Mendip Hills AONB

Cheddar Gorge, Mendip Hills AONB, Somerset, England
Cheddar Gorge, Mendip Hills AONB ©

Mendip Hills – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in Somerset in south west England. The area has been designated a AONB since 1972, the area covers 198 square kilometres making it one of the more compact AONBs located in England. The area is well known for its scenic countryside, landscapes, woodland, biodiversity, wildlife and range of habitats.

The local population of approx 6,000 live mainly in villages and hamlets located across the countryside. The AONB covers an area in the south west of England in an area a few miles from Bristol Airport in the north to the city of Wells in the south to the coastal town of Western-super-Mare in the west to the village of Chewton Mendip in the east. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Character Areas, National Nature Reserves and Scheduled Monuments. The area is known for its peace and tranquillity, geology, biodiversity, woodlands, grasslands, small settlements and lakes.

The key features and special qualities of the Mendip Hills include the distinctive limestone ridge, a sparsely populated plateau, a diverse and visible geology that includes Devonian and Jurassic, Caves of geological, archaeological and wildlife importance, dry stone walls and ancient woodland. The areas special qualities include the natural scenic beauty, rural nature of the area and expansive sweeping views across the Severn Estuary to Wales and the Somerset Level to Glastonbury Tor and on to the Somerset coastline.

The main industries in the AONB include farming, horticulture and tourism. The area has established itself as a popular destination for visitors, it is popular for day trips, short breaks and coach trips. There are a number of scenic villages and small towns located in the AONB including East Harptree, Blagdon, Shipham and Winscombe. Main settlements located close by include the cities of Wells, Bath, Bristol and the coastal town of Western-super-Mare.

The area is popular for horse riding, caving, abseiling, yachting, wildlife watching, day trippers, walking and cycling with a range of routes and trails to explore. Visitors can enjoy the scenic landscapes, the great outdoors and the peace and tranquillity.

Quick Facts

Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1972

Population: 6,000 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 198

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs): 27

Listed Buildings: 196

Scheduled Monuments: 169

Highest Elevation: Beacon Batch at 325 metres (1,066 feet)

Main Settlements close by: City of Wells, Bath, Bristol and Western-super-Mare.

Located in: Somerset.


The Mendip Hills AONB is located the county of Somerset in south west England. The AONB offers visitors a scenic country retreat close to by to several cities including Bristol and Bath, there are several impressive landscapes and sweeping views for visitors to enjoy. The AONB with its small settlements and tranquillity offers a contrast to the traffic and congestion of the towns and cities. The AONB area itself is relatively sparsely populated compared to some other AONBs and the surrounding areas in south west England. The area includes a number of historic small villages and hamlets that are full of culture and character.

The Mendip Hills have a long history and are of national importance for its landscape, ecology and geology. Within the actual AONB area there are no large cities or towns as is the case with several other AONBs, there are a number of smaller villages and settlements. Local cities including Wells, Bath and Bristol provide convenient places from which visitors can tour the Mendip Hills AONB. The commercial development in the AONB area has been limited in order to protect the special qualities of the area ensuring visitors can enjoy the rural countryside and landscapes.

The location in the south west England means the AONB is assessable from across the south west and south east of England, northern England and the Midlands and Wales. From Bristol and Bath Leeds the area is 30-40 minutes by car, from Exeter and much of Devon and Cornwall it is 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes by car, from Liverpool and Manchester it is 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours, from Birmingham it is approx 2 hours 30 minutes away. From Cardiff it is 1 hour 20 minutes by car and from London and much of southern England it is 3 hours to 3 hours 45 minutes away.

Tourist Information Centres are located at various locations close by to the Mendip Hills. The TICs are based in Burnham-on-Sea, Shepton Mallet, Street, Wells and Western-super-Mare close by to the Mendip Hills. The tourist information centres provide visitors with information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas in Somerset. Each of the centres has knowledgeable staff that can provide useful local knowledge on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres provides a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area.

