Somerset Family Adventures

The top of Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge Circular Walk

Cheddar Gorge circular walk is one of the best family walks in Somerset

If it’s views you’re after, this is the hike for you!
Cheddar Gorge is an amazing hike for families, we completed this circular route with a 11, 9 and 6 year old.

Walk information

Distance: 4 miles (6.4km)
Walk Time: 3-3.5 hrs with stops along the way (quicker without children)
OS Map: Landranger 182; Explorer 141
Elevation: 340m
Dog Friendly: Yes (beware of cliff edge and live stock)
Start/Finish Grid Ref: ST468543 (Cufic Lane)
What3Words: exotic.reclusive.swim
Accessibility: Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs
Parking: Free in Black Rock (limited space) or Cliff St car park (paid). There are also places to park throughout the gorge.
Walk Highlights: Spectacular views, cave, tea rooms/pub lunch, feral goats/wildlife
*** A section of the Gorge Walk will be closed for maintenance from 7th May until September. If you wish to complete the full circular walk, a diversion can be made by walking along 200m of Cliff Road to join up to the footpath.***

What is Cheddar Gorge and is it worth visiting?

Cheddar Gorge is one of the UK’s most spectacular landmarks. As the highest inland limestone gorge in Britain (about 400 ft deep and 3-miles long), it was formed by floods caused at the end of the Ice Ages, about a million years a go. 

Cheddar Gorge is definitely worth visiting. It is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with plenty of wildlife, including Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels and Buzzards. If you visit in June or July you may be lucky to spot Cheddar Pink – a pretty pink flower that is only found growing on the limestone rocks of the Mendip Hills. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a herd of feral goats grazing on the side of the cliff. They were introduced to keep down the scrub. The North side of the gorge is owned and managed by The National Trust.

View from top of Cheddar Gorge


Where is Cheddar Gorge?

Cheddar Gorge is located in The Mendip Hills in Somerset, England. The gorge lies just outside the village of Cheddar. The B3135 road runs northeast from Cheddar, through the gorge and is a spectacular drive.

cheddar gorge road


How to get to Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge is situated at the edge of Cheddar Village, postcode BS27 3QE

By Car:

From the M5 (Jct 21 or 22) follow signs – it takes about 25 minutes; 8 miles north-west from Wells follow A371; 18 south-west from Bristol follow A38.  

By Bus:

Take bus 126 from Weston super Mare to Cheddar village.

By Train:

The closest railway station is Weston-super-Mare. Take bus 126 from Weston to Cheddar village.

How to see Cheddar Gorge

There are two main ways to see Cheddar Gorge:

  1. Drive through the Gorge (B3135). The road is narrow in parts but the steep limestone cliffs on either side are impressive.
  2. Walk through the gorge or follow our cliff top walking route. Walking through the gorge may be difficult when it is busy, as there isn’t a footpath all the way up and it is narrow in places.

Cheddar Gorge Walk Directions:

The walk starts from Cufic Lane near the Lion Rock Tea Rooms.

Start of the cheddar gorge cliff top walk

Cheddar Gorge (NT)

🥾 Walk up Culfic Lane and turn right at the post marked Cheddar Gorge Walk. Here there is a National Trust sign. The rocky path ascends steeply and took us about 20 minutes to scramble up with the children. This included a stop-off at a cave about half way up on the left hand side, which was fun!
rocky path to the top of Cheddar Gorge
Cave entrance
🥾 Continue up to a gate, go through it and walk diagonally right, across a field towards a stone wall. The cliff edge is the other side. Up here, there is a great view of Cheddar Reservoir, and across the Somerset Levels for miles around.
rocky path
View from the top of Cheddar Gorge
🥾 Keeping the wall on your right, follow the path along the top. We found a nice spot here to eat our picnic – lunch with a view!
picnic on clifftop walk in cheddar gorge

🥾 Continue on, the path drops into a valley down a long flight of steps. You’ll see a kissing gate ahead, go through it and into the wood. This part was muddy and slippery, and we were glad we had worn our boots.

Steps on Cheddar Gorge Walk


Walk down until the footpath joins a gravel path at Black Rock. Turn right and through a gate, to the road that runs through Cheddar Gorge. 

Black Rock signBlack Rock Nature Reserve information sign

Note: if you have parked the car here at the top of the gorge, at Black Rock, you can start/finish the walk here as it is a circular route.

🥾 After carefully crossing the road (it can be busy), join the path on the other side which goes steeply uphill. This path is rocky and uneven (we needed to take a breather half way up).
Path to Cheddar Gorge Clifftop Walkwalking up the rocky path
🥾 At the top, go through a gate and head right, keeping the woods on your right-hand side. Follow the path which takes you through a tall gate, and continue to the top of the hill. There are red arrows on the post to follow.
Gate on the Cheddar Gorge clifftop walkGate
🥾 Continue on, the ground is very rocky and uneven at the top of the gorge. 
rocky, uneven groundView from top of cheddar gorge
Beware! Don’t go near the edge of the cliff, it is a sheer drop. Keep dogs on a lead and stick to the path. Hold hands with little ones. At the top, we saw a group of rock climbers. The view from here is amazing! You can see Glastonbury Tor in the distance. The climb was definitely worth it for these views! This area is also a good spot for a picnic. 
Person stood on top of Cheddar gorge
🥾 Follow the stony path downhill (our legs were starting to feel a bit wobbly after all the exertion by this point!). You’ll see Glastonbury Tor over to your left.
View of Glastonbury Tor
View of Cheddar Reservoir
Eventually you’ll see Pavey’s Lookout Tower on your right-hand side. We descended Jacob’s Ladder (274 steps). 
Jacob's Ladder 274 steps
🥾 Alternatively, just before the tower there is a path to the left, which takes you down through the woods where you meet Lynch Lane. Turn right into Lippiatt Road and this brings you back to the bottom of the gorge. Turn right and walk back to Lion Rock Tearooms where you started.
Lion Rock Tearooms


Things to note

Please keep to the path especially walking with children because the cliff edges are dangerous.

