Life is expensive right now, and things look set to stay this way for a while, so finding free things to do in Somerset as a tourist or a local might be more important to you than ever. Going cheap doesn’t have to mean compromising on the fun factor though – in fact you can experience some of the county’s best bits for next to nothing. So if seeing iconic landmarks, breathtaking views, wildlife in its natural habitat, a world-renowned art gallery, beautiful coastline and carnival lights without splashing any cash sounds like your type of budget day out, read on for the best free things to do in Somerset.
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Free iconic views
Climb Burrow Hill, Kingsbury Episcopi
For mesmerising, uninterrupted, 360 degree views across miles of Somerset, it’s hard to beat Burrow Hill. A single tree stands atop the humped hillock, which is an easy – if steep – climb from the grassy car park below. While the hill might be on the small side (a bonus if you have young kids with you, or if you’re not into hiking!), its views are mighty.
You’re right next to the Burrow Hill Cider Farm here, which runs food, drink and free circus performance pop-ups in its lovely orchards throughout the summer, so worth checking ahead to see if one might coincide with your visit.
Clamber up Burrow Mump
Not to be confused with the above very similar sounding hill! Not dissimilar to Glastonbury Tor (which you can spot from the top), Burrow Mump is a prominent hill in an otherwise flat landscape, topped with a ruined, medieval church.
Centuries ago, it’s said that Alfred the Great used the Mump as a lookout for marauding Danes, when the Somerset Levels were a vast, marshy sea and this natural knoll was an island. When the levels flood or the moors are covered in mist, it’s easy to imagine what it might have looked like in days of yore – quite the photo op! Parking can be found at a National Trust car park at the base of the hill.
Glastonbury Tor and town
For a weird, wonderful and eclectic day out, Glastonbury doesn’t fail to disappoint. Mystical folklore swirls at the heart of this town and has seeped into almost every orifice, making it one of the most fascinating free days out in Somerset. Peruse the plethora of crystal shops, be cheered by the hippy fashion (and vagina bags!), indulge your witchy side, and keep your peepers peeled for wandering wizards and bonkers goings-on. There’s also a mural trail featuring 48 artworks dotted around the town – download the map for free here.
Once you’ve taken in the town, stroll your way over to the iconic Glastonbury Tor.
Walk up to Bruton Dovecote
Somerset has really nailed the tower on top-of-tor combo. This dovecot in Bruton is an easy climb, although you may have to deal with some stubborn (but chilled) cows, depending on whether you take the countryside route or the road from town.
There’s some lovely views over Bruton from the top, a playground down below if you have kids in tow. It’s just a short walk from here to Hauser and Wirth Somerset, or the delights of Bruton.
Summit Somerset’s highest peak, Dunkery Beacon
If you like ‘claiming peaks’ or are looking for an exciting, gentle walk that small children will be able to do then, somewhat surprisingly, Somerset and Exmoor’s highest point (519m) is for you! Dunkery Beacon is a gentle 1 mile hike from the Dunkery Gate car park that shouldn’t take longer than an hour to complete Rugged and rural, it offers fantastic views all the way out to the Bristol Channel over the surrounding moorland. On a clear day, you can spot Brecon Beacons’ highest peak, Pen-y-Fan in the distance.
There are of course longer walks, like this triangular one if you want something more challenging.
Go hiking at Cheddar Gorge
3 miles long and 122m deep, Cheddar Gorge is Britain’s biggest gorge and a spectacular natural sight. Gouged out of the Mendips, ragged cliffs, spectacular rock formations and dramatic caverns characterise the landscape here. Below ground, The Cheddar Caves (which you can pay to visit) are famous for being the site of Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton. Found back in 1903, ‘Cheddar Man’ is estimated to be around 9000 years old. For free entertainment, head up to the hilltop walk, where a challenging 4 mile walk rewards trekkers with breathtaking views.
Ebbor Gorge, Mendip Hills
Ebbor Gorge is a limestone gorge that was donated to the National Trust in the 60s and is now managed by Natural England. It’s often referred to as a ‘mini Cheddar Gorge’ and has woodland, wild flowers and views to rival its bigger Somerset sister. There are a number of trails to choose from (one is buggy-friendly), including one 4-mile circular route which will take you through Wookey Hole.
Tarr Steps, Exmoor National Park
Tarr Steps is the name given to an ancient clapper bridge which crosses the River Barle in Exmoor National Park. Made up of large flat slabs of stone placed on stone supports, the steps are thought to date back to 1000BC, making it the longest-ever surviving medieval clapper bridge. According to folklore, the stones were placed here by the Devil who swore to kill anyone who crossed the bridge, but after negotiating with the local parson, agreed to let people use it, under the condition they stayed away if he wanted to sunbathe on the stones.
