Ingleborough Cave, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, was first discovered in 1837 by brave Victorian explorers. The lord of the manor, intrigued by an opening in the cliff face, gathered together a group of his most trusted employees. The opening disappeared in to the darkness, and the villagers steers clear; it is the home of the devil, they say! These brave adventurers are undeterred, and set out in to the darkness with only candles for light. They encounter a dam holding back a huge lake, so they smash away the dam, draining the lake and going on to discover 1/2km of previously unexplored passages!
Today, the cave is well lit, and you can follow in the footsteps of those brave pioneers on an awe-inspiring voyage of discovery and exploration that’s journeys 500 metres beneath Ingleborough, one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks! A concrete footpath leads visitors past breath-taking stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones, as you are led by expert guides through a kilometre of passages brought to life by formations and artefacts dating back millions of years! The significant impact of the Ice Age is visible, and as recently as 2002 the tooth of a woolly rhinoceros, now long extinct, was discovered just beyond the show cave!
The cave is reached via the 1.3 mile Ingleborough Estate Nature Trail, which wends it way through the woodland, past a picturesque lake and along a steep river valley before emerging at the imposing entrance to Ingleborough Cave. It was established in 1970 to mark European Conservation Year, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the death of one of Clapham’s most famous sons, the plantsman, plant collector and writer Reginald John Farrer (1880-1920).
The trail provided a stunning backdrop for Reginald to discover his love for the limestone landscapes and the fells that surrounded them, and upon leaving Oxford University, he travelled to the mountainous areas of Europe and Asia in search of new Alpine species. Interpretation panels tell the story of Reginald’s adventures, including a rather bizarre tale where he once used a shotgun in an attempt to find a successful resting place for some of this precious seeds that he had collected abroad. His lasting legacy is a collection of quite stunning rhododendrons that he brought back and planted in the pockets of acidic soil above the craven fault. These beautiful flowers rear their heads in early spring.
The trail is also the gateway to some of the U.K’s most stunning limestone scenery including Trow Gill gorge, Gaping Gill pothole, the limestone pavements, Norber Erratics and ultimately the summit of Ingleborough. Alfred Wainwright, the esteemed guidebook author and illustrator, called this route up Ingleborough “the finest of all, a classic”.
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