30 summer days by the coast in Somerset
- Credit: Chris Gladstone
When the sun is shining and you’ve got some well deserved time off, try these 30 ways to explore our glorious Somerset coast
1. Feeling energetic? How about trying your hand at the first stretch of the South West Coast Path to enjoy stunning views across the Bristol Channel towards Wales. The first nine-mile stretch runs from Minehead to Porlock Weir with a choice of the standard path or a more rugged option that makes the most of the rocky scenery.
2. Cream teas are what West Country holidays and weekends are all about so why not step back in time and enjoy a traditional cream tea at Tiffany’s Edwardian Tea Room on The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare? The tea room has stunning views on all three sides so you can look out to sea and enjoy the views as you eat your scones before walking it off with a stroll along the pier.
3. Admire the coastline at a sedate pace by jumping aboard a steam train on the West Somerset Railway. The coastal stretch of the route runs between Minehead and Watchet with stops at Dunster, Blue Anchor and Washford and you can hop on and off along the way. Or continue your journey inland and take the train all the way to Bishops Lydeard.
4. Three years since starting the project, Porlock Bay Oysters launched commercially in May and the shellfish are now available to buy at a number of venues in Porlock and at the Weir including The Anchor, The Ship Inn, The Café and The Culbone. Why not have a try?
5. What could be more British and synonymous with the seaside than good old fish and chips. There is no shortage of top notch fish and chip eateries in the county but some that are worthy of note are Piggy in the Middle in Porlock, The Battered Fryer in Burnham-on-Sea and the award-winning Papa’s in Weston-super-Mare.
Watchet is a charming little coastal town where you can take a stroll around the marina, sit on the esplanade and enjoy a local ice-cream, visit the museums or explore the fossil beach and paddling pool. The town hosts its annual carnival on 31 July, which will include a fete on the War Memorial Ground, stunt plane show and the carnival parade through the town. The fun starts at noon.
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6. Burnham-on-Sea will be awash with colour when it hosts the Rescue Rainbow Run on 7 August. Held to raise money for Burnham-On-Sea RNLI and BARB Search & Rescue, the colour run takes place as part of the annual emergency services day on the seafront. Up to 600 competitors will walk, jog or skip the 3.5km from Burnham jetty to the town’s lighthouse and back while being showered with coloured powder paint along the way.
7. The West Somerset coast is well known for fantastic rock pools so is the ideal place to teach young ones all about marine life. The traditional fun of rockpooling never goes out of fashion so head for Dunster Beach, Blue Anchor or St Audries Bay to discover crabs and a wealth of molluscs.
8. Brean Leisure Park offers a wealth of activities for all the family with a theme park, Splash Waterpark and golf club. The splash park is a great way to cool off - as well as a 25m indoor pool with bubble lounger and a fun splash zone, it has a large outside area with a seaside water play area for under 12s, three waterslides including a river ride and a sunbathing area.
9. If you need to take a break from the sun, and want to take cover, head to the SeaQuarium to see a whole host of wonderful sea life, guaranteed to delight all ages. The SeaQuarium, on its own pier on Weston seafront, has 10 different zones, including the Fantastic Phobias zone. Gasp at the sharks as they swim above you in the Underwater Ocean Tunnel or marvel at the array of colours in the Tropical Reef Zone.
10. With its long stretch of beach and plentiful holiday parks, Blue Anchor is a popular choice for a day out exploring the shoreline or a longer break for all ages. It is also popular for sea angling due to its easy access – park up on the seafront and rest your rod on the sea wall. In the summer expect to catch rays, dogfish and the odd flatfish. While you’re there, enjoy a spot of lunch or a cup of tea at the very popular Driftwood Café.
11. Portishead’s open air pool is one of the few surviving lidos in the country and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. In 2008 it was threatened with closure following years of neglect and a lack of funding. Not wanting to see this historic landmark disappear, supporters helped form the Portishead Pool Community Trust, which took over the running of the pool. It was still in dire need of renovation and refurbishment but luckily help was at hand in the form of Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington who, along with an army of volunteers, made sure the pool was ready to open in May 2009 following a £200,000 makeover.
12. Head for the Exmoor village of Bossington, park up at the National Trust car park and then walk down the lane to Bossington Beach. The sweeping pebble ridge of the beach acts as a barrier for the marshland behind. At high tides parts of the marsh are impassable but at low tides discover a number of rare birds and plant life that thrives on the seawater. At the far end of the beach next to the cliff is a steep path that leads up to Hurlestone Point and the ruins of a former coastguard lookout station that affords fantastic views across to Wales.
13. The beautiful sandy beach at Weston-super-Mare has become synonymous with donkey rides which have been the highlight of many a child’s holiday. This is a family run businesses where all the donkeys are well looked after and the owners offer individual rides or can set up a donkey derby for a special event. And the donkeys are not the only attraction as visitors will also find roundabouts, trampolines and swing boats giving even more opportunities for traditional fun.
14. Now under the care of the National Trust, Dunster Castle, on the edge of Exmoor National Park, gives young and old a chance to explore, learn more about history and take in dramatic coastal views. Not only is the house a veritable treasure trove, so too are the gardens which trail around the castle and are home to many species you would more likely find in the Mediterranean. Don’t miss the fantastic views out across Dunster beach from the drawing and dining rooms.
