Everyone in the world has heard about Cheddar, or at least the cheese which originated from this lovely Somerset village. You’ll only find a handful of cheesemakers in the area these days, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. Cheddar is also situated right next to the UK’s largest gorge.
Perfect for a winter walk, Cheddar Gorge is often considered one of Britain’s most spectacular natural landmarks. At almost 400ft deep and 3 miles long, you can walk all around the craggy cliffs and pinnacles. The cliff-top walk, a three-mile route, leads up one side of the gorge and down the other – remember to climb Jacob’s Ladder to the Lookout Tower on your way around.
With some staggering views of Somerset, on a clear day, you can see for miles across the Mendip Hills. But you’ll also wander across a diverse range of terrain, often teaming with flowers like the delicate Cheddar pink flower, on any given day. Wildlife like greater horseshoe bats, dormice or great crested newts can also be found – keep an eye out for the mountain goats too!
But this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest supports so much more activity than just a healthy hike and wildlife. Many experienced rock climbers head to Cheddar Gorge to test themselves – with over a thousand routes to try. Those less experienced can have a go to, by signing up to learn on the 50ft high outdoor climbing wall. (Tickets start at £32.95).
But it’s not all about what’s overground. It’s what lies beneath where things get really interesting. Over 40,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, our ancestors (who may or may not have been cannibals…) lived in Gough’s Cave beneath Cheddar Gorge. The oldest complete skeleton ever found in Britain is from here, Cheddar Man, a hunter-gatherer who lived around 10,000 years ago.
Cheddar Man now resides in the Natural History Museum, but you can still explore Gough’s Cave (from £22.95). These mysterious cave chambers are over 500,000 years old, full of secret caverns, incredible vistas, and stalagmites and stalactites. Learn more about our ancient ancestors by heading to the Museum of Prehistory afterwards.
After you’re done exploring all the mysteries of the gorge, inside and out, don’t forget to stop by Cheddar itself. Head here to refuel on ice cream, cider or a pub lunch. It’s also home to The Original Cheddar Cheese Company – the world’s oldest cheddar cheese shop. To learn more about Cheddar Gorge head here.