Sometimes, you need to escape the craziness of day to day life. Even if it’s just for a small window of time. 24 hours away from home can make all the difference. Sure, home is where the heart is, but it can also serve as a distraction from allowing yourself to stop everything you’re doing, and just….BREATHE.
So – what do you do when you finally get that weekend where there’s miraculously NOTHING in the diary?
Do you just do nothing with it? Or – do you embrace the window of spontaneity that you always wanted to be a reality and just run with it?
I did the latter. It was Friday afternoon, and feeling restless. I wanted to escape London, just for a little bit. Checking the diary, there was an actual empty space between Saturday afternoon and the whole of Sunday.
By 4pm on Friday afternoon, that was that. We’d booked an overnight stay in Somerset. Sure, it was a 4 hour drive from London, but to be honest, I love a good drive on country roads, and who cares, MINI BREAK!!
So, this is how we made the most of our 24 hours in Somerset….
First of all, we made an important pilgrimage to a place that’s very special to me. My grandparents retired to Somerset, to a lovely village not far from Glastonbury. Armed with a big bouquet of brightly coloured blooms, we drove to their final resting place, somewhere I hadn’t been back to since my beloved grandmothers memorial service. It was, as one would imagine, an incredibly emotional moment, made beautiful by the fact that upon arrival, the sun shone through the trees directly to the spot where they lay. The tears flowed, and I spent time reflecting upon wonderful memories from idyllic childhood days spent with them both. We even drove past their old cottage, the horse chestnut tree still standing proud in their garden, the name of the house unchanged despite new ownership. I had to pull over to compose myself for a moment, but felt so glad to have made the journey there. I’m having to compose myself right now, writing this! Time passes, but do you know what? You never stop missing them.
Forty minutes later, and we were in Frome. A gorgeous town steeped in history, full of independent shops, creative folk and the fantastic Frome Independent market, it’s been named by The Times newspaper as one of the best places to live in Britain.
Our last minute hotel booking served us well. We booked a room at The Archangel, a place that dates back as far as the Domesday book, and was first recorded as an Inn in 1311.
With 10 rooms, a cocktail bar and a restaurant, it combines historical beauty and charm with a quirky, carefully thought out interior. We stayed in Room 5, which is right at the top of the building, in the old eaves. It’s a stunning, open plan room, with the added bonus of a cast iron, free standing, roll top bath! We had a couple of drinks in the bar (the Watermelon Margarita is perfection), and a bowl of Olives to keep us going, before our taxi arrived to take us to our next destination. Our driver was lovely, as are most folk in Somerset, and we booked our return car there and then too. Top tip – if you know when you’ll be heading back to where you’re staying, book a return trip. The local taxis get rather busy on a Saturday night! The village of Mells was our destination.
Named as one of the prettiest villages in the county, it’s well worth having a tour of the village. Sadly, as we didn’t arrive until the evening, we couldn’t make the most of it, but there’s always next time! One thing we did make the most of was the gastronomic delight awaiting us.
The Talbot Inn really is a fantastic find. It combines the cosy, warm friendly vibe of a country pub with the food quality of a top restaurant. The best of both worlds. We booked a table in the Coach House Grill Room at the back of the courtyard. Harking back to the country inns of old, the food here is grilled on an open wood and charcoal fire.
We started with an appetiser of Whipped Cods Roe served with Sourdough. It was a little bowl of salty, fishy, creamy deliciousness, and incredibly moreish. Starters were the Carpaccio of dry aged beef fillet, which was INSANELY good, and the Westcombe cheese curd fritters. They were amazing. Cheese? Deep Fried? All melty and oozing? GET IN MY MOUTH.
By this time we’d clearly realised just how EPIC the food at The Talbot is. We were also starting to fill up a little. So, I put down the hunk of sourdough that I had planned to shove down my gullet, and we took a breather. Thankfully there was enough time between the starter and main for my stomach to create another hunger bubble ready for the next course.
This turned out to be a godsend, because I’d ordered an entire Brixham Sea Bream. It was beautifully cooked, the soft white flakes of fish perfectly pearlescent, falling off the bone. The other half had an outstanding dish of Spring Lamb from Upper Wraxall, and there was a massive bowl of triple cooked chips to share.
Our lovely server offered to refill the chips, should we require more. Honestly, I thought I was in heaven. Sadly, we were too full to eat all the potatoes in Somerset. We were ready to decline any offerings of pudding. But of course, we HAD to see what was on offer…
Try not to drool just at the very description of this –
Dark Chocolate Mousse, hazelnuts, apricots, toasted peanut ice cream…..
Summer Berry Mille Feuille, chantilly, elderflower sorbet, almond and lemon syrup.
Now try saying it out loud in a sultry Marks and Spencer advert voice. Even more irresistible.
Attempting to be slightly sensible. we ordered one Mousse to share. However, our generous waiter friend then came over to the table holding aloft not one, but two plates! Who were we to refuse such a kind gesture?
