31 ​​Ways to celebrate Somerset Day this May

Somerset Day is celebrated annually on the second Saturday in May, which falls on May 11, 2024. May holds historical significance for the county as it marks the call to arms and the gathering of ‘all the people of Somerset’ by the renowned Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great, to march against the invading Viking army in the year 878. 

Run by the nonprofit Passion for Somerset Community Interest Company, Somerset Day serves as an opportunity for local communities to come together to celebrate everything about this remarkable region, from its traditional events to its awe-inspiring countryside, rich heritage, abundant produce, fantastic businesses and cultural identity.

I’ve put together the best ways to celebrate Somerset Day, that will leave you with a deep appreciation for this beautiful corner of the UK.

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How to celebrate Somerset Day

1. eat:Taunton food festival

Somerset’s county town has a strong tradition of markets, so it’s very fitting that the popular eat:Taunton will take place there on Somerset Day (10am-4pm), around Taunton minster, Hammet Street and East Street.

The free-to-attend food festival showcases over 100 of the best local food and drink producers, artisans and chefs, so visitors can enjoy a taste of the region’s flavours, as well as get involved with hands-on cookery workshops.

Hammet Street Eat:festival Taunton
Eat:festival Taunton, photo Craig Stone photography

2. Join the Somerset Picnic 2024

Gather friends, family and willing feasters for a Somerset Day picnic over the weekend of May 11-12 and raise some much-needed funds for a local organisation. To find out how to take part, sign up on the Somerset Day website.

Alternatively, join a pre-organised picnic – the website will list all the places where you can share cakes and sandwiches with your local community to mark the occasion, see some options below:

Castle Cary, Donald Pither Memorial Field (12 May, 12-4pm) – bouncy castles, hot dogs, tea and cake, children’s games, face painting and music.

Burrow Hill cider Farm Somerset

3. Learn about the county’s fascinating past

Watch reenactors from Draca Beorder recreate life in Saxon Somerset at Avalon Archaeology. Visitors can explore the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon longhall and Roman dining-room, filled with handcrafted furniture and art, and see a reconstructed Viking ship and Iron Age roundhouse under construction.

Youngsters will love striking an Alfred coin, following the Alfred Art Trail, learning to write in the style of King Alfred and dressing up like a Saxon. 

4. Hear Somerset’s history set to music

Head to Bridgwater Arts Centre on May 11 2024 (7-10pm) to hear Songs of Somerset, which features gripping tales of kings, battles, pirates, lovers, fairies, ghosts, cider and highwaymen from all over the county. The songs are all set to original music, written and performed by local folk musician, Timothy Dean. Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Somerset Crisis Fund.

Wells Cathedral are also getting in on the musical action – as part of The Sound of Wells 2024, The Cathedral Choir and Chamber Choir will join forces on 12 May (10.30am-11.45am) for a special Cathedral Eucharist on Somerset Day, featuring works by local composers or inspired by our beautiful county.

5. Discover the mystical allure of Glastonbury Abbey and Tor

Uncover layers of history that have shaped the county by visiting some of its historic landmarks. Few places are more iconic than Glastonbury Abbey and Tor.

Steeped in myth, and legend, both have been linked to Arthurian legend, the Holy Grail, leyline energies and Jesus Christ himself. As well as a fascinating and spiritual Somerset history lesson, there are some magnificent views to boot.

6. Marvel at Somerset stately homes

Somerset is home to all kinds of National Trust-managed landscapes, historic properties and stretches of coastline. Some of the most intriguing estates include Lytes Cary, surrounded by enchanting gardens, acres of fields and lovely woodland. Barrington Court, previously owned by Colonel Lyle, has an incredible kitchen garden and garden blooms.

Montacute, a masterpiece of Elizabethan architecture, built from the county’s gleaming ham stone, and the spectacular Dunster Castle, set in fairytale Somerset surroundings.

