A Visit To The Whimsical Wookey Hole Caves In Somerset

Wookey profile
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Email

Disclosure: This article may contain links to products or services (including Amazon) that pay me a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you.

Wookey Hole Caves lie in the heart of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, a location known not just for its breathtaking scenery but also for its long history and mysterious past. A place full of caves, legends and adventure, where you never know quite what might be around the next corner.

Why Visit Wookey Hole Caves?

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I visited Wookey Hole. I had memories of the days when the caves were owned by Madame Tussauds, when it was more of an entertainment venue than anything else. But all that has changed. There is still plenty to entertain visitors, and it is still a great venue for families, but there is much more emphasis upon discovering the stories and the history that surround the caves.

The centrepiece is the show caves themselves, home to 30,000 years of human history and one-time abode of the Witch of Wookey Hole. You can take a tour of the caves, learn about their history, and marvel at the geological formations and underground river. And there is more to be discovered in the site’s three museums.

Wall of cave with strange rock formation picked out in white and blue light.
Marvel at the strange rock formations

But there is more. The site is built around the buildings of an old paper mill, and these house a number of other attractions. There are life-sized dinosaurs, vintage penny arcades, and the world-famous Wookey Hole Circus. This is a whimsical location where anything could happen: Ellen Ramsay, official spokesperson for the Caves, says “At Wookey Hole, if you can dream it, it can happen. It’s such a unique destination”.

Touring The Caves

Most visitors start with a guided cave tour. The extensive underground cave system has eight chambers accessible to tourists, each with their own stories and distinctive features. You will start at the Goatherder (where the remains of two goats were once found) and pass Hell’s Ladder on the way to The Hall and Cathedral Chamber.

Steps leading up into the caves. Purple and green lights can be seen at the back.
Walking into the other-worldly Wookey Hole Caves

The caves are beautifully lit, to make the most of the strange and varied geological features. At one point you pass a massive stalagmite, and elsewhere you see where the River Axe runs underground. It is easy to imagine that the rocks resemble actual objects, and you’ll see formations that have been given names such as St Paul’s or the Statue of Liberty.

You are likely to find a few surprises. At one point you pass a store room piled high with cheese. This is the delicious Wookey Hole cheese (available in the gift shop) that is matured here for up to a year, taking advantage of the high humidity and the constant year-round temperature. And the latest addition to the Caves is a giant moon sculpture. We were told that this was created when the Wookey Witch cast a spell to light and protect the cave…

Large purple moon suspended inside a cave.
A giant moon installation is the latest addition to the caves

History… And The Witch Of Wookey Hole

Archaeologists’ findings show that people were living in these caves up to 30,000 years ago. They were also in use in Roman times, and Roman coins and pottery have been found here. It is perhaps not surprising that legends and superstitions should have grown up around the caves and that they were at one time thought to have represented the entrance to Hell.

The most famous resident is the Wookey Witch, who is said to have lived here around 1,000 years ago and to have been turned into stone for her crimes. She is still here and her stone likeness can be seen in the cave known as the Witch’s Kitchen. Whether the story is true or not, the bones of a woman have been found in the cave, and witch marks (symbols carved into the rock to protect against witchcraft) can be seen on the walls.

Rock formation that looks like the head of a woman. Behind her is a wall of rock lit up with purple lighting.
The Wookey Witch was turned to stone, and can still be seen in the cave!

The stories about the Witch, and the eerie underground atmosphere, have made the caves very popular with groups investigating the paranormal.

There is more about the Witch’s Kitchen in the video below.

Wild Wookey

Another group of visitors who are attracted to Wookey Hole are cavers and adrenaline seekers. Wild Wookey offers opportunities for climbing, abseiling and cave diving, with access to the underground river and to caverns that are closed to tour groups.

An Old Paper Making Mill

As you leave the caves you walk through The Enchanted Valley, where bones of prehistoric people and animals were once found. Today this is a beautiful outdoor area where you may glimpse fairies and other mythical beings. And in the Dinosaur Grove you come face to face with some full sized replicas of prehistoric creatures: don’t be alarmed if you spot some of them moving!

Small fragment of wall with a window with mock Gothic stone tracery. Beside the wall is a classical style statue of a woman and some stone pots.
A whimsical spot in the Enchanted Valley

The Valley brings you to the old buildings that once belonged to the paper mill. There has been a papermaking mill here since 1610, driven by the water of the River Axe. The site was extended in the 1850s and a village and a school were built to accommodate the workers. Inside the buildings you can learn about how paper was made from cotton rags to produce fine paper for bank notes and legal documents. You may also be able to watch a demonstration of paper making.

Two other museum areas tell the story of the Wookey Hole Caves and of cave diving in the area.

Penny Arcades, Circus Shows… And Much More

Moving through the mill buildings there is much more to see and do. There is an area designed like an old fashioned pier, with historic amusement machines, a merry-go-round and a mirror maze. There is a soft play area and crazy golf and at certain times of year you can also enjoy a performance from the Wookey Hole Circus.

Decorated pillars and arches arranged with mirrors to create a maze.
Get lost in the Mirror Maze…

Wookey Hole has a large theatre that runs special events and original shows, often based around magic and illusion or comedy.

How To Visit Wookey Hole

  • Wookey Hole Caves are 3 km from Wells and easily accessible by car from Bath or Bristol. There is a large car park.
  • A single entry ticket allows entry to the caves and all the attractions.
  • Visitors are asked to wear sensible shoes when walking through the caves. Note that the floor can be uneven in places.
  • Unfortunately the Caves are not accessible to wheelchairs, but you can take a 45-minute virtual tour in The Mill.
  • Circus shows take place at weekends and during the school holidays.
  • The Caves can get very busy during peak season. Visitor numbers may be capped and it is advisable to book in advance.
  • There is a large restaurant and an ice cream parlour. You can also bring a picnic with you.
  • Wookey Hole has an on-site hotel, and other accommodation is available in the area.
  • If you are visiting Wookey Hole you might also be interested in some of the other Things to Do in Somerset.

Thanks to the Wookey Hole Caves for inviting me to enjoy a tour of the site.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About WorldWideWriter

Picture of the author

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

FOLLOW ME

Want a regular dose of inspiration and information from WorldWideWriter?

Sign up to our mailing list now!

Buy Me A Coffee