Walking the Mendip Way – Day 7: Shepton Mallet to Frome

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Shepton Mallet to Frome (12.5 miles)

This was a long day! In general, we were tired from previous days of walking, and although 12.5 miles is not a huge distance to cover in a day over relatively flat ground, the walking over farmland was tricky and the path completely disappeared outside Chelynch at one point, making the day longer than it ought to have been.


Walking out of Shepton Mallet and getting to see the viaduct on a clear day was fantastic. We had to side-step a bunch of cows in order to cross the field but my dad is less afraid of them than I am so we managed.

Lovely walking betweeen Shepton Mallet and Chelynch.

After Chelynch, the path disappeared into a corn field lined with thistles. Although it could have been worse (it could have been raining!) morale was low as we picked our way through. It was frustrating because we hadn’t lost the trail: the trail just hasn’t been maintained through this section of farmland.

After we got through, the path opened up again as we crossed this field with this mystery pole in it…

What are you, mysterious pole?

Weaving our way uphill along a path lined with electric fencing ribbon to keep us separate from a bunch of horses, we reached Cranmore Tower [Google Maps link] and followed a lovely treed dirt path downhill again through Cranmore Wood.

Finding places to sit and rest was challenging, so we were relieved to find this log bench at the edge of Cranmore Wood

Resting on a rare bench at the edge of Cranmore Wood.

I stopped taking pictures after this point, even though we walked through some beautiful countryside. A lot of the path into Frome either crosses farmland (tough going, depending on what’s planted and what the ground is like) or uses paved roadway. Roadways are easier walking but oh MAN do cars go fast. It did not feel safe or comfortable to be on those roads with vehicles.

Closer to Frome, the Mendip Way joins up with some beautiful, treed pathways along (what I think is) Fordbury Water where lots of folks were out for an evening stroll, walking their dogs.

We made it into Frome in the early evening after several hours of walking.

What we felt our final destination ought to have been after such a long day of walking.
Evening in Frome.

I was only sorry that I wasn’t able to spend more time in Frome, which seems like a lovely place to explore. In particular, I missed out on visiting Frome Yarn Collective! Next time..


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Walking the Mendip Way – Day 6: Wells to Shepton Mallet

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Wells to Shepton Mallet (6 miles

Leaving Wells, we passed by the beautiful Bishops Palace Gardens and moat and a stone sign pointing the way to Glastonbury Tor.

A stone sign points the way to Glastonbury Tor (8 miles away).

We were about to discover that, on the whole, the East Mendip Way is tougher than the West Mendip Way. The trail is not as clearly marked, and goes through a lot of farmland that feels altogether less welcoming than the great majority of the path we’d already walked.

We walked alongside this showjumping course for a while on our way into Shepton Mallet

Horse jumping track outside Shepton Mallet.

Quiet residential streets led us into the centre of town.

After seeing the huge Tesco and ALDI box stores just outside the town centre, it was easier to understand why on this particular evening, Shepton Mallet’s high street felt a little neglected. That said, it is objectively really well laid-out with a large portion of it leading off of the centre square designated as pedestrian only.

We had a delicious pasta dinner at Tavola D’Oro, right near the central square.

Shepton Mallet central square.

Next: We walked to Frome.


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Walking the Mendip Way – Afternoon & Morning in Wells

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


An Afternoon & A Morning In Wells

We had enough time in the afternoon after arriving from Wookey Hole on our Day 5 walk, and in the morning before setting out to Shepton Mallet on our Day 6 walk to explore Wells. It is a lovely city where we enjoyed exploring the gorgeous, huge, old cathedral, and walking the pretty high street.

One of a couple beautiful stone archways that separate the city streets from the cathedral green.

We visited the cathedral both days to make sure we were able to explore it all.

Wells Cathedral has a huge green out front from which to admire the facade.

The nave is quite spectacular with an unusually modern-looking, almost hyperbolic arch and circular windows at the transept. The vaulted ceiling is beautifully painted.

If you happen to be around on the quarter-hour, you can watch knights rush around the little platform above the 700+ year old face of the cathedral clock.

The Wells Cathedral Clock.

