I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son.
I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Published February 5th 2018
Go underground, back in time and to the Victorian Seaside
Wookey Hole- more than just the caves
The World Famous caves at Wookey Hole are a scenic 20 mile drive from Bath. Next to the beautiful Cathedral city of Wells, the Wookey Hole site is tucked in to the limestone cliffs, and has just opened for its 2018 season. The superb underground caverns are amazing, but the caves are not the only experience on offer. You will need a whole morning or afternoon to fully enjoy all of the 20 activities, and this article features three of the most entertaining. When planning your trip, have a good look at the website so you can plan what you most want to do. The site is both large and spread out, and some of the activities are held at set times of the day.
The Impressive Limestone Caves
Wookey Hole is one of the oldest attractions in England, and it is very easy to see why. A 60 minute guided tour takes visitors down into the Limestone cave system which has been spectacularly lit up. Massive Stalagmites rise from deep underwater pools, and over the years, many have gained nicknames due to their shape.
Our tour group investigating 'The Witches Kitchen'- the forst cave, and the site of a religious battle between a young priest and a witch.
Groups of around twenty people are guided through the caverns, which lead downwards, through tall caverns and over metal bridges. The caves are well lit, but BEWARE- it can be very slippery underfoot, and you have to duck underneath low ceilings several times. This can be a little difficult, but we felt that this just added to the excitement of the experience. The guide explains the long history of the caves, from how they were formed many centuries ago, to showing the modern day safety lines and equipment of the underwater cave divers who practice their sport at Wookey.
One of many illuminated lakes within the caves. The boat is still used by cave divers, who explore the many, many underwater caves not yet accessible by visitors. The water is cold, deep and fast flowing, and the tour crosses several metal bridges that stretch over the water.
Being underground is a magical experience, and the cold quietness makes it feel like you are in another world. All of the caves are different in size and shape, depending on how the trickling, flowing water has formed them. In places, the walls are smooth and light coloured, yet in others, they are a dusky grey which resembles something from a Science Fiction movie.
A large stalagtite, formed over thousands of years.
Most of the caverns and tunnels at Wookey Hole are naturally made, but a long cavern towards the end of the tour is a miracle of manmade engineering. Several years ago, British Army explosives experts blasted a long tunnel through the cave system, and this new passage allows visitors to exit the cave system, almost directly below where they first entered.
The Man made passage at the end of the tour. The tunnel slopes upwards, and the air becomes noticeably warmer at this point.
Walking along this passage is almost eerie, when you think of the many metres of rocks both above and below. The exciting truth about Wookey is that it remains a work in progress, and there are plans to extend the visitor tour to further caverns in the future. At present, twenty-eight caves have been discovered, and there may well be many more down there.
Dinosaur Delights for little cavers
Once you exit the caves, there is a dramatic view of the horseshoe-shaped cave cliffs all around. A fast-flowing stream thunders down towards the paper mill (another attraction), and is confronted by many, many life-size prehistoric dinosaurs. These colourful giants look very at home by the caves, and are a fitting feature, as many dinosaur and plant remains have been discovered in the limestone rocks below. Some of the creatures roar and growl realistically, but they do not move. My son loved them! There is also an immense King Kong-like gorilla to go and meet.
Just a selection of the many inhabitants of 'Dinosaur Valley', which also has a 'Dino Dig', where children can excavate fossilised bones using brushes and trowels.
This is a brilliant and unusual attraction and immense fun. Once through the paper mill museum (another great feature to visit), there is a large hall full of Edwardian and Victorian arcade games, all mechanical and made by hand. At the entrance, you can exchange pounds sterling for some old 1d pennies, and have a go on the machines. The hall is decorated in Vintage seaside colours, and barrel music plays in the background which gives the place an authentic, nostalgic feel.
A wise and mysterious fortune teller, who calculates your future according to your birthday. My prediction is eerily accurate.
This place is like a museum in its own right, and the machines have clearly been lovingly maintained and cared for. There is everything from old-fashioned strength tests, to vintage cycling race games. The machines themselves are rather like works of art, and I have never seen so many in one location. I found this to be a very enjoyable and relaxing aspect of the visit.
The amusements hall concludes with a mysterious and maddening 'Mirror Maze', which is not for the faint-hearted. The maze is set up to thoroughly confuse its visitors, who can often see many, many versions of themselves walking through the passage. It is almost impossible to tell whether you are walking towards a mirror, or a doorway leading onwards. There is even a photograph booth at the end, where you can pose with several versions of yourself. An unusual yet enjoyable experience.
The Author, after successfully navigating the mirror maze.
This article has covered just three of the twenty attractions available at Wookey Hole. Notable others include a 'Hands on experience' of papermaking, a frightening video experience and museum hall dedicated to underwater cave diving, a Witch Extravaganza and a pirate-themed soft play experience for little ones. Tickets can be booked online, and there are some entrance discounts to be had that way. We walked across the car park and had a tasty lunch at 'The Wookey Hole Inn' after our visit, and this was a lovely way to wind down after the excitement of caving, dinosaurs and mechanical amusement games. Here is their website.