We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Christmas magic at it's best!”
Review of Clearwell Caves

Clearwell Caves
Ranked #3 of 23 things to do in Coleford
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Impressive natural caverns that have been mined for ochre and iron ore over 4,500 years. Visit nine impressive caverns, going down around 100ft (31m) underground. Displays throughout. Spectacular underground projections. Great Cafe and Shop, Picnic and children's play area (can all be visited separately from the Caves). Ample free parking. Special events through the year. Exciting Deep Level adventure caving activities. Great for all the family.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children, Food available for purchase, Activities for older children
Level Contributor
47 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 74 helpful votes
“Christmas magic at it's best!”
Reviewed January 4, 2013

A wonderful, magical Christmas grotto, by far the best I've seen. We go every year and it is now part of our Christmas. The story displays are truly fantastic, with handmade and stitched characters, and such wonderful details. Also an abundance of beautifully lit christmas trees and sparkly lights really add to the magic.

A full story book is illustrated scene by scene in the various alcoves and areas of the caves, with the story written on large signs to read. Some scenes are huge and some are in miniature, all are impressive. I think each story runs for 2 years then changes. The story book is available to buy in the gift shop.

Don't be put off by your first impressions of the very industrial entrance, when you are in the caves it is wonderful.

The Santa is lovely, well dressed and looks and acts the part. If you are there when it is quieter (not weekends) he will spend a good amount of time talking to your child. The child gets to choose their own gift from a huge selection on Santa's stall and the gifts are really very nice quality toys (compared to what you usually get in a grotto). Proper branded toys that would retail between £4 - £8.

I love that you meet Santa first, it means you can enjoy the rest of the visit without the 'when will we see Santa? question and the child imposed hurry. I also like the fact the the kids can see him while waiting in line and that you can take your own photos with no official photographer at all, and hence no pressure to buy an overpriced photo.

You can have tea and cake also in the cave cafe, the cafe seating was much improved this year, but I do feel the selection of cake and particularly the appearance of the food (and food service area) could be drastically improved. Also the lady serving was so very miserable and grumpy it was comical, but felt so jarring and disappointing in such a magical setting.

Having said that it won't put me off going again, I'd just spend more while there if the cakes looked more appetizing and the service was with a smile.

There is also a mini Christmas market inside the cave, but this is really small, just 6 or 8 stalls which all sell very similar Christmas decorations. It would be nice to see something different here, maybe a hot mulled wine or spiced cider stall (or apple juice) or stalls from local crafts people.

It takes about 1 1/2 hours to visit on a quite day. Certainly wear wellies - it's not cold in the caves, but wet and really mucky on the floor and on the short walk to the caves from the car park. The cave paths are just about suitable for pushchairs, with a little help. We always go on a week day and have never queued at all, not even to see Santa, although I have heard that early morning on a weekend day nearest to Christmas the queues can be long.

Still five stars though, as the main grotto attraction is just beautiful.

Visited December 2012
1 Thank feebeegee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

685 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Slovak first
  • Any
English first
Level Contributor
46 reviews
39 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
“Can't rate too highly”
Reviewed January 3, 2013

If you are here around Christmas their display is not to be missed. I am an ex-caver and a cave purist - I hate how Cheddar has spoiled what they have - the idea of Bernard and the Polar Bear was an anathema to me, but I swallowed hard and went. But wow! Forget going to see a cave this is a different league. I really cannot praise this highly enough - there must have been tens of thousands of hours of work gone into this. Magical for children, astounding for adults. Well done.

Visited January 2013
1 Thank 1BristolPete
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
7 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Christmas grotto”
Reviewed December 28, 2012

Stunning Christmas grotto with Santa. Great for the kids. The only down side is there is quite a cue to meet Santa but you can choose to not meet Santa and carry on through the grotto. This was great because we were meeting father Christmas at perry grove railway the next day so we had no problem.

Visited December 2012
3 Thank Archangelscuba
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brighton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
109 reviews
34 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 58 helpful votes
“Lovely Christmas attraction!”
Reviewed December 27, 2012

We decided to call in to Clearwell Caves on a rainy night before Christmas Eve. We got there late - about 4.30 - and it was quite dark and windy. The walk down was quite treacherous and not very well lit, hence the loss of one star... Not great for an older person and quite frightening for small children!

However, that was the only bad part of the trip. The caverns were lit up for Christmas, like a giant grotto - Christmas trees and lights helped create a wonderland in which a story was being told about a hungry polar bear. A great idea - presents were strewn across the caves, so children could look for their names under the trees. It was truly magical and we enjoyed it very, very much.

The caves themselves are very interesting - from the old mine tracks to the hidden nooks and crannies, it is an adventure just walking through the place. It is muddy, though, so do wear old shoes!

I can't speak for this place during the rest of the year, but if you're about at Christmas then I fully recommend it. Excellent value for money and the best Santa's grotto you're likely to see - Santa on a huge throne right in the belly of the cave!

There's also a small marketplace and cafe, too, so you needn't be bored or hungry.

Visited December 2012
2 Thank Rebbyface
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
130 reviews
46 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 71 helpful votes
“Magical! Wish we'd discovered it before!”
Reviewed December 24, 2012 via mobile

On the recommendation from a friend we researched and cake early on Christmas Eve- and WOW! We can't recommend this highly enough. Beautifully decorated with real Christmas trees and lights throughout, the story of The Very Hungry Polar Bear was brilliant! Our 7 year old thoroughly enjoyed reading the cards which told the story and walking through the caves.
Father Christmas took time to sit and talk to us, and the cricket set gift was excellent value given the entry price and the choice was wide.
This was a lovely thing to do on Christmas Eve- magical fir us all!

1 Thank Andrea W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Clearwell Caves also viewed

Coleford, Forest of Dean
Coleford, Forest of Dean

Been to Clearwell Caves? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing