Day Out #1: Winter Wonderland @ Wookey Hole
What better way to begin my blog than discussing a wintry family day out!
Now, I’d heard mixed reviews about the place from some friends, but I was eager to visit as I’d never been in a cave previously.
So, as the wife has arranged all the past Santa visits (each year I’m reminded she’s in charge of Christmas!) all three of us settled on Winter Wonderland at Wookey Hole as our festive day out.
Edit: I forgot to add that I was also aware of a KFC nearby from previous trips to the area, so if the day turned out to be awful – I could rely on some good old junk food to ease the pain!
So, let’s get on with the
The Grand Arrival
Billed as a ‘Winter Wonderland’, the website assured us that there was more than enough to do and see for all the family, so after the wife had thrown a few sandwiches together along with some ‘Pigs in Blankets’ Pringles (they were on offer at Lidl!), we were all up and dressed and away for half 9 (the destination being an hour or so away).
Traffic was sparse (a bonus for a Saturday!), and the missus chose to drive the first leg assuring me she knew ‘exactly where Wookey Hole was’, in other words, no sat nav required as apparently it’s ‘unreliable’ around Wookey Hole! (I sometimes wonder what goes through their heads sometimes!)
Now, you should trust your wife in most circumstances, but 50 minutes into our uneventful journey, we found ourselves in a car park with the missus telling me to load up Google Maps.
I asked no questions (I wasn’t in the mood to start a ‘I told you so’ debate) and so I took up the role of a rally driver’s co-mate!
I told her I was happy she had got us pretty close, and fortunately, that was that!
So, we pulled into the car park which, on first inspection, looked as though the chief planner had sunk more than a few beers before deciding on an adequate layout but nevertheless, I did spot ONE empty parking bay close to the entrance (+1 to Dad) saving us all essential walking time!
At this point (although in my opinion a tad early to be seeing the big man as it is STILL November!) I knew it could be busy – which we all know equals longer queue times and possibly delays!
Anyway, as we approached the ticket booth, the wife whipped out our booking information and after checking everything (which she insisted she had done at home) realised we were actually 10 minutes late to see Mr. Red!
This is not good.
Surely they weren’t going to turn us away?
Thankfully, we were all good to go and so the young ticketer ushered us through and directed us towards Santa’s Grotto….
So far so good (and I hoped these were the only blips for today!)
Now, my first impressions of Wookey Hole were that it probably could do with modernising, especially the decor.
Almost everywhere I turned felt like that it needed a fresh coat of paint.
In my opinion, a good factor to how well run an establishment is, is the condition of the toilet facilities.
At Wookey Hole, they seemed to be well kept and clean, although I couldn’t help notice that the toilet roll holders still had ACTUAL ASHTRAYS built into them!
I know, probably a trivial observation, but this evidence suggested a lot more of the place could be a bit run down so to speak!
So, onto the Winter Wonderland experience, and what an experience it was!
We began with queuing up to the entrance of said Wonderland in a completely empty restaurant (with antique chairs and a few thrown together Christmas trees – just to give it that festive look!)
Finally, we were called into the start of an unforgettable journey of animatronic winter animals and creepy elves!
Now, I may sound critical here , but the end product is that my Daughter had genuinely enjoyed it so far!
(Yes, this review is from Dad’s perspective not a child!)
So, after sighing and rolling my eyes all the way through the magical snow paths (mostly at the way everything just seemed to be….well, thrown into a display without any care of presentation) I didn’t really feel festive at all.
But were not here for me, oh no no, as long as the wife and Phoebe enjoyed it – I was happy!
We approached the final ‘waiting room’ which featured a very creepy female elf who’s hydraulic breasts lifted in time to Billie Jean and a neck like a giraffe! (-3 to Wookey Hole)
This ‘display’ was well positioned in front of a conveyor belt of presents that none of us really understood!
From what I could see, there were three or four ‘secret doors’, presumably with a Santa in each one.
Now it was our turn, and I was ever hopeful this would make everything worthwhile!
We were led by a ditzy elf into a very small room (you couldn’t swing your arm, let alone a cat!) and we couldn’t help but notice an elderly gentleman with his Grandson (we presumed) whom had snuck in right beside us!
Now, the car park maze looked busy, but not that busy that we had to be placed into a group santa session surely!
My wife (+1 to her) was quick to suggest to Ditzy that we didn’t know who said persons were and that we had presumed it would be a one-on-one meet!
Ditzy did quickly apologise, and gave them the old ‘suttle elbow’ – but I did feel quite sorry for the poor little lad who again had to go back and wait with Miss Big Chest and her conveyor belt of happiness!
(-1 to Wookey Hole for the experience I suppose)
So, we’d seen Santa, Phoebe had a present ( it was one of those DIY place the beads on a board type things) and she seemed content with that!
