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Caves, gorges, hilltops and history — hiking the Mendip Way

Tony Buckley (CC BY 2.0)

Caves, gorges, hilltops and history — hiking the Mendip Way

Hiking Collection by Kit P

4-7

days

3-5 h

/ day

51.9 mi

5,500 ft

5,250 ft

The gorgeous Mendip Way rambles from the Bristol Channel through verdant limestone hills to the medieval town of Frome. Comprising two halves, the West and East Way, this walk totals 50 miles (80 km) and is gloriously undulating with spectacular geology.

I’ve split this Collection into four stages to allow you to complete the entire Way with enough time to explore the phenomenal highlights en route. However, you could easily do the West Mendip Way, from Uphill to Wells or the East Mendip Way, from Wells to Frome, separately. Additionally, you can walk in either direction and I’ve chosen to plan this itinerary from west to east.

Beginning at Uphill on the edge of Weston-Super-Mare, the Way begins with fantastic sea views before heading east into the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The route is gently rolling from the start with some steep climbs, although none are particularly sustained.

Cheddar Gorge is one of the most phenomenal parts of this hike. This tremendous limestone gorge features dramatic show caves, outstanding vistas and plenty of ice cream shops. Wookey Hole is another major feature; a spectacular cave system to explore via walkways.

As you hike, the Mendips offer wonderful views south across the Somerset Levels, an area of floodplains and nature reserves. In clear weather you can often see the ancient Glastonbury Tor on the horizon, sometimes sitting above a sea of mist. Rife with myths and legends, this region certainly has a touch of the magic about it.

Whilst extraordinary geological features play a large role in this hike, you visit wonderful settlements too. The most impressive is Wells, the UK’s smallest city. Having retained its ancient feel, everything from the cobbled streets to the grand cathedral is mesmerising. Frome is another pretty settlement with medieval streets and a whole host of indie shops.

You can complete this lovely adventure at any time of year as it sticks to high ground above the oft-flooded Levels. The woodlands and hills come alive in late spring and summer though, with birdsong, bluebells and bountiful trees so I recommend hiking during these warmer months.

Reach Uphill by taking the train to Weston-Super-Mare and walking the short distance to the start. Frome is on the train line between Exeter and London Paddington, making it an easy place to leave from. You can take the train from Frome to neighbouring Westbury for wider connections to Bristol and onwards.

Accommodation isn’t difficult to find on or near the route. The Mendips is a popular activity and holiday area so you can find options from YHAs and hotels to B&Bs and private rooms. I recommend you book in advance for any overnight stays.

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Mendip Way

48.0 mi

5,150 ft

4,900 ft

Last updated: November 16, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Uphill to Shipham — the Mendip Way

    Difficult
    05:59
    12.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,875 ft
    1,300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The first stage of the Mendip Way (the West Mendip Way here) begins in Uphill on the edge of Weston Bay. Heading into the hills almost immediately, this is a hike of undulating fields, vibrant woodlands and open hilltops. Finishing in the village of Shipham, this 12.9-mile (20.8 km) stage brings you

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:17
    15.6 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,950 ft
    2,300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage takes in some of the most dramatic scenery in the Mendip Hills and contains plenty of attractions. Several caves, two gorges and abundant viewpoints combine to make this a seriously enjoyable expedition.

    

    Start at Shipham and head south east through pretty woodland to a quiet lane. Meander

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:22
    9.86 mi
    2.3 mph
    950 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From the magnificence of Wookey Hole’s natural marvels to that of Wells’ human-made wonders, the first section of this stage has more than enough to keep you entertained. From Wells onwards, the trail wanders across farmland, through little woodlands and down into Shepton Mallet.

    

    Start at Wookey Hole

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:50
    13.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    775 ft
    1,000 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage of both the Mendip Way and the East Mendip Way travels through the rather gloriously pastoral landscape between Wells and Cranborne Chase Area Of Natural Beauty. The first half is high, with some pretty views while the second half gradually descends to the final stop, Frome.

    

    Start in

    by Kit P

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    4
  • Distance
    51.9 mi
  • Duration
    23:28 h
  • Elevation
    5,500 ft5,250 ft

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