Set in the beautiful Mendip Hills over in the English county of Somerset, Cheddar Gorge is a natural spectacle you can’t miss if you’re adventuring out this way.
With hiking possibilities aplenty, along with a ton of other adventures, historical and anthropological treats, not to mention a good smattering of wildlife spotting, view snapping and cheese-eating thrown in for good measure, this really is an all-round winner.
Certainly one of the best day trips you can enjoy in southwest England, and accessible from many parts of the country as part of a long weekend, Cheddar Gorge is a big British bucket list tick in my book!
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Why Visit Cheddar Gorge?
If you’re looking for wild goats, epic hikes, elevated views and a lot of cheese, Cheddar Gorge is the place for you!
It’s also the place if you’re keen on local cider and learning about the oldest complete human skeleton found in Britain.
Yes this guy – Cheddar Man – was found here in 1903!
He’s estimated to have been around 9,000 years old and was found in the caves beneath the cliffs at Cheddar Gorge – pretty amazing really!
Cheddar Gorge is also a must-visit if you like British bucket list classics because, as England’s largest gorge, Cheddar Gorge is certainly that.
Indeed in national polls, it’s repeatedly voted one of the UK’s top natural icons!
Sadly made from limestone and not cheese, Cheddar Gorge is still a stunning sight and on a beautiful blue sky day makes for an epic place to drive, hike, rock climb and explore.
It’s also a great opportunity to discover the surrounding Mendip Hills, which are a registered Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty.
Cheddar Gorge is also free to visit and enjoy, you only have to pay for parking and if you want to visit the caves.
This makes it a great option for budget travellers in the UK too.
When to Visit?
There’s no question in my mind that the best time to visit Cheddar Gorge is during the summer season, when the UK’s good weather allows you to get the nicest experience from your time there, especially if you want to enjoy some hiking and rolling countryside views.
The only problem with the summer and the weekend at the Cheddar Gorge is that they are the busiest times, so do be warned!
If you have the option to visit on a weekday, or outside of school holidays, then I’d advise this, as parking and getting some good snaps without a ton of other people in frame will be a lot easier at these times!
How to Get To Cheddar Gorge
The nearest train station to Cheddar Gorge is Weston Super Mare.
This is regularly services by trains from London, Bristol and other major UK destinations.
As always, I use Trainline to book my UK travel, as they compare a huge range of transport options (as well as use split-fare features) to get you the best deal on ticket prices.
Their handy app also allows you to track your journey and save all your tickets in one handy place!
From Weston Super Mare, bus number 126 can bring you to Cheddar village, from where you’ll be able to access the gorge.
If you’re looking to get from Bath to Cheddar Gorge using public transport, then it’s best to go via Wells, which is a gorgeous city that lies just 8 miles southwest of Cheddar.
Use s bus number 173 or 174 to get from Bath to Wells and then bus 126 to get from Wells to Cheddar.
From the village of Cheddar, you can then walk to the Gorge.
To get from Glastonbury to Cheddar, I’d again recommend going via Wells using bus number 376, 77 or 29 from Glastonbury and then following the second half of the journey I just outlined above.
Otherwise, you can easily drive to Cheddar Gorge from across Somerset and the southwest of the UK.
Hiring a car is probably the best option if you want to explore other destinations in the Somerset area too, as public transport in this rural county can be a bit thin on the ground.
This was the transport choice I opted for when I visited Cheddar Gorge and I was really glad of the flexibility an electric hire car gave me.
If you’re looking to hire a car in England, Thrifty Car Hire offer some very competitive rates. Ensure you always get the best deal from them by following my top 12 tips for bagging a cheap car rental in the UK.
Worth noting that much of the parking at Cheddar Gorge is paid parking, but if you’re a National Trust member like me, you can park for free.
Alternatively, if you drive up into the gorge, past the main car parks, there are a couple of off-road parking options that many locals use for free!
