Caves and caverns to visit in Derbyshire and the Peak District
PUBLISHED: 10:57 24 August 2016
The dramatic river landscape and mining heritage of Derbyshire has paved the way for the formation of a number of caverns, both natural and man-made, lying hundreds of metres below the surface
Poole’s Cavern, Buxton: Set in the grounds of Buxton Country Park, Poole’s Cavern is a natural limestone gorge thought to have been formed over two million years ago. Home to an awe-inspiring array of crystal stalactites and stalagmites, the cavern also contains evidence of pre-historic life from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.
Blue John Cavern, Castleton: No less than eight veins of the precious Blue John Stone can be found at the famous Blue John Cavern in Castleton, which has been named one of the finest ranges to explore in Western Europe. Blue John is widely considered to be one of Britain’s rarest and most precious minerals and was first discovered at Castleton by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago.
Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton: A fascinating cavern - also containing the famous Blue John Stone - Treak Cliff comprises two sections, the Old Series discovered by lead miners in the 18th century and the New Series, discovered in the 1920s. Only the Old Series contains Blue John, but the New Series is well-decorated with flowstone, stalagmites and stalagtites. The Blue John Cavern is home to eight of the 14 known veins of Blue John Stone – currently found in only one place on earth, Castleton.
Speedwell Cavern, Castleton: At the foot of Winnat’s Pass, the journey into Speedwell Cavern involves a magical boat trip. Visitors glide through 200-year-old lead mining works to a magnificent cathedral-like cavern containing the Bottomless Pit – a huge subterranean lake. Picture in your mind what it must have been like to carve out these tunnels using only the most primitive tools, as your guide recounts the story of the mine which opens into a network of natural caverns and underground rivers.
Peak Cavern, Castleton: Notable for having the largest natural cave entrance in Britain, Peak Cavern is sometimes called the ‘Devil’s Arse’ because of the cave’s flatulent-sounding noises when the flood water is draining away. See Peak Cavern’s historic Rope-Making works on your fully guided tour of the cave, or experience one of the year-round musical events in the natural amphitheatre of the entrance.
Masson and Rutland Caverns, Matlock: There are two show cavers at the Heights of Abraham at Matlock. Originally a lead mine, Great Masson Cavern was opened to the public in Victorian times and is one of the oldest show caves. Rutland Cavern allows the chance to view passages chipped away by miners since Roman times, and discover what life was like for 17th century miners.
Creswell Crags: Neatly dividing Derbyshire from Nottinghamshire, Creswell Crags is a limestone gorge honeycombed with caves and smaller fissures. Stone tools and remains of animals found in the caves provide evidence for a fascinating story of life during the last Ice Age between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago. Creswell Crags was among the most northerly places on earth to have been visited by our ancient ancestors. All of the caves are protected by metal grills to preserve the rare archaeological deposits that remain inside. At the east end of the gorge is a fascinating Museum and Education Centre.
Hermit’s Caves: Surrounded by mysterious tales relating to their inhabitants, the Anchor Church Caves at Ingleby and the Hermit’s Cave in Dale Abbey are intriguing places to visit. The series of sandstone cavers at Ingleby are known as Anchor Church and were thought to have been the home of an Anchorite hermit, St Hardulph. Legend states that the cave at Dale Abbey was hewn out by a 12th century Derby baker who wishes to live as a recluse.