Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I reviewed A Yorkshire Christmas and found a few places where I’d like to celebrate Christmas in Yorkshire. Tina reviewed Very British Problems, which is also a Twitter phenomenon and a BBC TV series. Sim took us to the Gherkin during our virtual walk in London, with reflections on Boxing Day and the history of St. Mary Axe as a street name. Becky reviewed two books about Christmas, Letters from Father Christmas and A Christmas Visitor. Becky also shared Will’s Words, an intriguing way to get young people excited about Shakespeare.
I’m currently reading Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton, author of the Lacey Flint mystery series (Now You See Me, Dead Scared, Lost, and A Dark and Twisted Tide). Daisy in Chains isn’t part of that series which is mostly set in London. For this book, we spend more time in the countryside, particularly in and around Cheddar Gorge.
Cheddar Gorge is a canyon south and west of Bristol and Bath. The walls of the ravine are dotted with caves. Besides natural beauty, the caves shelter history, cheese, and (in the novel) the occasional murder victim.
Human history in Cheddar Gorge goes back thousands of years longer than Stonehenge. The oldest complete human skeleton found in Great Britain is Cheddar Man — discovered in 1903 in Gough’s Cave. Cheddar Man’s remains are on display in London at the Natural History Museum. There’s a replica of Cheddar Man in the Museum of Prehistory at Cheddar Gorge which puts him in context of his times with tools, demonstrations, and evidence of cannibalism.
Cheddar Gorge isn’t that easy to get to if you don’t have a car, but not impossible. Take the train to Bristol’s Temple Meads station and hop a local train to Weston-super-Mare. A bus leaves hourly from that station to the village of Cheddar.
Once at Cheddar Gorge, the attractions are clustered together at the southern end. The attractions — including an audio tour of Gough’s Cave, the museum, an open-top bus tour, and more — are covered under one ticket price.
Who could visit Cheddar Gorge without developing a craving for cheddar cheese? Less than half a mile from the Gorge, back into the village of Cheddar, we can visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. The first mention of cheddar cheese in written history was 1170. The caves of Cheddar Gorge kept dairy products cool enough for an industry to develop. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is the only cheese maker left in Cheddar. You can watch the process from the viewing gallery. And, of course, you can purchase some cheese.