Driving out from the gorgeous city of Bath will see you rolling through some of the most wonderful parts of the West Country, including the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Seeing these softly rolling hills pass by makes for a truly scenic drive, but the area is also a favourite with adrenalin junkies and weekend warriors thanks to its vast network of caves.
That network owes its existence to the limestone that makes up much of the hills. Parts of that stone have been worn away by water over the years to create the largest underground river system in Britain, and one of its central caving destinations.
If you’re not yet aware of caving, the sport essentially entails putting on a cave suit, helmet, and head torch, then crawling, clambering, climbing, walking, and abseiling through these subterranean worlds. That might sound a little daunting, and caving is meant to challenge you, but there are routes available to cater for anyone, from nervous beginner to iron-nerved veteran. In fact, instructors will be glad to tailor each session around your abilities and comfort level.
One of the most popular caves is Swildon’s Hole, which was explored by the first generation of cavers way back in 1934. Other favourites include the Wookey Hole Caves, which offer the deepest sump in Britain at 76 meters (250 feet), and further complexes at St. Dunstan’s Well Catchment, Lamb Leer, and Priddy Caves. Charterhouse Cave is the deepest in the Mendip Hills, with a staggering vertical range of 220 meters (722 feet).
If you’d rather not be slipping through cracks and pulling yourself along tight tunnels, just head to the famous caves at Cheddar Gorge. Cliffs rise dramatically over 450 feet at this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the cavernous Gough’s Cave lurks beneath.
If you’re part of an active family or simply like getting out and exploring on your day’s off, make sure you drive out of Bath into the Mendip Hills to experience the thrills of caving at one of the world’s most popular sites.
Why not make a weekend of it and spend some time looking around the South West and stay in some of the most beautiful boutique hotels in the UK. With the likes of No.15 Great Pulteney Hotel, Villa Magdala, Queensberry Hotel and Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel in Bath and visit some of the beautiful sites of Bath. It might be quite the contrast to the caves around the West Country but it will sure be a good change of pace.