Activities, Local Area,

A Guide to Somerset’s Food and Local Traditions 

31st of January 2023

Reading Time: 8 Minute(s)
Bridge near the Roman Baths in the City of Bath
Bridge near the Roman Baths in the City of Bath

The county of Somerset, located in the southwest of England, has a rich and long-standing cultural heritage with traditions dating back hundreds of years, making it one of the country’s most-loved counties. 

During a visit, you can expect quintessential English villages enclosed by verdant countryside, with picturesque rolling hills and fields full of farmland stretching as far as the eye can see. 

Having been occupied since prehistoric times, the county has been invaded and inhabited by many a famed empire and civilisation, such as the likes of the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons. Throughout the ages, its traditions and culture have shifted and morphed to be that which it is today.

From its thriving traditional arts scene, ancient legends, and world-famous historic centres, Somerset offers a world of opportunity for those looking to get a taste of its traditions and culture.

The county is also renowned across the country for its fantastic food and drink culture. Home to experts in their craft and producing some of the best products in the UK, Somerset cuisine has developed a reputation, prompting visitors to flock from far and wide to experience and savour the delectable products it has to offer. 

With Somerset being the home of Newton Surmaville, and the landscapes in which this estate has grown and thrived, we’ve put together this guide to food in Somerset and the county’s local traditions to showcase the very best of these core components of Somerset culture.

A Guide to Food in Somerset

The food in Somerset, and its foodie scene, has grown around the produce that thrives in the region. The Somerset landscape is still home to traditional production and manufacturing methods of many products, all of which have been utilised for decades.

The county has become a foodie hub for some of the most famous food and drink companies in the country also. For example, Yeo Valley farms is located in the county, one of the UK’s largest organic dairy brands producing everything from butter, yoghurts, and cheeses to icecreams and compotes. 

To learn more about Somerset’s foodie landscape, we’ve highlighted some of its most famous products, and some of the best locations in which you can savour these for yourself. 

Somerset Cider

One of Somerset’s best-known products is its famous cider. The county has been making cider for centuries, and in doing so, has honed the craft of cider making, producing some of the best cider in the UK. 

Somerset has been recorded as having over 156 varieties of apple connected with its county, so it’s no wonder why it has a spectacular reputation nationally for having the finest cider. Its landscapes are dotted with small-scale and large industrial orchards used to make the product. 

Many cider-makers in the county still use the original and traditional methods of cider-making that have been around for decades. The delicious taste of its ciders is said to be down to producers using much sharper types of the fruit, leading to a crisp, tangy taste that the majority of its residents, and those from further afield, simply cannot get enough of.

There are several cider breweries and cider orchards throughout Somerset that are open to the public to allow individuals a glance into its renowned efforts and the techniques used to craft some of its best ciders. 

At Somerset Cider Brandy Company and Burrow Hill Cider, for example, the craft of cider pressing and making has been perfected for hundreds of years. The estate is home to 40 different apple varieties, and the cider-making process is in the hands of the company’s esteemed cider-maker Julian Temperley, who has over 50 years of experience. 

Producing a range of ciders, from draught to fermented, and even an unusual type of cider known as Ice Cider, the company has developed its reputation to be one of the most reputable brands in the county for its ciders and its spirits. 

The property is open to the public for guided tours of its farm, barrel bond, and distillery, where you can spend a couple of hours learning about the traditional pressing process and the production of the company’s famous Somerset ciders, offering a lovely option for a day out in Somerset to get to grips with one of its most pivotal products.

Cheese

Alongside cider, cheese is another one of Somerset’s world-famous produce. The staple that has become a basic commodity in the world food market, and English cuisine in particular, has got roots in this Southwest English county. 

One cheese in particular has helped skyrocket Somerset to fame in England’s, and the globe’s, cheese scene. 

Cheddar cheese is responsible for Somerset making its mark in the UK’s food scene, making its way onto the tables of people around the world. Whilst not every cheddar cheese is made in Somerset, its origins are traced to the county, making Somerset the ancestral home of this firm favourite. 

Named after a town of the same name, Cheddar is a market town in the heart of Somerset most famous for being the birthplace of cheddar cheese but also for being the home of Cheddar Gorge, a geographical marvel and natural limestone landmark bordering the edge of the village in the Mendip Hills. 

The gorge itself was used to mature the cheese for long periods to develop its depth of flavour and the complexity of its texture. And this is still the case for one of the village’s, and county’s, cheese-making companies.  

