Gough’s Cave is located in Cheddar, within the Cheddar Gorge on the Mendip Hills in Somerset. There are many smallish caves within the limestone Cheddar Gorge, but this is reputed to be one of the most spectacular examples both within the valley and in England as a whole. It is 90 m (295 ft) deep and 2,135 m (7,005 ft) long and contains a variety of rock formations and large chambers. The Cheddar Yeo, the largest underground river system in Britain, also lies within the cave.
Created in the Ice Age and inhabited in the Stone Age, it was discovered by Richard Gough in 1892. Between this date and 1898, he excavated and opened up the cave to the public, as far as Diamond Chamber, which is still the end of the show cave today. Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, was found a little way inside the cave in 1903. The first evidence of cannibalism in Britain 14,700 years ago has also been found among the human remains here.
The first 820 m (2,690 ft) of the cave is open to the public; although the steep gradient and wet conditions underfoot make it potentially awkward for wheelchair users. There are a variety of features including stalagmites and stalactites, a mirror pool and huge chambers named Aladdin’s Cave, Solomon’s Temple and St Paul’s Cathedral. Cheddar cheese is still matured here, as it was 100 years ago, and is said to be the only authentic cave-matured cheese in the world. The show cave is lit and an audio tour guide is available.
By far the larger part of the cave beyond is, in most parts, completely flooded and capable of being explored by cave diving only. There is still further survey work needed to map the full extent of this lengthy cave.