I really enjoyed the ye olde graffiti scratched into this figure off to one side.

Carved graffiti on a tomb in Wells Cathedral.

If you are interested in reading about all of the folks honoured at the cathedral after their deaths, the cloisters will keep you busy for ages, and the light in the cloisters was particularly striking in the afternoon sun.

The chapter house was a spectacular sight, as were the heavily trodden steps leading up to it.

Hello little sleeping church cat.

Wells high street is pleasant to wander. There are few local shops in among the usual UK high street chains.

One of the local shops is Mandy Wools, which I of course had to visit. I loaded up on a few skeins of beautiful undyed Mendip sheel and alpaca wool.

My hiking backpack loaded up with wool from sheep and alpaca in the Mendip Hills.

Next: We walked from Wells to Shepton Mallet.


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Walking the Mendip Way – Day 5: Priddy to Wells

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Priddy to Wells (5.5 miles – but not really)

Our soaking clothes hadn’t fully dried overnight and it was still raining in the morning when we woke up and so we made the executive decision to call a taxi and take it the 15 minute drive from Priddy to Wookey Hole.

The Wookey Hole Hotel capitalizes on the legend of the witch who once lived inside the caves at Wookey Hole.

Wookey Hole is a truly cheesy little gem of a place. We had a coffee at the Wookey Hole Hotel and decided to check out the Wookey Hole Caves, which are part of a larger touristy, family-day-out complex in an old pulp and paper mill.

The entrance to the Wookey Hole caves / disused pulp mill / entertainment complex.

Along with the ice age animal figures and anima-tronic dinosaurs and the games room made up to look like a 1920s English seaside town amusements pier (hold-overs from the days of Madame Tussaud’s ownership?), there are pulp and paper production demonstrations and videos, and a display dedicated to cave-diving, which this site is also well-known for. It’s tacky and wonderful and I recommend a visit if you’re passing through.

Wonders of Wookey Hole

Dinosaurs and Ice Age creatures co-habit in the Wookey Hole park.

What struck me about Cheddar and Wookey Hole is the long history of tourism. People have been coming to these places for over a hundred years. In Wookey Hole, you can experience each addition to the site made by each owner over the decades to appeal to their own generation’s taste in entertainment. There is really something for just about everyone here…

The caves were really neat and worth the visit. The areas where they take tourists are very open. My dad is claustrophobic and in one closer section, he went with the guide on a more open, alternative route (through a cheese-aging facility).

The paper-making section was small but interesting (we unfortunately missed the live demonstration, but there was a video to show you how it’s done.

The entertainment gallery area / faux pier offers weird, old-timey games, wonky mirrors, and a mirror maze.

By the time we were done at Wookey Hole, the sun had come out and was sufficiently inspiring to get us the rest of the way to Wells.

Leaving Wookey Hole for Wells.

The Wookey Hole to Wells portion of the Mendip Way was pretty gentle and mainly on established (paved/packed gravel) path. It didn’t take us long (perhaps less than an hour) to reach Wells.

View back to Wookey Hole from the path to Wells.

Arriving to Wells, we saw this plaque marking the start of the West Mendip Way. Wells separate the West Mendip Way (Weston-super-Mare to Wells) and the East Mendip Way (Wells to Frome).

Wells divides the West Mendip Way from the East Mendip Way.

The sign reads: “Devised and Waymarked by the Rotary Clubs of Wells, Mendip, Wrington Vale, and Weston Super Mare to commemorate the jubilee year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Opened 24 May 1979”.

Next: We spent the afternoon and the next morning exploring Wells before setting off to Shepton Mallet.


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Walking the Mendip Way – Day 4: Cheddar to Priddy

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Cheddar to Priddy (5.5 miles)

The walk leaving Cheddar was very pleasant. Here the Mendip Way doubles up with other walking paths that take you between towns for local beer tasting and we wondered if we should be doing that walk instead!

Don’t mind me, just collecting photos of quaint, named cottages.

