Lonely Planet review for Cheddar Gorge
Only marginally less touristy than their Wookey cousins, the massive cliffs of Cheddar Gorge are nonetheless a dramatic sight. This is England's deepest natural canyon, and in places the limestone cliffs tower 138m above the twisting road.
The gorge is famous for its bewildering network of subterranean caves, a few of which are open to the public. Cox's Cave and Gough's Cave, both lined with stalactites and stalagmites, are subtly illuminated to bring out the spectrum of colours in the rock. To explore the more remote caverns, you'll need to organise a caving trip with X-Treme; be prepared to get cold, wet and very muddy. Rock-climbing sessions are also available.
The Cheddar caves have been inhabited by prehistoric people since the last ice age; a 9000-year-old skeleton (imaginatively named Cheddar Man) was discovered here in 1903, although carbon dating has suggested Gough's Cave was inhabited several thousand years earlier. Rumours of prehistoric cannibalism also seem to have been confirmed by recent discoveries of polished human skulls that are believed to have been used as drinking vessels.
Cheddar gets extremely busy during summer and school holidays, when the gorge road turns into one long traffic jam. You can normally escape the worst crowds by climbing the 274-step staircase known as Jacob's Ladder, which leads to a spectacular viewpoint and a 3-mile cliff trail.