Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Distance: 15.5km/9½ miles l Ascent: 550m/1805ft l Time: 4½ hours l Walk type: Hills and valleys
Rising abruptly to the north of the Somerset Levels, England’s largest gorge brings unexpected drama to the rolling, limestone landscape of the Mendip Hills. Escaping Cheddar’s touristy side, this walk explores the peaceful northern edge of the gorge, a haven for wildlife and walkers alike.
Navigation Level: Moderate l Difficulty: Moderate l Type: Circular
Where: Circular walk around Cheddar Gorge in Somerset’s Mendip Hills. Bus 376 from Bristol (First – firstbus.co.uk), change at Wells, then bus 126 to Cheddar (Libra – libratravel.co.uk). By car, follow the B3135 up Cheddar Gorge from Cheddar until you reach the parking area.
Start/End: Blackrock Gate parking area on the B3135 nr Cheddar, BA5 3BT (ST482545).
Maps: OS Explorer 141, OS Landranger 182.
Eating & drinking: The White Hart, Cheddar (01934 741261 thewhitehartcheddar.co.uk); The Edelweiss Café, Cheddar (01934 742347 edelweissrestaurant.co.uk).
Guidebooks: Day Walks in Somerset by Jen & Sim Benson (£14.95 Vertebrate Publishing ISBN 1912560607)
1: From the parking area, follow the steep, rocky bridleway uphill through woodland. Continue through a gate and follow the main path right to reach a grassy area at the top of the gorge, pausing to take in the views to Cheddar reservoir and the Somerset Levels beyond. Carved by glacial meltwater, the gorge measures 137m (449 ft) deep and 4.8km (3 miles) long. Follow the path along the top of the gorge heading downhill and through a gate to the top of Jacob’s Ladder and the lookout tower.
2: Facing the tower, turn left and follow a smaller, less obvious path through trees and steeply downhill to Lynch Lane. Follow the lane downhill, then turn right onto The Lippiatt and into Cheddar, turning right onto The Cliffs Road. As well as being used for centuries for aging cheese, the caves here were once home to Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, thought to be at least 9,000 years old.
3: Just before the Lion Rock café, turn left onto a footpath then right up some steps (signed Gorge Walk). Continue steeply uphill into woodland and through a gate into a field at the top. Turn left over a stile to join the West Mendip Way, then turn right, passing Piney Sleight Farm and continuing to reach a track junction. Go straight on, following the track down through Charterhouse Farm and back up to the road. Turn right on the road, then left onto a footpath through fields. Continue through a gate onto moorland, following the path right to a junction.
4: Turn left, heading uphill to a junction at the top. Turn right here, following the ridgeline to the trig point at Beacon Batch, the highest point in the Mendip Hills. Bear right, descending south-east to reach path junction and gate (point 4). Go through the gate, up to the masts then downhill to the road. Turn right onto the road, then left onto a footpath. Follow the edge of a field to a path junction, then turn right and continue to a junction with a byway. Continue on the byway to the end of a lane at a small car park. Turn left, following the byway alongside moorland to the next road.
5: Turn right onto the road then left onto a footpath down the dry river valley at Velvet Bottom. A former lead mine, rare flora found here include spring sandwort and meadow saffron. Continue across the track junction, down the valley and through a gate. Turn left, passing Black Rocks and following the track downhill and back to the road to finish.
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