There are lots of old stone fences to see. In livestock fields, the stone fences were often fenced off on either side with barbed wire because (we deduced) the livestock destroy them. (And because it is England, no doubt those fences are heritage-listed!) I kept taking photos of lichen on the stacked stones – wouldn’t this make a wonderful colour-work knitting motif for mittens?

Mortar-less stone fences are reinforced by moss and ferns and decorated by fantastically coloured lichen.

The day became very wet, cold, and unpleasant very quickly after we left Cheddar, so I don’t have many photos. We encountered a lot of stone stiles and traipsed through many fields.

Stone stile on the Mendip Way between Cheddar and Priddy.

This certainly isn’t my first rodeo doing outdoor activities in inclement weather. I think the reason this because so wet and miserable for us is because the rain began as a mist and gradually got heavier, so we never actually stopped to put on rain pants. I, rather foolishly, was still hiking in 10-year-old hiking boots that had a hole in the toe (which I’d previously repaired and which had since reopened.) Needless to say, I immediately went to buy new boots after this walk!

What a relief to arrive (soaking as we were) to The Queen Victoria Inn. Delicious food and pints and a well-earned rest.

Next: Skipping to Wookey Hole in a taxi, exploring Wookey Hole, and walking to Wells.


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Walking the Mendip Way – Day 3: Rest day in Cheddar

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Rest Day in Cheddar (0 miles)

After walking over gentle green hills for two days, it is easy to understand why the Cheddar Gorge with its limestone cliffs draws so many visitors.

The Lions Head limestone feature in Cheddar Gorge.

We skipped the Cheddar caves and instead spent our rest day strolling up to the gorge and then through the town. The lovely high street has a number of locally-owned businesses and charity shops (including Prickles Hedgehog Rescue Charity Shop!) We enjoyed lunch and a pint at The White Hart pub, found souvenirs at the National Trust shop, and poked around Timeout haberdashery.

We had a delicious (although more expensive) dinner at The Bath Arms (described to us as a ‘foodie pub’ for good reason). They had the most delightful sound-damping system I’ve ever seen.

Next: Walking from Cheddar to Priddy.


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Walking the Mendip Way – Day 2: Loxton to Cheddar

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Loxton to Cheddar (11.5 miles)

This was a bigger day, beginning with a climb up Crook’s Peak. Even though it was spitting rain and grey, we still had views of the countryside – green hills and stone fences and yellow gorse in bloom. This section of the walk, up the Wavering Down, was pleasant walking on grass.

We climbed up to the monument at Trig Point.

Down again, through […] wood, crossing the road at […], and then up along a track that turned quite mucky. Right after we got off the track, we watched a farmer lead his herd of cows to the adjacent gate and learned that this was a drove road. If we’d been 5 minutes later, we’d have been facing a hundred cows on their way to the barn.

Casual stone ruins and lots of sheep: themes of Somerset walking.

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Arriving at Black Rock signals that we are nearly in Cheddar!

The ‘new’ Mendip Way takes you up along the north edge of Cheddar Gorge to enjoy the spectacular view. Even in the low cloud, you can see that Cheddar Gorge is quite an astonishing drop!

Next: A rest day in Cheddar.


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Walking the Mendip Way – Day 1: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (6.25 miles)

We stayed overnight at Weston-super-Mare, had breakfast, and started on our way first thing in the morning. Depending on where you are staying, apparently you can walk to the start of the Way along the beach. Since we were staying partway down Uphill Road across the golf course, this would have meant backtracking, so we just walked along the sidewalk to get to Uphill Marina and the start of the walk.

Boats at Uphill Marina

The sun is out! This first part of the walk is very pleasant and quiet through Uphill Hill Nature Reserve.

After crossing busy Bridgwater Road, we’re back on a woodland path all the way to Bleadon. There is an opportunity as you descend into Bleadon to climb a little hill [Google Maps link] and (if the weather is on your side) have an amazing view of the countryside and Glastonbury Tor in the distance.

We picked up sandwiches-to-go at Bleadon Country Store & Post Office [Google Maps link], and carried on up a gentle grassy hill to Roman Road.

