Friday, 24 September 2010


The small Somerset town of Cheddar is best known for its cheese, but has another great attraction: the caves and gorge. Gough's Cave has been welcoming tourists for well over a century, and even got electric lighting in 1899.

There are plenty of serious reasons to visit the cave, not least its exceptionally long human history. Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest complete skeleton, was found just inside. A few years ago, it was noticed that some scratches on the cave wall were actually a 13,000-year-old picture of a mammoth. (I'm really impressed that this was ever spotted: even with the markings spotlit and explained, they're pretty hard to make out.)

The cave's recent history has its frivolous side. Sea captain Richard Gough retired to Cheddar, where his uncle had opened up another cave, Cox's Cavern. When he discovered his own cave, Gough opened it up to tourists and made his fortune. And no wonder: the cave offers wonderful landscapes including stone 'waterfalls' and tiny 'cities' reflected in rock pools.


Hels said...

I assume that these days, cheese has to be made in Cheddar to be called that. Just like textiles may not be called Harris Tweeds, unless they were made in the Hebrides.

Can a visitor relax after a heavy day of caving with a nice glass of wine or two in a cheese tasting restaurant?

CarolineLD said...

Cheddar cheese isn't protected at all - it can come from anywhere in the world. However, 'West Country Cheddar' is now a protected designation limited to a fairly large part of the west of England. In fact, Cheddar production almost died out in the town itself: there's now one small company which even ages some in Gough's Cave itself!

Deptford Dame said...

I particularly enjoyed breathing in the 'fumes' of the cheddar that was maturing in the caves and admiring the huge wigs of mould that adorned some of them!

@hels: The rest of the Cheddar Gorge 'experience' is tatty to say the least - and I'm afraid the cafe is particularly poor.

CarolineLD said...

It did really go downhill: when I was a child, there were good tea shops and cafes. On this visit, there were signs of improvements and some new restaurants, but nowhere that looked good for cheese tasting.