Local Accommodation includes a choice of historic and contemporary hotels, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, holiday homes and cottages. Local accommodation is available in the villages of Blagdon, Winscombe and Loxton. There is accommodation available in nearby Chewton Mendip, Shepton Mallet and Axbridge. Cities located in the area including Bristol and Bath, provide good access to local facilities and accommodation from which to explore the AONB and the surrounding local areas in the south west England.

Within the Mendip Hills AONB visitors can explore a number of small historic towns, villages and hamlets that retain their character and charm. History and tradition have been well preserved in many of the towns and villages in the area providing visitors with a fascinating insight in to local culture. The local towns and villages include a number of local attractions and places of interest for visitors to explore.

Local Towns & Villages include East Harptree, a village located 5 miles north of Wells in Somerset. The village is located within the AONB and is located next to the hamlet of Coley. East Harptree is a charming historic village that retains its historic charm and character, notable local sites include the Clock Tower located in the centre of the village that date back to the end of the 19th century. The site of Richmont Castle is a former 11th century motte-and-bailey castle that now totally in ruins is located close by to the village.

Local attractions include Harptree Court, a Grade II listed building that dates back to the start of the 19th century, the historic house also includes two lakes on the grounds. Harptree Court is now a country hotel. The Church of St Lawrence is a Grade II* listed building that dates back to the late 12th century. The church is still in active use and includes historic Norman ad Jacobean features in the interior.

Harptree Combe is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) located close to East Harptree, the site is just under 34 acres in size. There is an aqueduct located at the site that dates back to the 19th century, the aqueduct is for Bristol water supply and is still in use currently. The aqueduct is regarded as an important surviving example of such engineering and is a Grade II listed building. Harptree Combe includes a narrow limestone gauge that contains a variety of habitats, it is rich in tree and shrub species and is an ancient woodland site giving rise to its SSSI status.

Winscombe is a village located 13 mile north west of Wells in Somerset within the AONB. The village includes shops, businesses and local amenities located in the town centre including a country pub here visitors can enjoy a range of drinks and refreshments. Historic attractions include the Church of St James Winscombe, the church is a Grade I listed building and thought to date back to the 12th or 13th centuries. The church is noted for its architecture, it is still an active place of worship with regular services and events.

The village of Blagdon is located 11 miles north of Wells in the north of the AONB. The village has a long history with evidence of the Romans, Saxons and Normans, there are a number of buildings in the village that date back to medieval times including some buildings in the West End of the village. Over the years the three main settlement areas of the West End, East End and Street End have merged to form the present day village. In the West End area visitors can find independent shops, stores and local amenities, there are also a number of pubs offering a range of food and drinks. Local attractions include St Andrews Church, a Grade II listed building that includes a 116 foot tower that dates from the 15th century and is one of the tallest in Somerset.

The cathedral city of Wells is located at the southern edge of the Mendip Hills AONB, it is one of the smallest and most compact cities in the UK. The city has a long history dating back to Roman times and grew during Saxon times and is well known for the 'Siege of Wells' during the English Civil War. The quiet market city includes a shops, stores, hotels, restaurants and local amenities making it a popular destination for visitors to base themselves from when exploring the AONB and surrounding areas.

Local Attractions include the Wells and Mendip Museum located next to Wells Cathedral. The museum is housed inside a historic house that dates from the 15th century, inside visitors will find a number of displays, exhibitions, artefacts and archaeological finds showcasing social history and culture in the local area. Collections of note include the Balch Room with exhibits of fossils and geology from the Mendip Hills dating back to the Stone and Iron Ages. Other exhibits include lead ingots dating back to Roman Britain and embroidery works from the 18th century.

Wells Cathedral is an Anglican church located in the city of Wells that dates back to the 12th to 15th centuries. Regarded as a medium sized medieval cathedral, it is one of the best known and most recognisable attractions in the city. The cathedral is known for its gothic architecture externally and inside there are a number of stone carving and misercords. The cathedral is known for its stained glass with one of the most substantial collections in England. The cathedral is a place of active worship with a number of services, events and musical programmes taking place. Visitors can tour the church with daily tours available where visitors can learn more about the church, its fascinating history and more.

