A giant cathedral guards Britain's smallest city

Should you want to upset the good folk of Wells, try calling their home a "town".

As they will proudly, but firmly, remind you, tiny Wells, in the middle of Somerset, is in fact a city and has been one since 1205.

By most measures, it is the smallest city in Britain, a distinction it owes to the sublime cathedral at its heart. The cathedral and the adjacent bishop's palace, which is home to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, dominates Wells both physically and psychologically.

The vast interior is astonishingly light and bright, and as we enter an organist is going through his or her paces with, in the name of all that is cliched in English church music, Land of Hope and Glory.

The stirring and familiar chords echoing around the vast, vaulted space are quite wonderful, even if this is clearly a practise session, with the unseen player working over a few tricky bars again and again.

The centre of the building is dominated by the celebrated scissor arches, which look curiously anachronistic but date back to the 14th century. They were inserted as an emergency measure after alterations to the central tower caused the building to sag under the weight. Dodgy builders, it seems, were around even in mediaeval times.

Amid the calm of the building there is a gentle busyness and a sense of the ecclesiastical day unfolding, much as it has done for the past 800 years. Matins starts the day at 7.30am, followed by Holy Communion and then evensong in late afternoon.

That same air of unhurried calm continues outside on Cathedral Green, a large, open, grassed area in front of the cathedral: in one corner a few lads play a football game, while elsewhere families picnic in the sun, couples stroll and a young mum sits breastfeeding.

Wells town centre is a pitching wedge from Cathedral Green. The stone-flagged market square is surrounded by cafes, restaurants and shops - many of them individually owned rather than being outposts of the chains that have sucked the life and character from so many of England's town centres. Union flags flying everywhere, in honour of the Queen's diamond jubilee, add a festive air.

The perilously narrow streets and convoluted one-way traffic system combine to discourage most drivers from venturing too far in, so there is blessedly little traffic around the place and the result is that it is strangely quiet as we potter around in the sunshine. One can even hear footfalls and scraps of individual conversation as locals and visitors go about their business.

That evening, England take on Italy in a do-or-die European Cup showdown. We join a small local crowd in the Kings Head (circa 1308), watching the game on a circa HD projection TV (circa 2012).

The young crowd is surprisingly well behaved and polite as we journey together through the agonies of yet another lame England performance that ends, inevitably, with the team on the wrong end of a penalty shootout.

It's a very English end to a perfect day in this most English of cities.