!
Blackdown is the highest peak in the Mendips. From here, you can take in awe-inspiring views from all over Somerset!
It’s a fairly easy hike to reach the top, and the trails are also popular with mountain bikers.
Park at Burrington Ham Car Park and use Maps.Me or an OS Map to guide you around.
(If you don’t know, Maps.Me is a free app that has lots of trails that Google Maps doesn’t include).
Have a gentle amble around Blagdon Reservoir
Famous amongst fishers for being the home of still-water trout, Blagdon Lake is, unsurprisingly, a popular spot for angling.
However, it’s also a lovely location for a stroll.
It’s one of the gentler hikes in the Mendips area, which makes it popular with families and dog walkers.
Only the North West corner of the lake is open to the general public; the footpath runs adjacent to Butcombe Bay.
For the rest of the lake, you’ll need a permit.
It’s also worth visiting the beautiful village of Blagdon.
While Mendip villages aren’t quite as storybook-like as those in the Cotswolds, the small settlement has some beautiful Mendip views, a couple of pubs and a tranquil church.
Explore The Organic Gardens
The Organic Gardens, run by Yeo Valley (the yoghurt company!) is a six and a half acre space featuring ornamental and edible plants.
A lovely place to take a stroll and enjoy horticulture, you can visit as an add-on to seeing Blagdon Lake, Chew Valley Reservoir or Blagdon Village.
There’s also a small cafe on-site.
The Organic Gardens are open most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the end of October, and you can pre-book your entry here.
See the gorgeous Chew Valley Lake
Another lake in striking distance of Bristol is the Chew Valley Lake. Famous for its sailing club, the Chew Valley Lake is also home to nature trails, picnic areas, angling opportunities and birdwatching.
The Woodford Lodge serves breakfasts, lunches, dinner and plenty of gin at its gorgeous lakeside location, and it makes a great base to explore the lake.
The two nature trails – Grebe Nature Trail and Bittern Nature Trail – are both less than 1.5 km and boast birdwatching opportunities and wildflower-filled meadows.
As far as sailing is concerned, Chew Valley Lake has a community membership sailing club with boats going out regularly each week.
There’s also a Royal Yachting Association Push the Boat Out Day that takes place once a year when non-members can register for a taster sail.
Cycle the Strawberry Line
Marketing itself as “a traffic-free route from the Mendips to the Sea”, the Strawberry Line is part of a network of old railway lines that used to span the country.
It currently spans from Cheddar to Yatton, which is slightly inland and between Clevedon and Weston-Super-Mare.
The Strawberry Line Association is trying to extend the line from Yatton to Clevedon and from Cheddar all the way to Shepton Mallet.
But you can currently cycle the open part of the line, which is another lovely way to explore the Mendips!
Mendip Activity Centre
If you’re looking for things to do in the Mendips with kids, look no further than the Mendip Activity Centre!
With caving excursions, frisbee adventure golf, tobogganing, canoeing, abseiling and so much more, there’s tonnes to enjoy here.
Activities take place at the activity centre or in the local area.
There’s also a campsite which is open every summer.
Walk around charming Axbridge
As far as historic Mendip towns go, Axbridge is one of the best.
It’s a small place, but it dates back to the era of King Alfred and was a Saxon town. In fact, it was one of Wessex’s 30 settlements that were fortified to defend against the Vikings!
A market town, it got its royal charter in the 13th century.
Walk around and enjoy the gorgeous half-timbered buildings spilling down to the main square, which dates back to the Medieval era.
The most popular attraction in Axbridge is King John’s Hunting Lodge, run by the National Trust, which is now a museum of local history.
Also, don’t miss the Axbridge Lavender Field, which is in bloom in the summer months and run by Lavender & Co, who make delicious floral-scented products.
Places to visit near the Mendips
There are plenty of Somerset-focused spots to visit around the Mendips too. From Weston-super-Mare to Wookey Hole, there’s something for families, hikers, historians and foodies. Of course, you can visit on a day trip from Bristol or Bath too!
Take a look at the best places to visit near the Mendips!
Owned by the National Trust, Brean Down is a natural pier that protrudes into the sea.
You can walk all 1.5 miles of the distance, taking in views of the Somerset Levels, South Wales and the Bristol Channel.
There’s also a Roman Temple on site, plus the Victorian Palmerstone Fort!
Weston Super Mare
Weston-Super-Mare is one of the closest beaches to Bristol.
It’s worth visiting for its range of attractions for people of all ages, including its famous Grand Pier.
The beach is very tidal (it’s part of the Bristol Channel, which has the second-largest tidal range in the world!), so if you take a dip here, beware of boggy areas (it’s possible to get stuck in them) and know that the tide can come in very fast.
There are also a few museums in town, and you can take a day trip out to Steep Holme Island where there are hiking trails!
Wookey Hole Caves
Wookey Hole Caves are located close to cheddar and is another popular place to visit with families.
A place of caves and adventure, here you’ll find beautiful natural caverns, a cave diving museum, dinosaur grove where you can meet dinosaurs, 4D cinema and Wild Wookey, which is a caving experience.
It’s a really popular attraction with families, although there’s plenty for older groups to enjoy too!
You can use Groupon to get voucher deals.
