There were two places I wanted to visit during our family trip to Somerset back in September – Cheddar Gorge (tick) and Brean Down. Whilst I ticked off Cheddar Gorge on my way to Somerset, Brean Down waited patiently until the last day of our trip.
To give you a little bit of information about Brean Down, it’s a 1.5-mile long natural pier that juts out into the Bristol Channel. The Down stands at 97 metres high, offering spectacular views across the Somerset coastline. Although we didn’t realise it at the time, the Down is also home to a Palmerston Fort.
As we were staying in Brean, my brother Sam and I thought it would be a good idea to walk from our holiday park to the Down.
It was a perfect day weather-wise, with gorgeous blue skies. We left the holiday park and headed over the road to the beach that would take us directly to the base of the Down.
As a word of warning, there aren’t many places to get a coffee or anything to eat on the three-mile stretch of sand between Brean and Brean Down.
Once we reached the base of the Down, we were starving, so it was time to see what the National Trust cafe had to offer. Should you decide to visit Brean Down, it’s worth mentioning that it is maintained by the National Trust, so expect to pay National Trust prices! Although the café wasn’t cheap, the food was worth every penny, especially after our 3 -mile walk!
After our pit stop, we decided to make our way to the top of the Down. We weren’t sure whether we would have time to explore, but at least we’d get to admire the views from the top.
I had a case of deja vu as we started to climb up the 200+ steps to the top of the Down, following my climb up Jacob’s Ladder when I visited Cheddar Gorge at the beginning of my trip! The steps to the top of the Down were much easier to climb than Jacob’s Ladder, even though it may not have felt like it at the time!
The views from the top of the Down soon had us forgetting the tiring work of the ascent!
Whilst we were already starting to feel tired from the walk and the climb, we decided it would be crazy not to explore the pier whilst we were there. Initially, we made our way to the peak but intrigued by what else we might find on the Down, we continued walking towards the end of the pier.
Expecting to find a dramatic cliff edge, we were shocked to discover that we were mistaken! Rather than falling away into the Bristol Channel, the landscape drops away to reveal a Palmerston Fort at the end of the pier.
With our explorer hats on, we made our way down the bank to the fort. Whilst today it is just ruins, its initial construction was to help defend the country against Napoleonic invasion.
After having a good look around the ruins, we made our way back up the hill and around the left-hand side of the Downs. There’s a beautiful path that cuts into this side of the pier that not only gives way to fabulous views of Weston super Mare, it’s also a great way of immersing yourself in the pier’s flora and fauna.
I was so glad we’d paid a visit to the Down. It’s such an unusual piece of the British landscape, which naturally appealed to the Geographer in me. If nothing else, it’s worth the visit for the views, but if you do have time to explore, it’s worth visiting the fort and taking in a landscape that has seen people living, farming and fighting here since the Stone Age.
Another piece of advice before I leave you for another week…perhaps pay £5 for the National Trust car park which sits at the base of the Down! The 3-mile walk back to our holiday camp felt like it was never going to end!