Spend a weekend in Yeovil
- Credit: Archant
Chris Gladstone discovers plenty of reasons to visit this bustling market town
The town of Yeovil is a thriving and bustling centre and has been for at least two millennia. A Roman villa and possible settlement lay in the Westland Road area, located close to a Roman road that extended from the Roman town of Ilchester (Lindinis) five miles away.
Once the Romans left, the Saxons re¬established the town and by Domesday times Yeovil was a sizeable settlement. Since then, the town has continued to flourish and has now developed into South Somerset’s main centre for commerce and leisure.
If you’d like a lively weekend away in a traditional Somerset market town, Yeovil is difficult to beat. As well as being a great base for visiting a variety of local attractions, it is also well suited to those who’d like to wine and dine or simply mooch around the wide range of shops.
If you have young ones in tow, The Yeovil Railway Centre to the south of the town is a real family-pleaser, with a regular programme of events sure to captivate visitors of all ages. The centre has a variety of locomotives, the oldest one dating to 1915, and it also houses a model railway, a miniature railway, an art gallery and Visitor Centre where refreshments are available.
Events planned for March include a photographic evening with the Lord Fisher locomotive on 18 March and a Steam Train Day on 19 March.
A little night music
After a busy day in Yeovil, head for The Octagon Theatre which hosts a very lively and packed programme of events throughout the year and has become a popular venue for many performers on national tours.
March sees a huge variety of shows and acts including dance, magic, ballet, popular music, classical music and comedy. The ever-popular Royal Marines Association Concert Band performs on March 5 and, a little later in early April, the Easter panto Robin Hood is certain to be a hit with families. Alternatively, indulge yourself with a bucket of popcorn at Cineworld at the Yeo Leisure Park to see the latest blockbuster.
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Have a break
Break up a day in Yeovil with a spot of brunch, lunch or a cup of coffee. There is a multitude of cafés which can offer you light snacks or something more substantial.
Interestingly-named establishments like Finca, The Winking Frog, The Orchard, the Sienna Deli or The Wine Vaults, which is also gaining rave reviews for its breakfast offerings, may entice you in, but there are many others to choose from too.
On March 26, the popular Yeovil Half Marathon celebrates its seventh year and will be run on a circuit from and to the town centre via Montacute.
If strolling around the historic market town is more your style, the town centre offers a wide variety of shops, from national chain stores to independent retailers.
The Quedam Centre contains more than 40 popular stores or, if you’re looking for something more unusual, visit the Emporium in Princes Street, a three storey building that houses more than 80 independent retailers.
The rest of the town centre is also filled with shops of all varieties, from clothes shops to jewellers, from natural food to bridal shops, and everything in between. Or, if you prefer wares that are traditional to Yeovil, visit Pittards where the finest leather goods are available, continuing the glove-making tradition for which Yeovil was famed in the 19th century.
The 5th Yeovil Beer Festival takes place in Westlands Entertainment Centre on April 21 and 22, while on April 29, enjoy the Yeovil Town Criers Competition, an ever-popular, colourful and noisy event that takes place in the town centre.
If your children prefer something more active, let them stretch their legs at the Yeovil Recreation Centre whose 40 acres of land includes an athletics arena, an artificial sports pitch, football pitches and mini golf
They can also enjoy the Flagship Playspace, an extensive playground for younger children that includes an aerial zipline, a shipwreck, tree house walkways with net tunnels and rope bridges, a large sand pit, a tyre swing and tunnel slides.
Alternatively, all the family can enjoy some climbing at the ready2climb Adventure Zone. Follow fun climbing routes that are suitable from age four upwards, or try the more challenging Top Rope climbing on walls up to six metres high. And, for the real daredevils, why not try the Mobile Climbing Wall, at 7.4m high and located outside, that recreates the thrill of true rock climbing.
Once you’ve arrived in town and settled into one of the large number of B&Bs, guest houses or hotels available in the area, treat yourself to a meal out in one of the many fine restaurants.
A surprisingly international range is on offer, with options including Asian, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, American and Middle Eastern.
Or, for something a bit more unusual, South African fare may be able to tempt you at Mulberry’s Bistro in Union Street, winner of Somerset Life’s Best Restaurant/Fine Dining Experience of the Year 2013.
A tasty tipple
If your visit to the area overlaps a weekday and you are tempted to have a little refreshment following your invigorating cultural tour, try stopping in at Yeovil Ales located in Lufton just outside Yeovil.
A family-run brewery founded in 2005, Yeovil Ales has well over a dozen awards to its name to date and brews seven regular beer supplemented by seasonal ones, including the aptly named Summerset. Their shop is open only Monday-Friday, although products are available online as well.
Plan Your Visit
Yeovil Tourist Information Centre, in Petters House, Petters Way, is open from 9am to 4pm and can help you with travel to the area, places to stay and eat, plus events and attractions. Call 01935 762781 or visit discoversouthsomerset.com.
A spot of history
Around Yeovil you will find a varied selection of sites to visit and places to go. A few miles west of the town stands Montacute House, a National Trust property and Grade I listed building.
This remarkable example of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture was completed in 1601 and set within extensive formal gardens and parkland. Highlights within the house include the Long Gallery, the longest hall of its type in England which contains dozens of portraits dating from the Tudor and Elizabethan period.
A short distance from Montacute lies Tintinhull Gardens, another National Trust property where you can enjoy the serene gardens which include an orchard and working kitchen garden. Open from March 22 onwards, the gardens surround a house which has two rooms open to the public, the remainder of the building being a National Trust holiday cottage.
A little further on and discover the Treasurer’s House in Martock, a Grade I listed mediaeval house completed in 1293 and also a National Trust property. As the house is still inhabited, opening times are limited.
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