From the Cheddar Gorge Walk, in one of England’s most spectacular landscapes, to sipping cider, gorging on cheese or exploring Cheddar’s caves read on for fifteen fabulous things to do in Cheddar.
Cheddar Village, Somerset
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Last month, in between lockdowns, we spent a few days in the West Country staying near to Cheddar. If you’re thinking about a staycation to the West Country next year I’ve put together this guide to help you plan your trip. The village of Cheddar in the English county of Somerset isn’t actually all about amazing cheese – although cheese is never a bad thing. There are loads of other activities and things to do in Cheddar which make it the perfect place for a break in the Somerset countryside.
Whether you’re outdoorsy types, like us, a couple looking to chill in a luxury lodge with its own hot tub or a group of friends or family looking for an escape to the countryside, you’ll find something to do that’ll keep everybody happy. From outdoor activities like hiking, walking and climbing to cheese tastings, cute tearooms and cider tasting read on to find out what we got up to.
15 things to do in Cheddar
Waterfall at Cheddar Village
Where is Cheddar Village?
Cheddar Village, Somerset
This pretty village is located in the county of Somerset in the West Country. It sits on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills in an area of outstanding natural beauty at the bottom of the impressive gorge. The naturally formed, and wildy dramatic limestone gorge, cuts a craggy three-mile swathe through the town where there’s loads to see and do. Let’s dive into the best things to do in Cheddar.
1. Hike the Cheddar Gorge Walk
The pinnacles at Cheddar Gorge
The best outdoor activity by far is the spectacular Cheddar Gorge walk. England’s largest gorge is one of the country’s most incredible natural sights and takes in part of the West Mendip Way. Before you start stop by the National Trust office where you’ll find a map on the wall to show you the route. Or, you could download an OS map.The circular 4-mile walk took us about two hours including photo stops and goat encounters along the way.
From the village we walked up the north side of the gorge which was quite steep in places. We made our way along the top taking in views of the craggy pinnacles on the opposite side before heading down through woodland and crossing the road at the bottom. From there we climbed up the other side of the gorge through Black Rock nature reserve. As we walked we could see right across the Somerset Levels with views of the Mendip Hills, Cheddar reservoir and Glastonbury Tor in the distance.
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
There’s a fabulous view of the serpentine road as you look down from the cliff edge. The day we went there was a strong wind and we kept well clear of the edge, so sorry no photos this time. You’ll also get good views over Somerset Levels from the Lookout Tower at the top top of Jacob’s Ladder. Your Cheddar Gorge walk ends by coming down the Jacob’s Ladder steps.
Travelbunny tip: Jacob’s Ladder steps are free to come down but you’ll need to pay to go up. Take my route above and you’ll save yourself some money making this one of the best free things to do in Cheddar. However, if you’re going to visit the caves, museum of pre-history and Beyond the View then Jacob’s Ladder is included in the Cheddar Gorge and Cave Explorer ticket price.
What you’ll need to hike Cheddar Gorge
When hiking the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk be sure to wear suitable footwear. Sturdy walking boots will stop you slipping on the more challenging areas. Bring a water bottle – we went in October on a dull day but still needed a few stops for a drink, especially on the uphill legs. My Hydroflask is my go to water bottle. This is the UK so it’s always wise to pack a waterproof jacket.
2. More Cheddar Walks
Because Cheddar is in the Mendip Hills, surrounded by beautiful countryside and rolling hills, it makes a great base for walkers. The area offers plenty of other routes of varying grades, many starting from the village centre. These include Black Down walk, the Strawberry Line and Cheddar Reservoir walk. Get your Ordnance Survey map here. If you’re interested in local self-guided walks including some historical Cheddar village walks, take a look at Cheddar Walking website.
3. Have afternoon tea at Lion Rock Tearooms
Lion Rock Tearooms in Cheddar
After all that exercise you’ll have earned yourself a treat so head to Lion Rock Tea Rooms in the village for afternoon tea. It’s located in one of the oldest, and probably most photographed, buildings in the village and has been trading since 1908. Before you head inside take a look at the rock behind the tea rooms to see if you can spot the infamous lion.
During good weather head outside to the cute little patio garden. For cooler weather check out the cosy themed rooms inside. Either way indulge in an afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones, jam and cream with a pot of tea. If you’re feeling extravagant go for the prosecco too. Gluten-free options are available.
Lion’s Rock Tea Rooms, The Cliffs, Cheddar BS27 3QE. Open 10am-5pm daily
4. Stay in a luxury lodge at Strawberryfield Park
Strawberryfield Park Lodges, near Cheddar in Somerset
If you’re looking for luxury lodges in Somerset then Strawberryfield Park’s got your name on it and is just five minute’s drive from Cheddar village. The thing is, their luxury eco lodges (all with hot tubs) are so lovely that you probably won’t want to leave the park and explore the local area.
