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South West - Bristol and Somerset

top 10 places

Top 100 places to visit in south west england

Bristol and Somerset

1. SS Great Britain, Bristol

Launched in 1843 by legendary Victorian Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the SS Great Britain was  the first screw propelled, ocean going, wrought iron ship, with a top speed of 12 knots. Today you can visit the now fully restored ship, complete with a new re-construction of the original engine which was an engineering wonder of the age. Explore the cabins and quarters where passengers and crew slept and see the historic collection of objects and artifacts.

2. Cheddar Gorge and Caves

Not far from the village that gave us the name of Britain’s best known cheese, the impressive Cheddar Gorge cuts a gash which runs up to 500 feet deep through the limestone of the Mendip Hills. You can drive about three miles into the base of the gorge, before the road turns into a path. At nearby Cheddar Caves you will be guided round deep, damp and echoing underground caverns formed by underground rivers in the wake of the last ice age.

3. The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol

The award winning British Empire & Commonwealth Museum is the first major institution in the United Kingdom to present the 500-year history and legacy of Britain's overseas empire. Bristol has an historic connection with empire through voyages of exploration, trade (including in slaves), piracy, shipbuilding and the railways. As well as sixteen permanent galleries, the Museum offers a changing series of special exhibitions, events for families, lectures and seminars.

4. The West Somerset Railway

Take a ride with the historic steam locomotives of the West Somerset Railway on a twenty mile scenic journey through the beautiful Somerset countryside. Discover the gently rolling Quantock hills, unspoilt villages and farms nestling in leafy lanes, the cliffs and coast of the Bristol Channel, Dunster's imposing Castle and Minehead's seaside charm. Events include Murder Mystery Specials, Somerset Real Ale Trains, and Fish and Chip Specials! You can even book a course and learn how to drive a steam train!

5. Wookey Hole Caves

Wookey Hole Caves are huge underground caverns hollowed out by underwater streams in the last ice age, and still have pools and rivers flowing through them in some parts. Wookey Hole Caves are part of a larger commercial complex of attractions, including Dinosaur Valley which features huge statues of these prehistoric monsters, mini golf and a theatre which stages circus type acts. Facilities include shops and cafes.

6. Tyntesfield, Victorian Country House and Estate

Tyntesfield is a spectacular Victorian country house and grounds in Yeo Valley, saved for the nation in 2002. Whether you're visiting for the first time, or coming back to see progress, you'll be amazed by this unique conservation project. As work continues to conserve the estate, you can learn from specialist craftsmen, climb the viewing tower to see the roof repairs or explore the beautiful gardens and woodland. A visit to Tyntesfield offers the chance to be up close with the restoration of this unique project.

7. Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey was once the greatest and richest Abbey in the country and  is the legendary burial place of King Arthur. From March to October you can take a tour with a Costumed Guide, with tales of monks, kitchen maids, pilgrims and even King Arthur's court! The grounds are the perfect atmosphere for people who want to forget their hectic daily lives and take it easy, and is also great for picnics! There's an outdoor summer cafe, a gift shop and a visitor centre and small museum.

8. Coleridge Cottage and Nether Stowey

Coleridge Cottage was home of the great Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who lived here for three years from 1797. It was here that he wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Frost at Midnight and Kubla Khan. See displays of the poet's personal belongings and mementoes. There is a children's trail, and displays and poetry books in the reading room. The cottage is situated on the Coleridge Way footpath in the village of Nether Stowey. Why not enjoy a walk on the nearby Quantock Hills?

9. The Arnolfini Arts Centre

The Arnolfini in Bristol is an attractive harbourside arts centre, presenting innovative, experimental work in the visual arts, performance, dance, music and events, with a cinema showing alternative and arthouse films. Entrance to the regular temporary art exhibitions is free. As well as paintings and exhibitions, the centre also features new and upcoming bands. The converted warehouse contains one of the country’s best arts bookshops as well an excellent café-bar serving home cooked produce.

10. The Colliers Way

The Colliers Way is a 23-mile rural walking and cycling route featuring specially commissioned artworks, that leaves the Kennet and Avon Canal at Monkton Combe near Bristol, and meanders through impressive countryside along disused railway lines and quite country lanes. You can hire bikes from the Bath and Dundas Canal Company near the start point. Attractions en-route include the Radstock and Frome museums, Somerset Lavender Farm and the Dundas Aqueduct.
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