If you’ve ever visited Somerset before, then there’s a good chance you may have taken a trip down to Cheddar Gorge. The Gorge is very famous for many reasons – not only for its spectacular landscape, but also for its connections with cheese! Cheddar cheese – of course – gets its name from the area.
This truly spectacular stretch of land is also home to many archaeological marvels – did you know that there are ancient skeletons and Roman palace ruins lurking around the area? It really is a trip into the past – and here are some interesting facts about Cheddar Gorge you’ll do well to remember before you visit.
1. Where IS Cheddar Gorge?
Located in the County of Somerset In Southern England, the Cheddar Gorge is a main tourist attraction of the Mendip Hills. The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty really does deserve exploring in further detail.
2. There’s ancient bones here.
In 1903, Britain’s oldest skeleton, which is still complete and is now over 9,000 years old, was discovered in Cheddar Gorge! It is now on display at the Cheddar Show Caves. He’s referred to as the Cheddar Man!
3. Flooding created the gorge.
Flooding as a result of the end of the Ice Age created the Gorge, which is over three miles long. You can walk the whole of the trail from above, too.
4. A natural hall of mirrors!
Cox’s Cave is a magnificent sight and is definitely one of the highlights of the area. This natural spot boasts mirrored water and even has a few sculptures for you to spot along your walk!
5. Middle Earth for real!
It’s thought that the area around Cheddar helped to inspire JRR Tolkien to write the hugely popular ‘Lord of the Rings’ series of books. It’s pretty easy to see why, and the Cheddar tourist board really leans into the fantasy connection.
6. Things that flutter in the night!
An endangered species of bats live in Cheddar Gorge. Known as horseshoe bats, they are swift and sometimes difficult to spot flying in and out of the caves where they roost.
7. Deep swallets!
There are several ‘swallets’ at Cheddar Gorge. Swallets are caves through which water flows. They are very popular with tourists and make for brilliant photo opportunities.
8. Cheddar is surprisingly small.
The nearby village of Cheddar is fairly small and unassuming, despite its important place in cheese history. The 2011 census confirms that there were barely 5,000 people living there – we’ll have to see if this has changed with the 2021 results!
9. Some of Cheddar’s history is grim.
The Natural History Museum published a report in 2013, suggesting rather gruesome evidence of mutilation once took place here in ancient times, and what appeared to be evidence of cannibalistic rituals at the Gorge!
10. Take the stairs!
If you don’t fancy climbing the cliffs around Cheddar Gorge, you can always take Jacob’s Ladder. This is a series of 247 steps up the cliff trail – still a bit of a steep climb if you ask us! Better take a bottle of water and a deep breath or two.
11. Cliff walks galore!
The cliff top walks along Cheddar Gorge will get your blood pumping, too. These extend for up to three miles, so bring a comfy pair of walking boots with you!
12. Follow the strawberries.
A cycle track has been created recently to follow the old train track known as the ‘Strawberry Line’ and which was popular for transporting visitors to the area. Strawberries have been a welcome sight and delicious lucrative crop grown in the area for hundreds of years!
13. How warm should a cave be, anyway?
Cheddar Gorge Caves used for storage of cheese are maintained at a temperature of seven degrees Celsius. Did you know that Cheddar cheese was initially created here by accident?
14. Accidental cheese?
Legend has it, a milkmaid accidentally dropped a pail of milk in a cave at the Gorge, which was being used to store milk. It turned bad and the cheese formed which proved to be tasty! That, of course, is where Cheddar cheese gets its name.
15. Underground opulence!
There was actually a full, ancient palace buried deep underneath the Kings of Wessex Academy. There are remains of the palace still in the school’s grounds to this very day.
16. Done ‘Roman’!
Builders working on the Wessex Academy in 2006 had a huge shock while extending the school. They happened across two skeletons – though to date back to Roman times – hiding in the rubble!
Do you know any fun facts about Cheddar Gorge? Share them in the comments below!