What is the history of Steep Holm island and what can you see there?

PUBLISHED: 18:00 12 October 2017 | UPDATED: 09:32 13 October 2017

Steep Holm. Picture: Mark Cooper

Steep Holm. Picture: Mark Cooper

(c) copyright newzulu.com

Vikings, smugglers and pirates have all played a role in the curious history of Steep Holm island, which is just across the water from Weston-super-Mare. How can you take a trip to Steep Holm island and what can you see there? Here are some things you probably did not know about it.

Steep Holm. Picture: Aleks NocnySteep Holm. Picture: Aleks Nocny

Steep Holm island is an island in the Bristol Channel, covering 48.87 acres at high tide. Its highest point is 78 metres above sea level.

How can you get to Steep Holm?

Occasional day trips operate between May and September, though they are entirely dependent on the weather conditions. It is essential to book, by calling 01934 522125 or emailing steepholmbookings@gmail.com

It costs £30 for adults and £25 for children aged five to 12. Visit www.steepholm.org.uk for more information.

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Does anyone live on Steep Holm?

No – but invaders once thought it was a good place to settle. Both the Vikings and the Romans made stops at Steep Holm during their invasions of Britain. The Romans got there first, and various artefacts relating to their visits have been found there. There is also a Roman signal station above Rudder Rock.

Later, the Vikings used it as a secure base as they prepared to invade the mainland.

Steep Holm: Sally GriffithsSteep Holm: Sally Griffiths

What happens at Steep Holm now?

The island was bought by the Kenneth Allsop Memorial Committee, as a living memorial to Kenneth Allsop, in 1976. He was a broadcaster on the BBC’s Tonight programme and an author, as well as a passionate campaigner for conservation causes. The Trust continues to maintain the island as a nature reserve and bird sanctuary.

It is a site of special scientific interest, owing to its rare plants.

What can you see at Steep Holm?

As well as a visitor centre and exhibition area, some old gun batteries are available to view. The island was used to protect against French invasion after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited France, and were worried about the size of its Navy. It was recommended Steep Holm became part of the coastal defence system.

Fortifications were built in 1865 and completed in 1869 and some of the gun batteries are now scheduled ancient monuments. Soldiers were housed in the main barracks, which have been converted into a visitor centre and exhibition area. The 19th century batteries were updated in World War One and Two.

What is the history of Steep Holm?

Legend tells how the islands of Flat Holm, Steep Holm and Brent Knoll were formed when the Devil was cleaving Cheddar Gorge and hurling great spade fulls of earth out from it.

It was the site for an early Christian monastery in the sixth century, and there was a small Augustinian Priory in the 12th. The chapel, which had closed by 1260, was rebuilt again after the Lords Berkeley moved in from 1315.

More than 200 years ago, Weston fishermen were turning their attention to another profitable sideline – smuggling. The heyday was from about 1735-1825, and Steep Holm was a regular haunt where casks of spirits, tea and tobacco could be hidden away.

A hotel and inn was built in the 1800s, and provided illicit liquor to thirsty sailors.

MORE: What else can you do in Somerset? Try out 9 of its prettiest villages.

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