Cheddar Gorge

Cave in Somerset

Carved out by glacial meltwater during the last ice age, these limestone cliffs form England's deepest natural canyon, in places towering 138m above the twisting B3135. The gorge is riddled with subterranean caverns with impressive displays of stalactites and stalagmites. The easiest to reach are Gough's Cave and Cox's Cave (the latter, now branded Dreamhunters, features multimedia displays on prehistoric peoples). Admission covers parking and entry to the caves. Cheddar Gorge is 20 miles northwest of Wells on the A371.

The Cheddar caves have been inhabited since the last ice age; a 9000-year-old skeleton (imaginatively named Cheddar Man) was discovered here in 1903, and carbon dating has suggested Gough's Cave was inhabited several thousand years earlier. Rumours of prehistoric cannibalism have been boosted by recent discoveries of polished human skulls that are thought to have been used as drinking vessels.

Cheddar is very popular, so expect traffic during summer and school holidays. You can escape the crowds by climbing the 274-step staircase known as Jacob's Ladder (included in the admission price), which leads to a spectacular viewpoint over the gorge and a 3-mile clifftop trail. Or sign up for a climbing or caving trip and venture up the cliffs or deeper underground. There's a 15% discount for booking Cheddar Gorge admission in advance, online.