Otherwise, if you can’t be bothered with the hassle of public transport, driving or parking, you can take a tour to Cheddar Gorge, which includes some of the other highlights in the region.
Check out these top picks…
How Long to Spend There
One full day is enough to explore Cheddar Gorge, as most of the walks in the area take a few hours and the village itself really is small.
Staying nearby is a good idea so that you can minimise your day trip journey time and maximise your time at the Gorge – more on this in the where to stay section later in this article.
If you’re looking to experience more of Somerset than Cheddar Gorge (which you definitely should by the way!), then do allow a few more days – perhaps a long weekend – to check out some of the other top spots I list in the places to visit near Cheddar section of this article.
Top Things To Do at Cheddar Gorge
#1 Hike the Clifftop Walk
Honestly, hiking is the best reason to come to Cheddar Gorge and the Clifftop Walk here is the best in my opinion.
This walk takes you all along the ridge of the gorge on one side, before you cross over, and head up the cliff and along the other side back in the direction you came.
There are some shortcuts, so you can make this walk quicker by joining it halfway, otherwise the full walk is still pretty accessible and will only take a few hours.
It’s definitely worth it for the best experience and views of the gorge, as well as the surrounding countryside.
The clifftop walk is well signed and marked, meaning it’s hard to get lost on this one – very handy!
For other walks in the area, the free version of the AllTrails app (not sponsored, I just think it’s great) provides some good routes and options.
#2 Rock climb
Get ready for a rock-climbing session if you want to take your adventure at Cheddar Gorge to the next level.
This is a great activity if you are an experienced climber.
British Mountaineering Council and affiliated clubs, who hold current 3rd Party Liability Insurance, are welcome to climb for recreational purposes here.
Learn more here.
#3 Visit the Caves
Home to the Cheddar Man – or at least they were before he was excavated – the Cheddar Caves can be visited as part of a tour.
Tickets need to be bought in advance online.
This entitles you to see the stunning stalactite caverns, as well as visit Gough’s Cave, which has the largest underground river system in Britain and has gained international recognition for its historical and geological significance after Cheddar Man was found here.
I didn’t actually do this, as it was closed due to Covid-19 when I visited, but there’s also a Museum of Prehistory you can explore that is included in these tour tickets too.
#4 Eat Cheese & Drink Cider
Well you can imagine that a place called Cheddar probably has a lot going for it in the cheese stakes, and you’d be right!
Yup trying cheddar cheese in its original home is absolutely one of the best things to do while you’re here, especially as there are so many varieties to sample.
Time to tuck in!
#5 Explore Mendip Hills
And why not use a day in Cheddar Gorge as an opportunity to explore the surrounding area too?
The beautiful Mendip Hills (which Cheddar Gorge sits on the edge of) are an officially recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and exploring them shouldn’t be missed.
Driving through the hills, to take in the quaint villages here, is a great idea.
I also recommend checking out Black Down – the highest peak in the region – as well as Blagdon Lake – there’s a lookout spot near the village of the same name which has lovely elevated views over it (see the photo later on in this article!)
Things to Know Ahead of Your Visit
Cheddar Gorge National Trust & Parking
The north side of the gorge is owned by the National Trust.
Members get free parking at the site – or they are supposed to, but personally, I couldn’t find the free NT parking area.
The rest of the parking here is paid and the car parks seemed to be owned by the organisation that operates the cave tours.
Free parking further up the gorge, past the paid car parks, can be found by just pulling in safely along the side of the road – just follow the locals!
The Village of Cheddar & Lower Gorge Shops
The village of Cheddar is reached before you get to the bottom of the gorge – it’s about a 10 minute walk away.
Closer to the gorge and the parking area is the Lower Gorge shops.
This place is really touristy and horrible in my opinion and I’d just drive straight through if I were you!
