Was Cadbury Castle really King Arthur’s Camelot? Did Joseph of Arimathea really walkthrough England’s green and pleasant land to plant a thorn from Christ’s crown of thorns at Glastonbury, where it blossomed once a year on the day of Christ’s resurrection? Was it really at Athelney that King Alfred, deep in thought, allowed the cakes to burn? Myth and legend seem to be as integral to Somerset as its cider orchards and Cheddar cheese, its free-roaming ponies on Exmoor and the olde-worlde pubs with their skittle alleys.
Many literary luminaries found inspiration here. Exmoor provided the setting for R D Blackmore’s great historical romance Lorna Doone; Wordsworth and Coleridge both lived in the county for several years and it was during their countless walks over the Somerset hills that they fashioned their Lyrical Ballads, anew kind of plain speaking verse that inspired the Romantic Revolution. Tennyson was a frequent visitor to the county and it was for his Clevedon friend, Arthur Hallam, that he spent 17 years perfecting his great lyrical poem In Memoriam. Hallam was a member of the Elton family whose great house, Clevedon Court, is just one of many fine mansions within the county borders. Others include the late-medieval stone manor house of Lytes Cary, the Palladian Hatch Court and the exquisite Montacute House, built in the late 16th century for Elizabeth I’s Master of the Rolls. The fine houses are sometimes overshadowed by their gardens.
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