Subterranea Britannica

Peak Cavern

Peak Cavern
Castleton, Hope Valley,
Derbyshire S33 8WS
Further information Peak Cavern

OS Grid Ref: SK147827
Date of visit:

[Source: Tony Radstone]

Unlike the other show caves in the area, Peak Cavern is almost entirely natural; the only artificial part of the cave was blasted to bypass a low tunnel that was only accessible by lying down on a boat. The cave system is the largest in the Peak District, and the main entrance is the largest cave entrance in Britain. Until 1915 the cave was home to some of Britain's last troglodytes (the cave-houses at Kinver Edge near Kidderminster were populated until the 1950s), who lived in houses built inside the cave mouth, and made a living from rope making, while the depths of the cave were known as a haven for bandits.[citation needed] In legend, it was where thieves' cant was created by a meeting between Cock Lorel, leader of the rogues and Giles Hather, the King of the Gypsies.[3]

Several passages lead from the entrance, known as "The Vestibule". The only one open to the public is "Lumbago Walk", named as traversing it requires most adults to stoop. The route continues through two main caverns, "The Great Cave" and "Roger Rain's House", and into a passage, "Pluto's Dining Room". This is the furthest point currently open to the public, but the show cave used to extend considerably further: down "The Devil's Staircase" to "The Halfway House" and then along an underground stream known as the "Inner Styx", via a series of bridges and under "Five Arches".[4]

At this point, several routes are open to cavers. The main path, to the right, leads to "Victoria Aven", a sizeable shaft and on to "Far Sump", through which lies the Far Sump Extension. This area was first explored in 1980, but difficult access limited discoveries until routes through from Speedwell Cavern and James Hall's Over Engine Mine were opened in 1996.[4] This permitted further exploration, and in 1999 Titan Shaft was discovered, at 141.5 metres (464 ft) the deepest pitch in Britain.

Unravel the mysteries of the Devilís Arse and step into the unique world of Peak Cavern. Unusual rock formations, the eerie sound of running water and echoes of a bygone age await you.

Set in the middle of the picturesque Peak District village of Castleton, the approach to Peak Cavern is awe inspiring.

A riverside walk takes you past centuries old minersí cottages, opening out into a spectacular limestone gorge. Before you are 280ft high vertical cliffs with the ruins of Peveril Castle towering above.

Deep into the cliffs is the Cavernís imposing entrance chamber ó the largest natural cave entrance in the British Isles.

Within this entrance chamber you will see the remains of an ancient village where a whole community lived and worked making ropes for the local lead mines for more than 400 years.

As you venture deeper into the Cavern and stoop to go through Lumbago walk you will hear the remarkable acoustics of the Orchestral Gallery in the Great Cave, see a perpetual cascade of water at Roger Rainsí House, pass through Plutoís Dining Room into the Devilís Cellar where you can hear the source of the river Styx.

Effective LED lighting systems highlight the splendour of the cavernís chambers with their unusual flowstone and stalactite formations to enhance the experience of your visit to this famous location.

Guided tours which include traditional ropemaking demonstrations are available at frequent intervals, each lasting about 1 hour. The tours are fairly undemanding and are suitable for all ages.

[Source: Tony Radstone]

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