7. Visit King Alfred’s Tower

Connect with the origins of Somerset Day, at King Alfred’s Tower on the Stourhead Estate. Built in the 1760s to mark the end of the Seven Years’ War and King George III’s accession, it stands near Egbert’s Stone, where Alfred the Great rallied Somerset folk in 878 before the Battle of Edington.

The National Trust’s Grade 1 listed triangular tower features a statue of King Alfred and an inscription.

8. Step back in time at the Isle of Athelney

The Isle of Athelney is famed for sheltering King Alfred the Great during his struggle against the Vikings in the 9th century. The Somerset Levels provided refuge to Alfred from the Danes, allowing him to plan his counteroffensive.

From this marshy retreat, Alfred launched his campaign, ultimately securing victory at Edington and starting the Saxon reconquest of England. He also founded a monastery as a thank-offering – a 19th century monument marks the site.

9. Go adventuring in Exmoor National Park

Roam wild landscapes and discover the untamed beauty of Exmoor National Park on Somerset’s west coast. Renowned for its rugged and captivating scenery of towering sea cliffs, high moors, and heather-clad hills, Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve is a fascinating place to explore.

Wild ponies and red deer wander freely, and ancient landmarks pepper the countryside – from ancient burial mounds to Bronze Age cairns – evidence of human settlement spanning 8000 years.

Dunkery Beacon Exmoor Somerset
Dunkery Beacon Exmoor Somerset

10. Explore one of Somerset’s National Landscapes

The UK has 46 National Landscapes, previously known as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which are places so special they have been designated in the national interest. Somerset is home to four out of these; The Mendips, Quantock Hills, Blackdown Hills and a slice of Cranborne Chase, which also overlaps Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. 

Make it your mission this Somerset Day to explore one of the county’s unique areas of natural beauty.

Staple Hill Blackdown Hills Somerset
Staple Hill

11. Explore the dramatic cliffs of Cheddar Gorge

At three miles long and 122 metres deep, Cheddar is Britain’s biggest gorge and a glorious natural sight. Gouged out of the Mendips’ rugged cliffs in the Ice Age, spectacular rock formations and dramatic caverns characterise the landscape here.

The Cheddar Gorge Trail, covers a challenging four miles and rewards trekkers with cracking views over the Somerset hills. Below ground, The Cheddar Caves are famous for being the site of Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton. 

Cheddar gorge
Cheddar gorge

12. Brave a dip in a marine lake on the North Somerset coast

Built in the 1920s and recently refurbished, both Clevedon Marine Lake and Weston-super-Mare Marine Lake are two enormous tidal infinity pools with photogenic Bristol Channel backdrops.

You’ll need a thick skin or a wetsuit to brave a dip in the water, or you could always take a paddleboard or canoe. Even if you’re not venturing in, it’s nice to just walk around the edge, and watch life on the North Somerset coast.

13. Savour local tipples

Somerset’s scrumpy story began centuries ago and is still very much alive in the county today. Seek out a Somerset cider farm to discover more about the region’s cider-making heritage, tour orchards in idyllic rural surroundings, learn about traditional processes, and sample a variety of ciders.

Dowding’s Cider will be holding an orchard open day on 11-12 May, 10am-8pm, with Birds of prey from Pitcombe Rock Falconry, food by the Kings Arms Montacute and Still Shed making cocktails.

The Somerset Cider Brandy Company and Burrow Hill Cider will be holding one of their Cider Bus Saturdays (11 May, 10am-5pm), with special chef guest Sue, from The Cookhouse.

You could also try Perry’s Cider, Sheppy’s, Harry’s Cider, Thatchers or Torre Cider Company to get you started.

14. Sample other Somerset beverages

It’s not all about the cider though. Somerset is also home to several family-run vineyards cultivating award-winning English wines. Tastings and tours can be organised at Wraxall, Fenny Castle and Oatley.

