back to blog

everything you need to know about the Bishop’s Palace

  • places to visit
February 24, 2019

The Bishop’s Palace has been the home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years in this beautiful part of the country. Located only a 30 minute car journey from our 5 star Cheddar Woods Resort & Spa in Somerset, is the picturesque Bishop’s Palace and gardens, which is open to the public to explore. The Palace is surrounded by the beautiful moat, which is home to the famous swans and the flagstone drawbridge, spend the day exploring a true hidden gem in the heart of the city of Wells.

about The Bishop’s Palace

The Bishop’s Palace dates back to the early 13th Century, and is still used by the Bishop of Bath and Wells today, however it is an interesting example of the way buildings demonstrating the political power of the Medieval Bishops. Even though the Palace is still home to the current Bishop and his family, you can still explore a large number of spectacular rooms within the Palace.

Being home to countless Bishops over 800 years, most have managed to leave their own mark on the décor of Palace, but you can visit the Large Room with its original vaulted undercroft, before heading up the staircase to the first Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jocelin Trotman to the room where he entertained, worked, dined and slept. Take a stroll down the Long Gallery for insight and information on past Bishops and their portraits.

the chapel & great hall

Bishop Burnell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer under King Edward I, built the grandiose chapel between 1275 and 1292, and it has been used by the Bishops of Bath and Wells for their private prayers since.

The chapel is the ideal place to relax and reflect, while admiring the beautiful stone tracery and wonderful medieval carving details of the vaulted ceiling. Soak up the light spilling through the stunning stained glass windows, which were rescued from France after the 1789 Revolution, taken from damaged and abandoned churches.

Visit the ruins of the Great Hall, which was built in 1290 to entertain high society, all that remains today are two walls and 4 corner turrets. However, you can still appreciate the impressive size of a medieval hall used to entertain the Lords and Ladies of the day.

the wells & swans

The city of Wells was named after the number of flowing wells in the city, with many to be found around the picturesque gardens of The Bishop’s Palace. The wells have long held a sacred significance for the local people for over a thousand years, with the St Andrews holy well a particularly popular and religious well to visit. The ancient Well House, built in 1451, still stands today, it was set up Bishop Beckynton to provide fresh water to the townsfolk of Wells.

In the 1870’s a daughter of one of the Bishop’s first taught the swans, on the moat to ring a bell for food, and this has been a tradition ever since. There is a bell beneath the window of the Gatehouse, and when a member of staff is there a rope is attached to the bell, which the resident swans ring for food, new generations of swans are shown how to use the bell by their parents. The resident swans happily swim around the moat at their leisure, enjoying The Bishop’s Palace in their own way.

In May 2019, the Bishop’s Palace welcomed a new breeding pair of swans, as Wynn was left widowed when her mate sadly passed away in 2018, this made Wynn leave to find a colony of older birds to live with. However staff and the public alike are excited to welcome the new pair of swans, who have been introduced to the Palace and Moat by the Swan Rescue South Wales charity.

Training will be taking place for the swans to learn how to use the bell, and there will be a new bell added on the opposite side of the Gatehouse so visitors can enjoy better visibility of the swans all year round. The staff are very excited to start training the new pair in the bell-ringing ways of the previous Bishop’s Palace swans, and are hoping to see fluffy cygnets on the Moat with their parents later on in the year. Now is the time to visit and meet the new beautiful pair of swans!

Bishop’s table & what’s on

Enjoy some home cooked comfort food and spectacular views over the gardens and The Bishop’s Palace itself. The Bishop’s Table serves delicious homemade food, using locally sourced produce, the friendly café is known in Wells for a fabulous place to relax with a coffee and a slice of cake.

The Bishop’s Palace enjoys a full calendar of events all year round, from a wide range of theatre shows and exhibitions, to holding various festivals, including the Bath Film Festival. There are also family and community garden activity days, historical re-enactments, concerts, talks, workshops and demonstrations, there really is something for everyone. Keep an eye on the website for the latest events being held at The Bishop’s Palace.

opening times & prices

There are different opening times depending on the time of year, but last admission is always 30 minutes before closing time.

Summer Times (31st March – 26th Oct) : 10am – 6pm every day
Winter Times (27th Oct – 28th March) : 10am – 4pm every day

Enjoy a fun day out at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells, where you can learn about the history of the Palace, the church and the country, all while enjoying outstanding views of the gardens and countryside.

Book your holiday at Cheddar Woods today to start exploring Somerset.

ownership at Cheddar Woods

Becoming an owner at Cheddar Woods Resort & Spa means being able to explore the local area at your own pace, and spending endless summer days in the picturesque gardens of The Bishop’s Palace.

Our community of owners enjoy use of our 5 star facilities, including the indoor heated swimming pool, with a separate shallow area for the little ones to enjoy. For those looking for relaxation, head to the Eden Spa where you can book a luxurious Aromatherapy Associates treatment from our fully trained therapists, or indulge in a Jessica Nails mani-pedi. After your treatment, take some time out in our Relaxation Room, where you can also enjoy our spa facilities, including the mood shower, sauna and steam room.

The whole family will love the Go Active programme, which includes activities from archery, waterwalkerz and body zorbing, to mini jet skis and a rock climbing wall. There are also fun workshops for the little ones, including Robin Hood Juniors, Wild Wild West and the Wizard Workshop, so there really is something for all ages to get stuck into and enjoy. Head inside for the Indoor Entertainments Area, which includes pool tables, a fabulous golf simulator and a 2 lane bowling alley, where the family can get their competitive juices flowing!

The Bistro Bar & Restaurant serves mouth-watering evening meals all the family will love, and light lunches to keep you going while you’re enjoying the activities or exploring the local area. The fully stocked bar offers the ideal place to enjoy a tipple while you soak up the surrounding countryside.

Our wide range of luxury holiday homes and holiday lodges, mean we are sure to have the ideal home away for you, with large open plan living spaces to enjoy, fully fitted kitchens, beautiful bathrooms and sumptuous bedrooms, and with a range of plots available, you can enjoy views reaching to the Cheddar Reservoir.

For more information about holiday home ownership at Cheddar Woods, call our dedicated Ownership Team on 01745 858010 or talk to an advisor via our Live Chat service

back to blog