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The Mendip Way

Below Crook Peak

Mendip Way signpostOverview

Welcome to the Mendip Way - a dramatic ridge route cutting West to East over the Mendip Hills, a designated ‘Area of outstanding Natural Beauty’ that bridges the full variety of the rich landscape of Somerset.

This is a land of hidden caves and twisted gorges, ancient woodland, Iron Age hillforts and Roman roads. A place of myths and legends on a route that literally rises out of the Somerset Levels and King Arthur's Vale of Avalon itself. In doing so it gives the walker endless breath-taking panoramas from the ridge route over one of the best loved counties in the UK

TCheddar Gorgehe full Mendip Way is a journey of 50 miles, climbing from just below sea level at Uphill to 1000ft on the Mendip Plateau before dropping on and off the Escarpment at regular intervals, to take in the most stunning locations in the hills. These include Cheddar Gorge, the Cathedral “City” of Wells and the Caves at Wookey along with the chance to make a pilgrimage to iconic Glastonbury Tor.

Beyond the well-known attractions of Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole the area remains relatively unaffected by high tourist numbers, making it a haven for walkers and explorers and for much of the East Mendip Way in particular, you are pretty much guaranteed to have the trail to yourself.

West Mendip Way and East Mendip Way Routes

The route is split between the West Mendip Way which runs as far as Wells, and the East Mendip Way which is a 20 mile extension on to the historic market town of Frome. The West Mendip Way is the more dramatic with generally moderate walking but with some strenuous short climbs on its steep limestone ridges, dry valleys and unique deep gorges. Beyond Wells, the East Mendip Way is easier grade walking but more remote and more subtle, a rarely visited area of rich farmland, ancient and secret woodlands with bubbling stream valleys which offers a very “real” reflection of a more typical and rarely visited Somerset landscape.

The West and Central Mendips offer superb walking conditions. The limestone base of the hills here not only creates the gorges, caves and combes for you to explore but because the water drains away so quickly you also have the bonus of some of the driest walking conditions underfoot in the country. The East Mendip Way differs, as it passes through a different geology and along watercourses and farmland so expect more mud here at wetter times of the year.

Glastonbury TorOverall, the route takes in the full variety of Somerset scenery and culture - contrasting the lofty summits of the Western Mendips with the lost valleys and secret woodlands of the East Mendip Way. It’s a haven for those who love nature, linking many key and varied nature reserves along the way.

Wildflower meadows, orchid strewn grasslands and rough rocky outcrops where you can spot everything from peregrine falcons, through to adders and feral goats. In the humid lush woodlands look for shy deer, woodpeckers, dragonflies, ferns and bluebells giving a trail that outside of winter is a veritable blaze of colour underfoot.

 

Facilities and Attractions

Wells CathedralOvernight stops really make this walk with a good variety of accommodation options in a number of well-spaced towns and villages which allow for a variety of walking distances and abilities. Highlights include architecturally stunning places alive with history such as Wells and Axbridge, market towns like Shepton Mallet and Frome, tiny lost Mendip villages such as Priddy and Shipham and quirky tourist centres with lots of facilities such as those at Cheddar, Wookey and Glastonbury. Everywhere you will get to sample the superb cider, cheese and other locally produced food and drink that Somerset is famous for the world over.

It’s not a walk to rush through – when not walking, experience the incredible show caves at Cheddar and Wookey Hole which are two of the best cave systems in the country, or explore the historic Cathedral and moated Bishops Palace in the cobbled streets of Wells – England’s smallest “city”. Climb the iconic and mysterious Glastonbury Tor, gaze over the famous Glastonbury festival fields and visit the legendary Glastonbury Abbey with its links to King Arthur and Joseph of Arimathea.

Caving on MendipFor more active pursuits take a day out at Cheddar with Rocksport and you can get beyond the public show caves on a deep caving expedition, or climb and abseil in the gorge itself. If that sounds too much just take to two wheels on the Strawberry Line Cycle trail along a gentle traffic free route linking villages along a long disused railway line.

Travel and Timing

This is the quickest of our walks to get to, starting only a short distance from Bristol and Exeter Airports and not much over 2 hours away by fast and direct trains from London. If you are short on time it’s a route that can be reached in half the time it takes to get to Cornwall and West Devon and with trains arriving at Weston-super-Mare and returning out of Frome, the Mendip Way is a true Rail To Trail route for those looking to ditch the car. Finally, for those wanting to explore further in the region finishing at Frome gives easy and quick access on to the historic city of Bath just a few miles away, to vibrant Bristol, the Cotswold Hills or east to Stonehenge and Wiltshire.

The Mendip Way is a riot of colour in spring and apart from the popular tourist area of Cheddar Gorge is far less crowded than Devon and Cornwall in the Summer. As a more sheltered inland route it also makes a great off season Autumn walk and indeed without high and exposed moorland it’s an option that is walkable at any time of year.

Click on the tabs at the top of this page to read about the different and varied sections to the walk as well as to find out more about the overnight stops and number of days you can spend walking the route. Or watch the video below for a visual taste of the Mendip Way region

 

 

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