There’s a lovely, gentle 1.8 mile walk upstream along the wooded valley (follow the orange way marks) which takes around an hour – keep your peepers peeled for wildlife, red deer otters and bats live here!
You’re very close to the Exmoor Pony Centre here too – a small charity that is home to 20 ponies. It’s free to enter, although donations are welcomed to help keep the centre running.
See stupendous Somerset views from Ham Hill, Norton-sub-Hamdon
Ham Hill is an Iron Age hill fort with jaw-dropping panoramic views over Somerset and surrounding countryside. Situated on a crop of hamstone – the source of building material for South Somerset’s gorgeous honey-coloured buildings – centuries of quarrying has created Hobbit-ish dips, hills and ditches which kids love to run up and down on. If you have digger-lovers in your brood, you’ll find the odd one perched here too.
Within the 390 acres of this country park, there’s a seemingly endless amount of walks with sensational views across rolling countryside. You can walk all the way to Montacute here if you so wish.
For added fun, seek out the woodland play zone (just underneath the pub) to keep youngsters entertained, take on the Roman Treasure Trail and hunt down the druid-esque stone circle (which has neolithic vibes, but was actually erected by one of the quarry companies).
Free historic landmarks
Marvel at Wells Cathedral
Famous for its architecture, the 850-year old Wells Cathedral is a sight to behold inside and out. Free daily guided tours give further insight into the unique, ancient framework of the building, which houses the second oldest clock mechanism in Britain, an octagonal Chapter House and one of only four chained libraries in the UK. Or, you can explore the building at your own pace, marvelling at its scissor arches and stained glass.
Travel back in time at Vicar’s Close, Wells
Just a stone’s throw from Wells Cathedral is Europe’s oldest purely-residential street, Vicar’s Close. Built 650 years ago for the Vicar’s Choral of Wells, the cobbled cul-de-sac contains 27 grade 1 listed houses that have remained intact since medieval times.
With its towering chimneys, identical houses, apparent symmetry and age-old architecture, the close is a striking place to visit, and highly photogenic! Movie makers think so too – you might recognise the street from Hot Fuzz? Combine with a visit to the cathedral and potter around Somerset’s smallest city for a fascinating free day out in Somerset.
Discover the ruins of Nunney Castle
The ruins of 14th century castle Nunney Castle have stood on their little island for an impressive 700 years. Surrounded by a water-filled moat, this majestic historic fortress is now under the care of English Heritage, but remains free to visit. Cross the wooden bridge to look inside the castle and imagine life back in medieval times. Once you’re done there, be sure to explore the historic village of Nunney, described as one of the prettiest in England.
Free cultural things to do in Somerset
Immerse yourself in contempory art at Hauser & Wirth, Bruton
Somerset’s world-class contemporary arts centre, Hauser & Wirth is renowned for its innovative exhibitions and spectacular Piet Oudolf-designed garden. Located on Durslade Farm in Bruton, the venue’s outside area is as much of an art installation as the works you’ll find inside the gallery. A unique way to experience idyllic Somerset countryside and architecture, and the amazing part is, it’s free.
Learn lots at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton
The Museum of Somerset is housed in the striking and atmospheric 12th century Taunton Castle. The museum tells the fascinating story of Somerset from prehistoric times to the present day. During school holidays, you’ll often find family-friendly exhibitions and events accompanied by themed activities. Seek out the Plesiosaur and be wowed by the largest collection of Roman coins ever discovered in Britain.
Free walks in Somerset
Walk around Frogmary Farm, South Petherton
Frogmary Farm is often my go-to when I’m at a loss for things to do with the kids and don’t want to spend much money entertaining them! A stroll around the grounds – or if it’s the right time of year, their wildflower meadow, sunflower or pumpkin patch – followed by a milkshake treat from the Farm and Field cafe remains one of their favourite things to do in Somerset.
Take a stroll in Dillington Estate, Ilminster
Dillington Estate is a beautiful country pile, covering around 3,000 acres, with a grand 16th century manor house at its heart (now a wedding and conference venue). Explore rolling green fields filled with bleating sheep, climb an ancient tree, walk all the way to Ilminster and stroll through avenues of trees with a coffee from onsite cafe, The Green House.
Stare at the sensational Bath Skyline
For some of the most wondrous cityscapes in the South West, you’ll struggle to find any more eye-poppingly magnificent than Bathwick Hill. Park on one of the residential roads near Cleveland Walk and make your way between the houses to National Trust Bathwick Fields (signposted) for some breathtaking view over Bath.
