If you’re on holiday in Somerset, you might be wondering what the best things to do in Cheddar are. Most famous for Cheddar Gorge, which is arguably the most impressive gorge in the country, this is a popular Somerset tourist town that is great for a staycation any time of year!
Cheddar Gorge’s inland limestone cliffs and the ancient market town is one of the most-loved day trips from Bristol and Bath, and I’ve visited here a few times when I’ve been living in Bristol. It’s also a popular stop on many people’s Somerset itineraries.
However, Cheddar is also an ideal spot for a holiday because there are so many fun things to do and adventurous activities in the area. So, here’s my list of must-do Cheddar attractions!
15 Fun Things to do in Cheddar
Note: Gough’s Cave, Dreamhunters, the Museum of Prehistory and Rock Climbing are currently closed due to lockdowns. Hopefully, they will reopen soon! Visitors are still encouraged to visit Cheddar for nature, the cheddar cheese and to support the local shops and restaurants.
Cheddar Gorge Loop Walk
Hiking is probably the most popular activity in Cheddar. The best walk is, in my opinion, the Cheddar Gorge loop walk, which takes in panoramic views of both sides of the gorge and gives you some epic views over the Mendips and the town of Cheddar. You’ll be wowed at this natural beauty – these inland cliffs are like nothing I’ve ever seen in the UK before.
The Cheddar Gorge loop walk starts from near the National Trust visitor’s centre. The beginning is a very steep climb, and it is only recommended for people with a moderate level of fitness.
You then follow the gorge in a northerly direction, taking the time to admire all of the views. The route is quite well signposted, but you’ll eventually need to cross over the road and walk on the other side before descending Jacob’s Ladder.
It’s a four mile/ 6.4 kilometre walk, but make sure that you leave plenty of time to do it because of the steep start. The National Trust website recommends 1 hour 40 minutes, but it took us closer to 2 hours (and we were training for the South West Coast Path!). If you have a dog who likes climbing hills, this route is popular with our four-legged friends.
Other hikes near Cheddar Gorge
If you want to do more than one hike or don’t fancy the Cheddar loop walk, you can indeed do plenty of other hikes in Cheddar.
- Three Priddy Droves – this takes you around the beautiful fields of the nearby village of Priddy.
- Ebbor Gorge Circular Walk is another gorge – not as famous as Cheddar – near Wookey Hole.
- Velvet Bottom Circular Walk – this is a nature preserve at the bottom of Cheddar Gorge. You can drive to Black Rock car park and follow it from there.
- Blackdown is the highest peak in the Mendips and it is accessible as an add on to the Cheddar Gorge loop walk.
- Around Cheddar Reservoir (more information below).
Drive through Cheddar Gorge
If you can’t hike, you can get a sense of the epicness of Cheddar Gorge just by driving through it. This is the biggest gorge in the UK, and it’s something that you wouldn’t typically expect to see in this country!
I wouldn’t recommend doing the drive on your own – as the view is so epic, to look at it properly, you need to be in the passenger seat! If you drive from Cheddar to the village of Priddy (12 minutes), you can park here and change drivers, and then drive back the same way!
You might also want to stop in the Cheddar Gorge and Caves car park – this is right in the middle of the gorge, so you can spend some time marvelling at the view above you!
Try some Cheddar cheese
Of course, no trip to Cheddar would be complete without trying some authentic Cheddar cheese. Somerset food isn’t generally all that famous, with one exception – this type of cheese.
Cheddar cheese has become a household staple in British fridges in the last few decades and is one of the most popular types of cheese in the world. And it originates from right here – a small town nestled in the Mendip hills.
Where is the best place to try Cheddar cheese in Cheddar? I hear you ask. Well, there are two main places (with very similar names).
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company heralds as ‘the only cheddar made in Cheddar’. You can browse their shop and sample some different cheese flavours (such as port, chive and onion!), and also do a guided tour around the factory.
Tours cost £2.50 per person, and you’ll be able to see how they make the cheese – the entire process takes seven hours, but you’ll see whatever bit that they are currently doing! Then, you can enjoy a cheese tasting in their shop.
The Original Cheddar Cheese Co is, as the name suggests, the oldest cheese shop in the area, dating back to 1870. You can try some of their delicious sharp cheddar cheese and enjoy a drink in their neighbouring cafe.
Make sure that you sample cave-matured cheese while you’re in town too! This is a cheese that has been left to mature in the natural cave environment, giving it a distinct taste.
We bought cheese from both shops and didn’t notice much difference in taste. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company does have a few interesting flavours, though! One thing that’s worth noting is that all of the cheese we bought didn’t last quite as long as normal cheese – so bear this in mind and don’t purchase more than you can eat within a few days or so.
Try some Somerset cider
The West Country and cider go together hand in hand – and when you’re in Cheddar, you should try some of the stuff! At the Legbender cider shop, you can purchase a glass or bottle of cider – make sure that you get one to take home with you too! All of the drinks are from a nearby Somerset cider farm.