View between bushes on the side of Roman Road

Unfortunately, Roman Road is a section along the Mendip Way where you are walking on a narrow country road with next to no shoulder while cars fly past you at what feels like very high speed. Fortunately, there was a little pull-out / parking lot [Google Maps link] with a lovely view where we had lunch, and almost right after the pull-out, the Way turns off the road.

Then the path begins a spectacularly long and very gradual descent into Loxton with lovely countryside views.

We crossed the M5 to Webbington where we stayed for the night, at the foot of Crook’s Peak.

Webbington is apparently in the Parish of Compton Bishop!

Next: Walking from Webbington (Loxton) to Cheddar.


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Walking the Mendip Way – An overview

This photograph shows two people, facing away from the camera, looking out at the green hills and fields that stretch off into the distance beneath a blue sky with fluffy clouds.

In September 2018, I walked the Mendip Way with my parents. This walk in Somerset, England from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) to Frome promises green rolling hills, fresh air, a taste of the English countryside, and lots of cows!

Read an overview of the whole walk, or read notes from each day: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (Day 1), Loxton to Cheddar (Day 2), Rest Day in Cheddar (Day 3), Cheddar to Priddy (Day 4), Priddy to Wells via Wookey Hole (Day 5), Afternoon & Morning in Wells (Day 5 & 6), Wells to Shepton Mallet (Day 6), and Shepton Mallet to Frome (Day 7).


Ever heard of the British TV show ‘Escape to the Country’?

My dad really likes that show, and this is what inspired my parents to do this particular walk and invite me along. I have to admit that when exposed to cable television (a rare thing) and some free time I also quite enjoy Escape to the Country, and that is just what this walk delivers!

Below is our itinerary, and some information on walk planning and navigation, and if you just want an overview and my humble opinion on the walk, scroll down past the map. For more detailed notes and photos of each section of the walk, check out the links in the itinerary:

Itinerary

  • Day 1: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (6.25 miles)
  • Day 2: Loxton to Shipham to Cheddar (11.5 miles)
  • Day 3: Rest day in Cheddar
  • Day 4: Cheddar to Priddy (5.5 miles)
  • Day 5: Priddy to Wookey Hole to Wells (5.5 miles)
  • Days 5 Afternoon & Day 6 Morning in Wells
  • Day 6: Wells to Shepton Mallet (6 miles)
  • Day 7: Shepton Mallet to Frome (12.5 miles)

Walk planning

While I planned my West Highland Way walks myself (and there are tons of resources to help with this), there is less information and general internet chatter about the Mendip Way. Being unfamiliar with the walk, my parents opted for a self-guided walking package through Encounter Walking. The company arranges your itinerary, provides you with maps, and books your accommodation so all you have to do it walk. You can also opt for luggage transfer service (which we did) where they arrange to move your heavier bags from one hotel to the next each day, leaving you to carry only a day pack.

Initially, I thought the luggage transfer seemed very extravagant – it is an added expense and not something I would do if I were hiking on my own or with friends; however, this is the kind of service that can make walking more accessible for folks, so hurrah! I think it is a great option if (a) you can afford it*, and/or (b) carrying a heavy pack is difficult for you, or would hamper your enjoyment of the walk.

*Different services charge different amounts. Do a search for ‘luggage transfer services’ and you might see options on the order of £10 per bag per transfer with discounts for multiple pieces of luggage being moved at the same time. Definitely an added expense.

Some notes on navigation

This photograph shows the small circular Mendip Way tag attached to a fence post so walkers know which direction to go.
Look for the wee blue Mendip Way arrows to point you in the right direction!

The Mendip Way was is relatively well-signed but there is a bit of navigating required at some confusing sections and connections. In this regard, the Mendip Way is a little less walker-friendly than other walks: because it crosses a lot of agricultural land, there is not always a clear path.

We relied heavily on helpful, written directions accompanied by marked-up clips of the relevant Ordnance Survey maps that we downloaded as two PDF files (West Mendip Way and East Mendip Way) from the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty website. We also had paper Ordnance Survey maps and the Ordnance Survey app which allows you to download the maps and see your location on them via little blue dot – super useful!

