England’s largest gorge is a great family adventure but follow our advice to stay safe and enjoy it for free
What is it?
A popular tourist attraction, Cheddar Gorge is a stunning limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills with show caves.
Visitors can complete a three-mile circular walk around the naturally-formed gorge – up one side, along the cliffs 900 feet above sea-level and back down the other side and through the village of Cheddar.
You can also visit the caves where the so-called Cheddar Man was discovered – a 9,000-year-old skeleton. There are two – the largest is Gough’s Cave which is over 500,000 years old with cathedral-like caverns, a large underground river system, stalagmites and stalactites.
Where is it?
It’s near the village of Cheddar in Somerset in the west of England.
What did we think?
This stunning landscape is well worth a look.
The walk would be quite tough for younger children and less fit adults – there are lots of steep parts and the pebbly way means you have to watch your feet a lot of the time.
But the views at the top, and the satisfaction of completing the route, make it worthwhile.
We can see why it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
How to enjoy Cheddar Gorge for free.
If you do the circular walk clockwise, like we did, you will descend Jacob’s Ladder – not a ladder but a challenging 274 steps – down from the cliff tops into the village, for FREE.
If you want to walk UP the steps instead (there are four resting stops on the way up) – you will need to buy a Cheddar Gorge Caves and Day Ticket. If you’ve got any leg power left, another 48 steps takes you to the the top of the Lookout Tower and some fabulous views.
The ticket includes entrance to the steps and the Lookout Tower, both caves, the Museum of Prehistory and a cinematic experience called Beyond the View.
But it’s a fantastic experience without the extras and you can even park for free too if you park on the road instead of in one of the car parks.
There are more spaces further up the road away from the village – a good place to park is near to the Black Rock entrance to the trail.
*There are some incredibly steep, sheer drops, keep an eye and a hand on children and keep dogs on a lead. I wouldn’t risk this with a child who could run off or anyone who wouldn’t appreciate the dangers.
*Wear walking boots or other suitable footwear, it’s a rocky walk.
*In need of some Christmas decorations? There is an all-year round Christmas shop in Cheddar!
*There is rock climbing and adventure caving for adults and children aged eight and above. Thrillseekers can also try out the Black Cat Freefall – where participants (minimum age 11), climb a 30-foot ladder and take on a big cave jump, attached to a safety line.
*If you want to find out more about the area, visit the Cheddar Man Museum of Prehistory.
Cheddar Gorge information
Food: The route around the gorge takes you through the village of Cheddar where you can buy ice-cream and other food or try cheese tasting at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Alternatively, take a picnic like we did, to enjoy at the top (it can get very blustery but the views are fabulous).
Cost: The cliff-top walk is free if you do the circular route and descend Jacob’s Ladder. Fees apply to ascend the ladder, visit the caves or museum or to take part in the activities like caving and rock climbing.
Best for: Older children and relatively fit adults.
Time needed: Around 2.5 hours for the walk, longer if you include the caves, museum, activities or a look around the town.
Access and restrictions: The walk, the caves and the Jacob’s Ladder steps are not suitable for wheelchairs or anyone with limited disability. You can get a sense of the place via car – the drive through the gorge is one of the most scenic in Britain.
Address: Cheddar Gorge and Caves, The Cliffs, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3QF.
Parking: We parked by the side of the road – there seemed to be more spaces further up the road away from the village. A good place to park is near to the Black Rock entrance. Car parks include Cheddar Gorge Car Park and Cliff Street Car Park.
To book: The walk is free but to book paid-for parts of the experience go to the website Cheddar Gorge
Where to stay: We stayed at Wookey Hole Hotel, just eight miles from Cheddar Gorge and on the site of Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions, if you are inspired to explore more cavern, don’t miss our hotel review here.
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