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There's nothing cheesy about Cheddar!!
The Cheddar Gorge Rural Village (England)
Member Name: Caveat-Emptor
The Cheddar Gorge Rural Village (England)
Date: 13/07/09, updated on 11/10/10 (168 review reads)
Advantages: Enough attractions to keep you and your better half happy!!
Disadvantages: Not particularly a cheap place to visit.
My review of The Cheddar Gorge Rural Village.
Nestled among the Mendip Hills in North Somerset is the Cheddar Gorge Village, with it's spectacular cliffs, extensive cave system and the tourist shops that have grown up along the one main street that runs from Tweentown uphill past the cave entrances and finally up into the Gorge itself... But I'd like to concentrate my review on the top part of the village; the caves and museum.
My Opinion/ Features
I know Cheddar very well and have been visiting since I was a kid; what first drew me there were the caves... which were inhabited by our ancestors while they waited for various hapless animals to wonder up the Gorge (the Gorge made an ideal ambush place for woolly mammoth etc). There's even some evidence to suggest that the cave inhabitants may have also been cannibals -lol!
So what's any of this got to do with the village? Well one of the more interesting tourist bits (part of the Cheddar Cave experience) is the museum -which is near the top of the main road, almost at the start of the gorge proper.
In the museum is the skeleton of Cheddar Man one of the oldest complete skeletons to be found in Britain... and amazingly a DNA test a few years back showed Cheddar Man to be distantly related to the town's local school teacher!!!
Underneath the museum is the entrance to one of the cave networks (there are three accessible to the public; Gough's cave Cox's cave and a 3rd fantasy cave that's very Lord of the Rings inspired...
The caves themselves are truly spectacular -many people wrongly believe that special lighting is used in Gough's and Cox's caves to colour the rocks; this is not true -the colurs are the result of the various minerals in the rocks.
The caves are a surprisingly good place to visit in really hot or really cold weather because the temperature is very constant deep underground -so no matter which temperature extreme you've left outside; in the caves it's always a comfortable unchanging temperature. (The caves are usually open all year round -so feel free to visit out of season).
The only artificial addition to the caves (bar the essential walkways, hand rails and electric lighting) are pools of water that are added where beautiful stalactite/mite formations are difficult to view directly... But thanks to the little pools of watr you can still see everything by simply looking at the reflection on the pool; a truly brilliant idea.
You are free to move at your own pace, unaccompanied through the caves -you can pause and listen to the recorded commentary or rush of ahead; the choice is yours... and dog lovers will be pleased to know you can take your pet in too!! I often do... and there's a little story about my dog that I'll share with you in a moment :-)
Value for money wise the caves aren't cheap, but you do get a lot for your money; a ticket includes entry to all 3 caves, the museum, an open top guided tour of the Gorge, and a special entrance up onto the cliffs (called Jacobs Ladder) which leads to a look out tower where you can see as far as the Bristol Channel, South Wales and Wiltshire.... (please note though that it is possible to get up to the look out tower (legally) without paying by going a longer route; which is worth knowing if you're on a budget day out!).
A great feature of the ticket is that any part of it that you don't use (for e.g. if you spend so long in one of the caves that you didn't have time to see the others and the museum etc) then you can come back another day or month or would you believe year! an carry on here you left off -your ticket is still valid for the attractions you haven't yet 'done'. Yes; the unused part of your ticket remains valid for (and you might want to sit down for this one -lol!!) 10 Years -yes you read it right 10 YEARS! Now you can't argue with that kind of customer service :-)
Finally I'd like to mention the most misunderstood part of the cave experience; the 3rd cave ...sometimes called the Crystal Quest; because there's a bit of an adventure story/game here for children and the young at heart, where you have to defeat a life size evil dragon....
The 3rd cave is NOT (and never was portrayed as) one of the real caves... it's purely a bit of fun/entertainment for those who want it -it's a fake world full of goblin like models (full size) 'hidden' among the 'rocks' only to be exposed by sudden clever lighting changes (the 3rd fantasy cave is the only place coloured lighting is used), there are also holograms, the huge dragon I mentioned earlier... and the largest plasma ball I've ever seen/played with in my life (you know; those crystal ball shaped things you touch and a colourful electric spark jumps harmlessly inside the glass towards your hand).
The fantasy cave is wonderful fun - but because it's just a bit of harmless entertainment, you can skip it if you only wanted to see the proper caves; as there's an exit to the outside that skips the Crystal Quest... But if you have children, don't miss the 3rd 'cave' cuz they are going to love the Dragon, Goblins and Plasma Ball!
I get a little annoyed with some of the reviews which try to make out that the 3rd cave is actually a real, geologically and archeologically important site that's been ruined by over commercialisation- lol!!
The Cheddar Cave company make it abundantly clear from the start that the Crystal Quest fantasy it's just a bit of fake fun for youngsters and those who want to be entertained... I don't know why so many people have misunderstood the fantasy cave... they'll be mistaking McDonald's burgers for family heirlooms next :-)
I won't spoil the fun by telling you where or when -but not all the life-size Goblin type models you'll see are quite as lifeless as they first appear... it has (only sometimes) been known for one of the employees to don a cloak and wait motionless amid the many life-size models you see on your journey, to give you a bit of a 'jump' (all done in very good jest!)...
Which brings me nicely back to my dog story -I once took my Great Dane into the fantasy cave; being black he was almost invisible in the cave (despite his great size)... suffice to say that on this one occasion it was the robed employ who got a fright -lol!! We laughed about it outside for ages, the guy was a really good sport (turned out to be a student working temporarily at Cheddar Caves in his holidays!)and indeed in all the years I've been visiting I've always been impressed by the warm friendly staff!
I think there are few places in the UK to rival Cheddar Gorge, for a great day out that keeps the peace -I tend to sod off into the caves and museum while my other half visits all the little touristy shops (that send us men into comas -lol!!); then we meet back up for a picnic on top of the Gorge and everyone's happy!!
If you haven't been -I'd recommend it on your must do list; especially the caves!
Summary: The views, the caves, the cliffs, the shops, the pretty village, the history- what a great place!
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