We are very lucky to live just 20 minutes' drive from the beautiful city of Wells. We go there frequently for shopping and for coffees, and it's one of my favourite places. The smallest city in England, Wells lies at the foot of the Mendip hills, and is a lovely place to go for a wander on a sunny day.
We went there this week on market day, and headed into the busy market place past one of the three wells which give the city its name. The Mendips are famous for their caves and underground streams, or swallets, and water from these springs rise to the surface here.
Wells is full of tourists and holidaymakers at this time of year, and market day is even busier.
This is one of our favourite stalls, laden with local Somerset cheeses, cider, jams and chutneys - delicious!
At the top end of the market we wandered through a beautiful medieval gatehouse.
On such a hot day, it was wonderfully cool under here.
In front of us was the moat which encloses the Bishop's Palace, home to the Bishop of Bath and Wells for 800 years. It's filled with water from St Andrew's Well which emerges in the Palace gardens.
A family of swans glide gracefully across the moat, and the palace walls are reflected in the weedy water.
I noticed small details, like this old bell next to the drawbridge.
Once through the gatehouse we were in the grounds of the Palace, and admired the sweeping view. Someone works hard on those lawns! Behind the ruined walls there are gardens, and a small arboretum. It's a good place to spend a sunny day relaxing with a book.
Back across the moat, and there's a striking swan sculpture. Swans are famous as the city's emblem, and they have learnt over the years to pull a bell cord to ring for their food next to the drawbridge.
We strolled back through this gatehouse which is called the Bishop's Eye, as it symbolised the bishop's watch over the city.
I love the local limestone here in Wells. It's a soft, warm honey colour and is rounded and worn on these ancient buildings.
Past the market we wandered ...
and through the Penniless Porch.
We emerged into the Liberty of St Andrew, a large precinct which contains the cathedral and all its buildings. It's a lovely place to sit and relax, and we sat on a blanket to eat our lunch and admire the view.
And what a view! The cathedral always takes my breath away.
It dates back to the 12th century and is absolutely stunning.
As I sat on the grass I looked more closely, trying to take it all in, as I so often do.
There are over 300 figures on the facade. Some of them are very weathered, and like so many cathedrals, its restoration is ongoing.
After lunch I went for a wander on my own. Around the side of the cathedral it gets more interesting
The cathedral is built in Early Gothic style: this door is framed by many pillars and arches within arches, and it's just a side door!
This astronomical clock is 700 years old, and every quarter of an hour the knights joust. Small groups of people often gather, waiting to watch this.
Underneath the arch is invitingly cool, and the stone is delightfully smooth and worn.
This lovely vaulted ceiling leads out to a cobbled street.
This is Vicar's Close and is the oldest residential street in Europe - love those chimneys!
I strolled lazily back down the High Street towards the shops.
Wells has some lovely little independent shops and cafes. This vintage one is very sweet.
The houses and cottages are pretty too - I love the soft green painted doors on this one and the climbing roses.
At last, weary from the heat, it was time for us to go home. I love Wells in all weathers, but it's especially gorgeous on a summer's day.