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Somerset Levels with Glastonbury Tor in the background.

From apple orchards, to the most famous festival in the world, these facts about Somerset will open your eyes to the amazing variety this county offers.

Somerset is a beautiful location for a UK holiday, not only for the idyllic scenery, but also for the rich history and heritage.

Somerset history is intertwined in everything from tenpin bowling to Cheddar cheese! You might be familiar with some of these facts about Somerset, but there will definitely be a few surprises!

Find out what Somerset is famous for by reading these Somerset facts…


1. Somerset is the county of cider

Flight of four different ciders.
If you ask the question “what is Somerset famous for?”, you’ll likely get an answer to do with cider!

Brought to Britain by the Romans, cider production dates as far back as the 11th century.

Used as a health supplement and thought to be beneficial for the skin, cider has long been a part of Somerset’s history.

There are hundreds of varieties of cider apple grown in Somerset alone and plenty of cider mills to visit during a break to Somerset.

Book a cider mill tour and tasting and check out the amazing range of holiday cottages in Somerset to visit.


2. The oldest complete human skeleton was found in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

One of the most famous facts about Somerset is the Cheddar Man. This was the name given to the oldest complete human skeleton found in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge.

Cheddar Man was excavated in 1903 and is now housed in London’s Natural History Museum.

He is thought to be around 9000 years old, and his DNA indicates he was a typical member of the European population at the time.

His characteristics likely included light-coloured eyes, dark brown or black hair, dark skin, and with a lactose intolerance.

Cheddar Gorge makes an amazing day trip during a holiday to Somerset, with events taking places throughout the year, as well as daily tours of the caves.


3. Records of Exmoor Ponies date back tens of thousands of years

Exmoor ponies grazing in a field.
One of a number of native British ponies, Exmoor ponies have been living in Somerset for quite some time.

A relatively unknown fact about Somerset is that fossil remains of Exmoor ponies have been found that date back to around 50,000 BC!

Some experts believe they may even have been around since the ice age! There were also records of Exmoor ponies in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Nowadays, Exmoor ponies are ‘wild’ in the sense that they roam freely on the moor, however all the ponies belong to someone.

Include a trip to The Exmoor Pony Centre near Dulverton into your Somerset visit and meet some beautiful Exmoor ponies.


4. Tenpin bowling is a modification of Somerset Skittles

One of the many facts about Somerset you might not know is that tenpin bowling originates there.

Somerset skittles is a game consisting of nine wooden pins arranged into a diamond formation.

A bowling ball is then thrown down an alley, and each turn or ‘hand’ consists of three throws down the alley.

If all the pins are knocked down within the first or second throw, then they are reset, resulting in a maximum score of 27 per ‘hand’.

It was originally played outside on lawns, however nowadays it is mainly played indoors, with lots of local Somerset pubs home to alleys.


5. Events in Somerset inspired Mary Shelley to create Frankenstein

Resting in the heart of the Quantock Hills is Fyne Court, now a National Trust property.

Fyne Court was the home of the Crosse family, more specifically, Andrew Crosse. Crosse was known to the locals as ‘The Thunder and Lightning Man’ thanks to his electricity experiments in 1836.

His experiments were also known to a young Mary Shelley. It is said that Shelley was inspired by Crosse’s lectures and work, and was in part the inspiration for writing her world-famous novel, ‘Frankenstein’.

Book a holiday cottage in Bath and visit the amazing attraction Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein, and Fyne Court itself!


6. A travel writer from Somerset introduced the table fork and the parasol to England

Thomas Coryate was born in the town of Crewkerne in 1577, and went on to live most of his life in the small Somerset village of Odcombe.

He was employed as a ‘court jester’ for Prince Henry, eldest son of James I, before undertaking his first travelling tour across Europe.

He documented his travels in volumes of writings and is credited with introducing the table fork to England, along with the introduction of the word ‘umbrella’ to the English language.


7. The largest collection of Roman coins was found near Frome in Somerset

The largest collection of Roman coins ever found in a single container was discovered near Frome in Somerset by a metal detectorist in 2010.

The collection consisted of 52,503 coins and was named ‘The Frome Hoard’. The collection now sits in the Museum of Somerset in Taunton.

The coins were valued at around £320,000 with the metal detectorist, Dave Crisp from Wiltshire, sharing the sum with the landowner.


8. Somerset is home to Glastonbury Festival

Sunset at Glastonbury Festival, Somerset.
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is a world renowned festival founded in Pilton in Somerset.

Founded by farmer Michael Eavis on Worthy Farm in 1970, Glastonbury is still one of, if not the, most prestigious music festivals for both artists and festival goers.

Glastonbury is attended by around 200,000 people each year. The acts range from musical, dance, comedy, circus, cabaret and even arts and crafts, among many more.

Stay in a holiday cottage for your Glastonbury Festival for a luxury festival experience!


9. The West Somerset Railway is the longest preserved steam railway in the country

The West Somerset Railway has been a part of Somerset history since the 1850s.

It began as a smaller line between Taunton and Watchet, before being expanded to extend to Minehead in 1874.

It spans 22.75 miles, making it the longest standard gauge independent heritage railway in the UK. The railway carries over 200,000 passengers a year on both steam and diesel passenger trains.

Book a holiday cottage in Minehead and add a trip back in time on this wonderful attraction to your itinerary.


10. Cheddar cheese originates from Somerset

Cheddar cheese on a white plate.
These facts about Somerset wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this world famous cheese.

Cemented in the history of Somerset since the 12th century is Cheddar cheese!

Cheddar is named after Cheddar Gorge which is home to a number of caves in which the cheese used to be stored. The caves provided the ideal temperature and humidity for maturing cheese.

Only one cheese-maker remains in the village of Cheddar called Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company.

Visit Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company during your stay and watch the expert cheese-makers at work!


11. A Somerset scholar introduced zero

Adelard of Bath was a 12th-century Somerset scholar and English natural philosopher.

He is known for translating a host of Arabic and Greek scientific works.

More importantly he is known as the first person to introduce the Arabic idea of zero to the UK, along with other mathematical concepts.


12. Somerset is home to the oldest prison in the country

A little known fact about Somerset is that it is home to the oldest prison in the UK.

Shepton Mallet Prison rests in the town of Shepton Mallet in Somerset, not far from Wells.

The prison was first built all the way back in 1610 and closed its doors in 2013.

You can take a tour of this huge piece of Somerset history and be guided by an expert ex-prison officer; a fascinating activity to enjoy during a Somerset staycation!


We hope you feel inspired to get to know this amazing county after reading our facts about Somerset.

There’s plenty of things to do in the October half term in Somerset, as well as lots of summer attractions to enjoy too.

Make some amazing memories at a South West holiday cottage with Helpful Holidays.