The updated Mendip Way path

(As of September 2018) The OS maps show an outdated version of the Mendip Way path, which has been modified (most significantly around Cheddar Gorge) to make for a more enjoyable walk. These changes are reflected on the PDFs that you can download from the Mendip Hills AONB website.

The OS map section below is pulled from the West Mendip Way PDF to show you what I mean: the thick, neon green line winding from upper right to lower left north of the Cheddar Gorge shows the new route, whereas the dark green dashed line with green diamonds south of the gorge shows the old route.

Map clipping of an Ordnance Survey map which shows the section of the Mendip Way walk from Black Rock (just outside of the town of Cheddar) to the centre of Cheddar.
The Mendip Way path has been updated and is different in some places that the path shown on older Ordnance Survey maps (Credit: Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, linked above.)

Walk overview

The good

In general, this is a lovely walk. It is the only walk I’ve done in England so far and (without anything to compare it to) it feels like a proper English countryside ramble. I enjoyed the beautiful rolling hills and views of Glastonbury Tor as a sort of landmark beacon for much of the western portion of the walk. The walk doesn’t have too much steep climbing and most the elevation gain and loss is done through long gentle ascents and descents. It was also very nice to stop off in towns for pub food and real ale. Seeing the dramatic drop of the Cheddar Gorge, seeing the (literally and figuratively) cheesy and delightful Wookey Hole caves and old paper mill, and visiting the pretty, historic city of Wells* were highlights for me. Wells Cathedral is stunning and I was very excited to find some yarn at Mandy Wools made from local Mendip Hills sheep! (But more on that later.)

*Nerdy aside: Wells is one of 11 cities (not towns or villages) in the UK with double letters in its name. You’re welcome for this fun fact/pub trivia tidbit.

The not-so-good

Compared to walks I have done in Scotland, there were portions of the Mendip Way that did not feel very walker friendly. I was surprised by the challenge of trekking through unmarked farmers’ fields and there was one particular section of path (just northeast of Chelynch on Day 7) that was nonexistent: it passed through a field on which the farmer had (quite reasonably, don’t get me wrong) planted rows and rows corn, leaving no trace of a footpath. We wandered around through rows of corn (which might have been rather romantic in its own way if not for the thistles) before we found what seemed like a path again. There are also pretty uncomfortable portions of the path that are on small narrow country roads with speeding cars

Suggested Alternative Itineraries

The walk could be broken up differently depending on your preferences and abilities as a walker. If you’re someone who wants to bag the whole Mendip Way, then go for it. We had 6 days of walking and I think for a strong walker who didn’t want to rest or loiter it could be done in 5 days. For example:

Itinerary with more walking each day, less resting

  • Day 1: Weston-super-Mare to Loxton (6.25 miles)
  • Day 2: Loxton to Cheddar (11.5 miles)
  • Day 3: Cheddar to Wells (11 miles)
  • Day 4: Wells to Shepton Mallet (6 miles)
  • Day 5: Shepton Mallet to Frome (12.5 miles)

If you want a taste of the Mendip Way but don’t want to commit to doing the whole thing, I’d recommend the following:

Itinerary of highlights, less walking, fewer days

  • Day 1: Walk Weston-super-Mare to Loxton.
  • Day 2: Walk Loxton to Cheddar
  • Day 3: Take a cab from Cheddar to Wookey Hole (20 minute drive), explore Wookey Hole, and then walk to Wells.
  • Day 4: Explore Wells in the morning and walk Wells to Shepton Mallet.
  • Day 5: Leave Shepton Mallet late morning to see the big viaduct and walk to Chelynch in time for lunch at the local pub, The Poacher’s Pocket (it looked great but wasn’t open when we arrived because it was too early!) Take a cab from Chelynch to Frome (20 minute drive), or walk back into Shepton Mallet to take a bus to Frome.

Optional Day 6: Explore Frome, and walk out of Frome west along the East Mendip way towards Bedlam (this portion of the Way is a lovely shaded river path with lots of people out for a daytime strolle, dog walkers, etc.)

