Peak District Caves and Caverns
There are several wonderful caves and caverns littered around the Peak District. Lots of them are a renowned source of the mineral Blue John, which is a stunning shade of different blues and golds, gaining its name from the French ‘bleu jaune,’ which describes the two unique colours of this mineral, making it very popular over the centuries and has been worked locally to make objects for decoration such as jugs, bowls, brooches and other jewellery which grace the tables and bodies the world over. It is a very delicate mineral to work with, so the finest examples are now very expensive indeed.Blue John is still worked today and the main centre for this is the Peak District town of Castleton, which is very close to the caverns and mines from which the mineral is extracted.
The caves and show caverns around Castleton include the unusually named ‘Devils Arse,’, but there are lots more to be found here such as the Pooles Cavern in Buxton, and Matlock Bath’s Heights of Abraham. The caves at Creswell were once occupied during the Stone Age and new archaeological artefacts have just been discovered as well as cave drawings. Thor’s cave is more of a big hole in the side of the hill, but is certainly worth a visit in the glorious Manifold Valley near Ashbourne.
There are lots of the cave shelters and caves which have yielded archaeological artefacts throughout the Peak District, as well as the potholes and caves explored by serious cavers, who are continually pushing themselves to gain the knowledge of the underground connections and discovering new places like the famous Titan Cave discovered recently, which is 475 feet deep.
Caves And Caverns In The Castleton Area:-
The Blue John Cavern
This is the most famous source of the mineral on Buxton Road and it is thought the name is a corruption of the French description of the colours of the mineral, blue and jaune, blue and yellow. The geological name for the mineral is fluorspar, calcium fluoride and the colour is unique to the Derbyshire Peak District area. It can be found in the local shops and is worked into intricate jewellery and ornaments. The cavern boasts 50 m high chambers and is over 500 m in length and there are regular tours each lasting between 40 min to 1 hour. It is also possible to see how this fabulously famous stone was mined and also to see the equipment that was used, as well as the natural features of the cavern itself. The only day it closes is Christmas Day, and it is normally open 9.30 to 5.30 in the summer and 9.30 to dusk in the winter, weather permitting. There is a wonderful gift shop, which has unique jewellery featuring the famous stone and also gifts and other souvenirs.
During the winter months, the cavern guides do the mining and cavern maintenance and craftsmen spend the year at the workshop in Castleton, making the jewellery.
The Peak cavern by the A625, is affectionately called the Devils Arse and we leave it up to you to visit this cavern to find out why it is so called! It is a walk underground of nearly 1 km and it really is amazing with some fantastic features to be marvelled at. Unravel the mysteries of the Devils Arse and step into the unique world of the cavern with unusual rock formations, and the eerie sound of running water. The guides promise echoes of a bygone age will await you and set in the middle of the picturesque Peak District, deep into the cliff is the cavern’s imposing entrance chamber, the largest natural cave entrance in the British Isles.
It has been very well used over the years and people have constructed houses in it. There was also a rope making industry here and more recently there have been some very successful concerts because the acoustics are amazing and other audio, visual events are also becoming more popular. It is open 10 AM to 5 PM, April to October inclusively and for the rest of the year it is open at weekends only. It’s possible to get a combined ticket for Speedwell cavern and the Devils Arse.
This is a very famous cavern under Winnat’s Pass, a spectacular reputedly haunted area of the Peak District, which has boat trips 450 m under the hills of Castleton to the famed Bottomless Pit. The boat takes you along the canal court when it was mine and the bottomless pit is so called because when the canal was made, the engineers dumped the waste into this large pool. The water level never changes nor did the pit ever fill up. It is open every day except Christmas Day and opening times vary with seasons. Boats leave every 15 min with the last one leaving at 5 PM in high season, and at 3:30 PM at low season. There is also French and German language guides available. It’s a great place to understand a little of what life must have been like for the miners working in this 18th century lead mine.
Treak Cliff cavern
This cavern is by the A625 near Peak Cavern, and offers a tour lasting almost 3 quarters of an hour. It has an impressive amount of stalagmites and stalactites, and is another important source of Blue John mineral. Traces of human occupation dating back to the Bronze Age have been found here.
It is a genuine wonder in the heart of the Peak District and is the only place in the world where Blue John Stone naturally occurs. Dogs are welcome at Treak Cliff cavern at all times and there is a cavern shop where stunning pieces of Blue John Stone, both in their rough state and in their finished state can be seen and bought. There is also a very large selection of Blue John Bowls, eggs and other ornamental items and the stone set in sterling silver jewellery.
