Subject: West Country, UK
Hi Debbie and Kurt I have been pondering your England trip and here are a few thoughts. Yesterday I drove up from Taunton to Cheddar (map at the ready, Debbie) and thought I'd go the 'pretty route' rather than up the usual motorway route. I'd been told about a rather lovely hotel near Wookey just outside Wells. I found it and I thought it was perfect. The gardens are gorgeous and the manager was charming and showed me around. It has a website: http://www.glencothouse.co.uk

So have a look. I thought the rates were quite reasonable considering how much of a rip off some UK B&B and hotels can be! Some rooms are bigger with smaller bathrooms and vice versa. The dining room was charming and all in all it had a calm country house atmosphere - if I didn't live so close I'd stay there myself!

As you know there is plenty to do in the area - if the weather is fine once you have marvelled and 'wowed' at Wells Cathedral and the lovely Cathedral Green, a couple of hours in the Bishop's Palace and gardens is relaxing and interesting and you will see the swans come and ring a bell to be fed!

I know you like thatch Debbie - what about willow? The Somerset levels have a thriving willow industry and you can have an organised tour or just wander off yourself. And of course if you would like a genuine English basket (which I always use for my vegetable shopping!) this is the place to buy one - probably not easy to take back though!

Hestercombe Gardens outside Taunton - now billed as 'paradise restored' are rather lovely. Originating in the 1750s they had a stunning Edwardian garden added by Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. http://www.hestercombegardens.com

We are big fans of Lutyens - if you get the chance, visit Castle Drogo in Devon built by him at the turn of the century in 'castle' style - fantastic views.This is a national Trust property and so details are on http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Leaving Wells you can spend a long day visiting all sorts of places on the way to N Devon. If you take the A39 to Minehead you will go through Nether Stowey and Coleridges cottage. Or from Taunton take A 396 up toards the coast. Take a left across the Brendon hills passing through Monksilver (good pub) and pick up the A396 that will take you to Dunster. This is certainly worth stopping at. Again the castle is National Trust and you can visit the Castle & gardens or just the gardens. On Sept 7 &8 they will have lacemakers giving demonstrations at the castle. Also in Dunster are a lot of tearooms and the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Gallery which is full of all sorts of fabulous craft pieces. Jewellery, turned wood, handpainted velvet wraps etc (they also have a shop in Taunton)a far cry from the usual tourist tat!

After Dunster make sure you detour to Selworthy, Bossington and Allerford (thatch alert!) - all major photo opportunities! Drive through Porlock and up its killer of a hill. A short pleasant drive will take you to Lynton and Lynmouth. Whilst there try to visit Watersmeet (National Trust again!) - but this one is free! Lovely wooded walks and a tearoom of course! If you have time a walk along the N Devon Coastal path will give you some fabulous views. We sometimes meet up with friends at Combe Martin (good pub again) and walk along to the little cove. Up above there are some lovely picnic spots with precipitous drops to the sea below so go easy on the cider!

Come back via B3223 over Exmoor - a really lovely drive. Stop at Dulverton for tea!

As for car hire ... Hertz and Avis are certainly at Taunton - I don't know about Wells. There are direct trains to London / Bath from Taunton (book at least 14 days in advance for cheaper tickets - longer if possible as there is only a certain allocation of cheap tickets for each train) Well - some suggestions for this beautiful area Wishing you a wonderful trip and hopefully a GTG! Regards Sally Somerset UK