Read my review of Strawberryfield Park to find out if their luxury eco lodges with state of the art appliances and contemporary decor are the perfect accommodation for your Cheddar holiday. I’m guessing it will be. Did I mention the hot tubs…?
5. Explore Cheddar Village
Island beds and river in Cheddar village, Somerset
The village is really pretty and well worth exploring. Head to Lower Gorge to enjoy riverside walks and mini waterfalls. We were there in October and the autumn foliage was beautifully reflected in ponds and small lakes which are dotted with island beds.
The Cheddar Yeo is the largest underground river system in the UK and can be seen in Gough’s Cave. The river emerges in the gorge and flows through the village alongside the main road where there are a series of small waterfalls and a dam. Some of the water is diverted to Cheddar reservoir. Make sure you check out the Market Cross in the old village which dates back to the fifteenth century.
The Market Cross, Cheddar
6. Check out the Cheddar Shops
There are plenty to shops in Cheddar as well as tea rooms, restaurants and pubs. Many are souvenir shops and some sell outdoor gear and equipment as well as local ciders, produce and, of course, Cheddar cheese.
7. See how Cheddar cheese is made
Cheddar cheese made in Cheddar
Pay a visit to the family-owned Cheddar Gorge Cheese company to learn how cheddar cheese is made. It’s the only cheddar cheese in the world that’s actually made in Cheddar. You can see the cheese-making process and discover the unique method of ‘cheddaring’ in a self-guided tour. Cheddaring is a unique way of turning and stacking the blocks of curd before the cheese is shaped.
Some of the cheese is cave-aged in Gough’s cave which has the perfect humidity and constant temperature to age it perfectly. You’ll notice the difference in flavours between the cheeses in a tasting at the end of your visit.
Food is one of my favourite souvenirs to bring home from a trip. We bought some of the cave-matured and vintage Cheddar and had a cheese fest at home a few weeks after our trip.
Also pay a visit to the Original Cheddar Cheese company who’s shop, which is the oldest cheddar cheese shop in the world, and cafe are also located in the town. They’ve been making cheddar since 1870 and sell a fabulous range of cheeses, farmhouse cider, crackers chutneys and pickles in the shop. I had to be dragged away.
8. Cycle the Strawberry Line
Cycling The Strawberry Line
Years ago the fields in the area were prime strawberry producing lands. After being carefully picked and packaged they were transported up to London by train. The trainline, called the Strawberry Line, is now a cycle and walking trail which is perfect for family traffic-free walks and bike rides.
9. Gough’s Cave
Gough’s Cave, Cheddar
Gough’s Cave is one of the most popular things to do in Cheddar. The 500,000 year old cave is the largest and most impressive of Cheddar’s show caves. A tour of the 155m deep cavern takes you through 2 miles of chambers where you’ll see rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites all lit with atmospheric lighting. You’ll also see shelves filled with huge wheels of aging cheddar.
The cave was excavated in the late nineteenth century by local man Richard Cox Gough and is where the 10,000-year-old Cheddar man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, was discovered. A self-guided tour with an audio guide is available where you’ll learn more about the geology, history and excavation of the cave or you could just make your own way round.
To visit Gough’s Cave, you’ll need the Cheddar Gorge and Cave Explorer ticket which can be purchased online at a 15% discount for £16.95. If you buy on the day at the ticket office expect to pay £3 more. The ticket covers a number of Cheddar attractions including the Dreamhunters at Cox’s Cave, the Museum of Pre-history, Jacob’s Ladder (which is one way to get to the Gorge walk) and Beyond the View.
10. Rock climbing at Cheddar Gorge
So, by this time, you’ve driven through the gorge, you’ve hiked the gorge and you’ve seen the fabulous views from the top of the gorge. Now it’s time to climb Cheddar Gorge. Cheddar is an international centre for rock climbing and caving. Mr Jones used go caving and pot-holing here back in the day, although he’s never climbed the gorge.
Rock climb at the gorge by booking a climbing experience online or through the Cheddar Gorge Ticket office. The climbing equipment is provided and expert instruction will guide you up the 50ft high outdoor climbing wall. Introductory sessions last around 1.5 hours and cost £24.95 per adult and £18.70 per child. You don’t need to have previous experience but you will need to book in advance through Cheddar Gorge & Caves as sessions are limited.
