In between our big trips abroad to those exotic and far-flung continents, we love to spend time exploring our home country, the UK. This weekend we filled up our Thermos flask with hot tea, grabbed some snacks and set out to explore Cheddar Gorge in the beautiful county of Somerset.
We’d heard good things about Cheddar Gorge, an area of beautiful limestone cliff formations out to the West of England. The gorge is home to a variety of natural wildlife, stunning scenery and manageable hikes. It’s also home to the quaint little village of Cheddar – famous, of course, for its cheese.
The gorge is home to a huge community of adorable Soay sheep. We were lucky enough to stumble across this mother and baby pair. The Soay sheep are only found in a few areas around the UK, with Cheddar Gorge being one of them. They have a keen ability to cling to the cliff edges and nimbly navigate their way around the limestone hills. There are also goats in the area, and an abundance of bats living in the caves.
This spectacular blossom tree caught our eye as we were driving through. It reminded me of the white tree of Gondor from the Lord of the Rings. Isn’t it beautiful? I love blossom trees!
The gorge is beautiful enough even when just driving through, so depending on the weather, you might not even want to hike. I would recommend however if you do plan to hike around the gorge that you wear shoes with decent grip. I found this out the hard way by almost sliding the entire way back down the hills in my totally inappropriate smooth-soled boots!
If you’re feeling really adventurous, why not join these guys and go rock climbing? We haven’t ever tried rock climbing, but I bet you get some great views from up there!
Cheddar village is the epitome of quaint Englishness. Boasting a teddy bear shop, several tearooms, crazy golf and cheese making factories, it really is a country-bumpkin’s dream.
I loved the aesthetic of this old, abandoned and ruinous hotel. I know it’s not a good sign in terms of prosperity or popularity, but there’s something intriguing about old abandoned buildings isn’t there? I’d love to peer inside and see whether nature has begun to take back over in there as it has on the outside…
There’s no shortage of cute coffee shops and tearooms in Cheddar, but if you’re up for something quick and easy, there’s a trusty Costa here too, which offers 45 minutes free parking for its customers in the village. Just a note on parking – during the Winter season (October to mid-March) there is free parking on single-yellow lines around the village. Otherwise there are paid car parks dotted around. If you are lucky enough to find one, there are also free parking spaces further away from the village in gravel lay-bys.
This gift and homewares shop is also a Christmas shop all year round. It stocks brands such as Sass & Belle, and other shabby chic style favourites. It’s the perfect place to pick up some gifts for friends and family (or perhaps just for yourself!).
These tea rooms had the cutest little back garden area with metal seating, bunting and cute sculptures. Oh, and there’s a VW camper parked out front, if you weren’t already sold!
We gave in to the mouth-watering scents floating across the air, and ate at a nearby fish and chip shop. It was some of the best cod and chips and mushy peas we’ve had in a long time if I do say so myself!
After enjoying our fish and chips, we headed for the cheese store. Here you can try any of the 20+ variations of cheese, jam and chutney for free! We really enjoyed acting like kids in a candy store, picking from all of the different flavours. They had some delicious chilli jams which we were very tempted by. The red jalapeno jam was especially tasty!
We didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend here, but if we were staying overnight, we definitely would have done a lot more. There are two cave systems at Cheddar Gorge, Goughs Cave and Cox’s Cave. Gough’s Cave was once home to ancient cannibal ancestors, the most recent being buried 9,000 years ago. The cave is still used today for maturing cheddar cheese! Cox’s Cave houses the Dreamhunters experience, and offers plenty of interesting facts and information about our ancestors who used to live here.
You can purchase a ticket which includes entrance to both caves, as well as access to the lookout tower, and the tour bus, as well as cliff top walks. It’s approx £20 per adult and £14 for children aged 5-15 (under 5s are free), and it’s even cheaper if you buy in advance online. I think that’s actually pretty good value for all of that!
You can watch cheese being processed at the cheddar cheese factory for a small fee (and I’ll bet you get to taste some!). There’s also a sweet factory where you can watch sweets being made for free!
Cheddar Gorge reminded me a lot of the Lake District, although for us, quite a bit closer. We’ll definitely be back again in the summer to se what this place has to offer in warmer weather! A word of advice, if you are planning to visit, it was pretty busy in the car parks, even in March. I can only imagine what it would be like in July or August. I’d recommend therefore visiting maybe in late spring or early summer. That way, the schools aren’t yet finished, but the weather is just a touch warmer!
Here’s a little look at our day at Cheddar Gorge (there’s a little preview of the next blog post on Gold Hill too!):