A guide to hiking through the Mendip Hills
11th February, 2023
This summer we spent several weeks in the Mendip Hills area. With spectacular scenery, ancient ruins scattered around and distant views of the ocean, we really couldn’t ask for a better place to get some much-needed fresh air during the COVID lockdown in the UK.
The area surrounding the Mendip Hills makes for the perfect staycation. You can go to the beach one day and visit the caves of Cheddar Gorge the next. And the hiking opportunities in the Mendip Hills can easily fill a week or more!
Read on to find out where the best places to hike in the Mendip Hills are, for some recommendations on great places to stay and plenty of practical travel tips….
- Where are the Mendip Hills?
- The best hikes in the Mendip Hills
- Where to stay in the Mendip Hills
- Mendip Hills Packing guide
- Hiking through the Mendip Hills: To conclude
Where are the Mendip Hills?
The Mendip Hills are located in Somerset, in the south west area of England. The hills overlook the stunning Somerset Levels to the south, and Chew Valley to the north; they run east to west between Weston-super-Mare and Frome.
Perfect for everything from picnics to hiking, the western area of the Mendip Hills has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It goes without saying that these hills are incredibly beautiful, and the scenery and views they offer are amazing.
The Mendip Hills, often just referred to as ‘the Mendips’, are mostly formed out of Carboniferous Limestone. This is quarried at several sites across the Mendips. There are also three different semi-natural habitats to be found across the hills. They lend themselves to a huge variety of wildlife in terms of both animals and plants. These habitats are:
- ash-maple woodland
- calcareous grassland
- mesotrophic grassland
When visiting Somerset and staying in the likes of Cheddar, Wells or Axbridge, a day out to going hiking or walking across the Mendip Hills is a great idea!
Here are some of the best hikes you can do…
The best hikes in the Mendip Hills
The Mendip Way
Probably the most famous of the possible hikes in the Mendip Hills, the Mendip Way is a 50-mile footpath split into 6 sections.
It goes west to east and includes the most stunning parts of the Mendips – Glastonbury Tor, Cheddar Gorge and so much more.
The six sections of the Mendip Way offer six different hikes.
Depending on your ability and what you want to see, there will be a hike to suit you.
This 7 mile section runs between Uphill and Crook Peak.
You can start the walk at Weston-super-Mare instead, though, and walk two miles down the flat sandy beach to reach the official starting point.
If you set off early, this makes for the ideal start to the day before you start the hike itself. The extra two miles at the beginning will allow you to look out to Brean Down and Steep Holm, two of the ‘Mendip bumps’.
From Uphill to Crook Peak there is plenty to see, too: the Norman Church of St Nicholas, Uphill Marine Centre (with its harbour full of small yachts), the Warlborough Down nature reserve and so much more!
The second section of the Mendip Way takes you from Crook Peak to Shipham.
This is roughly 5 miles and is described as a moderate grade hike other than the strenuous climb up Crook Peak itself.
It is the first major summit of the Mendip Hills, and offers views that will take your breath away – once you’ve got it back after the climb that is! Grasslands and rocky outcrops surround you, and there is plenty of wildlife to spot from skylarks to stonechats.
You’ll come down and head through Kings Wood, over the railway tunnel of the Strawberry Line, through the Hanging Field and onto Shipham itself.
This is the central part of the Mendip Hills, and the 7 mile walk goes from Shipham to Cheddar.
It is another generally moderate hike, getting steeper towards the gorge area.
You’ll circle around Shipham and venture over The Gruffy, which is an area of grassy pits, mounds and troughs; then it’s onto the Rowberrow Bottom nature reserve – look out for goats!
Next you’ll see a dramatic change of surrounding as you reach Tynham’s Farm and step out on the expansive Mendip Plateau. With farms and ruins, this is an amazing part of the Mendip Hills with stunning views all around too. This is a great place to stop for a delicious hiking lunch.
The GB cave is worth a look as there is some really unique flora and fauna down there – and then it’s time for you to reach Cheddar Gorge, hidden away despite its size and fame. There is obviously plenty to discover at the gorge, and lots to do too!
The next section of the Mendip Way is a 12 mile walk between Cheddar and Wells.
It’s strenuous in terms of the climb and descent of the escarpment, but the rest of the walk is said to be easy to moderate.
You’ll leave Cheddar and climb above the town, up to the hamlet of Bradley Cross. With tunnels made of trees and rolling valleys, the endless views are just awe-inspiring.
On the Mendip Plateau there is so much to see, and the difficult climbing sections of this walk are rewarded with over 200 species of plants – kidney vetch, bee orchids and so many more.
You’ll see dragonflies down by the Dew Ponds and Ebor Gorge Reserve, and you can venture in the Wookey Hole if its caves you’re interested in!
You’ll then have a gentle stroll from here to Wells, England’s smallest city which you’ll first spot from Arthur’s Point.
Wells to Shepton Mallet is an easy grade, 6 mile walk.
It is also one of the quietest of all the walks on the Mendip Way. You probably won’t see many other walkers which really allows you to go at your own pace.
Remote woodlands and deep river valleys make for a beautiful, peaceful hike; leave Wells via the nearby Tor Hill and you’ll be onto the Mendip Way, then venture through a grassy meadow and into Kings Wood with its thick trees . You can sometimes spot roe deer in the less-dense areas of this forest!
As you carry on walking, the views are stunning. You can see the Somerset Levels and admire plants of all different colours and sizes.
You’ll head through Ham Woods at the end of your walk, and then arrive at Shepton Mallet.
The end of the Mendip Way is a 13 mile, easy-grade hike from Shepton Mallet to Frome.
