If you’re looking for a hike which offers panoramic views, access to some of the UK’s highest inland cliffs and gorges, and footpaths which lead through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) then The Mendip Way is most definitely for you.
Coast to Countryside
The route begins on the north-western coast of Somerset in Uphill, Weston-super-Mare. This is a bonus because you can catch a mainline train to this coastal town and make this a sustainable eco-hike too. The stroll from the train station to the start of the West Mendip Way takes you along the promenade, which depending on the time of day, gives you ample opportunities to grab an ice-cream on the go!
The sands are white, the sea is blue and in combination with the rugged cliff faces at Uphill, this hike is filled with nature’s wonders and offers ample opportunities for some cracking landscape photography (or selfies!)
The Mendip Hills AONB Service are celebrating 50 years of the Mendip Hills being awarded AONB status and in doing so are updating the entire 50 miles of the Mendip Way. That said, I’d still download the GPX file or follow the step by step guidance from mendiphillsaonb.org.uk/walks/ because with the nature of this walk, some pathways can get a tad bushy depending on the time of year, and with so much stunning scenery around it could be easy to stray from the path now and again.
The Mendip Way is made up of two recognised footpaths, the West Mendip Way and the East Mendip Way. The route takes you up and over the Mendip Hills taking in Cheddar and the cathedral city of Wells before culminating in the very hip and trendy Frome. En route you’ll be calling in to old mining villages, nature reserves and climbing up a few hills to bask in the sensational views. What is not to love about this Somerset footpath?
With the route being in an AONB you are privileged with the potential sightings of some rare plant and animal life. Horseshoe bats, dormice and adders are fans of the caves and protected terrain, and the infamous drystone walls make the perfect wildlife highways for criss-crossing the land. In addition to this, the micro-climate on Mendip has given plant life ideal conditions in which to thrive. The world-renowned Cheddar Pink was first discovered in this part of Somerset almost 300 years ago. There are also trees, grasses and other plants which are specific to this area alone. So much to explore!
I hiked the 50 miles over 3 days and camped en route in recognised campsites. Even though I carried all my food and water with me there are opportunities to eat in pubs and cafes along the way, although it is also worth remembering that some stretches of the Mendip Way are a little more remote so keep a healthy supply of snacks to hand! I carried sandwiches and nuts in an organic cotton food baggie from A Slice of Green and my water was easy to refill using a stainless steel bottle from One Green Bottle.
I absolutely love a good view so my absolute must-see along the way has to be Crook Peak. This craggy outcrop of limestone is, for me, the true showstopper of the Mendip Hills. Standing at 191 metres/ 627 ft high, you do have a bit of a climb to get to the top but the panoramic vista is so worth it. On a clear day you can see Glastonbury Tor and beyond.
The other highlight for me would be the drystone walls which are so characteristic of the Mendip Hills. The sheep snuggle against them, searching for shade or shelter from the wind but from a walker’s perspective they are a key feature in your hike as you cross over the stone stiles. They are iconic for this part of Somerset and add a rugged charm to the landscape.
Things to spot
As the Mendip Hills celebrate 50 years of being an AONB it is worth keeping an eye out for the 12 special qualities which have contributed to the area receiving this designation. The complete list can be found at mendiphillsaonb.org.uk/exploring/special-qualities/ but my favourites are the ancient woodlands, the limestone ridge and the diverse geology. All of the qualities will contribute to your enjoyment of this walk and if you can lower your carbon footprint and eco-hike the route then even better!
Did you know?
The Mendip Way is a recreational path which has been created and maintained by the Mendip Hills AONB Service, local Rotary Clubs, the Ramblers and The Mendip Society? With so many associations keen to preserve this trail it just goes to prove how special it really is!
Ever heard of the Somerset delicacy, Mendip Wallfish?! Believe it or not, the miners from Priddy village used to save snails and eat them on Fridays. Recipes can be found online – Bon appetit!