Cheddar Gorge is located 9 miles north west of Wells in the AONB. The limestone gorge is located close to the village of Cheddar in Somerset, there are two main show caves for visitors to explore, the larger Gough's Cave and the smaller Cox's Cave. The caves are known for their geology and intricate formations, the area also includes the Cheddar Complex, a larger site that includes the gorge and is a Biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. Visitors can enjoy a cliff top gorge walk and a open top bus tour taking visitors through some spectacular natural scenery and one of nature's wonders the peregrine falcon whose dive makes them the fastest animals on earth in excess of 200 mph.

Other attractions at the gorge include the Cheddar Man Museum of Prehistory showcasing Cheddar excavations along with further information on the caves and their palaeontological development. Visitors can see exhibits that include original flint tools, reproductions of art objects and music, demonstrations of flint knapping and fire making and hands on cave painting that is popular with children. The museum offers a fun ad educational place for the whole family to enjoy.

Chew Valley Lake Visitor Centre is located at Chew Valley Lake located 11 miles north of Wells, at the northern edge of the Mendip Hills AONB. The lake provides water for Bristol and includes a tea shop, restaurant, visitor centre and nature trail. The Chew Lake Tea Shop offers great views across the lake, landscaped picnic areas and adventure play areas for children. There are a choice of cream teas, cakes, ice creams and ht and cold lunches. The Woodford Lodge Restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner options with a choice of dishes. The Chew Nature Trail offers visitors a chance to get up close and see local wildlife, flora and enjoy some inspiring views along the way.

Walking is a popular way to discover more in the AONB and the surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The Mendip Hills includes a choice of landscapes and terrain, with a number of footpaths and bridleways offering both shorter and longer walks for walkers of all abilities. The walks include The Mendip Way a 50 mile long footpath that goes from Western-super-Mare to Frome. Limehouse Link is a 36 mile route that goes from the Cotswolds to the Mendip Hills, whilst Monarch's Way is a long distance footpath that is 615 miles in length and passes through the Mendip Hills including Chew Valley Lake, East Harptree and Wells.

Cycling provides both a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to explore the Mendip Hills AONB. There are a number of quiet lanes and bridleways making the area suitable for cycling. There are a number of country lanes that pass through a range of landscapes in the AONB including wooded hills and rolling farmland. Routes include the West Country Way part of the National Cycle Network,(NCN), the 240 mile route links Padstow to Bristol/Bath with 70 miles of the route being traffic free.

Visitors to the Mendip Hills AONB in south west England will find a scenic countryside haven with open spaces, lakes, caves grassland areas, deep gorges and countryside. There are a number of historic small local towns, villages and hamlets to discover along with charming market towns located close by. The area is known for its rural character, tranquillity and offers a great place to enjoy outdoor activities.

How to Get There

Mendip Hills AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The cathedral city of Wells is located next to the southern edge of the AONB area and provides a convenient located from which to explore the area with a choice of accommodation and local amenities. Located approx 130 miles from central London. From London, take the A4, then the M4 up to junction 18. At junction 18 take the exit for the A46 for Bath, then take the A420 for Bristol. Then turn left on to Freezinghill Lane, then turn right on to Landsdown Lane. From Landsdown Lane turn on to High Street then Anchor Road, then Penn Hill Road, then take A431 then Old Newbridge Hill. Then take the A4 and then the A39. Continue on the A39 until the junction with the A37, then turn left on to the A37 and then take the A39 that continues in to Wells. The approx journey time is 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train station at Bristol Temple Meads has regular services from London Paddington station. From Bristol there are bus services available to the city of Wells, from Temple Meads there are bus services available to Wells via First in Bristol bus number 376. The approx journey time is 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes hours depending on time of day, service and connections.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular buses available from London Victoria Coach station to Wells in Somerset. The approx journey time is approx 4 hours depending on time of day, connections and traffic. Coach services to Wells are provided by services are provided by National Express.

Contact Details

Mendip Hills AONB Unit
Charterhouse Centre
BS40 7XR

Telephone: +44 (0)1761 462338

Website: Mendip Hills AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Mendip Hills (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Mendip Hills AONB ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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