When I was first asked to visit Cheddar, I had visions of lurking in a cave to stare at mouldy cheese. Who would’ve thought that I’d arrive to find people climbing cliff faces, free scrumpy and cheese tastings, cliff top walks and breath taking views? Very glad to be wrong…
The village itself looks as though tourism has taken over with ginormous signs exclaiming ‘Adventure Tours’. Shame but, to be fair, Cheddar have plenty to crow about and why not play to your strengths? In an era when so many villages struggle to create prosperity, it’s immediately evident that Cheddar have (very successfully) carved out their place amongst the rock faces and cheese wedges to serve tourists.
We started our visit at Gough’s Cave. On a 28 degree sunny summer day, I must say it was more than a welcome relief to find the cool subterranean climate. Cheddar is very dog friendly, there are few places where our furry friends are unwelcome. So, our springer spaniel (Molly) accompanied us everywhere.
The guided tour is cleverly marked but I found myself more fascinated by the sheer visual spectacle than the narratives. A history of the caves can be found on their website and they tell the story much better that I. So, here is a taster of what we saw instead…
One spot inside the cave teases of a primitive mammoth drawing. Though my partner and I both clambered through a small opening with high hopes to see something wonderful, what lie inside was hardly recognisable. It was quite the stretch to call it any sort of animal definitively. However, it was the only disappointing exhibit within Gogh’s Cave and so you can’t really whinge.
After the cave, it was time to let loose the hound on one of the many trails that divert from the gorge. The paths lead to various nature reserves, each worth visiting in their own right. Most hook up to the three mile cliff top walk, for those who are adventurous and enjoy a semi vertical climb.
The Mendip Way also forms part of this vast network – it’s a ramblers paradise – and there are plenty of picturesque places for a picnic lunch. Just make sure to purchase your supplies in town as there is nothing but nature at the top!
At this point, my partner, who is far more fit, and I split ways. He ventured to the top of Jacobs ladder. He’s such a good sport – while I explored the village further. Whilst he found the best views… I found cheese and scrumpy tasting. I much preferred my diversion to his 278 step climb.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is one of the only companies allowed to store and age their cheese inside the caves we’d just visited. They offer a fantastic array of cheese flavours to sample in their shop and, well since I was there and had plenty of time, I had to try them all just to be thorough 😃
From their award winning smoked cheddar to the more exotic cheddar with fiery chilies I did find it difficult to chose which to take home. I settled on three – it really was a hardship. When you visit, you simply must try their cider and chive cheddar. Absolutely divine!
Almost next door is the Legbender Cider Shop, which is owned and run by Rich’s Farmhouse Cider company.
Rich’s make traditional Somerset cider – otherwise known as scrumpy. Some folk may not know what scrumpy is so it might be worth an explanation…
Scrumpy is cider made in Somerset – usually not carbonated. It’s cloudy and has a higher than average alcohol content.
Scrumpy has only recently enjoyed a bit of fandom outside of Somerset with buy British campaigns. Before this, you either had to visit the West Country to have tried it, or caught the odd barrel that made its way to London, which is where I was first introduced.
I have been in love with scrumpy since first taste. There is something quintessentially Somerset about it. Maybe it’s the apples – or the mule like kick you feel when you drink it too fast. But you know you’re in Somerset when you drink this cloudy nectar.
Scrumpy’s not for everyone. And those who have never experienced it may want to start with a sweet or medium variety. But why not try them all – the tasting is free. You may find one that resonates with you – of course, they all might after a few tries!
Cheddar is a great place to visit for a day out. It offers plenty to do for families, single travellers, climbers, ramblers, history enthusiasts and even a few bright spots for us foodies.
There are also plenty of small tourist shops to satisfy arts and crafts hunters.
Would I return?
Definitely. I didn’t have enough time to fully explore the village and I’m sure I missed quite a lot. Plus, who could resist another cheese and scrumpy tasting? 😉
*** A special note here for families with ‘furry’ friends, Cheddar is dog friendly. You can take your dog nearly everywhere from the cliff top walk to the caves and around town without hassle. Which was a great relief for Molly. ***
***You get a 15% discount if you book tickets online the day before – something I was not aware of but you can benefit from. Click here to visit the Cheddar Gorge Website.