You’ll go down into woods, with the disused Charlton Railway Viaduct looming above you. Then it’s an easy climb over the Fosse Way and across Ingsdons Hill before you reach Chelynch, a tiny hamlet. Waterlip, Cranmore Tower, Bottlehead Springs, Whatley Quarry, Mells River and more make up the rest of this walk.
You’ll see such varied wildlife and plenty of colour, with every kind of view and scenery you can imagine! Then you’ll reach Frome, the end of the Mendip Way.
Chelynch is home to the only pub on the Mendip Way. The Poacher’s Pocket is the perfect place to stop for a cider if you’re walking section 6 and fancy a break.
All of the walks on the Mendip Way allow you to see so much of the amazing Mendip Hills. They are definitely some of the best hikes in Somerset.
Three Priddy Droves
There are plenty of walks away from the Mendip Way itself, and Three Priddy Droves is one of them.
This 4.5 mile route is made up of ‘wildlife corridors’: previous market routes that are now full of plants and animals, so there’s plenty to see.
It is a circular walk which takes most people around 2.5 hours to complete.
It starts and finishes in the village of Priddy itself, and makes for a lovely gentle stroll on a nice sunny day.
The Blagdon Lake walk is only 2.5 miles across reed beds, wet woodland, grassland and more – a variety of landscapes home to plenty of different wildlife.
The lake is actually a 19th century reservoir, and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
This a great walk to do with kids as it isn’t too long or too strenuous, and offers a great opportunity for them to see fish, birds and insects they might not be able to see elsewhere!
Sand Point and Middle Hope
Sand Point and Middle Hope are hidden gems, but well worth checking out especially if you enjoy bird watching or breathing in the crisp sea air. They are coastal walks of varying lengths.
You’ll finish any walk with the scent of salt water in your hair and lungs that feel clear.
Pack your binoculars and a picnic and take a walk here ready to look out across the shimmering water and gaze upon the horizon with joy.
Wells to Glastonbury
Glastonbury is famous for the festival that has seen David Bowie, Jay Z and The Killers light up its stage. But there is more to this area than just tents, warm beer and acoustic music sets, that’s for sure.
The ‘pilgrimage’ from Wells to Glastonbury is 11.5 miles of fairly easy walking, with three moderate ascents. You’ll follow Monarch’s Way, cross the River Sheppey, walk through the fields of Worminster Down and so much more.
Then it’s time to arrive at the stunning ruins of Glastonbury Abbey!
Where to stay in the Mendip Hills
There are plenty of places to stay in and around the Mendip Hills. Some accommodations are in rural areas, but most are in the towns.
You can take a look at the accommodation options available on your travel dates using the map below, or keep scrolling to see my personal recommendations…
Strawberry Rose Cottage
We spent our few weeks staying in the beautiful Strawberry Rose Cottage. This was a traditional three bedroom cottage with a gorgeous open fire place and a little outside courtyard.
It was just a few minutes walk away from the town centre of Cheddar.
The owner of this cottage is a lovely lady and I will never forget the kindness that she showed me and my children during the time that we were left with no place to stay during the COVID lockdown in the UK.
The cottage had everything we needed from kids cutlery and a high chair to matches to light the fire and a tumble dryer. I couldn’t have asked for any more, IT WAS JUST PERFECT!
Tor Farm Lodge
If you’re looking for a little luxury then this is a great place to come. Tor Farm Lodge has a swimming pool and a hot tub!
It’s a little bit rural, but if you have a car then this is no problem at all. It is also conveniently located to visit other areas such as Weston Super Mare, Burnham-on-Sea and Glastonbury. Axbridge and the Strawberry Line are both worth a visit too.
**Click here for current prices and availability at Tor Farm Lodge.**
The Bath Arms Hotel
If hotels are more your thing then the best place to stay in the Mendip Hills is without a doubt the Bath Arms Hotel.
With a restaurant and a bar onsite, The Bath Arms Hotel offers adult-only accommodation.The rooms are spacious with a flat-screen TV, a work desk, and tea and coffee making facilities.
One of the best thing about this hotel is the breakfast! The Bath Arms Hotel offers an extensive breakfast menu including full cooked breakfast and Eggs Benedict. The restaurant also serves a daily menu with traditional pub favourites and a wide range of drinks are available from the bar.During the warmer months, guests can dine in the beer garden.
**Click here for current prices and availability at The Bath Arms hotel.**
Mendip Hills Packing guide
The Mendip Hills are beautiful, but some areas can make for challenging walks in remote areas. Therefore, it is essential that you have the right gear to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable hike!
The following list is based on single-day hikes. If you are undertaking a multi-day hike then you will obviously need camping equipment as well.
- Energy snacks– I wouldn’t have managed to climb the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro without my energy snacks! I cannot recommend these more!!
- Packed lunch
- Hiking boots– Good hiking boots are a must when hiking in Yunnan. Here are my favourites, although there are lots of the market.
- Hiking socks– these will give you extra support for those long days hiking.
- Warm fleece-I recommend packing a lightweight fleece, such as this North Face fleece.
- Waterproof coat– a small coat that can fit inside your bag is perfect to protect you from the rain.
- Day bag– I highly recommend Osprey
- Walking poles– You can buy some good value walking poles for a reasonable price on Amazon.
- Waterproof cover for bag– Being able to cover your bag during a downpour is pretty important, a cover like this one is light weight and takes up very little space in your luggage.
Hiking through the Mendip Hills: To conclude
Hiking through The Mendip Hills is a great outdoor rural tourism activity for people of any age and ability. Whether you want to go for a picnic with a view or for a multi-day hike, the Mendip Hills are a great place to experience the great British countryside!