Caving and Show Caves

There’s a lot going on down there

The largest caving area in the UK is right here in (well, below) Yorkshire. So with 2,000 caves and potholes, plus more than 400km of surveyed passages, you’d better get your torches ready. Yorkshire’s unique geology is waiting to be explored. 

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Gaping Gill

Going Underground

The Yorkshire Dales are world famous for their rich caving opportunities.  The caves have formed in limestone rock over a period of many thousands of years. Limestone is a strong rock but has many joints and cracks, and is also soluble in rainwater, although extremely slowly. In cave systems other processes are also involved in their formation. Abrasion by sand and cobbles is very important and near underground waterfalls spray erosion occurs, and in larger chambers wall and roof collapse can speed these processes. With their beautiful passages and shafts and calcite formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, curtains and flowstone, they can be places of great beauty and peace.

The mysterious flow of water as it appears and disappears around Ribblehead has long captivated cavers, drawing them underground to find out more. The grand dramatic entrances of places such as Hull Pot near Horton-in-Ribblesdale also attract the serious and not so serious enthusiasts from far and wide to explore the many caverns and potholes.

An unmistakable landmark in the county is Gaping Gill on the southern slopes of Ingleborough. With a main shaft descending 105m, a stunning chamber big enough to engulf St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the tallest unbroken waterfall in England, it’s on every cavers must do list.  The Gaping Gill system is one of the country’s longest and most complex cave systems.  As well as the Main Shaft, the system has six other principal entrances; Bar Pot, Flood Entrance Pot, Stream Passage Pot, Disappointment Pot, Henslers Pot and Corky’s Pot. These entrances unite underground, and the water sinking in the system eventually emerges into daylight at Ingleborough Cave, a showcave passed on the walk up to Gaping Gill. 

Other extensive and well known systems in the Dales include The Three Counties and Kingsdale Master Cave.

It makes no difference whether you have had caving experience before or not. How Stean Gorge tailor your session to suit your requirements and abilities. The choice is yours – walk or crawl, abseil or climb, keep dry or get wet or maybe combine a bit of everything. You could find yourself wading through water, climbing underground waterfalls and sliding through mud. If you are looking for something a bit different and don’t mind getting dirty then this is definitely for you.

Yorkshire Dales Guides are unique in having an indoor training facility for teaching vertical caving techniques in a dry, safe environment and are based in the heart of the caving area . They have been teaching all levels of caving from getting started to Single Rope Techniques (SRT) and advanced rescue skills since 1991.

Getting Started

Discover Yorkshire’s underground delights on a guided caving trip

Caving is a truly memorable experience and gives you the opportunity to see the hidden side of our limestone areas.  For a first really adventurous trip underground it’s a good idea to book on to a guided trip. This will see you properly equipped and in experienced hands.

Long Churns near Settle is always a popular choice with its stream passages and fantastic features such as Dr Banisters Hand Basin, The Font, and The Cheese Press. You will also get to see the dramatic entrance to the shaft of Alum Pot, and where the stream disappears to crash down Diccan Pot.  However, there are many more options to choose from.  Slightly more advanced trips can see you abseiling or climbing a ladder as part of the exploration.

Caving is a year round activity. The cave temperature stays at 8oC all year round. Get some friends together and book yourself on to a trip. You will need some warm clothes and a pair of wellies or walking boots. You will be supplied with an oversuit, helmet and light. Trips are for up to 8 people so the more there are the less it costs.

Yorkshire Dales Guides and Live For Today offer guided trips.

Find other instructors and activity centres here.

Show Caves

Want to try caving but not sure where to begin? Try a show cave. These offer guided underground adventures that don’t involve crawling around on your hands and knees.

The Yorkshire Dales has three to try including the longest in Britain at White Scar Caves, near Ingleton.  This subterranean landscape is beautifully lit, with gushing streams, waterfalls, exotic cave formations, and a huge ice-age cavern adorned with thousands of stalactites. It’s the perfect introduction to Yorkshire’s underground treasures.

Ingleborough Cave is reached from Clapham by a lovely scenic walk through a nature reserve before a walkway takes you over half a kilometre into the mountain.

Stump Cross Caverns, situated high on the moors above Grassington, offers a fascinating insight into the unique geology of the area.  Learn how its intriguing limestone formations gradually took shape and see the remains of wolves, bison and reindeer found within the cavern.

Have a go

You need no experience, just some warm clothes as all necessary equipment is supplied. The tours are informative as well and you get to find out about the geology of the area as well as how caves form and how the formations come into being.

The show caves are generally open week round between March and October, and at weekends in winter. The temperature underground stays at 8°C all year round so if you go in cold weather it is often warmer below ground than above.

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