11. Walk round Cheddar reservoir
Cheddar reservoir is a great option if you’re looking for more relaxed, level walking or some fishing and birdwatching amid beautiful scenery. The reservoir, which provides the people of Bristol with drinking water, was constructed in the 1930s and is supplied by the River Yeo. The walk around the reservoir loop is 3.5 km. There is free parking at both the Sharpham Road entrance and the Cheddar Road entrance.
12. Dinner at the Bath Arms
The Bath Arms, Cheddar
The Bath Arms, sits close to the old Market Cross and it’s where we had a fabulous meal on our first night. The large pub and restaurant is a great place to spend the evening with a few drinks and good food in cosy surroundings.
Mr Jones loved his Crispy Bang Bang chicken, teriyaki vegetable, noodle & fresh herb stir fry, sweet chilli sauce & sesame seeds. I opted for the slow cooked lamb shoulder with pomegranate and cashew Asian salad & crispy noodles. The portions were a good size and we started with a complimentary amuse bouche. We didn’t have room for dessert. As well as the Asian themed dishes the usual favourites of burgers, fish and chips and various pies also make an appearance the extensive menu.
The Bath Arms is also a lovely hotel with plenty of parking and is within easy walking distance of the gorge.
The Bath Arms, Bath St, Cheddar BS27 3AA
13. Go wildlife spotting at Cheddar
Cheddar Gorge is home to an array of wildlife including a herd of free-roaming feral goats. We encountered them a number of times by the side of the road and on the gorge itself. Soay sheep, a native breed to Britain, also graze on the hills. They’re a hardy, ancient rare breed that can be spotted clambering along the cliff edges. Keep an eye open for horseshoe bats flying in and out of the many caves and caverns. Dusk is a good time to spot them.
Black Rock Nature Reserve is one of three Somerset Wildlife Trust reserves in the Cheddar Complex. It’s linked to two others; Velvet Bottom and Long Wood. Many birds can be seen here including woodpeckers, nuthatches and redpools. Buzzards and kestrels can be seen over the gorge and, if you’re lucky, Peregrine falcons. Badgers and dormice live in the woodland.
Some species of rare plants grow on the steep, rocky slopes of Cheddar Gorge including the nationally rare little robin and the Cheddar pink.
14. Try Somerset Cider at the Cider Barn
When in Somerset… try the cider! A great place to try good locally produced cider is the quirky Cider Barn just outside Cheddar village. The rhubarb cider is delicious, entertainment’s on tap – this includes the bar staff, the locals and the owner’s dog. It’s a fun place to visit with occasional open mic nights. The Cider Barn serves up a good pizza and an eclectic range of music from the jukebox. You’ll need call ahead and book.
Latches Lane Crossroads Draycott Road, Cheddar BS27 3RU Tel: +44 1934 741837
15. Further afield – day trips from Cheddar Gorge
Nearby attractions which are all within a half an hour drive include
- Wookey Hole
- Glastonbury Tor
- Cathedral city of Wells
Wells Cathedral, Somerset
How to get to Cheddar, Somerset
If you are driving to Cheddar from London then take the M5 and exit at Junction 22. Follow the A38 for 7 miles looking out for the brown tourist signs that will take you along the A371 and then the B3135 before you arrive at Cheddar. The journey is around 3 hours depending on traffic.
Bristol is only 18 miles from Cheddar and the drive takes around 40-minutes. Take the A38 before joining the A371 and the B3135. Alternatively, take the A37 then the B3135.
From Bath it’s 23 miles and takes around 50 minutes. Take the A39 and then the B3135.
Get the train to Western-Super-Mare and take FIRST bus number 126 to Cheddar. On Sundays it’s the 826. The bus journey takes around an hour and six minutes.
There are a few options for Parking in Cheddar but you’ll need to arrive early if you’re visiting during high season as spaces fill up quickly. We had no problems parking in mid-October. Parking is charged at £5.50 per day. If you arrive after 3pm charges are reduced to £3.50 Tickets for parking can be bought from the pay and display meters (if they’re working) or you can buy them at the kiosk at the entrance to the caves. The revenue is put back into the conservation and development of the Gorge.
We parked in Cliff Street council car park at the bottom of the village which is £5.50 for the day or you pay less for shorter length time periods.
There are small car parks dotted along the side of the road in the gorge itself which are also pay and display. Overnight parking is not permitted in any of the car parks.
So, there you have it. Everything you need to know and a good variety of things to do in Cheddar to make sure you have a fabulous visit. Have you been to Cheddar? Is there anything I’ve missed? Share your tips in the comments below.
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Note: My accommodation at Strawberryfield Park was hosted. However, all food and drink and any attractions visited in Cheddar were at my own expense.
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