Taking the Somerset Loop
A Day Away By Mike Steely
Somerset, Kentucky, is located west of London and Corbin and is the county seat of Pulaski County. The county is named after Polish Count Casimir Pulaski who served during the American Revolution under General George Washington.
The Bluegrass State city sits at the intersection of the Cumberland Parkway and Highways 80 and 27.
My wife and I have been to and through Somerset many times over the years, sometimes on our way west to Bowling Green or elsewhere. There are lots of things to do and see there and on the way from Knoxville. We usually drive up Interstate 75 to the Royal Blue exit, turn west, and follow Highway 297 to Huntsville, the home of the late Senator Howard Baker. The small town has a unique and historic jail and a museum at the school there.
From Huntsville, we take Highway 297 to Highway 27 and turn north through Oneida and into Kentucky. There are several interesting small towns along the way including Pine Knot, Whitley City and Sterns. At Sterns, you can visit the former coal mining headquarters and catch a train through the Barthell Mining Camp and back.
Continuing north on Highway 27 you soon come to one of two towns named for William Whitley, an early settler and militia leader. Williamsburg and Whitley City were both named for the patriot. Whitley City is the county seat of McCreary County but, oddly, is not incorporated.
Continuing north on Highway 27 you’ll come to Burnside, a roadside community named for General Ambrose Burnside. He was the Union commander that assembled troops on the island there in preparation for the march that captured Knoxville, East Tennessee and Cumberland Gap.
General Ambrose Burnside State Park has a golf course, boat ramps, a picnic area, fishing, and a 94-hookup campground. It is worth a side trip off the highway to visit the historic spot.
A bit further north you come into Somerset, a small city with about 12,000 residents. You’ll find just about anything available in most cities including retail stores and restaurants. My family has always stopped by the Gold Star restaurant there and bought their special Cincinnati-style hot dogs and chili.
You can loop back to Knoxville easily by taking Highway 80 east to London, Kentucky, and taking Interstate 75 south back to Knoxville.
You can get information on Burnside State Park and Somerset online and you can call the park campgrounds at (606)561-3625.