I've been looking forward to sharing this article with you for a while. During the summer we visited so many beautiful places. We drove all over the South West of the U.K visiting coastlines with high cliffs and brutal waves, golden sandy beaches, quaint villages, surf spots, market towns and vast grassy dunes. The very first stop on our travels though was my personal favourite, Cheddar Gorge.
More importantly it was Cheddar Gorge's cliff top walk. When we first planned our visit to the Somerset town of Cheddar I knew I wanted to walk the ridge line above the famous gorge. When people think of Britain they think of history and our famous time periods that have not only shaped the U.K but countries around the globe. Cheddar shows a different side of history. A prehistoric history and one that allows you to see how the country was shaped and formed millions of years ago. The oldest British human skeleton was found there in 1903 thought to be around 9000 years old, the subterranean caves show the layers upon layers of limestone which form the Mendip hills around the area and remnants of Upper Late Paleolithic times have been discovered in the gorge.
The gorge was formed during the melting winters of the Ice Age where water penetrated the limestone caves and formed the gorge. With grassy slopes to the North and sheer vertical cliffs on the south side its a natural wonder from the top of the bottom. You can easily see it from the bottom as a road winds it way through the cliffs. We took the more challenging option and walked the Cliff Top Walk.
The walk begins in the town centre. Make your way to the gorge, which is well sign posted, and look out for the National Trust visitor centre. Between the town centre and the visitor centre you could be forgiven for thinking you'd gone to Blackpool. For me this is the least enjoyable part of the walk. The gift shop and arcades have opened in this part of the Gorge but rest assured that once you pass them you'll soon forget them!
Once you find the Visitor Centre take the road opposite and climb quickly. Before you reach the top of the road you need to take the foot path on your right through a wooden gate. This path climbs steeply through firstly a grassy meadow and then woodland. As you're climbing through the woods make sure you keep a look out for the cave on your left hand side. It is worth a detour to this cave.
Once at the top of the hill and the edge of the woods you'll find flat grasslands for a while. The path crosses this field and continues on the edge of the gorge. Keeping the wall to your right and continue until you find an obvious path. This area is well inhabited by mountain goats so be aware of them and don't approach them. They've been known to headbutt!
The path now winds along the North side of the gorge. The views are not as good from this side unless you deviate from the path. We found a stile which took us down a narrow path to the edge of the cliff. The sides are not as steep on the North side but do be careful if leaving the main path.
Continue on this path until it drops down hill. There are steps to make the descent easier. Once at the bottom continue straight ahead, (turning right takes you back along the road), and follow the path through the trees. You'll eventually reach a right turn and the path becomes much wider and takes you to the road. Cross the road and walk into the trees again. This path takes you up to the South side of the gorge. It climbs very steeply again but unlike the first steep section this path zig-zags up the hill making the climb slightly easier. Once you've reached the top and the ground levels out you follow the well-trodden route through the woods until it opens up in front of you.
When the ground opens up you've got two options. Stay left and walk back towards to town or stay right and walk along the very edge of the gorge. Its here that you can really see the incredible power of nature. The ground falls away from you and the next think below you is the road 450ft away! There is no guard rail, no safety signs or warnings. It is how it should be. Natural and raw. A million miles from the amusements at the bottom of the road. We spent around 4 hours walking and around 1 hour of it was spent enjoying the views from the South side. Each new bit of rock jutting its way out of the cliff allows a new vantage point. It becomes an addiction.
Once you've sat and enjoyed the views continue along the path and you start to head downhill. You'll notice the amount of people growing too and that's because you're nearing Jacobs Ladder. A scenic path and set of steps from the road up to a vantage point on top of a viewing platform. When you reach the top of the steps follow them down to the road and back to the start point. Turn left at the road and find somewhere to rest your legs!
Once your back in the town centre you can stop and buy some of Somerset's famous Scrumpy cider, we got some Legbenders cider from a shop in the gorge, or you could find a nice pub for a meal. I'd recommend The Bath Arms in the town centre. Muddy boots welcome!