Cheddar is a large village on the southern end of the Mendip hills and is famous for a number of things:
It is globally known for its cheese. So common that most people look at a cheddar type of cheese as normal cheese and the rest as speciality types. Cheddar has been making cheese since at least the 12th century and it continues to do so today. There is no shortage of shops in Cheddar selling cheese in any number of serious or novelty ways. A small factory is within the tourist area and run tours with explanation of all the processes involved.
Cheddar is also nationally well known as being the place with the largest gorge in the UK. Its also well known for its splendid caves. Both are linked from having the Mendip hills formed of limestone which is being dissolved slowly by rainwater. Caves are found all over the Mendip hills and the gorge is just the largest example of where the caves have collapsed and the river has eroded a path through them.
The name and the area is also known for its strawberries. The southern slopes catch significant sunshine and the limestone has excellent drainage. There are many road side stalls selling punnets and they are genuinely superior to almost any other strawberries perhaps because they are picked and sold within such a short time span.
The large village has distinct areas to it. There are the upper parts of the gorge which have a single windy road down through the steep sided valley or tall vertical cliffs. At the bottom, this opens out to the quaint, old area, which has numerous gift shops and attractions aimed squarely at tourists. Then beyond, is a more typical town like region with everyday shops, schools and the church.
Visitors on excursions will most likely only see the gift shopping area. The area is pretty with a pond and a stream running through the middle. On either side underneath the tall cliffs are gift shops, collectibles, tea rooms, ice cream parlours, and similar.
There is a ticket office where you can purchase access to the larger caves. A set of many steps can take you up the steep cliffs to a lookout point called Jacobs Ladder. And you can visit the prehistoric museum or get a tour up the gorge.
If you arrive by car then it is possible to drive through the gorge. There is a point part way along where it is not all that impressive but by parking there, a path leads up the steep side to the top. Walking along the top it is possible to arrive at the tops of the cliffs which are extremely impressive for the UK.
The main village part is still quite interesting with an old market cross and church. Within the church of St Andrew is a tomb of Sir Thomas de Chedder and an original medieval painted pulpit.
Historically Cheddar is older than any other place on the Somerset Levels. Remains of an ice age man of around 9000 BC were found in one of the caves and known as Cheddar Man. Many of the gift shops have fossils, dinosaur books and other prehistoric items.
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