Both tacky and overpriced, I’d avoid even stopping for refreshments here and, instead, recommend bringing your own snacks and water to the gorge and do your relaxing, eating, drinking and staying in the nearby beautiful city of Wells – learn more later on in this article.
Facilities at Cheddar Gorge
There are no facilities at Cheddar Gorge, so do ensure you use the bathroom beforehand.
I also advise bringing wet wipes and tissues with you, as you’ll likely want to picnic or at the very least, snack, when you’re at the top of the gorge.
As I say above, I recommend bringing all food and drink with you.
Navigation Around the Gorge
Cheddar Gorge can be driven through, which is a great thing to do either at the beginning or end of your visit to enjoy it from a different perspective.
Otherwise, it’s all about using your 2 feet to get around the Gorge and the nearby village – which is so small, no other options really make sense!
Because this is merry old Somerset and not the wilderness, it’s actually pretty hard to get lost around Cheddar Gorge – you’ll either be on 1 of 2 sides of the gorge, or in the road that runs through the middle of it!
Walks and trails are well marked, defined and signed and there’s usually other people around too.
Nevertheless, if you feel happier, then downloading maps.me or AllTrails is a good way to ensure you can orientate yourself as you hike.
Dangers at the Cheddar Gorge
Don’t tread too close to the edge of the gorge if you are walking along the top – there are no safety barriers and the limestone cliffs can crumble.
Beware the wild goats – there aren’t violent or aggressive, but probably best to just leave them do their thing and not pester them too much!
If you have a parked car, just remember to keep valuables out of sight and lock the doors.
If you’re driving in and around Cheddar Gorge please exercise caution and go slow – many accidents occur here due to speeding and the winding roads.
Things to Do Near Cheddar
#1 Marvel at Wells
England’s smallest city, and it’s prettiest too in my opinion, Wells is an absolutely delightful spot I stumbled upon by accident if truth be told!
The huge Cathedral here even had me lost for words, and the Bishop’s Palace and Gardens are just delightful.
Don’t miss the historic Vicar’s Close – possibly the prettiest street in Britain – and a drink or meal in the beautiful cobbled central market square.
Discover more about Wells – the hidden jewel in the crown of Somerset – in this blog post I wrote all about it.
#2 Explore Wooky Hole Caves
A great place for families visiting the area, the Wooky Hole Caves make for an excellent day out with a whole heap of attractions on offer including the UK’s largest cave system!
There’s also a cave museum, a mini golf course, mirror maze, mystic fairy garden and some animatronic dinosaurs the kids will love!
For the adults, lovely grounds and walks (plus a decent café) complete the picture in this top Somerset day out.
#3 Check Out Glastonbury Tor
Deep in the heart of Somerset, the magical town of Glastonbury seems to run on a diet of myth and legend.
From narratives about King Arthur, through to Joseph of Arimathea and the Isle of Avalon, this an ancient town, where the wafting notes of history seem to play out everywhere.
If you’re not quite up to speed with my biblical and monarchic myths, then Glastonbury is the perfect place is delve in and learn more; otherwise, if you are well-versed in them, then Glastonbury is probably something of a holy grail for you!
In either case, the main thing you should do is visit the town of Glastonbury and the Tor, which stands on an impressive hill and offers stunning 360 degree views over the Somerset countryside.
Learn more in this post I wrote all about the best things to do in Glastonbury.
#4 Visit the Historic City of Bath
And now we come to a rather more famous thing to do in Glastonbury, but it’s a classic for a reason!
Yes one of the UK’s flagship tourist cities, and rightly so, from the amazing Abbey to the beautiful buildings and shops, right up to the Roman Baths, this one is a bucket list tick you can’t miss!
Learn more in my perfect Bath day itinerary here.
#5 Get your Culture Fix in Bristol
Probably the most eclectic city in Somerset, Bristol is a cultural hub in the region, one that’s alive with music, performance, street and spoken word art.
It’s got its historic parts too and the Clifton Suspension Bridge views shouldn’t be missed, but Bristol is really all about the more contemporary creative scene for me.
