The historic city of Wells is the smallest city in England, lying nestled at the foot of the rolling Mendip Hills. This hidden gem, though compact in size, is home to one of the finest concentrations of medieval buildings in the country.
The stunning Wells Cathedral, famed for its astounding 14th century scissor arches, unique Quarter Jack Clock, and breath-taking Jesse Window lies at the heart of the city.
Adjacent to the Cathedral is The Bishop’s Palace, medieval home to the Bishops of Bath & Wells for over 800 years and surrounded by 14 acres of beautiful RHS partner gardens in which lie the evocative ancient well pools which give the City its name. The Palace is also famous for its Mute swans which reside on the Moat and are trained to ring a bell on the Gatehouse for food when hungry.
Just around the corner from the Cathedral is Vicars Close, the oldest continuously inhabited street in Europe. It is famed for its medieval splendour and unusually tall chimneys and is still inhabited by the Vicars Choral of the Cathedral Choir for whom it was built over 650 years ago.
Also to be found near the Cathedral are the medieval buildings of Wells Cathedral School. Founded in 909 it is one of the oldest schools in Europe and the only specialist music school in the country which operates within a normal independent school, benefitting both music students and regular students. Wells and Mendip Museum also sits on Cathedral Green, offering visitors an invaluable source of information on the history of Wells and its surrounding area.
Independent markets are held twice weekly in Wells’ elegant Market Place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with local produce, crafts and gifts and Wells High Street has a wonderful array of independent boutiques and coffee shops alongside national brands. Its narrow streets and eclectic mix of buildings styles reflect the development of the town throughout the ages and the water channels running down either side of the street are a reminder of the gift of water given to the townsfolk by Bishop Beckyngton in 1451.
The area surrounding Wells has much to offer too, from the romantic splendours of Glastonbury Tor and the magical ruins of Glastonbury Abbey (only 6 miles from Wells) to the mysteries of the ancient caves at Wookey Hole (1.5 miles away), the sweeping drama of Cheddar Gorge, and the Market Town of Shepton Mallet, home to the Royal Bath & West Show.
In addition to the huge range of architectural treats, the City and surrounding area is rich with all sorts of culture, including the sublime musical history of the Cathedral choir, the musical excellence of the Cathedral School and the fabulous new programme at the brand new Cedars Hall concert hall, the annual Festivals of Literature, Food, Contemporary Music & Contemporary Art which take place in October, (the Food Festival being a wonderful reminder of the richness of the area’s food heritage with particular emphasis on local Ciders and Cheddar Cheese!), the Somerset Schools Folk Dancing Festival and the annual Maypole dancing in the Market Place, the outdoor theatre seasons at The Bishop’s Palace and Glastonbury Abbey, the magnificent madness of Glastonbury Festival, and the local ancient Somerset tradition of the January Wassail to secure the cider apple harvest to name but a few!
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