Active Somerset 2023

Category: News 2nd May 2023

Getting outdoors for some country air is a breeze in Somerset, with the county’s varied landscapes lending themselves to a wide range of active pursuits. Those who love adventure or just those who like to keep fit and healthy will find plenty to get involved with.

Activities take place on the county’s waterways, along its coastline or up in the hills. It’s even possible to ski and toboggan in Somerset, believe it or not! The Mendip Activity Centre (a 30-minute drive from Wells) offers dry-slope skiing and fun sledging sessions, with an Alpine lodge to warm up in afterwards.

At one of Somerset’s most iconic attractions, Cheddar Gorge (a 20-minute taxi ride from Wells), it is possible to try rock climbing on the ragged limestone gorge walls. Adventure caving also takes place inside the many caves here, while daredevils can try a freefall jump, leaping off a ledge into the Black Cat Chamber (while attached to climbing ropes).

For something a little more challenging, Arch Rock is another cliff-face reached on the other road out of Cheddar village. Rock Outdoors is a Somerset climbing company that can help organise ascents. They also offer abseiling activities and caving at various other caverns in the Mendip Hills. It is possible to cave and abseil at the popular Wookey Hole caves too, completing its Wild Wookey, award-winning, caving experience.

For indoor bouldering on a rainy day, there is a well-equipped centre, with a fun cafe, on the outskirts of Frome at the Frome Boulder Rooms. Even kids can get started scaling walls that are designed for different abilities.

Waterborne activities on Somerset’s rivers include kayaking and canoeing. The River Brue is a picturesque, small river to explore. Close to Glastonbury, Wall Eden Farm, is an ex-dairy farm in East Huntspill and an outdoor pursuits centre, glamping site and farm stay. Here you can hire paddleboards, kayaks and canoes to set on the Brue.

If you have your own paddleboard, the Somerset Levels are fun to view from the River Parrett. The town of Langport is a good place to set off on a paddle, it has a couple of great riverside cafes to refuel at also. Paddleboarding is also possible on Cheddar Reservoir, though visitors must have their own boards and pay a fee.

Sailors will want to head to reservoirs used by Sutton Bingham Sailing Club, at Yeovil, or Durleigh Sailing Club, at Bridgwater, though memberships is required to take to the water.

Wimbleball Lake, in the Exmoor National Park, is a pretty spot for paddleboarding, nestled in a green valley. The lake, near Dulverton, offers a sailing club, with equipment to hire – including kayaks and canoes – and plenty of wildfowl to spot, with even the possibility of sighting Exmoor red deer on the shore.

For a meander along the Bridgwater and Taunton canal, canoe and kayak hire is available from the Somerset Boat Centre, or try Channel Adventure, who paddle down the River Tone in Taunton and even in the sea at Minehead.

Cold water swimming is said to improve wellbeing, boost the immune system and ward off dementia. There are some picturesque places to try the sport in Somerset, starting with the county’s oldest river swimming club at Farleigh Hungerford, 15-mins drive north of Frome. The Farleigh & District Swimming Club, open May to September – has a field for picnics, a weir, steps into the river and a platform for jumping in. Entrance tickets are valid for one year. For those staying near the coast in Somerset, there are marine lakes to swim in at Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon, which are especially atmospheric at sunset, with reflections in the sea. Or try lake swimming at  Vobster Quay, a 36 acre freshwater lake near Wells. It is possible to get qualified in scuba diving here too.

For cyclists, there is a wealth of routes to try in Somerset, from flat and easy, family-friendly trails to downhill mountain biking routes for thrillseekers. Gentle pedals in Somerset include the county’s many canal paths or the Strawberry Line route, which runs through the southern Mendips with bike hire available in Yatton. There is also the Two Tunnels route, along an old railway track, just south of Bath. The Somerset Levels are another mild landscape to explore by bike. You can hire wheels in Langport at friendly Parrett Trail Bikes. For the more adventurous, there are numerous mountain bike trails for all abilities that run through the Mendips and Quantock Hills. Exmoor Adventures, in Porlock, offers lots of interesting adventures along Exmoor’s coast, including bike routes and bike hire.

If all this sounds a little too energetic, it’s no surprise that Somerset is a rewarding and beautiful county for walkers too. With lots of walking apps available online these days, it has never been easier to pick a route, find the appropriate map, pack a flask of coffee and go.