In my quest to see more of my own country and to prove that there are all sorts of adventures to be had right on your own doorstep, our recent visit to Bath gave me a valid excuse to convince Mr Ayla into visiting somewhere else close by, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at that.
Not far from Bath, the small town of Cheddar is home to one of the greatest natural wonders in Britain; the 450ft Cheddar Gorge towered over us as we drove our way through its winding roads. Around every bend there was another stunning view with plenty of opportunities for me to shout at Alex to pull the car over for photos and to explore.
Apart from the gorge itself, Gough’s Cave is the main attraction at Cheddar; a huge cavern full of stalagmites and stalactites, secret chambers and underground streams, where you can meet Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest skeleton, and find out about how the cave has been used since the Ice Ages.
I found myself drifting off a little while listening to the audio guide and not really taking much in, so I had a little listen to the children’s version instead which I found a lot more interesting, full of witches, dragons and mice that turned into flying bats!
Alex decided to be the grown up for once and stuck with the adult audio guide so we swapped stories at the end!
Fun Fact: The only authentic cave-matured cheddar cheese in the world is made in Cheddar and matured inside Gough’s Cave. And I can tell you that it is delicious!
Cox’s Cave is much smaller than and not quite as stunning as Gough’s Cave, but The Crystal Quest makes it a lot more exciting for children (and possibly me in this instance). The Quest took us on an adventure through the cave passing through narrow corridors and shimmering pools as well as wizards, goblins and dragons battling on their own quest.
Fun Fact: The fantasy creatures in The Crystal Quest are based on JRR Tolkein’s stories who visited the caves himself on his honeymoon in 1916.
Having spent the entire morning in the darkness of the underground caves, it was time for a wander outside in the sunshine where we grabbed a bite to eat at one of the many cosy tea shops that line the main road into Cheddar.
We then made our way to the Lookout Tower, not realising that this meant a climb up 274 steps through the trees and then a further 48 up the narrow spiral staircase of the tower. We had done the Inca Trail a couple of months before though so this was a piece of cake (or so we like to tell ourselves!).
There are plenty of other things to keep everyone occupied in Cheddar including the Museum of Pre-History where you can find out about ancient discoveries that have been made; an open-top bus tour or cliff top walks around the stunning gorge. For those more adventurous, you can try your hand at rock climbing or adventure caving but Alex wussed out on the caving despite my keen adventurous side!
A highlight of our trip to Cheddar was, unsurprisingly, the cheese which is named after the town it originated in. So of course we couldn’t pass up on a stop at the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company to sample some of the famous cheese ourselves. We were shown around by John who runs the Cheese Company and has worked there for 11 years. John told us all about how the cheese is made and we got to see some of the cheese makers hard at work.
Fun Fact: Did you know that cheese is matured for up to 18 months before it’s sold? This means that cheese makers have to predict people’s tastes years in advance!
The shop was crammed full of people trying samples of the many flavours of cheese and umm-ing and ahh-ing over which to buy for themselves. We tried a few samples (okay, a lot of samples) ourselves – the yeast extract (aka Marmite) was my favourite while Alex preferred the garlic & herb, and to our surprise we both loved the strong taste of the oak smoked. We ended up taking home a whole load of cheese that was enough to last us for weeks!
I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of cheese before my trip to Cheddar but this place has me converted, as well as proving that there is so much to see a lot closer to home! Whether you’re an adult wanting to see the incredible views above ground, a child wanting to explore below ground, or just a big kid like me who wants to see it all, Cheddar Gorge is a fantastic day out.
I was a guest of Cheddar Gorge but all opinions are my own. However, I am a girl who’s very easily pleased so you won’t find much negativity from me here 🙂