If you don’t drink or are visiting with kids and don’t want them to be left out, it’s still worth visiting the cider shop, as they also make some of the best fresh apple juice that I’ve ever tasted.
Sample ice cream
Your Somerset food options aren’t limited to cheese and cider. While you’re in town, you can also try some homemade Cheddar ice cream! 100 Flavours is a really popular ice cream shop with almost every flavour imaginable. If you’re vegan or don’t eat dairy, they also have an extensive vegan menu.
Look in all of the shops
Cheddar has lots of small independent shops to check out. Whether you’re looking for a souvenir, buying outdoor hiking gear, or want to purchase more local produce, there’s plenty to choose from in Cheddar!
Walk around Cheddar Village
With an ancient market square and an old Saxon palace, Cheddar village is a lovely place for gentle riverside walks and exploring. Look out for the grade II listed market cross, which was where the market took place in the 16th century.
The Cheddar Treasure Trail
If you want to add another dimension to your exploring, you could do the Cheddar treasure trail. This takes in the gorge and Cheddar village and gives you mysteries to explore and curious facts that you can impress everyone with over dinner. If you get stuck on any of the puzzles, they even have a phone text service that you can use to get a clue.
It’s one of the best things to do in Cheddar with kids, but it’s equally fun if you’re an adult! You can read more about the Cheddar treasure trail here.
Visit Cheddar reservoir
Cheddar Reservoir is an enjoyable family day out if you’re in Cheddar – or, if you’re visiting as a solo traveller or group of adults, it’s a great spot to go for a walk!
The reservoir is popular for boating or fishing, but it’s also a lovely place to enjoy the water and walk around. It will take around 1 hour to circuit the whole lake, and it’s a much easier walk than elsewhere in the area.
You can’t swim in Cheddar Reservoir because it is used for drinking water.
Climb up Jacob’s Ladder
There are a few ladders – which are staircases going up to the top of Cheddar Gorge, and Jacob’s Ladder is perhaps the most famous. Now, you do need to pay to climb up Jacob’s Ladder – however, you can buy a ticket for the full ‘Cheddar Gorge Experience’, which includes the caves as well as this ladder.
However, if you do the Cheddar Gorge loop walk, you will end up at the top of the ladder, and you don’t need to pay to go down.
That being said, some people just want to enjoy the view without doing the whole hike, and in my opinion, its easier to hike up the staircase than the steeply inclined hill on the other side. Don’t take these stairs lightly though – there are 274 of them!
At the top of Jacob’s Ladder, you can see an epic view of the gorge and surrounding countryside. If you fancy going up some more stairs, you can also climb up the lookout tower for an even more impressive vista.
Visit Gough’s Cave
There are a lot of fascinating caves near Cheddar Gorge, Gough’s Cave perhaps being the most famous. It is a large show cave that shows visitors the epic natural phenomenon of these prehistoric caves and teaches them a little about fascinating prehistory.
This cave was where Cheddar Man was found – the remains of a Mesolithic skeleton who has helped historians paint a picture of what kind of people were living in the UK around 10,000 years ago. They’ve also uncovered some evidence that cave dwellers used to partake in ritual cannibalism…
Gough’s Cave is a must if you’re looking for things to do in Cheddar, especially if it’s raining!
Dreamhunters is the newest kid on the block when it comes to Cheddar attractions – it’s a 30 minute immersive experience all about our ancient ancestors.
Using loads of information and evidence that historians have uncovered, Dreamhunters puts together an accurate picture of the prehistoric people who used to dwell in Somerset and has created an easy to digest, informative and entertaining show all about it!
Go rock climbing
If you’re an adventurous soul, a rock climbing session in Cheddar is a bucket list experience! While the cliffs at Cheddar look like they’re just begging to be climbed on, it’s important to bear in mind local restrictions and the community – the BMC explain some of the issues that Cheddar has had with climbers in the past in this blog post.
There are a few companies who do rock climbing experiences, including Cave Climb. Here’s their website – you can drop them a message if you’re interested in climbing.
Visit the Museum of Prehistory
Another one of the best activities in Cheddar is visiting the Museum of Prehistory and learning all about Cheddar Man. As I explained, these were the remains of a man found in 1903 dating back around 10,000 years.
These remains helped historians get a good idea of what humans in Britain looked like 10 millenniums ago. This information could help DNA scientists and anthropologists – plus, it’s absolutely fascinating.
You can learn all about ancient humans at the Museum of Prehistory. If you’re looking for rainy day Cheddar Gorge attractions, this is an excellent option!
Cheddar Car Boot Sale
If you’re in Cheddar on a Sunday, why not visit the Cheddar Car Boot Sale? If you aren’t from the UK, a car boot sale isn’t where people sell car boots (trunks) – it’s an outdoor market where anyone can sell items – the idea being that they park up and set up a display in their car boot!
