Best Things to do in the Mendip Hills: A Somerset Hidden Gem

Brent Knoll is located on the Somerset Levels between Weston-super-Mare and Bridgwater. There are views inland to Crook Peak and Glastonbury Tor. Very popular with walkers and has public footpaths to the top. At the foot of the hill are two villages East Brent and Brent Knoll. The hill dominates the landscape and can be seen for many miles.

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 Mendips

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! 

You can read more about the Mendip Way here.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge Panorama in Somerset, South West England

The piece de resistance of the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge is easily the 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.

Birds eye view of the road leading through Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, South West England

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. 

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.

Here are all of the best things to do in Cheddar.

Bleadon Hill

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. 

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!

You can find directions here.

Blackdown

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). 

I also wrote a full guide to the Blackdown Hike that you can follow!

Blagdon Reservoir

Blagdon Lake in Bristol

Famous amongst fishers for being the home os still water trout, Blagdon Lake is, unsurprisingly, a popular spot for angling. 

However, it’s also a lovely spot for a stroll. It’s one of the more 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 footbath that 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. 

The Organic Gardens

The Organic Gardens, run by Yeo Valley (the yogurt 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 open most Wednesdays, Friday and Satrudays until the end of October, and you can pre-book your entry here.

Chew Valley Lake 

Mendip Hills Somerset view UK towards Blagdon lake and Chew Valley

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. 

You can read more about it here! 

Axbridge

9 June 2016: Axbridge, Somerset, England, UK - The medieval square. The half timbered building is King John's Hunting Lodge, now the museum.

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. 

Things to do near the Mendips

Brean Down

Great landmarks of the Somerset coastline on the scenic coastal walk across Brean Down.

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 Pier

Weston-Super-Mare is one of the closest beaches to Bristol

While it’s not the best beach in the West Country, it’s still 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

View of vicars' close in Wells, Somerset, England, UK

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. 

Wells Cathedral in Somerset, South West England, UK

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. 

Glastonbury

Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, South West England

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!). 

Close up of Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, South West England

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!

You can read more about the West Country Games here. 

Where to stay in the Mendips

The River Axe in Somerset England located near to the A370 Bleadon between Weston-Super-Mare and Bridgwater

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

Hedgerows, fields  and trees in leaf in an english coutryside landscape, in Somerset, near Blagdon, England

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? 

Blagdon Lake Somerset England UK south of Bristol provides drinking water for fishing and nature reserve

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. 

As you can see, it’s easy to spend a week or more exploring the Mendips – and we haven’t even got started on the best things to do in Bristol and Bath yet! 

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. 

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! 

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