Top picks include a Banksy walking tour, as well as the chance to visit the bars and gig venues in Stokes Croft – here’s my top Bristol itinerary for more ideas.
#6 Chill out in Frome
And last but not least, we come to the cute and quaint Somerset town of Frome.
Not far from Glastonbury, and also quite high on the alternative vibes, Frome is less well-known, but it is still beautiful.
Definitely one of the best places to visit in Somerset, don’t miss strolling by the river in Frome, enjoying a delicious brunch in the Black Swan café, or shopping at the amazing boutique shops on Catherine Hill.
Where to Stay near Cheddar Gorge
When it comes to accommodation, I actually found the options in Cheddar poor and over-priced – a bit like the village itself in my opinion… sorry not sorry!
Which is exactly how I stumbled upon the dream that is the historic city of Wells just a few miles away from Cheddar Gorge.
As such, my top tip if you’re visiting Cheddar Gorge is to stay in Wells too and, if you’re on a budget, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the Premier Inn Wells.
Just a 15 minute walk away from the centre of the city, including the Cathedral, there’s free wifi, as well as tea and coffee facilities and luxurious Hypnos bed in all rooms here.
An onsite restaurant also makes grabbing breakfast before your day trip to Cheddar both easy and straightforward.
For something more independent, The White Hart Hotel in central Wells is a top-rated Bed & Breakfast that regularly gets top ratings thanks to its excellent location and good value for money.
Modern décor and excellent staff complete the good food which is served in the gastropub below.
Alternatively, Glastonbury is another great spot to stay close to Cheddar, if you’re looking for some more alternative vibes.
The Glastonbury Travelodge is the best option for budget travellers here, as it’s less than 2km from the Tor and within walking distance of the Abbey. There’s free parking here as well as many eateries around too.
For something more independent, the 4* Glastonbury Townhouse is a top- rated Bed & Breakfast that gets repeat praise for its location, comfort and service.
Alternatively, Middlewick Holiday Cottages offers farm stay accommodation just outside of Glastonbury town with a range of comfortable rooms, cabins and glamping pods to choose from. This is the best place to take in the wonderful countryside with free parking and farm animals onsite!
5 Key Packing Items for Cheddar Gorge
And finally, here’s my list of the top 5 packing essentials you shouldn’t head to the beautiful city of Wells without.
#1 A Good Camera – No doubt you’re going to be snapping like crazy in this amazing gorge and need to ensure you have a good camera to do the place justice.
I love my Sony A6000, which is light, compact and great for travel.
#2 Decent Walking Shoes – No point coming this far and not being able to enjoy a walk in the wonderful Somerset countryside.
Get prepared therefore and ensure you have a decent pair of walking shoes – these cross trainers from New Balance are ideal (and totally stylish) for the job.
#3 Light Waterproof Jacket – Whatever the time of year, you have to remember this is England after all, a country in which the heavens can open at any point! Don’t get caught out therefore and ensure you have a good lightweight and waterproof jacket with you.This North Face one is perfect.
#4 Compact Hiking Day Pack – I never go on any day trip without a sturdy backpack to ensure I’ve got everything I need and that the weight is equally distributed across my back and shoulders.
This super featherweight Marmot Kompressor is my go-to, because it folds down to nothing and is water-resistant.
#5 Portable Charger – And finally, I would never head off anywhere without my trusty Anker Portable Charger, which keeps my phone and camera charged, meaning I can take all the snaps and use all the maps I need during the day!
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it my complete guide to visiting Cheddar Gorge in Somerset.
I hope I’ve inspired you to explore England’s longest gorge and one of the country’s top natural icons.
It really is a beauty!
Have you visited Cheddar Gorge?
How was your experience?
If you have any more tips to share (in particular about where to find the National Trust free parking!), then please drop them into the comments below this article and help a fellow traveller out!