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is the only company producing cheese in the village of Cheddar now. Visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look into how this special cheese is made for themselves during a VIP tour, where they will get to peek at the cheese maturing store, learn about cheese grading, and wrap up their experience with a sumptuous cheese-tasting session of some of the company’s finest cheeses.

The Best Places to Eat in Somerset

When it comes to the best places to indulge in some of Somerset’s best local produce, we’ve highlighted two firm favourites in the region:

Osip

Located in the market town of Bruton, Osip is one of the select number of Michelin Star restaurants in Somerset, offering a chance to savour some of the county’s best produce and relish local Somerset cuisine. 

Awarded 1 Michelin star, the fantastically modern eatery has a farm-to-table ethos in which it uses sustainable, home-grown and locally sourced ingredients that are aligned with the seasons. 

Whilst it may seem simple, Osip produces a symphony of flavours in its dishes and boasts an unrivalled atmospheric experience in the heart of the rural Somerset countryside. 

28 Market Place

Located in Somerton, a town about half an hour’s drive Northwest of Yeovil, is 28 Market Place. The restaurant wows with its modern and city-style dining experience and atmosphere, which you wouldn’t expect given the exterior of the eatery, which is built inside one of Somerton’s historic grade II listed buildings. 

This restaurant’s chic atmosphere paired with its menu that reflects the seasons, its producers, and the local environment, with most of its suppliers located within a 2-mile radius of the eatery, explains why 28 Market Place has risen to fame in Somerset’s foodie scene.

Also featuring a bakery and wine shop with over 100 biodynamic wines, your dining experience here doesn’t have to stop just because you’ve paid the bill

A Guide to Somerset’s Traditions

Much like every English county, Somerset is home to a range of local traditions. We’ve highlighted some of Somerset’s biggest traditions and cultural eccentricities for if you’re ever visiting the county. 

Wassailing 

The Old Twelfth Night, which is on January the 7th, marks the coming of the epiphany on the Christian Calendar and is celebrated throughout rural communities in English counties, particularly those with a high concentration of orchards and apples. 

On, or around, this date, residents will engage in ‘wassailing’, which involves drinking a lot of cider, specifically hot cider known as Wassail, and apple-based beverages. This is an old British custom and tradition that has been prevalent in Somerset for hundreds of years and is normally accompanied by gleeful singing, and consuming apple-based desserts and foods, whilst celebrating.

Somerset Day

Celebrated on the 11th of May every year, Somerset Day is Somerset’s way of celebrating everything there is about the beloved county. From being a fantastic place to work, live and learn, to being the home of some of the greatest products in the UK and one of the world’s most famous music festivals, the day marks a time in residents’ calendars to appreciate their much-loved home county. 

The first Somerset day was celebrated in 2015, and the date of May 11th was chosen to honour Alfred the Great, who in 878, gathered Somerset’s residents to battle the invading Viking army, whom they eventually defeated.  

The day offers a range of events and activities across the county and encourages people who live and work in Somerset to celebrate and share their passion for their home county. 

Glastonbury Festival 

Known across the UK to be one of the most epic music festivals to date, Glastonbury hosts hundreds of thousands of music lovers almost every year from around the world and has done so since 1970. 

The festival is now a tradition in Somerset, and across the country for many of its patrons. The event lasts for 5 days and normally happens in June annually. It is located in Pilton, a small village and civil parish in the county. 

Hosting artists of all genres, some of Glastonbury’s most legendary performances of all time include the likes of David Bowie, Adele, Beyonce, and even a special attendance from David Attenborough himself. 

The Wells Moat Boat Races

Held in Wells in the Moat during the August bank holiday, the Moat Boat Races, which take place beside the Bishop’s Palace, is a tradition organised by the City of Wells Lions. It is now used to fundraise for local charities, and participants paddle their handmade and constructed boats and crafts along the moat to reach the finish line. 

There are many stalls, entertainment options, and catering on offer for the event, with prizes for the fastest participants but also the best fancy dress up for grabs. 

Summary

Somerset offers more than may initially meet the eye. This otherwise unsuspecting southwestern English county is home to some of the country’s most famed and fantastic produce, alongside some of the most unique and world-renowned traditions that are well worth experiencing, should you be planning on coming to the county. 

And if you’re looking for a destination to stay during the duration of your trip, our grand stately home Newton Surmaville offers 62 acres of gorgeous Somerset countryside and a beautifully-renovated grand grade-I listed property, making for the ideal residence for your ‘home away from home’ whilst in Somerset.

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