Somerset, United Kingdom
This is the real West Country, where the local accent burrs in the same way it did back in Thomas Hardy’s day, and you’re just as likely to be held up on the road by a herd of cows as you are a tractor. Its gateway city, Bath, has been popular since Celtic times, and people still come from all over the world to relax in its mineral-rich waters and take tea in its elegant Georgian crescents. Further afield, the Cheddar Gorge and the Mendips provide see-for-miles viewpoints and rewarding walks. Rushing seems to be frowned upon here. It’s as though the whole county is working to a different, slower clock – come and stay in Somerset for a few days of hard-earned downtime, and you can, too.
When to go
Spring is glorious, with impossibly green fields and spreading flowers; summer can be wonderful but you'll have competition for the best picnic spots and hotel rooms; autumn is our favourite time, when sunsets are red and mornings are crisp.
PlanesIf you’re coming from the sky | then Bristol airport is the best point of access. Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flies in from Derry; easyJet (www.easyjet.com) jets in from Belfast | Edinburgh | Glasgow | Inverness and Newcastle.
TrainsThere are regular trains from London Paddington to Bath Spa; the journey takes around 90 minutes. Bristol is also easily accessible from Birmingham and the Midlands, and there’s an unmanned station at Frome, on the Cardiff-Weymouth route. Connections aren’t great though, so a car is advisable if you plan to explore properly.
AutomobilesFrom London | Somerset can be reached in around three hours along the M4. The journey along the M3 and wonderful A303 is more leisurely | taking you up and down rolling hills | and right past Stonehenge.
TaxisTry Bath Spa Taxis (01225 313131) in Bath, Mike’s Taxis (07773 900274) if you’re in the Mendips, or Valley Cars (01749 343888) in the Shepton Mallet area.