The global spread of the coronavirus is disrupting travel. Stay up to date on the science behind the outbreak>>

What to do in Frome, Somerset's most exciting market town

A thriving creative scene, hiking trails and eclectic local markets await in the Somerset town near the Mendip Hills.

Published 30 Jun 2021, 08:00 BST
Half an hour’s drive between Bath and the arty town of Bruton, Frome is the ideal ...

Half an hour’s drive between Bath and the arty town of Bruton, Frome is the ideal jumping-off point for exploring the Somerset scenery.

Photograph by Shutterstock

Follow the creative crumb trail across the South West, and it’ll lead you to Frome (rhymes with ‘room’), a progressive market town packed with independent shops, start-ups and small galleries. Before long you’ll be cradling West Country loaves, handmade ceramics and flat whites, but it’s not just what’s within Frome’s honey-hued listed buildings that draws visitors to its hilly streets.

Half an hour’s drive between Bath and the arty town of Bruton, Frome is the ideal jumping-off point for exploring the Somerset scenery, whether it’s kayaking on the River Frome or walking in the Mendip Hills. Linger in the town a little longer, though, and you’ll find community reigns supreme: there are share shops, co-working spaces and even an anti-loneliness scheme, which slashed Frome’s emergency hospital admissions during a 2015-2018 study.

Meanwhile, on the town’s outskirts, lakeside Marston Park opened in May with trendy bell tents and food trucks, while new summer restaurants and exhibitions mean it’s poised to be one of England’s coolest enclaves.

What to do

Frome’s beating heart is the cobbled and steep Catherine Hill, where you can stock up on life’s beautiful things. It’s here you’ll find some of Frome’s most enticing indie shops: slip into rustic florist Bramble & Wild for bouquets of lush blooms and branches before heading to Ground, a working ceramic studio selling handmade speckled clay mugs, coffee drippers and slipware jugs.

Grab a cuppa in laid-back Moo And Two, where loose-leaf teas are sourced directly from growers in South India, or poke around in Kobi & Teal for such contemporary homewares as colourful porcelain jin bowls, plywood clocks, abstract paintings. Studio Ashay, meanwhile, is where made-to-order womenswear pieces are hand-crafted. Tumble down toward medieval Cheap Street, where Tudor-style terraces charm with overhanging upper storeys, then follow the locals into Frāmā for smooth specialty coffee, and to Hunting Raven Books to pick up the latest paperback.

But mind your step — a spring-fed stream slips along a leat in the middle, which begins beneath St John the Baptist Church. The entrance to this Grade II-listed behemoth passes a holy well and a stone-carved Way of the Cross. Don’t leave without walking up the deceivingly named Gentle Street nearby — the leg-shakingly steep street lined with 16th-century stone houses is anything but.

Savoury pies for sale at a market stall in Frome.

Photograph by Getty Images

Where to eat

Head to Rye Bakery, a doughy revelation set inside an enormous former chapel, for a flaky almond croissant or tangy sourdough sandwich; weekend pizza nights feature seasonal toppings like pumpkin and Westcombe sobrasada sausage. Its sister bakery-shop is at Station Approach, where newbie neighbour Burrito Boi is opening in June, dishing up three bean or smokey beef burritos paired with frozen melon margaritas.  

Alternatively, try to snag a table at Moorish tapas bar The High Pavement, which reopened in mid-May after a refurbishment. In its leafy outdoor garden, try the ever-changing menu of small plates like aubergine rolls with Afghan yogurt, or leek and cecina croquettes with harissa.

Don’t miss

The Frome Independent Market is the town’s showstopper. Held on the first Sunday of each month from March to December, it spreads across the centre with stalls selling Somerset-made crafts and wears. Mosey around the flea section for antique maps, peacock-print ottomans and garden sculptures. If you like handmade items, you’re spoiled for choice: there’s everything from birch soap and recycled sterling silver rings to sheep’s ricotta and even birthday cakes for the dog. Booze and live music make for a festival-esque atmosphere.

A stay in a luxury bell tent at Marston Park is an ideal way to experience Frome.

Photograph by Marston Park

We like

The Mendip Way Trail is a 50-mile-long walking route across limestone hills, split into two sections. The East Mendip Way (19 miles) starts in Frome and winds its way over hilltops and through deep valleys to the historic cathedral city of Wells.

The overzealous can connect to the West Mendip Way (30 miles), passing Wookey Hole, cave-pocked Cheddar Gorge, the central Mendip plateau and the Somerset Levels’ wetlands, before plunging tired toes into the waters near Weston-super-Mare.

Where to stay

Effortlessly cool Marston Park opened in May on Frome’s southern outskirts. A secluded series of glammed-up bell tents fringe a Victorian lake and ancient woodlands, each one a ‘Canvas Studio’ complete with a guitar and an easel. Along with a cosy double bed, there’s a wood-burning stove, plus outdoor seats around a roaring fire pit. Touted as a ‘playground for creativity with grown-up food and drink’, this is summer’s ultimate laid-back hedonistic hideaway.

Racked with writer’s block? There’s plenty to whet your creative appetite: trails snake through woods, rowing boats wait on the shore and there are wood-fired hot tubs, yoga classes and even live performances on a stage in the lake. From £120 per night, based on two sharing.

Published in the Jul/Aug 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Follow us on social media 

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram 

Read More

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us

Subscribe

  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2016 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved