It might not be everyone’s idea of a fun activity, but caving in the UK is a surprisingly popular thing to do. Those that are into caving here will jump at the chance to tell you that the British Isles is home to an endlessly fascinating world of underground exploration, while those that aren’t into it will likely shudder at the more claustrophobic aspects of the pastime. Want to do some caving in the UK? Here, below, are some great places to do it. Worth saying, before we go any further, that by caving we also mean potholing and spelunking (people have different words for things, and that’s fine)
The Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales, land of – amongst other things – the Emmerdale theme tune, is home to some of the United Kingdom’s most incredible cave systems. Take the Three Counties System, for example. You can find it in the Yorkshire Dales, and it’s the longest cave system in the UK. Offering a mind-boggling 86.7 km (53.9 miles) of passageways for intrepid explorers to work their way through, it should be top of the to-visit list for all caving enthusiasts in this country. It brings together the Ease Gill system, the Notts Pot / Ireby Fell system, the Lost John’s system and the Pippikin Pot system. One of the most popular cave entrances in this part of the world is the 33m drop at Lancaster Hole . It’s for experienced cavers, and you’ll need a permit to access most areas, so be sure to keep this in mind when planning.
Yorkshire Dales Guides have a lot of experience when it comes to running safe caving trips in the Yorkshire Dales. With prices starting at around the £40 mark, their caving team will help you to build up confidence in the activity (especially if you’re a beginner, learning the ropes). What’s more, they’ll ensure you don’t get lost down there beneath the earth; something that will reassure your relatives while they go about their business on the ‘surface world’.
If caves in the UK were human celebrities, Gaping Gill in the Yorkshire Dales would be a-list material. It’s the largest underground cave chamber in Britain, and easily one of the most famous caves in the entire country. The main vertical shaft, from uppermost point to chamber floor, measures about 98 metres in terms of depth. A truly dramatic sight when witnessed from within, the massive cave really does need to be seen to be believed. A natural wonder big enough to house a cathedral inside it, with the help of the Bradford Pothole Club and Craven Pothole Club you can now follow the movements of Édouard-Alfred Martel (who made the first total descent of Gaping Gill way back in 1895). It’s only £15 for a descent here but dates are limited, so make sure you get this one in the diary early.
One of the very best things about caving is that it allows you to get up close with a lost world that only a very small percentage of people will ever see. Alum Pot, in Yorkshire, is the perfect example of this kind of thinking. It’s an 80 metre open shaft on the eastern flank of Simon Fell, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but it’s unique nature means that entering it feels like you’re transporting yourself onto another planet entirely. To explore it, speak with the caving experts at Lost Earth Adventures. They’re incredibly knowledgeable, and are well placed to take you on the kind of journey you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry. When the sunlight cuts into the cavern, there’s no better place to be than The Bridge. It’s Alum Pot’s headline act, and a guaranteed like-generator on social media (if you care about that sort of thing).