Wells is one of the smallest cities in the country, but that doesn’t make it any less worth visiting!
In fact, Wells has one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in the UK, and was the earliest to be built in Gothic style, dating back to 1175.
The nearby Vicar’s Close is thought to be the oldest solely residential street with intact buildings in England.
This is a bit of a mouthful – another way to say it is the only remaining Medieval residential street in England!
Either way, walking down it is like going back in history, making it a must-do while you’re in the area.
Plus, visit Bishops Palace which has been the residence of the Bishops of Bath and Wells for more than eight centuries, or the Wells and Mendip Museum which ties the history together.
One of the most enchanting places to visit in South West England, Glastonbury isn’t actually in the Mendips, but it sits just south of the hills.
If you’re staying in the Mendips for a few days, it’s well worth making the tips out to the town!
Most famous for the Glastonbury festival, there’s still plenty to do here other times of year too (and I’d recommend avoiding it on the festival weekend unless you have tickets – it’s chaotic!).
Hike up Glastonbury Tor, a hill with mythical connections (it’s been linked to the Isle of Avalon which is where King Arthur was buried), visit the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, or just take a walk around the town centre and enjoy all the shops.
Shepton Mallet Prison
The market town of Shepton Mallet sits just to the east of the Mendips.
It’s a pleasant town to walk around, but there isn’t much in the way of attractions – apart from the Shepton Mallet Prison.
Sometimes called the most haunted jail in the world, the Shepton Mallet Prison has a long history stretching back centuries, and only recently did it stop becoming a prison.
From stories of notable residents (ever heard of the Krays?) to details about the recent penal system, this is a fascinating look into the past and present of prisons.
You can do guided tours and several other experiences. Tickets are bookable on the website.
West Country Games
Located close to Bristol, but not actually in the city, are the West Country Games.
These are the perfect thing to do for a stag or hen party, and they’re also popular with corporate events or large groups of friends!
They’re basically a huge obstacle course with a West Country theme; tractors and cows and all!
Where to stay in the Mendips
Enjoy a warm welcome and a hearty breakfast at The Swan Inn, a cosy pub with rooms in Winscombe.
Relax in spacious and comfortable rooms, savour local dishes at the restaurant and bar, and explore the stunning Mendip Hills nearby.
Experience luxury and charm at The Langford Inn, a converted 17th-century barn in Langford.
Indulge in modern and elegant rooms, with balconies or terraces overlooking the countryside.
Taste seasonal cuisine at the restaurant and bar, and discover the beauty of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Admire the antiques, fireplaces and four-poster beds in your room, soak in a roll-top bath, and enjoy views of the Mendip Hills or Wells Cathedral.
Swim in the outdoor pool, relax in the gardens and woodland, and sample homemade and organic food.
Country Pubs in the Mendips
As you’d expect from a rural area, there are some incredibly cosy pubs in the Mendips!
- The New Inn Blagdon: This country pub is loved by locals for its beer garden with impressive lakeside views. Expect quality pub grub and plenty of local ales.
- The Mendip Inn: Despite the name, this country pub is located just outside the Mendip area, but it’s a beautiful recently renovated pub with a tantalising menu serving the best of British cuisine.
- The Riverside Inn: In the heart of Cheddar, this pub has an international menu, a private car park and a pub garden.
How to get to the Mendips
Bristol is the easiest jumping point for the Mendip Hills. The Mendip Xplorer leaves the city and serves some of the Mendip Hills, although not all of them!
The easiest way to get to the Mendips is, by far, to drive. You can take the M4 (which connects to London) or M5 (which connects to Birmingham or Exeter) to reach the AONB.
Where are the Mendips?
The Mendips are located in North Somerset. Their northernmost edge is about 7 miles south of Bristol.
How long do I need in the Mendips?
It depends on what you want to do!
You could definitely spend two days in Cheddar, walking around the gorge, exploring the caves and spending some time in the town.
Then, you could spend a day exploring the northern Mendips area; Blagdon, Chew Valley Lake and Blackdown Hill.
Wells and Glastonbury would take another day.
If you wanted to visit Wookey Hole, Shepton Mallet or Weston Super Mare, you’re looking at another day!
Plus, there are lots of day hikes on the Mendip Way. I enjoyed the Weston Super Mare to Bleadon Hill out-and-back hike, but again, that’s another day.
Mendip Hills FAQ
Why are they called the Mendips?
Nobody is 100% sure where the word “Mendips” come from, but people think that it could have come from “Myne-deepes”, which is a Medieval term.
Or, it could be a combination of the word Mened, which is a Brythonic word meaning upland moorland, and hop, which is an Anglo-Saxon word for valley.
What is the highest point in the Mendips?
The highest point in the Mendips is Blackdown. From here, you can see all over the hills and to the Somerset coastline!
How were the Mendips formed?
The Mendips are ancient limestone hills that were created when two landmasses collided in the south of England. When this happened, the layers of rocks crashed into each other, were compressed and rose to form hills.
Are you ready to explore the Mendips?
The beautiful countryside of the Mendip hills is rural Somerset at its finest. Enjoy gorgeous hikes, ancient history and the awe-inspiring Cheddar Gorge as you visit this wonderful yet underrated area of South West England!