I last went to Cheddar several years ago on holiday, so it’s a little odd to think that I now live under an hour away! I couldn’t really remember that much from last time I visited other than climbing Jacob’s Ladder and walking a little way along the top of the gorge so I was more than happy to return. With prehistory and cheese it was the perfect place to take my friend Sophie for a day trip – she’s an archaeologist and bit of a cheese fiend.
We arrived later than I had originally hoped but luckily we managed to get a parking space despite it being a beautiful day. I put it down to it being towards the end of the holiday season now… I’d recommend arriving earlier in the middle of summer! We bought a combined ticket online for all the cave attractions and I’d suggest booking in advance as we did as there is a reasonable discount.
Our first stop was Gough’s Cave, the largest of the attractions. There is a free audio guide tour included in the ticket price which is worth doing, especially as you can very easily pick and choose which bits you listen to. There is also a children’s version of the tour if you’d prefer to listen to stories rather than facts about the caves. I really enjoyed our walk around the cave, particularly the mirror pools which were nicely lit and at certain angles looked as if there was a small village inside. It reminded me how impressive caves are and how interesting they are to walk around. The two main chambers were particularly beautiful! We could also see the cheese being matured in the cave and learn a bit more about that, seeing as cheese is the other thing that Cheddar is famous for.
After a bite of something to eat (Cheddar could do with more picnic tables) we headed to the Museum of Prehistory to learn more about the famous Cheddar Man (the oldest complete skeleton found in Britain) and his contemporaries. As it was the end of a festival of archaeology there were a range of hands on activities going on outside so we were able to dress up in animal skins and dig for artefacts in a tray of sand. I found the museum quite interesting and well laid out, although it was quite small.
We then headed to the Dreamhunters exhibit at Cox’s Cave for an interactive experience. I’ll be honest, I was dubious about it before we went in and I was still less than convinced when we came out. Basically you went on a set route around a cave which was lit up in different colours, and every so often you would stop to hear a bit more of the prehistoric story, complete with projections against the rocks. The projections were admittedly quite impressive, but the story was quite odd. You might put it down to this attraction being aimed at children, but actually the story didn’t seem to be at all. The first bit was very surreal and felt like someone had written it whilst they were on drugs. Then later on it was talking about how much easier horses are to kill for food after they’ve been driven over a cliff and are already broken, which was just a bit unnecessarily graphic and gruesome. I’d have preferred to just walk around another cave as the story didn’t really add anything for me but I suppose it adds a different element to the experience.
Jacob’s Ladder was next in the list and was very steep so gave us some good exercise going up. We then went up a small tower as a viewpoint. As you could only really go up and down single file there was a bit of congestion at the top as people were trying to come up and down at the same time. Whilst the view was quite good from some aspects, some of the trees were quite overgrown so we couldn’t quite see as much as I expected. I would have liked to have done the gorge walk but we didn’t really have enough time so that will have to be something to save for another day.
No trip to Cheddar would be complete without some cheese so we ended the day heading to the official cheese shop and trying some of the cave matured cheese we had seen maturing. For the record, it was very good! I had a lovely day out and was really pleased to have returned. With all the different activities, shops and pretty tearooms there is definitely enough to keep you occupied for a full day so if you are in the area I would recommend it. Hopefully I’ll get to return to do the walk on another beautiful day!