Within 5 minutes we’d eaten the lot. By this point, I was experiencing the post banquet, happy fuzzy feelings moment, and ready for a lie down. I also looked around 7 months pregnant, with a food baby conceived out of sheer gluttony. It’s not just us and other food lovers who think The Talbot is top notch either, their Sunday lunch has recently been named one of the top 50 in the UK by The Guardian.
We paid up, then headed back to the hotel, and after a cider nightcap in the bar, called it a night.
After a long, lazy sleep, we made full use of the fabulous bath in our room at The Archangel, then headed downstairs for a Full English. It was perfectly cooked, and alongside a freshly brewed Coffee, we were fuelled up and ready for a busy day exploring the beautiful Somerset countryside.
The first stop was Cheddar Gorge. At 400m deep, and 3 miles long, it holds the title of Englands largest gorge. On one side of the gorge you’ll find Jacobs Ladder, which is the more touristy route, and the way to get to the highest point, plus a viewing tower. We didn’t take that route, and instead took a very laid back approach as to where we started our walk, and simply found a place to park up, then followed one of the National Trust signposts.
Make sure you wear either a good pair of supportive trainers or walking boots, as it’s a craggy, rocky, uphill scramble, but totally worth it for the spectacular views once you reach the top.
If you fancy a cuppa and a slice of cake as a post walk treat, there’s plenty of places to go in Cheddar village.
Next, we went to a place that I haven’t been to since childhood. We used to visit our grandparents in Somerset at half term, and during the Summer Holidays. Places like Glastonbury Tor, the gorgeous city of Wells and Cricket St. Thomas safari park all hold happy memories, as Nin and Pops tried to keep us occupied! Somewhere else we also visited was Wookey Hole Caves.
Around a 20 minute drive away from Cheddar, it’s a network of caves and limestone caverns, which is also home to the legendary Wookey Hole Witch. Legend has it that a revenge seeking Monk hunted down the witch, found her hiding in the caves, blessed the water and then splashed her with it, petrifying her instantly, meaning she remains in the cave to this day. You can see her in the form of a lantern jawed shadowy stalagmite in the first chamber of the caves. Her chin makes Jay Leno’s seem tame. Whether you want to believe the legend or not, it’s worth noting that a 1000 year old female skeleton was found in the caves back in 1912…..
It’s not just witches and fascinating rock formations at Wookey Hole though. There’s a Fairy Garden (a must for wannabe winged mystical creatures), a cave museum, the valley of the dinosaurs and a working paper mill amongst lots of other quirky attractions. My highlight though? The Cheese.
Wookey Hole has it’s own brands of cheddar and goats cheese, both of which are CAVE AGED RIGHT THERE. Obviously, we purchased a massive wedge at the gift shop before we left. We kind of had to, as it’s that delicious we might have helped ourselves to more than the recommended amount of free samples….
We finished off our Wookey experience with a yummy ice cream. The parlour there has over 20 different flavours to choose from. Being a total piglet, I went for 3 scoops. Eton Mess, Salted Caramel and the piece de resistance – GINGERBREAD. It had actual chunks of gingerbread in it and was RIDICULOUS. I could’ve eaten a whole vat of the stuff.
Then, it was time to head home. Our 24 hours in Somerset was up. Well, nearly…
If you drove past a place called the CIDER BARN you’d totally turn back and check it out, right? It’s basically an homage to music, cider and good times.
The owners are brilliant, the cider is cracking, and apparently the homemade food is damn tasty. As I was driving, my boyfriend ‘tested’ the cider, and we took away some flavoured with Rhubarb, and the ‘farmers’ variety. We also took the opportunity to pose on the giant chair outside the Barn. Oh so Instagrammable! Definitely worth a pit stop!
Then, we really were heading home….or were we?
About an hour in the journey back to London, there was a huge downpour of rain, which is never fun. It’s also pretty scary driving on country roads in the lashing rain. Plus, our tummies were rumbling. (I don’t know how, either…oink) So we followed a signpost to a random pub, looking for comfort and a roast dinner.
We discovered the ‘random pub’ was none other than a cosy little place called The Crosskeys. Community owned, it’s in the village of Corsley, and run by a husband and wife team. What a find it was! We had a fantastic Pork Belly Roast, with all the trimmings and gravy. It was very reasonably priced and just what we needed.
The rain finally stopped, and we eventually got home in the early evening. We packed a lot in to our 24 hours in Somerset, including over 10 hours of driving, but it was totally worth it. We’d wandered and explored, eaten and drank like kings, breathed in lots of fresh country air, and most importantly, I’d made the trip to my Grandparents final resting place. A truly wonderful weekend in one of the most beautiful, friendly, wonderful places in the UK. A spontaneous idea that more than lived up to it’s expectations. If you find yourself with that spare 24 hours, book a mini break to glorious Somerset.
Next time, 24 hours in Kent….
PS – If you want to visit any of the places mentioned in this blog – here’s a handy list. Just click on the link.
PPS – here’s a photo of me being a Witch. It’s a good look.