Don’t start the walk at Jacob’s Ladder (you will be charged for climbing up). We walked the route in a clockwise direction and descended Jacob’s Ladder.
Jacob's Ladder
If you don’t want to walk up and down both sides of the gorge you can just do one side and walk back to the car along the road. Please note, the road is narrow in places and not all parts have a proper footpath so be careful of the traffic.
Keep your eyes peeled for goats grazing the cliff edge.
This walk gets very busy on the weekends and in the summer, and parking can be difficult during these times. It best to arrive before 10am if you can. 


Facilities around Cheddar Gorge:

As Cheddar Gorge is a tourist hotspot, there are several options for buying food and drink, either before you start or at the end of the walk. There are tea rooms, gift shops, a couple of pubs and obviously cheese shops to buy the famous Cheddar cheese.

Public toilets can also be found near the start of the walk by the water.

weir in cheddar gorge


Best time to hike Cheddar Gorge:

 You can hike Cheddar Gorge at any time of the year. But the best time is a clear, sunny day to be able to appreciate the fantastic 360 degree views over Somerset. We walked in early December on a fine sunny day which was perfect for missing the summer crowds. Parking is more difficult in the summer holidays but if you want to be able to spot the Cheddar pink flowering then June/July is the time to visit.

It’s a fun hike with spectacular views of the surrounding Somerset countryside. From the top, we could see Glastonbury Tor, Brent Knoll and across the Somerset Levels to Cheddar Reservoir and Bridgewater Bay.
view from cheddar clifftop walk


Level of difficulty:

I would rate this Cheddar Gorge circular walk as moderate. The first part is a very steep incline with uneven ground, so a reasonable level of fitness is needed. Parts of the route can be muddy and slippery after rain. There are two main ascents and descents because this walk covers both the North and South side of the gorge. Our three children managed this walk very well but we did stop frequently to admire the view and for a picnic!

picnic on clifftop walk in cheddar gorge


What to wear and bring with you:

I recommend wearing a good pair of walking boots/shoes to provide support and comfort because parts of this route are rocky and uneven. The ground can get muddy and slippery after rain too. 
Wear/bring thin layers of clothing which can be easily added/removed depending on weather. Always check the weather forecast on the day. On the top of the gorge, you are exposed to the elements and it will be cooler and windier than down below. So even on a summer day, a jumper or thin jacket may be required. 
I recommend taking plenty of water with you to keep hydrated. There are spectacular views from the top of Cheddar Gorge, so I suggest taking some binoculars. Snacks are always a good idea. If, like us, you are walking with children, food/picnic is essential.
Always follow the Leave No Trace principle and take all your rubbish home with you. Leave only footprints.


Is Cheddar Gorge free to visit?

Yes! The walk follows public footpaths around the cliff top and the road is free to walk along or drive through.

road through Cheddar Gorge

There is some free parking but it is limited. The attractions which includes the caves, Jacob’s Ladder and the Museum of Prehistory is not free. Tickets can be bought here.


How much time do you need to see Cheddar Gorge?

Cheddar Gorge is an excellent place to stop off on the way down to Devon or Cornwall, or as a tour of Somerset. Ideally you need at least a couple of hours to see Cheddar Gorge but you can spend all day here if you want to see all the attractions.
Cheddar Gorge
If you have less time, a drive through the gorge and climb up to one of the view points will be the main things to do and also the cheapest!


Is Cheddar cheese made in Cheddar?

Yes! Cheddar cheese originates from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, which is how it got its name. There is now only one cheesemaker left in Cheddar, The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company.

Cheddar Cheese Company

They have a visitor centre next to the shop where you can watch the cheesemakers make the cheese live every day between 11.30am – 3.00pm. You’ll even be able to taste it. Click here for more information.

Some of the cheese is still matured in the caves nearby. The constant temperature and high humidity is the perfect conditions for maturing cheese. There is a great selection of cheeses in the shop to buy and take home. If you love cheese, then this is the perfect place for you! 


Things to do around Cheddar Gorge

  • Walk around Cheddar Reservoir. The walk around the perimeter is 2 miles/3.5 km. Parking is free in 2 car parks next to the reservoir. The path around the reservoir is wide and flat, suitable for pushchairs, bikes and wheelchairs. It’s been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Cheddar Reservoir

  • Visit Cheddar Show Caves – Home of the “Cheddar Man”, Britain’s oldest, complete skeleton (c. 7100 BC) found in 1903.
  • Explore Cheddar Village and shops at the bottom of the gorge

Cheddar Market Cross

  • Walk or cycle The Strawberry line from Cheddar to Yatton. The 9-mile route is a disused railway line that used to transport the strawberries from Cheddar. Now, a traffic-free path used for walkers and cyclists. Read our guide here.

Cycle along the Strawberry Line

walking through the gate at The Bishop's Palace, wells


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