Our family has always loved visiting cathedrals. The magnificent buildings, many constructed 700 and 800 years ago, provide a glimpse into history and are always located at the center of historic areas and cities. Wells Cathedral is a beautiful and less-visited monument in Wells, a small city about 90 minutes from London. It’s near the cities of Bristol and Bath and can be a good day trip from the British capital.
History of the cathedral Construction began in 1175 and it was the first in Britain to be built in the Gothic style. Wells Cathedral survived the various changes in the state religions of England and continues to host worship services today. One hour guided tours are done every day except Sunday, at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. from April through October, with a slightly reduced schedule during the winter. Special interest tours are also given, including a Tower Tour and a High Parts Tour, with access to areas normally off-limits to visitors. These tours also take visitors to the top levels of the cathedral with great views of the surrounding English countryside. The special interest tours must be reserved online in advance and space is limited.
The clock The cathedral is also famous for its very old clock, considered the second oldest in England and possibly the world. Built in 1390, the clock is fun to watch with medieval animatronic jousting knights circling the clock on the quarter hour.
The Bishop’s Palace Almost directly across from the cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace, another medieval monument. This was the palatial home of the Bishops of Wells and Bath and was built just after the cathedral. The palace and its incredible gardens can be visited. Admission is $10 for both and guided tours are done daily at 11:30 a.m. (and 2:30 p.m. during the summer months).
Staying overnight The Vicars’ Close, Britain’s only completely intact medieval street, connects the cathedral with some other buildings, including a series of houses built in the 1300s. The houses are part of the cathedral property and built so the choir could live together onsite. One of these houses, 14 Vicars’ Close, can be rented as a luxury vacation home. It makes a great base to explore Wells, which is a pretty city to visit with a lot of history. The two-story, four bedroom house sleeps up to six people and rents for $660 for a three-night stay.
Getting to Wells Cathedral Train service from London Paddington Station gets you to Castle Cary near Wells station and then it’s a short cab ride. Train and cab fare is about $100 roundtrip. It’s also reachable by bus from Bath and easily by car as well.
Follow travel blogger Ted Sherman on Twitter, @travel4seniors and on his travel blog, travel4seniors.com.
More from this contributor:
Visiting the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen, France
A Visit to the Cathedral of Rennes
Chartres, France: Our Visit to the Historic Cathedral