I remember years ago as a child visiting Wookey Hole caves and Cheddar Gorge. Bizarrely I can’t remember the actual holiday we were on as I can’t believe we’d have travelled that far for a day trip. My brother doesn’t remember going at all, so it’s interesting how children’s memories are different. I suppose N will never remember all the wonderful trips I’m taking him on, but never mind. It’s all a learning experience and good to get out and about exploring.
When we were on our Bristol holiday a few weeks ago, I wanted to take N to see the caves at Wookey Hole. I’m a former geographer, so I was looking forward to seeing them again in all their glory as well.
We arrived early not long after opening, and even then we were just into the overflow carpark, and found a short queue for entry. It’s open 7 days a week, and if you buy tickets online you can save 15% on your entry. We bought on the door and it was £18 for adults and £12 for children aged 3-14. Within the price you get the tour of the caves, adventure pirate golf, a circus show, soft play amongst other displays and things to do.
Once we’re paid for our tickets it was a fair walk uphill to the caves entrance. It’s definitely worth going straight there (we paused to pick and eat some blackberries alongside the path on the way), because you’ll have to queue at the actual entrance to the caves. The tours are every 10 minutes so we didn’t have to wait long, but we could see a huge queue when we came out of the caves. I’m a big believer in getting to places early before they get too busy!
The caves didn’t disappoint. Our tour guide was good, they obviously have their story spiel, and you hear about the Wookey Witch and the people trying to find her in the caves all those years ago.
I wasn’t sure how N would take to being in mostly dark with a slightly spooky story being told. But he didn’t seem fussed. He coped with the slippy floor and seemed to like the interesting cave formations and the beautiful lighting they have to really show off the stalactites and stalagmites.
We had a pretty big group going round but you could always see enough and take your time moving through the caves. The tour didn’t feel that long, and I could easily have stayed there longer.
As you leave you’re taken through (the bit random) ‘dinosaur valley’. N quite liked the Gorilla (not sure what that’s got to do with dinosaurs though, and I had a bit of a chuckle as he walked past it beating his chest!
There’s also a cinema there where there’re various showings, but N was too keen to get some lunch so we didn’t see the cave museum of artefacts found in the caves. We also whizzed past children having a go at making handmade paper in the paper mill. I fancied taking N into the mirror maze and the penny arcade but again, I was dragged past in the hope of getting to food.
As it wasn’t really time for lunch, I managed to hold him off by finding the soft play area. This is really good – it goes across 2 rooms, having large frames, huge tunnels and a pretty cool bucking bronco horse.
There’s also a smaller toddler area, but it was a bit young for N so he wanted to go on the older area. Needless to say I’d forgotten to take socks with us as he was in sandals, but noone was checking; it hadn’t even occurred to me until he’d finished playing that he should have been in socks. The play area does say 4 years and over, but N was fine on it for the bits he wanted to try. It was just unfortunate that they’re very strict about no adults, so you couldn’t even really go on and help children round if they weren’t sure, or had got stuck/got scared.
The soft play is in the same area as the cafe which only had basic snacky food for sale. We decided to head to the Big Top Restaurant to get some lunch. The circus was on later and we weren’t going to be hanging around for that, but we had a quick look at the clown and circus museum displays.
before heading into the servery area. And there my heart sank. We always have our hot meal at our evening meal. Especially on holiday where it’s a lot harder just to get a snacky type of meal in restaurants or pubs at that time of day. So we knew we only wanted sandwiches or the like at lunch. But the choice was shocking. No wonder lots of people were opting for the hot meals which didn’t look bad, even if they were major carb loading.
The children’s lunchboxes had no choice, and they had items I wouldn’t usually choose to give to N. The ham or cheese roll was fine, as was the pom bears which at least attempt to be healthy. But then the drink was Fruit Shoot – urgh (I wish they’d have had the My5 version instead or as well to choose from, as so many parents don’t give their children Fruit Shoots). And the ‘pudding’ was fruit sweets….healthy fruit sweets and a catering pack of 3 custard cream biscuits.
Instead they could have had some homemade biscuits or flapjack or cake. Anything that wasn’t just prepacked and overly sweet. And no proper fruit. I know they want to make life easy in busy tourist places, and have good profits so buy in bulk, but it’s cheap to make a load of flapjack and chop it up. And for a fiver, it was the highest priced children’s lunchbox I’ve ever seen.
The adult sandwich choice wasn’t much better. Huge prepacked Ginsters sandwiches. It was a bit like being stuck on a train, and stuck with the convenient but not pleasant sandwiches. I can say their scones, jam and cream were delicious though.
We then headed out to see what was going on at the pirate adventure golf course. This is included in the price of a ticket and was a tad busy. N spotted ‘Jack Sparrow’ on the course having his photo taken with visitors so decided against playing golf.
I think by that time he’d had enough as once we were back in the car and heading off to the beach for the afternoon, he fell straight asleep. By the time we left, the overflow carpark was rammed, so it’s definitely a popular place. If you’re going in school holidays or weekends, I’d really suggest going morning and getting the bulk of your visit done before everyone else arrives. That would drive me insane, being stuck queuing or fighting through everyone to see what you wanted too, especially with children in tow.
It’s definitely got something for everyone, and if you looked at all of the attractions including the paid ones like the cinema and gold panning, you could spend a good proportion of the day there if you so wanted.
It was a great opportunity to start talking to N about caves and how the river comes in to the rock to form them. I’m determined to make a geographer of him yet!
Have you ever been to tourist caves, or caving?
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