Cheddar Gorge walk
The Cliffs, Cheddar, SomersetRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
At almost 400ft (122m) deep and 3 miles (4.8km) long, this is England’s largest gorge, and with its weathered crags and pinnacles, one of our most spectacular natural sights. It plays host to a varied community of specialised plants and wildlife, many of which you’ll get the chance to spot on this exhilarating circular walk.
- Bus stop
Start: National Trust shop and information centre, grid ref: ST468543
Take the track called Cufic Lane, which is off The Cliffs, opposite the National Trust Information Centre. A short way up this track you'll see a National Trust omega sign and a gate leading up a steep path.
Cheddar Gorge is a great, deep fissure cutting through the Mendip Hills which would have begun forming about one million years ago during the last Ice Age. At the end of the last Ice Age, water from melting glaciers formed a river, which over time started to carve into the limestone rock creating the steep cliffs you see today. The Cheddar Yeo River gradually made its way underground, creating the famous Cheddar caves.
Go through the gate and keep to the path leading up through the woods. This is a very steep path, and the most strenuous part of the route, but worth the climb. Continue uphill until you get to the top of the path and go through the gate at the top.
Peregrine falcons are just one of the birds that call the cliffs home which, if youre lucky, you may be able to spot overhead. Buzzards, ravens and jackdaws also nest in the gorge.
Head towards the stone wall diagonally to your right. Keep the wall/fencing to your right at all times, the cliff edge is just below this area. Continue up the path until you reach a kissing gate. Go through and follow this path. At the bottom of the hill, turn right and follow the track to reach the main road (B3151).
The famous Cheddar pink, and other rare plants like rock stonecrop, grow on the cliff edges. Look out for rock rose and herbs such as thyme, wild basil and marjoram on the lower slopes, which have a pleasant scent in hot weather.
Turn left and continue up the road for a short distance until you see a footpath on the right side of the road, heading steeply uphill through the woods. Follow this and on reaching the top of the hill, continue walking until the path divides. NB: for a shorter walk, turn right and follow the B3151 back to the Information Centre. Caution is needed as there are no pavements and the road is busy with some sharp bends.
Britain's oldest complete skeleton, the Cheddar Man, was found in Goughs Cave in Cheddar Gorge. It is estimated to be 9,000 years old. Other remains dating back even further suggest humans have lived here for a very long time. It is thought the caves under the gorge were used for cheese-making as far back as prehistoric times. Cheddar cheese is still made here using the milk from cows which graze in the pastures around Cheddar.
Bear right rather than taking the route marked to Draycott, and continue until you see a very tall gate. This is now going into land owned by Cheddar Gorge, but this part of the attraction is free and open to the public. You'll quickly reach the highest point of the Gorge and can look across to the other side you've just walked along. Follow the path leading downwards until you get to Jacobs Ladder and Paveys Lookout Tower. Don't go down Jacobs Ladder but instead take the quieter path to the left, through the trees, which brings you out onto Lippiat Lane.
Feral Soay sheep live in the gorge. They help to graze the grasslands and scrub, creating a healthy habitat for the rare plants. Originally native to the Scottish island of Soay, the species is a primitive ancestor of the present day domestic sheep.
Turn right down the hill and right again at Shannaz Restaurant, onto the high street. Walk back up this road to arrive back at the National Trust Information Centre.
End: National Trust shop and information centre, grid ref: ST468543
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- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 4 miles (6km)
- Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
- OS Map: Explorer 141; Landranger 182
This is a moderate 4-mile (6km) route along paths. Several stiles and kissing gates, rough walking in sections and some steep climbs. It is not advisable to attempt this walk in foggy or very windy weather. SAFETY IN CHEDDAR GORGE: Please do not stand under the cliffs as small rocks may fall at any time. Use only the footpaths signed for the gorge walk at the top and bottom of Cheddar Gorge. It is dangerous to depart from these footpaths.
- How to get here:
By bike: Strawberry Line (National Cycle Networt Route 26) is an 8 mile (12.8km) trail linking Cheddar to Kings Wood, leading to Wavering Down and Crook Peak
By bus: service 668, Street to Lower Langford, stops at Tweentown, Cheddar.
Service 126, Weston-Super-Mare station to Wells, stops at Winscombe and Cheddar
By train: Weston-Super-Mare, 9 miles (14.4km)
By car: for Cheddar Cliffs take A371 to Wells from Weston-Super-Mare. 8 miles (12.8km) north-west of Wells, signposted off M5, A371 Axbridge to Wells road and A38 Burnham to Bristol road
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