The people selling are normally locals who are having a clear-out of their possessions – it costs around £10 for a spot. You can find all sorts of weird and wonderful things here – it’s a great place for window shopping or looking for a really unique souvenir!
There is also an ice cream van and ‘The Hut’ on site, which serves takeaway food.
The car boot sale is open from 6am – 2pm every Sunday.
Afternoon Tea at Lion’s Tea Rooms
If you’re looking for a pick me up after a busy day of exploring, the Lion’s Tea Rooms is a tasty spot for a cream tea. This British afternoon snack originates further south, in Devon and Cornwall, but they do them all over the country and Lion’s Tea Rooms is famous for them now. Choose from a standard cream tea with a cuppa, or opt for their afternoon tea with a selection of sandwiches and cakes, finished with either tea or a glass of bubbly!
Go on a day trip
We don’t think you’ll get bored in Cheddar, but there are lots of nearby attractions too! Here are some ideas for places you can visit:
- The city of Wells, which has Wells Cathedral, Vicar’s Close (the oldest residential street in Europe) and the beautiful Bishop’s palace.
- Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor, and many quirky shops and cafes in Glastonbury high street.
- The city of Bath, with Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths, and the Thermae Bath spa amongst other attractions. See all of the best things to do in Bath here.
- The city of Bristol, which has the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Britain, a beautiful harbourside and lots of street art. Here are the best things to do in Bristol.
- Weston Super Mare and the Somerset coastline.
- The rest of the Mendip Hills! I love Priddy, Blagdon and Black Down, which is the highest peak in the area.
- Wookey Hole is a nearby cave network that has lots of kid-friendly attractions.
How to get to Cheddar
Cheddar is an easy day trip from Bath or Bristol – it’s a 40 minute drive from Bristol and a 55 minute drive from Bath.
There is a bus to Cheddar from Wells (156), and you can connect here for bus services to Bath and Bristol. You can also take the same bus to Weston-Super-Mare, where there are rail services to London, Exeter and Plymouth.
It’s a bit of a long route to get to any other UK cities by public transport! But the best way to reach Cheddar by car is to either drive to Junction 19 of the M4 and go through Bristol (but be wary of traffic in the centre) or take the M5 to Junction 21, or Junction 22 if you are driving from the south.
Where to eat in Cheddar
There are a range of restaurants in Cheddar. From very British pubs to international fare, you won’t go hungry in this town!
- The Riverside Inn serves a range of food, including cooked breakfast, British pub grub, and kid’s snack boxes. There are plenty of veggie and vegan options. It is a popular location with parking – if you are visiting Cheddar from outside town and use their pub (and if it’s not too busy), they might let you park in their car park for free for the rest of the day. Make sure that you ask them first though, as it’s at the manager’s discretion.
- Franks Restaurant is a European restaurant at the foot of Cheddar Gorge. They serve up modern inspired dishes and traditional Sunday roasts.
- Rockface, which is a popular pizza restaurant.
- The White Hart, a traditional country pub in the town, serving up delectable Sunday dinners and high quality food every night of the week.
- Tuckers Fish and Chips, the most popular chippy in town with indoor seating!
- Zen Thai Restaurant, serving delicious South-East Asian cuisine right at the foot of Cheddar Gorge.
- La Rocca Restaurant, which is a popular pizza/ Mediterranean eatery.
- Visit Cider Barn for local ciders and music!
- Edelweiss Cafe serves delicious roasts on Sundays as well as a range of meals throughout the week.
Where to park in Cheddar
As I mentioned, if you eat at the Riverside Inn, they may let you park there for free. If not, there is a large car park next door and a few roadside car parks around the gorge. You will need to pay for parking at all of these – you can use the JustPark app to pay cash-free. Most guesthouses and hotels will offer overnight parking, or they will be able to direct you to a suitable place to leave your car.
Where to stay in Cheddar
As it is such a popular tourist town, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of places to stay in Cheddar. Here are our top picks.
- YHA Cheddar – this is a great budget option for backpackers and solo travellers. There are private rooms and dorms on site. Click here for more information.
- Gordons is a cosy guesthouse serving a delicious included breakfast and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool. Click here for more information.
- The Bath Arms is a four-star property and a popular pub in town. The upstairs rooms are well-lit rooms and have comfortable beds. Click here for more information.
- Strawberryfield Park has luxury self-contained cabin accommodation with outdoor terraces and hot tubs. Click here for more information.
Cheddar is the perfect trip for adventurous souls who want to span the gorge, and it’s also one of the most popular sports in the country for family getaways! Whether you’re a solo traveller, couple, group to family, you’ll find that there are so many things to do in Cheddar gorge. Enjoy your trip, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our Somerset posts for more information about visiting this beautiful county!