- Enter one of the United Kingdom's oldest Gothic style cathedrals and admire the architecture.
- Marvel at the beautiful 14th century stained glass Jesse Window.
- See if you can count the 300 different medieval statues on the huge West Front of the Cathedral.
- Take a tour around the hidden parts of the Cathedral, including behind one of the oldest working clocks in the world!
Explore one of the oldest and most beautiful relics of Somerset's history, at the historic Wells Cathedral. Originally located on the site of an old Roman mausoleum, the building of the cathedral started in the late 12th century and continued for decades. Now, you can see the sheer amount of craftsmanship and detail that went into the construction of the Cathedral. With over 300 figures adorning the West front and pointed spires, the unique design of this building makes it one of the earliest Gothic-style buildings in the UK.
At just below 50 metres tall, Wells Cathedral is just as impressive on the inside as it is outside, and has been a destination for worshippers and pilgrims for over 800 years. It is also located close to the Bishop's Palace & Gardens, a medieval palace that also contains the Bishop's Chapel, another culturally significant religious destination. While the Cathedral and Chapel are still in use as functioning places of worship, they are open to visitors of all faiths and none, making them a beautiful and fascinating place to spend the day.
As well as the famous history of the Wells Cathedral building itself, there are lots of interesting artefacts hidden within this ancient building. The Wells Cathedral Clock is particularly significant as one of the oldest clock mechanisms ever made that is still in use. Created in 1390, this clock has a one-of-a-kind original clock face, and kids will love watching Quarter Jack run around as the clock strikes every quarter. Some other fascinating features of the Cathedral include the Scissor Arches, which were added in the 14th century to help strengthen the structure of the building. Another 14th century relic is the Jesse Window, a huge stained glass window that is one of the finest ever made in the UK. The image in the window is of the family of Christ, with a Jesse tree. Now, there is a conservation project underway so that the Jesse Window can last for many years to come.
If you're visiting Wells Cathedral with kids, there are lots of great activities and places to explore. With children's tickets available for tours, kids will be easily wowed as they climb up the spiral staircases and play among the stone arches. They'll get to learn all about the Cathedral choir and take a look at the central tower, and if you're visiting in October, they might even get to have a go at joining the choir at the 'Be a Chorister for a Day' event. There are plenty of Wells Cathedral events on throughout the year, making it one of the most popular cathedrals in Somerset. From choir events and the well-known Wells Cathedral concerts to kid's craft workshops in the school holidays, there are lots of great things to do that the whole family will enjoy.
For things to do in Wells, Somerset that allow you to take in all the local sights such as the Cathedral Green and the city itself, why not check out the Cathedral walk Wells has to offer? Here, you can wander from Wells Cathedral, to see the glorious Chapter House and neighbouring Bishop's Palace, and then explore some of the beauty of the Somerset City of Wells. Film buffs might recognise this sleepy area, which is also the UK's smallest city, from the movie 'Hot Fuzz', as this is the location the film was set in. Unfortunately, Wells Cathedral was actually painted out of the shots, so doesn't appear in the film! For some more fascinating local history, Vicars' Close, the street the Cathedral is on, is one of the oldest residential streets in Europe and dates all the way back to 1348.
Once you've had your fill of this beautiful Somerset Cathedral, head to the Wells Cathedral Cafe for a coffee or something to eat. With homemade cakes and pastries, as well as treats for dogs, this is a great place to come for an energy boost. Alternatively, if you prefer to bring your own food, there are plenty of places around Wells where you can stop for a picnic. If you fancy getting something to eat in town, TWENTYONE café + kitchen is a popular casual dining spot on Market Place, a short walk from the Cathedral. The Courtyard Restaurant on Sadler Street is also a great choice for dinner and offers half portions of all the mains for the kids. If you're looking for hotels near Wells Cathedral, Sadler Street next to the Cathedral has several places to stay, including a Best Western, and local hotels and B&B's.
If you and your family had a brilliant day exploring the ancient Wells Cathedral and are ready to continue your Somerset adventure, why not take a step further back in history and check out the famous Roman Baths in the aptly named city of Bath? Or, for some prehistoric history, head to Wookey Hole Caves for a day filled with dinosaurs and cave dwellers.
What to know before you go
- Wells Cathedral opening times are from 9:15am - 4pm from Monday-Saturday and 12pm - 2pm and 4:30pm - 6pm on Sundays.
- Please note that Wells Cathedral is still used for public worship so there may be times when there is restricted access due to a religious service.
- While due to the historical nature of the building, some areas of Wells Cathedral are not accessible for wheelchairs or buggies, the main entrance at the New Entrance Cloister has level access.
- Dogs are allowed, as long as they are on their best behaviour.
- Unfortunately, there are no toilets or baby changing facilities available in the Cathedral itself, but there are public toilets at Union Street Car Park just a short walk away.
- If you're travelling to Wells by car, you can take links from the M5 from either the North or South, and take the A39 to Wells. Wells Cathedral is about 40 minutes from Bath or Bristol. The closest car park is Union Street Car Park, which is just a five-minute walk away. Information about Blue Badge parking can be found on the Mendip District Council website.
- The nearest train station is 13 miles away at Castle Cary, which has good connections to London and the rest of the UK. From here you can take a taxi to visit Wells Cathedral.
- If travelling by bus, catch the 161 or 174 from Shepton Mallet, the 376 from Bristol or the 173 from Bath.