And if you’re partial to a G&T, Somerset’s got you covered on that front too. Somerset Spirit Co. and Exmoor Distillery can show you round their production facilities and let you try a selection.

15. Tantalise your taste buds

Indulge in some of the county’s finest foodie offerings with a visit to one of its many farm shops. Treasure troves of Somerset’s agricultural bounty, you’ll find local meat, foraged jams, fresh bread, fruit and veg inside.

With our county bursting with farmers, you won’t have to look far to fill your basked with locally-sourced goodness. Go directly to the source of Somerset’s delectable offerings, like Westcombe Cheddar’s Dairy Shop, which stocks its flagship, traditional clothbound cheddar, Duckett’s Aged Caerphilly and Ricotta, plus small batches of hand-made charcuterie. Try The Trading Post in South Petherton, White Row Farm in Beckington, or head to one of these farm shops.

16. Support local producers

Somerset Day celebrates the invaluable contributions of local producers to the region’s thriving culinary landscape. Wookey Farm will be celebrating Somerset Day with local cider, local ales, local sausages and cheese, alongside music from local singer songwriter Dave Plimmer.

Buffalicious Somerset’s family-run farm exemplifies this ethos with its ethical and sustainable approach towards their animals and produce. 

The result is award-winning, creamy mozzarella, raw buffalo milk, ice cream and meat from their herd of 250 slow-reared, grass-fed water buffalo. You can get your hands on these gastronomic delights from their onsite farm shop near Yeovil.

17. Get to know your Somerset Cheeses

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is on a mission to preserve authentic cheddar production, in the home of Cheddar cheese. Book a VIP cheese tour to discover more about the original Cheddar cheese-making process, how terroir and maturing conditions play a vital role in the flavour, visit an underground maturing store (in none other than Gough’s Cave), watch cheesemaking in action and sample the good stuff. 

Peasey Farm Shop will be offering cheeseboards with three Somerset cheeses and a bottle of local cider or a non-alcoholic drink for £10 per person, raising money for raising money for Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance and Church St Michael & All Angels. Min of 2 people per board, max. 6 per board.

18. Take a trip to Somerset’s smallest town

Axbridge was one of the burhs established by King Alfred the Great to secure his kingdom after defeating the Vikings. Celebrate Somerset Day with a trip to this charming market town to brush up on the county’s history.

King John’s Hunting Lodge Museum – a  former wool-merchant’s house, built circa 1460, showcases the past, present and future of the people of Axbridge. Afterwards, take a leisurely stroll around Cheddar Reservoir.

19. Support local Somerset businesses

The county’s numerous makers and independent enterprises are integral to Somerset’s charm. Invest in the county’s cultural richness, unique character and heritage for generations to come by showing your appreciation for its independent businesses.

Head to the high streets of market towns and villages such as Frome, South Petherton, Our Shop in Hinton St George (10 May, 9am-1pm), Bruton, Watchet and Taunton Independent Quarter to browse, shop, graze and guzzle to your heart’s content at boutique retailers.

20. Get Arty

Somerset has inspired many an artist over the centuries, including the likes of JMW Turner, William Hogarth and Stanley Spencer. These days, the county continues to attract artists to live and work here and has a range of arts venues. Watchet’s East Quay, ACEarts in Somerton, Somerset Rural Life Museum and The Hanging Gallery in Langport are all great venues to see work from emerging and established Somerset artists.

Have a go at being creative yourself at South West Makers Shop on Langport High Street on 11 May from 10am-3pm. There will be Live Kids T-shirt printing, plus creative drawing activities both inside and outside the shop.

Dawn from Hurd and Co will have some tote bags and plain t-shirts along with lots of pre-printed press transfers for you to design your own bag or t-shirt (£5 per item, includes all materials). Or bring your own t-shirt and pay £2.50 per person.

21. Marvel at the next generation

The Pride of Somerset Youth Awards, which take place at McMillan Theatre, Bridgwater on May 16 2024, turn the spotlight on the extraordinary achievements of the incredible young individuals in our community.