From the fields, a 6-mile circular route takes you through meadows, woodlands, 18th century follies and secluded valleys, past ancient Roman settlements and an Iron Age fort.
To keep little ones entertained, there is a two-mile, buggy-friendly family discovery trail set amongst the woodland with magical doors in the Long Wood elf and fairy foray, and a woodland play area. The play area is opposite the Sulis Club on Claverton Down Road and is marked.
Coates English Willow & Wetlands Centre, Stoke St Gregory
Tucked away in Somerset Levels, in the rural village of Stoke St Gregory is Coates English Willow & Wetlands Centre. The Coate family have been growing withies on the moors since 1819, and making baskets and willow charcoal for almost 50 years. It’s free to venture out into the grounds – there are 3 different paths you can choose from, including a walking route that takes you along the River Tone to the top of Windmill Hill, with views of Hay Moor and Curry Moor.
Picnic in Vivary Park, Taunton
Lovely, green Vivary Park, near Taunton’s town centre is a large expanse of green bordered by the Sherford Stream and makes a lovely spot for a picnic. Within the 7.5 acres of parkland, there’s a large children’s play area, sensory garden, tree trail, tennis courts (turn up and play), café (Vivary Golf Club), as well as a (payable) high ropes course, climbing wall and golf centre (part of Everyone Active).
Take a walk at Ashton Court, near Bristol
This huge sprawling estate lies just across the other side of Clifton Suspension Bridge. Mountain bike trails, woodland, buggy-friendly paths, gardens to explore and at certain times of the year, miniature trains to ride on. It’s a great place to play, picnic or fly a kite and there are stunning views back across the city to gaze at while you wander.
Keep your peepers peeled for hot air balloons – in August, Ashton Court Estate is the site of the spectacular Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, and hot air balloons take off from here during the ballooning season fairly often.
See an old iron age hill fort at Castle Neroche
Only earthworks remain of Castle Neroche, the site of an old Iron Age hill fort and Norman motte and bailey castle (built by William the Conqueror’s brother). Situated on the edge of the Blackdown Hills, there are a number of lovely colour-coded walking trails here through wooded forests and spectacular views across the valley, plus a fantastic playground for youngsters.
Park in the small car park at the top of the hill, in Buckland St Mary.
Take a giant leap on the Somerset Space Walk, Bridgwater and Taunton Canal
The Somerset Space Walk is a true scale model of our Solar System, with the planets placed along the Bridgwater to Taunton Canal. A model of the sun at Maunsel Lock is the centre/start, with planets along the towpath for six miles in each direction. Stick to the inner planets for a shorter stroll and enjoy nature spotting and watching boats navigating the locks.
Free water-based activities
Paddleboard down the River Parrett in Langport
If you’ve got your own paddleboard, grab a pal who likes to float on the water too, and head to Langport, where the River Parrett gently meanders its way through the pretty market town.
Cocklemoor car park in the centre of Langport has free parking and from there it’s a short stroll over to the launch point, Cocklemoor Pontoon.
Heading left, downstream for an hour or so, will take you past reed-fringed fields to Muchelney, which is a great place for a pitstop before making your way back.
*NB the pontoons are taken away in October for the winter.
Free cycle routes
Cycle or stroll The Strawberry Line
Walk or cycle the 10-mile Strawberry Line route which runs between Yatton to Cheddar, through dramatically changing Somerset scenery – from cider orchards, marshes and wetlands, to the steep cliffs of the Cheddar Gorge (with the path largely remaining flat you’ll be happy to hear!)
Cycle the Stop Line Way, Ilminster/Chard
Part of The Stop Line Way – which used to be the old Great Western Railway line – runs between Chard and Peasmarsh and is a traffic-free route of around 4.4 miles (although you can continue on towards Ilminster if you’re feeling energetic). Just before you get to the Angler’s car park at Chard Reservoir, you’ll find Touches Lane on your right.
Park at one of the lay-bys on Chaffcombe road near the Touches Lane turning, or Chard Reservoir, and from there it’s a short ride/push along a minor road to the cycle path.
Free nature reserves
Explore Ninesprings Nature Reserve, Yeovil
Yeovil doesn’t immediately summon to mind ‘area of natural beauty’, which is partly why Ninesprings, Yeovil Country Park is such a pleasant surprise. On the outskirts of the town, this beautiful parkland is scenic place to stroll, with waterfalls, stepping stones, hidden grottoes, pretty arches and fairytale bridges hidden in the woodland. Grab a coffee from the cafe and go explore!
For kids there’s a playground and lots of flat paths for scooting, biking and skating.
