Ever considered caving? The activity is pretty popular – according to statistics from UK Caving cited by the BBC in 2018, there are around 4,000 regular cavers in the UK, and around 70,000 people go on trips to the Yorkshire Dales every year.
Heading into the bowels of the earth isn’t for the faint of heart, but with the right equipment, training, guidance, and plenty of batteries to hand, it can be a magical experience, letting you explore areas rarely – if ever – frequented by humans, witnessing geology that’s truly out of this world!
Of course, whether you’re considering caving or are new to the subject, some caves are arguably better than others – to help you find the best places to explore, here are some of our favourites.
Yorkshire – Gaping Gill
129m long and 31m tall, Gaping Gill is one of the most awe-inspiring cave systems in the UK. Located on the southern side of the peak of Ingleborough, begin by abseiling down over 90m into the main shaft, before making your way through a range of passages and crawls. This truly great cave has loads to offer on top of big, open underground spaces, so be sure to bring along your hi-vis clothing so you can stay safe and seen in the depths.
South Wales – Ogof Ffynnon Ddu
Reaching down over 300m into the Brecon Beacons, Ogof Ffynnon Ddu is the UK’s deepest cave. Particularly expansive and complex, OFD features over 30 miles of passageways whose labyrinthine nature has occasionally resulted in inexperienced cavers becoming lost in the windy and waterlogged tunnels. Despite this though, OFD is a joy to explore, with all shapes and sizes of passages, terraced sections, and large waterfalls – just be sure you have the right training and expert guidance.
Gloucestershire – Clearwell Caves
A perfect beginner’s cave that’s suitable for kids getting used to potholing and caving, Clearwell Caves sees explorers head down 60m into the depths exploring a system that has been mined by humans for over 4,500 years! There is a little clambering to get stuck into, but at around two hours, this cave system is a perfect introduction for newbies.
Somerset – Swildon’s Hole
At 9,150m long, Swildon’s Hole is home to one of the UK’s longest tracts of underground streams. First explored in 1936, the system has its fair share of amazing underwater geology, including huge mineral formations, large galleries, sumps, and much more.
Outer Hebrides – Fingal’s Cave
Not all caves are inland, and Fingal’s Cave on the uninhabited Hebridean island of Staffa is one of the most awe-inspiring sea caves in the country. Framed by rows of hexagonal basalt columns, the cave stretches hundreds of feet into the shoreline and is known for its fantastic acoustics and surprising contribution to literature and the arts – works by Mendelssohn, Jules Verne, JMW Turner and many others were inspired by the cave.
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