We were heading to a camper van meetup in Somerset in early April. If we know we have to be somewhere by a set date we can look at our route and plan stops on the way. On this occasion we stopped in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. Home of cheese and Cider! I have been to Cheddar before and couldn’t wait to take Louise.
Driving to Cheddar is beautiful from every angle and is a great place to use as a base due to the amount of campsites in the area. I have stayed at 2 different campsites in Cheddar now.
What is it?
Cheddar is a limestone gorge on the south side of the Mendip Hills. It is where Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton was found during cave excavations in 1903. He has been named Cheddar Man and tests on his DNA show that 9,000 years since his death, there is a direct descendant of his living in the Cheddar area to this day!
Cheddar Gorge is a site of special scientific interest due to rare plants, caves and Vertebrate palaeontology. The gorge is 3 miles long and 400 meters deep! 2 of the caves are now open along with several other attractions such as the museum of pre-history. The museum displays many artefacts of great historical importance, that shed invaluable light on our ancestors and how they lived, have been found in Cheddar Gorge and it’s caves.
Jacobs Ladder is another attraction in Cheddar that’s included in the ticket price. At the exit of the Dreamhunters cave you can ascend the 247 steps straight up to the top of Jacobs ladder. Once there the panoramic views are breath taking. If your legs are still up for the challenge, there is the look out tower where you can go up even more steps (48) and take in the sights.
The climb is well worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Mendips and beyond. To the south you’ll see the flat, lush water meadows of the Somerset Levels. To the north you’ll see the windswept plateau that runs for over 22 miles east to west! If you don’t fancy walking 247 steps back down you can always do some or all of the cliff top walks through a nature reserve.
At over 500,000 years old and excavated in the late 19th century, this is the most magnificent cave in Cheddar. I recall that the walk is around a quarter of a mile into the cave. In severe weather it has been known to flood to the entrance. You will also see where the famous Cheddar Cheese is put to mature at a consistent temperature of 11 degrees.
This cave system takes you through formations where the River Yeo carved its way hundreds of thousands of years ago. You can spot where whirlpools put pressure on the rocks and hollowed them out, as well as stalagmites and stalactites that have formed slowly over that time. St Paul’s Cathedral and Solomon’s Temple will have you in awe as you gaze up at rocks above you.
After your exploration of the caves, there are plenty of shops to wonder around. These include ice cream parlours – we found one with over 100 flavours! There are gift shops and cafes in the gorge as well as the obligatory Cheddar Cheese shop and the cider shops too.
If you don’t manage to visit all of the attractions in one day, don’t worry! you have a whole year from your purchase date to visit again and use the rest of the ticket.
You can walk into Cheddar Village where you will find supermarkets and other shops. Parking in Cheddar can be tricky especially if you have a larger vehicle so I would recommend staying on a site for a couple of nights and walking in!
I have stayed at 2 of the nearby campsites. Both easy to walk into the gorge and local shops.
Petruth Paddocks – Run by Jules and his family, Petruth Paddocks marks itself as a ‘free range’ campsite. With a lovely laid back feel and really clean facilities you will feel welcome here. Jules loved to drive around on his tractor and loan you a fire pit and sell you some wood. Its a great site for families, groups or just a quite get away. There is plenty of land and you can pitch where ever you like if you are happy on a field or they do have some electric hard standings available. If you want to splash out you could always hire a shepherds hut!
Cheddar Bridge – This is an adult only site, just a few hundred yards from Petruth. This quite site has the River Yeo running alongside it with many pitches able to take enjoyment from pitching close to the bank. It has plenty or hard standing pitches and a few camping pods on a field as well as 5 static caravans for hire. Facilities were clean and well kept.
We loved Cheddar and its such a beautiful place to visit. It is a popular attraction so in peak times it can be very busy. There are some lovely places to visit in the area too so we think you should make the most of it and stay longer!