What images spring to mind when you think of the English countryside. Are you thinking of gentle, rolling hills of patchwork fields? Or of dramatic, rugged mountain peaks with deep gorges and far off glistening lakes? Even we thought it offered pleasant but uninspiring landscapes. It turns out, we’ve been wrong about everything! If you want to see some of the most magnificent landscapes on the planet, the UK is the place to go. The UK’s largest gorge is in the county of Somerset in the south west of England. For the best views and a real feel for just how impressive this place is, the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk is the way go.
Cheddar Gorge Cliff Top Walk
Climbing Jacob’s Ladder and 250 million years of our planet’s history
Our exhilarating 3 mile Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk began at the at the base of Jacob’s Ladder. Aptly named, Jacob’s Ladder ascends the gorge and there’s a staggering 274 steps to reach the top. There are a few, much needed, stopping points on the way up. On reaching the top you’ll feel delighted to have made it. If the length of Jacob’s Ladder represents Earth’s geological timeline, human history is the thickness of a sheet of paper on the top step. The vastness of time becomes clear when you gaze back at 250 million years disappearing into the Cheddar Woods below.
We brought my Dad along for our trip to Cheddar Gorge. Dad’s in his 70’s, keeps a brisk pace and he’d put me to shame climbing Jacob’s Ladder. I insisted he lead the way to save my embarrassment as he was bound to overtake me! His face tells another story though.
Spectacular Views from Pavey’s Lookout Tower
So you think you’ve reached the top? Think again! Pavey’s Lookout Tower is another 48 steps but if you’ve made it this far, you must climb it. It’s not for the faint hearted and NOT for those scared of heights. You’re rewarded with stunning views across the Mendip Hills, Exmoor and the Somerset Levels.
Cheddar Gorge Cliff Top Walk
Now I guess, if you’re short of time and you have fine, healthy knees you could go back down Jacob’s Ladder. That’d be a waste though as the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk is stunning.
The terrain is quite rough in parts. Most of the first half is uphill. It’s rocky underfoot and there are a few low hanging branches and protruding tree roots. Although we had fine weather, it’ll be pretty muddy and slippery after any rain.
We stopped to take loads of photos. The scenery demands it and it’s a good excuse to take a break from the uphill climb. My Dad was still leading the way though and there was no stopping him!
There were plenty of people better organised than us who stopped for their picnic lunch on the trail. With these views, who can blame them?
Gorgeous Scenery of the Cheddar Gorge Cliff Top Walk
The expansive views all along the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk are spectacular.
Want to explore more of the UK’s incredible scenery? Check out the breathtaking landscape of the English Lake District.
The path is set well back from the cliff edges and it’s hard to resist getting a closer look. Vertigo will kick in, even for those without acrophobia. There’s a 450 foot vertical drop back to the village below!
Most of Cheddar Gorge is home to Cheddar Woods. As you’d expect from British woodland, this is a fine habitat for local fauna and wildlife. This tree stump was completely covered by some sort of growing mushroom.
The woodland floor is covered in ferns with their vibrant leaves giving a green mist like look.
We were even treated to the final few days of the bluebell season!
Love British bluebells? Take a look at a carpet of bluebells in England.
The Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk is a circular 3 mile route. Towards the halfway mark, the route brought us down a steep sided drop through some woods. There’s bound to be an easier way down, and when Dad was halfway down it, he sure wished he’d taken it. He managed to get down in one piece though. Just!
This is where the route crosses the road that winds its way through Cheddar Gorge. We could have crossed the road, climbed some more and followed the path back down to the village. But hey, my Dad’s in his 70’s so we followed the road back down. That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it!
To be honest, we’re pretty pleased we did take this route. Walking below the cliff edges we’d just climbed put the scale of the gorge into perspective. It’s a downhill walk all the way. “Yippee”, we cried!
And just check out this road!
Even the feral Soay sheep that live in the gorge love the views!
The Chocolate Box Village of Cheddar
Picturesque and pleasant, Cheddar is a beautiful chocolate box village. If you have any energy left after the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk, you can spend another few hours here.
Walking around Cheddar village is so relaxing; it’s totally charming and exquisitely English.
There are a few caves here in the village too, set into the gorge itself. To be honest, I visited them years ago and I didn’t find them that impressive. Having since seen St Michael’s Cave in Gibraltar, I reckon it’d be a tall ask to trump that now anyway. We didn’t visit the caves this time. Instead we opted to visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company and watch the cheeses being made. It’s an interesting display and when you’re done it’s time to sample a fine selection of flavours. It’ll add plenty of pounds to your waistline and it’ll take plenty out of your wallet too! It’s not cheap, but it’s oh so yummy! Try the mature cheddar with a healthy slosh of port! The best!
There was only one way to end our day in Cheddar Gorge on such a fine day. Cream teas all round from the Wishing Well Tea Rooms. Is there a finer thing than fresh baked scones, with clotted cream and strawberry jam? Only if they’re served with a big pot of English tea. Just perfect!
The Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk is an experience you’ll not forget in a hurry. When you’re on your UK road trip, try something more exhilarating than just driving through the gorge. Gaze up at the beauty that mother nature created. Don you walking boots and go on the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk.
Useful Information for Visitors to Cheddar Gorge
Where is Cheddar Gorge? Cheddar Gorge is in Somerset, England. It’s about 20 miles from junction 22 of the M5 motorway. If you’re travelling to Cheddar Gorge from London, it’s best to hire a car. It’s about 150 miles and much quicker by road than by rail. There are no direct trains from London to Cheddar and you’ll need to catch a bus to get to Cheddar from the nearest train station at Weston-Super-Mare.
Parking can be quite difficult in Cheddar village and it’s rather expensive at £5 per day. If you drive past the village towards the top of the gorge, there are lots of free parking spaces. As these will probably be on your walking route anyway, it’s no hardship.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company closes at 3:30pm. If you arrive about 3pm, you might get lucky and be offered a free tour of the cheese making area.
You can buy tickets for the Cheddar Gorge attractions online at www.cheddargorge.co.uk. You’ll receive a 15% discount for buying them online but you must buy them by midnight the day before your visit. You tickets will give you entrance to Gough’s Cave, Cox’s Cave, the Cheddar Man Museum and the open top bus that will take you through the gorge.
If, like us, you don’t want to visit these attractions, get your map for the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk from the National Trust centre. If you go via the Tourist Information office, you will be charged £5.50 to go up Jacob’s Ladder.
Cheddar Gorge is managed by the National Trust. You can pick up maps for the Cheddar Gorge cliff top walk from their information centre. This walking route is free.
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