HomeLifestyleTravelMy Britain

My Britain: Cheddar Gorge

BY Alice Gawthrop

3rd Jan 2023 My Britain

My Britain: Cheddar Gorge

The Cheddar Gorge is a place of stunning scenery, ancient history and delicious cheese. Locals share what makes it so special

In the heart of Somerset you’ll find a spectacular sight: a limestone gorge almost 400 feet deep and three miles long, dotted with feral goats that seem to defy gravity as they graze on the cliffs. Cheddar Gorge has an ancient history, having formed during the last Ice Age and being the site where Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, was found in 1903.

Today, Cheddar Gorge and the nearby village of Cheddar is home to clifftop walks, underground caves (in which cheddar is matured!) and vibrant local businesses. For a perfect day, you can wander round the village, pick up a cheese sandwich made with what is delightfully referred to on every other shop sign as “genuine cheddar” and head up the cliffs for a beautiful walk.

We spoke to people who live and work in Cheddar about what makes the Cheddar Gorge so special. 

Paul Hemington

Paul Hemington, 57, is the Assistant Operations Manager at Cheddar Gorge and Caves (https://www.cheddargorge.co.uk/)

Gough's cave in Cheddar

Gough's Cave in Cheddar

I moved to Somerset mainly for my family. My daughter was getting married and I didn’t want to live six hours away, so we made the move. Once we moved, we were made redundant and then it was a mad scramble to get work, and I ended up at here at Cheddar Gorge and Caves. 

Cheddar Gorge is like nothing else in the UK. It’s a unique phenomenon, because although there are other caves in the country, you don’t have the gorge elsewhere. This is a major geological feature, it’s three miles long and there’s just this natural, raw beauty. I can sit at my desk in guest services and look out at part of the gorge. It’s amazing.

"Cheddar Gorge gets under your skin in the right way. You become part of it, it becomes part of you"

The Cheddar Gorge spirit is strong. You know, not having worked here or heard about the area, you come here and it gets under your skin in the right way. You become part of it, it becomes part of you. I’m very passionate about it! And there’s the amazing wildlife, the geology, the pre-history—Cheddar Man is still one of the greatest finds in the UK.

Rock climbing Cheddar Gorge

Rock climbing in Cheddar

Every day at Cheddar Gorge and Caves is different. You’ve got the rock sports side of things, the climbing, the caving. We take people through the caves on tours and we have pre-history, which we do with the museum, whereby we have schools come in and do demonstrations with them. We will dress up as authentically as we can to replicate the time period of the Cheddar Man, which is the Mesolithic period, so 10,000 years ago. We do fire lighting, for example, and hopefully it’s inspiring to the young people! It’s really cool to be in the museum garden and have part of the gorge as the backdrop while you’re doing it, so you can really immerse yourself in that moment. 

My favourite spot is when you go past the peak on the walk and you can look back down into the gorge or across to the reservoir. The view is amazing. Yes, you can see pictures of it, but honestly you have to be there to fully appreciate it. You might hear some buzzards or see some sheep or goats while you’re there, just to enhance the experience!

Carrie Daniels

Carrie Daniels, 28, is the Administrative Manager at The Original Cheddar Cheese Company (https://www.originalcheddargorgecheese.co.uk/)

The Original Cheddar Cheese Co

Photo courtesy of The Original Cheddar Cheese Company

I have lived close to Cheddar Gorge all my life. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all live locally. It has been so lovely to grow up in a village with the most wonderful countryside and the Mendip Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty, on our doorstep.

I love that Cheddar is a very rural village with a good little high street in the centre. Cheddar town has great access to the cities of Bristol, Bath and Wells. I am proud to be a Cheddar Gorge resident because Cheddar is world famous for its cheese, which is awesome!

Cafe Gorge Cheddar Gorge

The Café Gorge won Best Café in the Southwest of England 2022

Cheddar Gorge has a very unique atmosphere. Daytime erupts with human bustle, and as twilight takes hold the place becomes peaceful and you feel the wildlife come to life.

The Original Cheddar Cheese Company shop has been here since 1870, the first built in the gorge. Cheddar is the birthplace of farmhouse cheddar cheese and the home of real scrumpy cider. We are proud to be the current custodians, and we safeguard the tradition and heritage of purveying the real farmhouse handmade cheddar here in the store.

"As twilight takes hold the place becomes peaceful and you feel the wildlife come to life"

What makes us special is the quality of the local produce we have on offer from surrounding farms. Our Café Gorge next door was awarded the Best Café in the Southwest of England 2022!

My favourite spot is Velvet Bottom, a short walk up the gorge from Cafe Gorge. I like to sit and watch the wild goats eating all the shrubs and standing right on the edges of the cliff.

Katherine Lacoste

Katherine Lacoste, 45, is the owner of Old Rowlands Christmas Shop and Christmas Cottage Holiday Accommodation (https://oldrowlands.com/)

Katherine Lacoste, Old Rowlands Christmas Shop

Katherine with some Cheddar goats

I have lived in Cheddar for 4 years, having moved from Hampshire to purchase Old Rowlands Christmas Shop. I had never even visited Somerset until the year my husband and I saw Old Rowlands for sale. I had always wanted to own and run my own shop so we sold up and moved to Cheddar in 2018. 

"The gorge is spectacular any time of the year and is such a treat to have on our doorstep"

Instantly, we were welcomed by local people and regular visitors to Cheddar. I love the feel of the area! The gorge is spectacular any time of the year and is such a treat to have on our doorstep. I love walking along the top of the gorge and seeing the spectacular views. 

Cheddar has great community spirit and organises many events throughout the year such as the art trail, food festivals and festive night (late night Christmas shopping in the gorge).

Old Rowlands Christmas Shop

The Old Rowlands Christmas Shop

The Christmas shop has evolved over the last four years. We specialise in decorations you are not going to find in your local gift shop or garden centre. Some decorations are bespoke to us, many we design ourselves. I try not to repeat the same decorations every year so that returning customers always have something new to discover and fall in love with. I find the most satisfying part of my job is seeing the excitement on people's faces when they enter shop. For many, finding us has made their day, or even their holiday. 

This year my husband and I launched Christmas Cottage. Above the shop is a 3 bedroom maisonette with garden built into the gorge. We have themed the accommodation so that people can enjoy the spirit of Christmas any time of the year. We are thrilled it has been very well received and look forward to welcoming many repeat bookings next year.

One of my favourite places to visit in Cheddar is the reservoir. On a sunny day you could be mistaken for thinking you are on holiday. The Mendip Hills are in the background and paddle boarders on the res is a wonderful sight.

Plan your getaway to Somerset and Cheddar Gorge with Trainline.

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...