15. Extensive renovation work at Clevedon Pier has helped ensure this Grade I listed Victorian pier remains a family attraction for generations to come. Take a stroll along the only pier of its kind in the country and enjoy an ice-cream or cup of tea in the café at the end. Don’t miss the new heritage centre, part of the new visitor facilities, that tells visitors all about the pier’s history including some lovely anecdotes from visitors reminiscing about their youth at the pier.
16. Grab an ice-cream and head for Portishead Marina where, as well as watching the boats, you can enjoy the sculptures and art trail. Originally a fishing port, Portishead expanded in the early 19th century around the docks which has many different areas with Victorian villas and 1930s houses mingling with the more modern developments at Portishead Quays Marina. The marina itself is considered to be one of the best in the South West, boasting berths for up to 250 boats.
17. If you need a walk after all that ice-cream and fish and chips, how about heading to Brean Down? After an exhilarating 1.5 mile walk along this natural pier, you will be 315 feet above the sandy beach below with stunning views over the Somerset Levels or turn around and see across the Bristol Channel towards Wales. But don’t just go for the views – visit Palmerston Fort at the tip of the down, complete with gun platform and machine gun emplacements, and also discover the site of a Roman temple.
18. Until 9 October you can see an array of stunning sand sculptures on the beach at Weston-super-Mare. The Sand Scuplture Festival 2016 celebrates ‘dreams’ with the talented team of sculptors creating all the things dreams are made of. And new for this year, the public get to vote for their favourite.
19. Pack up a picnic and head to the sandy beach at Berrow, perfect for playing games with the children or catch with the dog or just cosying up on a picnic blanket and enjoying the fresh air. The six mile stretch of golden sand and dunes at Berrow make it the ideal location not just for sunbathing and paddling but also for kite surfing and horseriding. Visitors can drive right on to the beach, making it fully accessible for all.
20. Take a stroll around the picturesque village of East Quantoxhead, complete with manor house, medieval barns, mill, thatched cottages and duck pond. There is also a lovely walk from the village to the beach via a path along the cliff top from where the beach can be accessed down a steep set of steps. The village originally had a small harbour which brought in limestone for the local lime kilns and you can still see the ruins of one of the lime kilns.
21. This August bank holiday will see the annual Watchet Live Music Festival. Enjoy some tunes in this great setting where there will be three stages hosting more than 50 live acts. Musical highlights will include headliners The Levellers, as well as UB40 and The Feeling. If you want to stay for the weekend, there is on-site camping for the event, which runs from 26-28 August.
22. If you are looking for the best seat in the house for views over Weston-super-Mare, give the Observation Wheel on Beach Lawns a whirl. The 40 metre tall wheel is right on the busy seafront and offers views across the bay as well as the town. It has 30 individual enclosed capsules and one revolution of the wheel takes 13 minutes. There is also a VIP capsule complete with glass floor and champagne if you want to splash out.
23. The Portishead Raft Race and Waterside Picnic takes place this year on 10 July at the Portishead Lake Grounds. There will be a number of qualifying races around the lake and winners of each heat will get through to the grand final. There will also be entertainment for all the family as well as the chance to compete in the Edible Boat Regatta.
24. Teams will be battling it out in a bid to win the 2016 Minehead RNLI Raft Race and raise money for the lifeboats at the same time. The annual race is part of Minehead Harbour Fest, which runs over the weekend of 13 and 14 August, with the raft race starting at 3pm on the Sunday. There are two courses, one serious and one fun, and expect to see a colourful and imaginative array of rafts.
25. Originally built and opened in the late 1920s, Clevedon Marine Lake fell into disrepair until a campaign to restore it started in 2000. Now the lake is used by a number of groups for swimming and watersports and is open to the public. It also includes a splash pool for children complete with hand pump to make the water flow – perfect for cooling off on a hot summer’s day.
26. Discover traditional seaside fun at Minehead with its sweeping sandy beach and small harbour. Home to one of only three remaining Butlins Holiday Camps, the town is popular with families and the promenade offers cafes, fish and chip vendors, shops and the ever-popular arcades, perfect for spending some of that holiday pocket money.
27. If you are looking for a challenge, Exmoor Adventures, based in Porlock Weir, could have just the thing for you. The company offers a thrilling range of activities for all ages but top of the list is coasteering - jumping off a rocky coastline into the Atlantic. Or for something more gentle try sea kayaking or hire bikes and enjoy the scenic coast on two wheels.
28. If you are looking for a challenge, Exmoor Adventures, based in Porlock Weir, could have just the thing for you. The company offers a thrilling range of activities for all ages but top of the list is coasteering - jumping off a rocky coastline into the Atlantic. Or for something more gentle try sea kayaking or hire bikes and enjoy the scenic coast on two wheels.
29. Porlock Weir will once again play host to the annual Weirfest, a beer and cider festival with live bands and a barbecue every day. Based at The Ship Inn pub at the weir, there will be more than 50 real ales and cider to try and this year an extra day has been added to the event which starts on the evening of Thursday June 30 and runs until the afternoon of Sunday July 3.
30. Kilve Beach is the perfect place to see spectacular rock formations and discover ancient fossils such as ammonites. The beach has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest which means visitors are not allowed to take any fossils from the beach or cliffs but it’s still a great place to explore. There are also the ruins of the old chantry, founded in 1329, and on the road down to the beach discover the aptly named Chantry Tea Gardens for a light lunch or afternoon tea.