Buxton Caves And Caverns :-
Take a journey underground with the experts, explore the vast limestone caverns and see how crystal stalactites have lined the chambers over millions of years. This cavern is very easy to be found and there are lots of signs to find it. There are extensive wooded grounds around the cavern and taking a stroll will trail due to a panoramic Peak District hilltop viewpoint. Why not rest at one of the many picnic areas, with wooden benches and trees. One is located by the visitor centre and another a little further away. Inside are some of the finest stalagmites and stalactites that the area has to offer. These aren’t the only attractions for this very impressive cavern though, as there is a legend of a mediaeval outlaw named Poole, who hid in the cavern and buried some treasured there, allegedly.
Archaeologists have found remains going back to 5000 years ago, meaning that humans used it as a shelter. Romans and Celts have also worshipped in the cavern and there are many artefacts on view in the visitor centre.
There is a pay and display car park for 80 vehicles and level access to the visitor centre. There is also a cafe which serves refreshments, snacks and light meals and a separate room for group/school use and wet weather picnic room. Dogs are permitted in the visitor centre and cafe and there is a shop which stocks rock mineral samples, jewellery and a range of other goods, including books, toys and gifts.
The visitor centre includes the cavern exhibition with archaeology found in the cave on display and a film showing the unseen parts of the cavern. There are also toilets with baby changing facilities and a separate toilet adapted for the disabled.
Matlock Bath Caves and Caverns
Matlock Bath lies in a steep sided valley and has been named Little Switzerland. Take the cable car to the Heights of Abraham where there are a variety of things to do, including visits to 2 fantastic Caverns in the area.
The Great Rutland Cavern offers visitors the opportunity to see what life was like for a 17th century lead miner. The great Masson Cavern is reached via the Massive Pavilion, in which you can find out about how the area was created by sea, ice and volcanoes. Take a walk through the well lit underground passengers which brings you to the cavern itself, and aboveground. There are wonderful woodland walks to set out from which you can admire the extensive views from a high vantage point, or let the children run wild at the adventure play areas.
There is a gift shop and cafe/restaurant for a bite to eat, providing an array of mouth watering items to suit all tastes and budgets using local produce and suppliers. Sit and enjoy the stunning views down the Derwent Valley from the floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, which open onto their own terraces to allow for some alfresco dining when the weather permits .The ticket for the cable cards includes free entry to the caverns, exhibitions and hilltop park and is open daily from March – November at peak times. It is open 10 till five and later in the summer months.
Caves Of Archaeological Interest In The Peak District :-
There are some significant caves of archaeological interest in the Peak District and here are just a few.
Reynard’s Cave dates back to The Bronze Age and some of the artefacts here are on display in Buxton Museum. Cheshire Wood Cave has been dated to the Romano British age and also to the Iron Age and there are several burials which have been found, involving adults and children from both periods of history. Falcon Low Cave again has burials found from adults and children who were buried here from the Neolithic age.
Harboro Rocks Cave cannot be missed, a wide entrance and a large interior with a convenient chimney and central large rock, making it very prominent. It has been used as a shelter for climbers who have been caught out in bad weather but it is also known that humans have been using the site for thousands of years. It has been excavated recently and there have been no findings from earlier than the Bronze Age. 16 skeletons have been found, in a single chamber and some of these were in a crouched position, which was the common practice in this era. There have also been found lots of jewellery and pot shards and part of a shale bracelet which date to the Iron Age or earlier. There is a flat top above the cave where Iron Age pottery has been found and the hut platforms are still visible.
Thirst House Cave
There have been fined of this site, including Roman and British brooches and burials but it’s not clear whether this was a domestic site or a metal working site with occupation during seasonal times.
There are large concentration of caves here which have yielded lots of archaeological finds. Thor’s Cave is a tourist attraction of the valley, well signposted but with a steep path can lead the visitor up to the cave. The station was built in Victorian times close to the start of the path when tourism was new to the region, and in the cave itself, there is evidence of Roman/British occupation, but it was also used in late Neolithic times for a crouched burial.
Thor’s Fissure Cave is quite hard to get to, and flint tools from the late Upper Palaeolithic era were discovered together with artefacts from the Iron Age and Roman periods. Animal bones have also been found including a deer and a dolphin!
Seven Ways Cave as well as Mill Pot Cave, date back to the Neolithic and Saxon periods, and Bronze Age pottery has been found. Elder Bush Cave needs to be accessed from the lower levels to gain the best caving experience. A pile of deer bones covered in rocks has been found indicating a meat cachet and flint and pottery dating to the Bronze Age have also been retrieved.
No matter how big or how small your favourite cave or cavern is, there are certainly several to discover if you are interested in anything underground in the Peak District!