Dedicated to recognising the inspirational efforts and accomplishments of our young people, these awards celebrate those who are shaping a brighter future with their unwavering determination and selfless actions.

22. Chard Natural Health Centre Open Day

Pop along and meet the team at Chard Natural Health Centre on 10 May 2024 (10am-5pm). Book a discounted session, have a cuppa and chat with the therapists and enter the raffle to win free treatments at the centre.

23. Xplorer, Goldenstones Leisure Centre

Be an Xplorer and hunt down the hidden markers in a family-friendly, educational, navigational challenge in beautiful Yeovil Country Park on 10 May 2024, 10am-12pm.

24. Milborne Port History Day

A village-wide celebration of the rich cultural, social, architectural and industrial history of Milborne Port will take place on Somerset Day, 10am-4pm. Get involved with heritage-based activities at the Town Hall, Church House, the Chapel Museum, The Tippling Philosopher, the Organ Museum and St. John’s Church.

See the website for full programme details.

25. Fanfare for Somerset, The Fitzwarren Chamber Orchestra

Celebrate Somerset Day with music from Fitzwarren Chamber Orchestra (11 May, 7-9pm), inspired by Somerset places and countryside. Works include Vaughan Williams, March: Folk Songs of Somerset and the premiere of ‘Falls, Footsteps and Follies’ which was inspired by the landscape at  Hestercombe Gardens and composed by Jeanette Owen.

26. Ilminster Town Criers’ Competition

The Ilminster Town Criers’ competition (11 May, 10.30am-2pm) will comprise two cries, a Home Cry followed by a themed cry, with a break of around 30 minutes between cries.

The theme of the second cry will be Cranes and the results will be announced straight after the second cries, after which the company will return to the Arts Centre for the presentation of awards and a late buffet lunch.

27. North Curry May Fair

The North Curry traditional village fair (May 11, 2pm-4.30pm) features a cream tea garden, BBQ and bar, ice cream, Punch & Judy entertainment, balloon modelling, face painting, magic show, musical entertainment, Morris Dancing, treasure hunt, vintage fire engine, stalls and a grand raffle.

28. Clarks Village Artisan Market

Clarks Village will host a three-day artisan market featuring regional food and drink along with handmade arts, homeware and gifts from across Somerset. Stalls will be located throughout the outdoor shopping outlet in Street from May 10-12 2024.

As well as visiting the artisan market, guests can shop at over 90 brands at Clarks Village offering up to 60% off RRP, dine out or enjoy a bite to eat at one of its grab-and-go outlets, or entertain the family at the adventure play park.

29. Somerset Day storytime, Watchet Library

Head to Watchet library on Somerset Day from 11-11.30am for stories all about Dragons.

30. Visit a plant fair

Calling all plant lovers! Count and Countess Charles de Salis kindly invite budding botanists to Yarlington House for a Specialist spring plant fair on 11 May 2024 (11am-4pm). The entrance ticket includes admission to the extensive gardens, not normally open to the public.

Expect 30 stalls brimming with organic vegetable plants, colourful summer bedding, plants for cut flowers, wildlife and shady areas, plus expert advice if you need it.

Edington village hall will also be holding a plant and craft market on 11 May (11am-4pm).

31. St Margaret’s Hospice Colour Run & Family Fun Day, Taunton racecourse

Lace up your running shoes, don your most vibrant fancy dress and let yourself be covered in powder paint, foam and glitter (17 May, 10am-4pm)! This 4km running event is all about having fun with your family and friends while supporting St Margaret’s Hospice. No need to book, just go along from 10am for a day of great food and drink, stalls, inflatables and activities.

Read more:

18 Best farm shops in Somerset

23 Stately homes in Somerset you need to visit

8 Vineyards in Somerset to go wine tasting

Ways to celebrate Somerset Day

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