Cheddar Gorge walk
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.
Discover one of England's most iconic landscapes
Cheddar Gorge 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.
National Trust Information Centre, grid ref: ST 46636 53911
Take the stony track (Cufic Lane) diagonally opposite the National Trust information centre in the lower Gorge area; the gatepost has markings for the Cheddar Gorge walk.
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.
Turn right at the first finger post to join the permissive path leading up through the woods for between 15 and 20 minutes. This ascent is on a stony path with steps in places which can be muddy when wet. Half way up note the large cave off to your left. If very wet a slightly better alternative is to continue past the first finger post, up the track and follow the footpath behind Cufic cottage and then immediately right to follow a parallel path up through the woods (marked on the map with a dashed line ). When you reach the top of the ascent go through the gate and join a wide grassy path leading diagonally upwards (the alternative route joins slightly to the left at this point). Keep the stone wall to your right as you ascend, you will see some wooden marker posts en-route. This was the site of many of the cliff scenes from the film “Jack the Giant Slayer”.
Peregrine falcons are just one of the birds that call the cliffs home which, if you're lucky, you may be able to spot overhead. Buzzards, ravens and jackdaws also nest in the gorge.
Follow the path to the top, through the kissing gate marked with the gorge walk sign. Look back from this point for magnificent views of Cheddar, Glastonbury Tor, the Somerset levels and Bridgwater Bay. The following section is rocky in places and can become very muddy in wet weather. Follow the obvious path along the side of the Gorge before descending via a long set of steps to a deep valley.
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.
At the bottom of the steps cross a stone stile leading straight ahead (temporarily leaving the waymarked Gorge Walk which turns right here). After crossing the stone stile, the path leads through a wooded area and descends to meet the “Black Rock” stony path. This stretch can become muddy.
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.
Where the path joins the stony track turn immediately right through a farm type gate and onto another gate to join the main Gorge road.
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.
Carefully cross the road and slightly diagonally to your right join the path which rises to the other side of the Gorge (signposted Draycott and West Mendip Way). This path is steep, rocky and uneven as it rises through the woods.
At the top the path levels out and passes through a gate to join a wide grassy path. Keep to the right; do not follow the West Mendip Way sign which branches off left. Follow the path through a set of high gates with a wooded area to your right with glimpses of the other side of the Gorge beyond. Rise to the brow of the hill before starting to gradually descend. Keep the wire fence to your left and do not approach the sheer side of the Gorge over to your right. At this point you have fantastic 180 degree views. Keep to the obvious wide grassy path for your decent. This section can become exposed in windy weather so ensure you wear suitable layers. Towards the bottom of this section keep your eye out for a rocky outcrop to your right which offers excellent views of the lower Gorge. However, exercise caution – there’s a sheer drop off on the Gorge side.
Follow the rocky path downwards through the woods passing through another tall gate with Pavey’s lookout tower in front of you. Please note Pavey’s lookout tower and Jacob’s Ladder steps are only open to Cheddar Gorge and Caves Explorer Ticket holders.
Before the tower follow the path heading left and downhill through the woods (no signs) to join Lynch Lane. As you join Lynch Lane turn right and then at the end right again to walk down the narrow Lippiatt road.
At the bottom of the Lippiatt at the junction with the main Gorge road turn right to follow the pavement back to the National Trust Information Centre.
National Trust Information Centre, grid ref: ST468543
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