Get back to nature at Chard Reservoir
This disused 19th century reservoir is now a local nature reserve and a fantastic site for bird watching, walking, wildflower meadows and exploring nature.
Special activities often run through school holidays and there is a small woodland play area for kids.
Spot birds at Westhay Moor Nature Reserve
Westhay Moor is part of the mystical Avalon Marshes within Somerset’s historic Levels and Moors. The Nature reserve is recognised as one of the top bird watching locations in Britain and often features in documentaries, including the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch. It’s a beautiful place to explore the diverse landscapes that are home to a range of species and habitats. Nature buffs should look out for regular wildlife events.
Look out for otters at Shapwick Heath
Another internationally famous haven for birdwatchers and magnificent nature reserve found at the heart of the Avalon Marshes. Look out for lurking otters, swirling flocks of starlings and other wildlife from tracks, hideouts and viewing areas that are dotted around the diverse habitats.
Otterhead Lakes, Blackdown Hills
Otterhead Lakes are a pair of reservoirs on the former landscaped gardens of an old Victorian estate in the Blackdown Hills AONB. This beautiful nature reserve is made up of lakes and woodland and a (mostly flat) circular walk will take you around the range of habitats including wet woodland, dry deciduous woodland, grassland, and freshwater streams.
Keep your eyes peeled to see dormice, badgers, and bats, otters, kingfishers, beavers and more!
Free seasonal events
Experience a Somerset carnival
Autumn is carnival season in Somerset and many of the villages and towns host illuminated parades with floats, bands and dancers taking part in the procession. There are around 30 in the South West which take place from September to November, with some of the biggest being Glastonbury and Bridgwater. The community events are something of a rite of passage for locals and free-to-attend (although you might be asked to throw some change in a bucket to raise money for local causes). Carnivals last around one to two hours, carts are judged and prizes awarded at each event.
Free days out at the beach
Potter about in Porlock Weir
Porlock Weir is a quaint seaside port overlooking the Bristol channel on the edge of Exmoor National Park. Oozing quintessential old English harbour village vibes, it’s a lovely place to potter around, with a lovely little Harbour Gallery and Cafe, Exmoor Glass studio, The Allerford Rural Life Museum (only £3 for adults) and a good pub.
Cross over the footbridge to Turkey Island for a closer look at the beautiful thatched Quay cottage, with bowling-green-type lawn and sensational coastal views. From here you can stroll along to the shingle beach.
For a more challenging walk with spectacular views, ‘fairy tunnels’ carved out of the hillside by nineteenth-century Swiss mountaineers and the remnants of Lord Byron’s daughter’s gothic mansion, head up to Culborne Church ( said to be the smallest parish church in England).
Hit the beach
If you pack well, a day out at the beach doesn’t have to cost much at all. Somerset has some fantastic coastline of its own, but is also a great base for escaping to some of the UK’S lovely seaside locations and beaches.
North Somerset is where the beaches are at:
Clevedon – a Victorian seaside town with marine lake, historic pier, pebble beach, promenade walk, cafes, indie shops, beautiful Poets Walk and a miniature train.
Weston-super-Mare – this popular seaside town has got a bad wrap in the past but is completely reinventing itself. An indoor climbing centre, restaurants, exciting art installations (SEEMONSTER and Banksy’s Dismaland being some of the most recent), as well as the Grand Pier, sandy beach and traditional donkey rides make this a great Somerset day out.
Brean Beach – at 7 miles long this is one of the longest stretches of sandy beach in Europe. Just remember, this is mudflat territory so it’s not a strip-off-and-flee-into-the-water kind of day out – it’s dangerous to walk too far out at low tide. One of the great landmarks of the Somerset coastline guards one end of the beach, Brean Down.
Berrow Beach – leading on from Brean Beach and stretching for miles, a popular spot for dog walkers, horse riders and windsurfers. Look out for the shipwreck of the Norwegian barque SS Nornen which met its fate here in 1897.
Sand Point – similar to Brean Down, but not quite so steep, there’s an easy walk here with giant rocks that are perfect for clambering on and views over the Bristol Channel to Cardiff.
Kilve Beach – a slate and shingle rockpool beach a.k.a the ‘Jurassic Coast’ on the Bristol Channel thanks to its abundance of fossils (removing them is prohibited, but they’re fun to find).
Burnham-on-Sea – a sandy beach with Victorian and somewhere to paddle and swim (patrolled by lifeguards in summer), plus donkey rides and a funfair.
Or pop across the border to Dorset and Devon – Lyme Regis, Sidmouth and West Bay are some of the most popular beachy day trips from Somerset.
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