Reviewed by Jenny Bray
Wookey Hole is a very impressive place to visit, with several different things to keep family members of all ages entertained for hours.
Wookey Hole is located in the Mendip Hills, 2 miles from Wells in Somerset and is not too far off Junction 22 of the M5 so is close to several holiday sites in the area and around 20 miles from Weston-Super-Mare, Bath and Bristol. It was well signposted for the last couple of miles of the journey (so much so that I ignored sat nav and kept following the signs instead). There is a large free car park just outside the entrance. To get to the entrance you go through the hotel car park. Admission was very straight forward. There are kiosks that you queue for in order to get your tickets. These tickets are needed to enter the actual caves and need handing over when you are at the entrance of the caves. Children also get an activity sheet each and a pencil to complete it with. The activities are to find different people (statues) with a letter each and work out the word they are spelling. There are also posters of the characters of Scoob to watch out for and tick off.
There are shops for refreshments and ice cream by the entrance and others dotted around the site once inside. The ice cream shop has over 20 different flavours and was very reasonably priced at £2.90 for a generous 1 scoop cone or tub. Between us we tried; caramelised biscuit, chocolate brownie, birthday cake and cookies and cream, all of which were delicious.
Once you’ve collected your tickets there is a short walk to most of the activities, including an uphill walk to the caves, which are located at the opposite end of the overall site to the entrance. We opted to go to the caves first. Despite being a glorious day I had guessed correctly that the caves would probably still be quite chilly so had brought an extra top for each of us. The caves are very impressive. Underfoot can be quite soggy and slippy so sensible footwear is recommended by them and I’d extend that to ensure that you have a decent amount of grip on your soles too!
The caves have some beautiful still and clear water in and some striking stalagmites. Upon reading the guide I found out that the water in chamber one actually flows at 68 million litres a day, despite looking still! Some of the more unusual rocks are lit up to highlight their features. There are people in some of the chambers who are able to talk through the history of that chamber.
There are extra activities available at additional cost. These include Wild Wookey where you can pay extra to crawl, climb and abseil the dry unseen passages around the caves. While we were in the caves we saw someone climbing one of them.
Once we’d been round the caves we walked through the enchanted valley and dinosaur park. Again, these were very impressive and had much more to look at than I’d expected. We had to take some obligatory shots with the huge 8 metre high King Kong. My children loved spotting the extra details of the dinosaurs, including some with babies just hatching from eggs almost hiding in the undergrowth under one dinosaur.
After the dinosaurs we went to look inside. There are quite a lot of activities that are inside, meaning this is a good attraction to visit on a grey or wet day too. There are museum areas, an area to make paper in, with times demonstrations and the ability to make some for yourself. There is an arcade, with an impressive amount of old school arcade paraphernalia such as boxed fortune tellers and a carousel. There are magic mirrors dotted around that distort and then there is the mirror maze, which was lots of fun. From the offset, once you’ve entered all sides around you look practically identical so you need to work out which side isn’t your reflection in order to progress through the maze. We all loved this.
There is a restaurant on site that serves food and there are also various areas where you can sit and eat your own food if you’ve taken some. There’s also a soft play area inside, with lots of seating for the adults. We didn’t utilise this but there were younger children running around and enjoying it.
Lastly, we headed back to the 4D cinema to catch ‘Scoob’ which is a 25 minute film. Before you can get to the cinema you have to head through the witches house and a special tale. It’s the first time I’ve experienced a 4D cinema. I was mainly amused by the chair moving with the movement on screen, wind blowing at appropriate times etc. The only downside for me was that I found it hard to focus on the screen as I think we should have been given some 3D glasses but these hadn’t been given to us.
At weekends and during school holidays there are circus shows performed in the theatre during the day, at 12, 1 and 2, put on by local children who are part of a circus training programme held there. Again, unfortunately we missed these.
On our way out, to head to the magic show ‘Magique’ in the theatre, we passed the Wookey Witch reciting an ode. We also passed the Pirate adventure golf area. Unfortunately for us, we hadn’t allowed quite enough time to complete that as well as all the other activities on site so my children opted for the 4D cinema over adventure golf. However, it looked great and covered a decent sized area.
The main site closes at 5.30 and we were there until the very end! Then we headed to the theatre in advance of ‘Magique’. There’s a bar on the way to the theatre so people were having a drink before going in. Then we queued for the show and made our way to seats once the doors opened.
The Magique show is a separate cost to the ticket for the other attractions and costs £9.99 per head. The theatre is set up with staggered seats facing the stage area. Magique is a 1 hour show of magic, mastery and illusion. There are only 8 performers, each undertaking a number of different acts. These include ones where people disappear or appear from boxes or other items that seemingly have no way for the person to enter or exit from. The most impressive of these is the finale with Excalibur… this involves a Perspex box and several long swords. I won’t give the rest away. You will need to go and see it! They also have their very own Houdini who is locked in a straightjacket and hung from his ankles before attempting to escape within a single minute in front of the audience’s eyes. This show really was fantastic. They crammed a lot in to the hour although I would have loved to see more. I’d have happily stayed for an extra hour as we were all mesmerised at various points and were definitely left wondering and in awe at how they’d managed some of them!
Magique is only on during the school holidays and only on a Wednesday night, with the show being held 6.30-7.30. It seems a shame that it’s not on more often as it was well attended and the whole audience seemed to love it.
I also hadn’t realised until visiting, that they have a hotel and also have luxury hot tub lodges on site, meaning you can stop over and really make a day of it if you choose to. Upon reading their guide I discovered that two episodes Dr Who have been filmed in the caves, the first in 1975 then later in 2010. I was also pleasantly surprised to read that it is an independent, family owned business, a rarity these days not to be part of a huge chain. The guide also explains where the name Wookey Hole comes from; ‘Wookey is thought to have come from the celtic word ‘ogof’ meaning cave. Hole is an Anglo-Saxon word for cave. Therefore, the name Wookey Hole Caves means cave cave caves.’!
Due to both the uphill walk to the caves and the slightly uneven and potentially slippy floors inside the caves, this experience may not be suitable for those who are either unsteady on their feet or unable to walk a reasonable distance.
I really enjoyed my day out at Wookey Hole, as did my children. It was a great day out as a visitor to Somerset during our summer holiday. I can see that it would be equally good for locals to visit. My biggest regret is not getting there earlier. I only arrived mid afternoon, knowing we also had the magic show to go to in the early evening. However, we could easily have been entertained for another few hours. It’s therefore a good day out for entertaining the children (and the adults) meaning the entrance fee seems very reasonable for everything that is included. I was also pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was towards the latter end of the afternoon, despite it being peak holiday season, which I was pleased about. We had the whole 4D cinema to ourselves, sitting in the front, middle set of 4 seats between us for the 5pm showing.
Rating: I rate it a well deserved 5/5 for a great family day of entertainment
Tickets cost £22.45 per adult (16+), £17.95 per child (3-15), £21.45 per senior (60+) and infants (under 3) are free. These can be booked in advance via their website or purchased at the kiosk on the day of visiting (if there is availability)
If you are disabled then they offer concessionary rates for the person and their carera member of the NHS, police or a Blue Light holder then you are able to obtain a 10% discount on the entrance price.
During peak season you can enter the site between 9.30 and 4 and it closes at 5.30.
During off peak season you can enter between 10 and 3 and it closes at 4.30.
Tickets for the ‘Magique’ show cost £9.99 a head and are separate from the main entrance cost.
There are other events on in the evenings on occasion, including ‘The Comedy Cavern’. Details of these can be found on the website; www.wookey.co.uk