The above itinerary skips Cheddar to Wookey Hole, an uninteresting section of the walk (my opinion of which may be affected by the positively awful, wet weather we had.) That said, the Queen Victoria Inn in Priddy (a 15-20 minute drive north of Wookey Hole) was a lovely, cozy old pub with low ceilings, real fires, stone walls, and delicious food. It also skips Chelynch (near Shepton Mallet) to Frome, a long section that is not as well maintained and not as welcoming as the rest of the Mendip Way, and has you walking for stretches on roads with speeding cars.


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Bristol & Bath Railway Path

I cycled the 25km (15.5 mile) Bristol & Bath Railway Path in July 2018. I opted to cycle the round trip (50km) in one day, which amounted to 3.5 hours of riding time (1 hour and 45 minutes each way, not including breaks.) Some folks opt to cycle one way and take the train back (from Bath Spa station to Bristol Temple Meads station.)

Rent a bicycle from Bristol Bicycles & Jake’s Bikes in Bristol and head to the Bristol & Bath Railway Path website to learn more and download maps and leaflets.


The Bristol Bath Railway Path is a shared walking and cycling path that was the first-ever established section of the National Cycle Network. As the name suggests, the Bristol & Bath Railway Path was set up along the disused Avon Valley railway line – a totally brilliant re-purposing of space. The railway infill and right-of-way are already in place, so why not take advantage of the existing infrastructure? I only wish there were more beautiful paved cycle ways like this connecting major (and not-so-major destinations.)

With my rented bike from Jake’s Bikes (a comfortable, upright Dutch-style Bristol Bicycle with a few gears), I followed their handy printed map to the start of the path.

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It was a little hairy getting to the start of the path: the cycle lane consists of painted lines on the edge of a busy road and I ended up hopping on to the sidewalk for bits of it.

It didn’t take long to find the start of the path and then the blissful and relaxing experience of riding on separated bicycle infrastructure began.

The path is about 25 km (15.5 miles) one-way all the way to Bath and is nicely paved with a very lovely tree canopy that keeps it cool on a hot day and, I imagine, would keep the rain off a little, too.

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There are a couple of stops along the way:

The first, Warmley Railway Station, was a station on the old rail line. The station platform is still there (with ramps, I should add, making access with walking frame, wheelchair, or bicycle a possibility) and has a café, offering a great rest opportunity. Just across the road, continuing towards Bath is the beautifully restored Warmley Signal Box. (I should note that this is one of the only places that you need to cross a road.)

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After passing through a gate and crossing the rail tracks, I came upon the second stop: the Avon Valley Railway. For me this was a delightfully unexpected gem. Volunteers have restored this rail station and a section of the railway in order to operate a steam train that takes retro railway enthusiasts on a short ride.

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I stopped at the Avon Valley Railway Station for a tea and cake, which I enjoyed sitting on one of the picnic benches on the platform. The Avon Valley railway runs alongside the walking and cycle path. At a platform a little further down the pathway, I was delighted to see that the front end of the train looks just like Thomas the Tank Engine (thank you English childhood!)

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There are other opportunities to get off the path at the towns and villages along the way, including a few signs for bicycle repair shops for riders experiencing technical difficulties, but my goal was to get all the way to Bath and back.

Crossing the canal on an old bridge, I started to see houseboats – Bath is close!

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Once you arrive at the edge of Bath,  you leave the separated pathway of the Bristol & Bath Railway. I rode on a short section of road (it was relatively quiet and drivers seemed pretty well aware of the cycle path and proper safe distance etiquette) and connected to the lovely Avon & Kennet Canal Towpath.

You cannot be in a rush on the canal towpath as it is narrow and shared between people on bikes and on foot, but it offers nice views of the canal and it’s fun to look at the canal boats. (I cycled past a particularly dire-looking situation with several folks working to bail out a partly submerged canal boat. It looked like the situation was in capable hands, but that cannot have been a good day. I do hope they succeeded.)

The canal gets vaguely more industrial the closer you get to Bath…

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Then the canal tow path spits you out into the centre of town. I locked my bike at the bottom of Southgate Street and walked up past the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey.

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M&S, reliable for having quasi-public toilets convenient for cyclists, also apparently have their own beer. I picked up a can and headed back to Bristol to enjoy it.

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