Visiting Wells: A Visitor’s Guide To Somerset

Often referred to as the smallest city in the country, the city of Wells is located on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Dating back to medieval times, Wells takes its name from the wells that can be found in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace and in the marketplace.

Britain’s Smallest City, Just 15 Miles (30 Minutes) From The Swan Inn

If you’re looking for the perfect base from which to explore Wells, The Swan Inn in the village of Rowberrow is just a 30 minute drive away. With 9 beautiful boutique bedrooms, a delicious food offering focused on hearty pub classics and fresh flatbread pizzas, and plenty of award-winning Butcombe beer on offer!

Wells Cathedral

The cathedral that stands today was built in the latter part of the 12th century, though an earlier church had been in situ since c.700.

Widely regarded as the first cathedral in the world to be created in the gothic style, it is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in the United Kingdom.

Although it took nearly three centuries to complete, many believe it was worth the wait, with Wells Cathedral becoming known as one of the most eye-catching religious buildings in the country.

Wells & Mendip Museum

The Wells & Mendip Museum is located in the former chancellor’s house, next to Wells Cathedral.

It was founded in 1893 by Herbert E. Balch, used initially as a means of exhibiting his own collections. The museum is now in the care of Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society, who have added their own memorabilia since.

As the name suggests, the Wells & Mendip Museum is dedicated to showcasing the history of the local area, with many examples from the Stone Age and Iron Age on display.

The Bishop’s Palace & Gardens

Adjacent to Wells Cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace & Gardens. Construction began at the beginning of the 13th century, though further development took place in the following centuries. Restoration work took place in the 19th century, which reinstated the palace to the fine example that we see today.

The gardens extend to approximately 14 acres in size and include St Andrew’s Spring, which supplies St Andrew’s Well, one of three wells which gave this remarkable city its name.

Vicar’s Close

Supposedly the oldest intact residential street in Europe, Vicar’s Close in Wells boasts multiple grade I listed buildings that were built between 1363 and 1412.

Of the 40+ properties that were built for the vicars, 27 of them are still standing to this day. The water supply for the houses was initially drawn from two of the three wells that this city is famous for, with one well positioned at each end of Vicar’s Close.

With no TV aerials or satellite dishes in sight, Vicar’s Close is without doubt one of the most well-preserved streets in the country.

Ebbor Gorge

Around 3 miles outside of the city lies Ebbor Gorge, a limestone gorge and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Around two-thirds of the area is owned by the National Trust, with the most prominent vantage points offering breathtaking views of the Somerset Levels and the surrounding areas.

The source of the River Axe, which rises at Wookey Hole Caves, is believed to be the watercourse which originally formed the gorge from the limestone.

Milton Lodge & Gardens

Situated on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is Milton Lodge & Gardens.

Milton Lodge was built in 1790, but it wasn’t until the property passed into the hands of the Tudway family in the 19th century that plans were put in place for the gardens to be landscaped into the form that they retain today.

The views from Milton Lodge Gardens are unrivalled, boasting panoramic views of the city of Wells, the cathedral and the Vale of Avalon. The Tudway family still own the estate, ensuring its survival for the enjoyment of visitors.

Directions To The Swan Inn From Wells

Located just a 30 minute drive from Wells, The Swan Inn is a 17th century Grade II-listed pub and inn, brimming with history and a cosy, welcoming vibe.

To reach The Swan Inn from South Street Car Park in Wells, you must turn left onto South Street before continuing onto Southover and then turning left onto Priory Road. At Strawberry Way Roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Strawberry Way (A39) and then turn left onto Portway (A371) after half a mile.

Continue on A371 for 9 miles before turning left onto Shipham Road, then merge onto Cuck Hill, The Square and Turnpike Road.

Turn right onto North Down Lane before turning left onto Rowberrow, where The Swan Inn will be on your right.