This weekend to celebrate the start of December and all the upcoming festivities we went to visit the man himself, Old St Nick.
In 2011 we went to Clearwell Caves and decided it was gorgeous and that we would definitely be back. Last year I regret to say that having a newborn baby took its toll and we never got round to seeing Santa. So it was doubly important this year that we did it again.
Getting There –
I have no idea, we seemed to zigzag through the forest for about 45 minutes. I have no idea where we are the second we travel west of Gloucester. Leon assures me its not difficult and that you basically drive to Coleford and then follow the signs.
It is a fairly long drive, but its worth it.
The Experience –
You are in for a treat here. Clearwell Caves are an old Iron mine (I think) and are part of a natural underground cave system. It has winding passages and impressive caverns. During Christmas they fill the place with fairy lights, loads of real Christmas trees and tonnes of presents (all labelled with every name you can think of, great fun to play “spot your present”).
We got there about 45 minutes before it opened as I remembered from the year before that it was very busy. I am sooooooo glad we did because we practically went straight through with only a 10 min wait to see Santa, but by time we emerged from the grotto the queue was incredible. Far longer than I would have imagined, I would say that the people at the back of the queue had a good 2 hours to wait. In fact if we had arrived and seen that queue I would have gone home again!
It cost £8.50 per person (adults too) and under 2′s were free unless they wanted a present and then they cost £4. You enter the caves and walk through fairy lights and Christmas trees to join the queue for Santa. There is even a post box there so you can post your letter! You get to spend a few minutes with Santa and can take your own photos (none of this taking your photo and charging you a fiver for it here) then you get to choose a present from Santa’s workshop. They are all high quality and have a mix of ages and genders. The kids love this part! (Daniel chose a bus, to go with his other 6 buses)
After seeing Santa you walk through a beautiful story represented in the cutest scenes set throughout the caves. This years story is “The Perfect Christmas Tree”. Each scene has an oversized story page for the children to read. I wont spoil the plot!
Halfway through the story the caves open up into an underground market selling Christmas decorations and other crafty bits, and a cafe.
The story then continues and takes you round to the gift shop and exit.
It really is cute, and very special.
This is not a place I would have thought a pushchair would be a good idea. I think you could probably get one round, but it may be more trouble than its worth. So if you have a carrier I would recommend using that instead. Although there are some low ceilings so mind that babies head!
There are toilets both before you enter the caves in a coffee shop outside and some when you get inside. They do have a changing table.
I am not sure about bottle/baby food heating. I would say its probably easier to go at a time that doesn’t coincide with feeding!
We love this as a place to see Santa. Its really different and very special. Definitely worth the drive.
It doesn’t feel commercial or tacky. The “Elves” (which I suspect are local teens) do a fab job at talking to the kids and making it magical.
Just make sure you get there early early early!!! Although I imagine week days in term time are much quieter.
All that is left to say is HO HO HO!
We paid for this day out ourselves and were not asked to take part in a review. Clearwell Caves had no idea we would be visiting. You can rest assured that my opinion is my own!
All information should be checked before you go. All correct at time of writing. Remember as always to be careful!