**I must apologise for the poor photograph – the lighting didn’t do this any justice whatsoever!
Wookey Hole Caves
Now onto the caves (que me getting quite excited for this part!) and we rolled on up to the cave entrance in anticipation!
Now, all had seemed fairly quiet down in wonderland, but not for much longer!
We took our place behind a group of 9, which 9 out of 10 times isn’t a problem but it wasn’t until the group realised there was a ‘NO PUSHCHAIR’ rule in the cave system and they had 3 of them!
Let’s just analyse this for a second:
- This was clearly signposted all the way up the caves (+1 to Wookey Hole)
- Most struggle navigating pushchairs through a supermarket, let alone in an elaborate cave system!
Jeez, what were they thinking?!?!
So, after been offered a map and £2 glow sticks (I began to wonder if these could actually be handy?) we were in!!!
Led by our tour guide Bill, I noticed straight away that the excessive use of Christmas fairy light curse had struck Wookey Hole!
They were EVERYWHERE, and they all flashed flashed flashed which made it awkward to focus on what was actually in these caves!!!
(+1 to Dad and +2 to my wallet!)
It did turn out that the caves were actually pretty cool!
Even though Bill did go on for a quite a bit at points, I knew he was only doing his job. He also made it quite fun for the kids by pointing out rock formations and lighting up parts of the walls with his mag-lite (another +1 to Wookey Hole)
There were a few places where you had to duck and weave, and after stopping 4 or 5 times for a history lesson, we all felt we’d had enough (the wife can occasionally panic in confined spaces)
So, we left the group and headed for the cave exit only to take a wrong turn and join onto the back of another tour entirely!
We found it funny, but the guide spotted us and directed us out (thinking there was something wrong) which we appreciated!
He did mention ‘live reindeer’ nearby and suddenly the wife’s eyes lit up (she loves reindeers!)
We hurried out the cave and spotted a ‘Reindeer Walk’ sign so we followed and…
What a disappointment!
There was no walk (that’s a lie, we did kind of walk alongside the River Axe briefly) and low and behold there was no reindeer at the end!
After looking around, the wife did spot 2 reindeer.
They were laying down in a field up and across the other side of the river, but clearly inaccessible to most, especially the kids who would need lifting up to see anything!
I would say the day has been mixed so far, but we had pirate golf and a 4D cinema to enjoy yet!
Wookey Hole Museum
Now, I overheard our tour guide mention a museum full of artifacts which I thought we should take a look at for a more hands on experience, so we headed down to a group of buildings to locate it.
The museum turned out to be quiet fascinating and it did a great job of telling a really good story of previous cave dwellers, along with their primitive tools, some very old animal bones and even the supposed Wookey Witch skeleton!
I enjoyed this part of our day!
After grabbing a much needed coffee, we headed towards the cinema.
This was clearly quite new to Wookey Hole, and it stood out like a sore thumb! (a subtle hint to maybe update a few more of the attractions?)
We all thoroughly enjoyed the 4D experience, especially the wind blowing in our faces when Santa was riding his sleigh (the film was Sleigh Ride by the way) so kudos to Wookey Hole for this!
The ride was billed as not suitable for pregnant women or people with heart conditions and quite right because the seats did jolt you back and forth quite a bit!
We made our way through another building which housed an old-style arcade, a mirror maze (always fun!) a play zone and gift shop.
Oh, we also came across a paper-making machine that seemed like you could use but no-one was present so we assumed this part was closed!
All that was left was the pirate miniature golf, which was quite busy and we were waiting for long periods whilst the slower players were frustrating themselves (this didn’t dampen the fun we had at all as we just replayed the quieter holes!)
It was a jam-packed day and overall, we all enjoyed it.
Wookey Hole desperately needs to be improved.
It looks tired and old, although some modernisation has taken place such as the 4D cinema and new queuing platforms around the cave entrance and exit.
This was our first visit – but I’m not sure we would go back again anytime soon.
It’s one of those venues where once you’ve visited once, you can leave it for a few years before returning.
The price was about right – we paid £45 for the three of us and to recap, this included:
- Free Parking (very messy layout)
- Visit to the Winter Wonderland + Father Christmas + present for Phoebe
- Wookey Hole cave admission
- Reindeer Walk (barely!)
- 4D Cinema
- Penny Arcade
- Mirror Maze
- Play Zone
- Christmas Circus Show (we ran out of time)
Oh, I did get a lovely KFC (Festive Double Bucket!) and we all got home safe and sound!!!
What was your expereince of Wookey Hole?
Please drop us any comments you have below.
Thank you very much for reading a Dad’s honest review of Winter Wonderland @ Wookey Hole for 2017!