The limestone cliffs of Cheddar Gorge are an arresting sight. One of Somerset’s top attractions, Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in England and a feast for the eyes. Located in the Mendip Hills, 50 minutes away from Bath and Bristol, the spectacular gorge offers a breathtaking walk along the cliff tops, fantastic views over the Somerset countryside and a great opportunity to spot wildlife. While visiting Cheddar Gorge is free, you may need to pay for parking.
How to explore Cheddar Gorge
Cheddar Gorge is England’s largest gorge at 400 feet (122m) deep and 3 miles (4.8km) long. The gorge was formed during the last Ice Age from glaciers melting and carving into the rock. Located in the heart of the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge features the typical limestone of the region. The spectacular cliffs are classified an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and are a wonder to admire.
To explore Cheddar Gorge to the fullest, I recommend following the Cheddar Gorge Cliff Top walk which takes you along the ridge of the gorge and offers breathtaking scenery. I’d also suggest driving through the winding valley and admiring the majestic cliffs. Unfortunately there are no footpaths in the valley. From the bottom of the gorge, you’ll be awestruck by the imposing height of the Cheddar cliffs.
The Cheddar Gorge Cliff Top walk
Location: Cheddar, Somerset
Walk difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1½ to 2 hours
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
The Cheddar Gorge Cliff Top walk is a circular hike along the two gorge ridges. Featuring two steep ascents to the top of the cliffs, this walk offers astounding views over the gorge, the Somerset hills, the town of Cheddar, and in the distance, Glastonbury Tor and the Bristol Channel.
The rugged cliffs of Cheddar Gorge
The Cliff Top walk starts at the village of Cheddar. Following the National Trust signposts, the first section of the hike takes you up a steep path through woodland. This is the first of two ascents to the top of the gorge. From the cliff top, you’ll enjoy splendid views of the gorge and the surrounding countryside. In my opinion, you can admire the best views of the spectacular, rugged cliffs from here.
Following the grassy path, the Cheddar Gorge walk continues along the cliff ridge. From there, you can spot wildlife, such as hawks and goats. Look for the goats in the nooks and crannies of the cliffs, where you would not necessarily think to look! Throughout the walk along the ridges, you’ll be amazed by the majesty of the Cheddar cliffs.
The breathtaking Somerset scenery
After heading back down into the valley, you cross the road and begin the second, rocky ascent to once again reach the top of the cliffs. The second half of the hike along the southern ridge offers even more breathtaking views of the Somerset hills and the Bristol Channel. Even though you can enjoy splendid scenery throughout this circular walk, you can admire the finest views of the surrounding countryside from here.
The Cliff Top walk then leads you back to the village of Cheddar through woodland. Although a fairly large village, Cheddar features charming streets and stone cottages typical of Somerset villages. Unfortunately I did find that the village was very touristy. Aside from the gorge, Cheddar is also renowned for its caves which you can visit for a fee.
To view the walk itinerary and map, visit nationaltrust.org.uk. Please note that you can also start the Cliff Top walk from the opposite side of the gorge to Cheddar, at the Black Rock lay-by (step 6 of the walk instructions).
Cheddar Gorge Cliff Top walk details
Location: Cheddar, Somerset
Time: Approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours with regular stops
Distance: 4 miles (6.4km)
Itinerary: Cheddar Gorge walk
Trail condition: Good, but the trail can get muddy in wet weather
Accessibility: Not suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs or bikes
Parking: Car parks in Cheddar (BS27 3QA – pay and display) or the Black Rock lay-by (BS27 3QF – free, limited spaces available)
Facilities: Toilets, shops and pubs available in Cheddar
Notes: Please be careful at the cliff edge
Explore the Mendip Hills further
One of my favourite day trips, the Mendip Hills offer rocky hills, spectacular scenery and fantastic walks. Exploring a limestone gorge, the Wookey Hole & Ebbor Gorge walk features rugged hills and infinite views. The highest peak in the Mendip Hills, Black Down boasts wild moodland and striking landscapes. Find more walks in the Mendips Hills and Somerset.