From windows into the Ice Age to immense potholes, Yorkshire has tonnes of spectacular caves to explore…
Above ground, Yorkshire is amass with stunning scenery, but below lies a whole other world of caves and caverns, just waiting to be explored. Whether you’re an experienced caver (slash potholer, slash spelunker) on the hunt for the finest rock formations, or a complete novice seeking the most unexpected of adventures, these Yorkshire caves will tick all the right boxes. Before you head out on your jaunt, bear in mind that while some may be a simple stroll around, others might require expert assistance and specialist equipment.
For a caving adventure that’s less trivial, add these show caves to your list. They’ve been tunnelled out, signposted and fitted with walkways, so you can wander around and see them in all their glory for yourself.
White Scar Cave
Fancy a trip inside the longest show cave in the country? White Scar Cave is one of the Yorkshire Dales’ most impressive attractions – and that’s saying a lot. It’s over 100-metres long, up to 30-metres high in places, and takes around an hour and a half to explore from start to finish, with guided tours available all year round. Named after the streaks of limestone above the entrance, it makes a pretty good first impression – the first thing you’ll see inside is the enormous waterfall, with 55 tonnes of water crashing over it every minute.
White Scar Cave, Ingleton, Carnforth, North Yorkshire, LA6 3AW.
One of the UK’s oldest show caves, Ingleborough Cave has been enchanting visitors with its giant stalactites and Ice Age relics since 1837. This Yorkshire natural wonder has made spelunking accessible to everyone – the smoothed out walkway can fit everything from a wheelchair to a pram on the half-kilometre trail. Along the way, you’ll see jaw-dropping rimstone dams, amazing rock formations, and even the remains of a woolly rhinoceros that was discovered by a local potholing club in 2001. Bonus!
Ingleborough Cave, Clapham, North Yorkshire, LA2 8EE.
Stump Cross Caverns
Discovered in 1860 by miners, the caverns at Stump Cross were soon put to good use, opening as show caves to the curious public ever since. It’s been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), while the prehistoric caves have been brought to life by light installations and fairy trails, making it perfect for a family outing in the great Yorkshire outdoors. Get here after 3pm and you’ll be in for a treat, as the calcite formations are lit up with dazzling UV lights. Keen potholer? Plenty of deeper caves remain unexplored here.
Stump Cross Caverns, Greenhow Hill, Pateley Bridge, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 5JL.
Mother Shipton’s Cave
Magic meets science at Mother Shipton’s Cave to create a true family-friendly delight. Born in the cave, Mother Shipton was a 15th-century prophetess who predicted the Great Fire of London, and even the end of the world. She was labelled a witch, and her legend was spread by visitors to the nearby Petrifying Well – one of the oldest tourist attractions in the country. The well’s high mineral content covers anything in a silt coating and is believed to be magic. While you’re here, you can make a wish in that very same water at the wishing well.
Mother Shipton’s Cave, Prophecy Lodge, High Bridge, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, HG5 8DD.
First opened as a show cave in Victorian times, today Yordas Cave is one of the most alluring free-to-visit caves in Yorkshire. No two people can seem to agree on where the name Yordas comes from. Some argue it’s a giant, while others suggest it comes from a Nordic phrase meaning ‘Earth stream’. There is indeed a stream running through the 50-metre wide main chamber, and a roaring waterfall in a small chamber that sounds like a far-away giant. Either way, it’s well worth a visit.
Yordas Cave, Ingleton, Carnforth, North Yorkshire, LA6 3PH.
For Experienced Cavers
If you’re up for a challenge, why not try your hand at proper caving? It requires skill, training and rigorous safety measures, but you can learn the ropes at one of Yorkshire’s caving clubs, including the University of Leeds Speleological Association, Craven Pothole Club, Northern Pennine Club, Morley Potholing Club and the Yorkshire Subterranean Society.
Great Douk Cave
If you’re a beginner to potholing, Great Douk Cave is the perfect gentle introduction to the activity in Yorkshire. You’ll find the cave’s entrance next to an idyllic little waterfall, leading you into a long underground passageway. Follow the stream for as far as it goes and you’ll encounter your biggest challenge – a moderately tight squeeze – before a surprise exit out into daylight at Middle Washfold Cave. Wetsocks are recommended as it’s often wading-height water, and you just might want to bring a change of clothes for the journey home.
Great Douk Cave, Ingleton, Carnforth, North Yorkshire, LA6 3JE.
In Skipton, where Caseker Gill flows toward the River Wharfe, you’ll stumble across Dow Cave. This is a post-glacial stream passage with plenty to offer both caving newbies and pros. It starts off nice and simple, with nothing too strenuous in the first third, making it ideal for novices to get a taste of cave-walking. Deeper in, where it connects to Providence Pot, the route starts to get tricky, with rapid water changes a challenge for even the most experienced cavers. It’s firmly experts only from that point onwards.
Dow Cave, Cam Gill Road, Kettlewell, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 5RP.
Alum Pot is one of the finest abseil caves in Yorkshire. This enormous 100-metre deep pothole sits on the steep slopes of Ingleborough. On the approach, a stream rushes past and tumbles into the hole, so you’ll be spelunking with a gushing torrent of water right beside you. And you’ll be in good company, as keen cavers have been going down the pot since 1848. Once you’re in the heart of it, there’s a whole labyrinth of caves to acquaint yourself with, from stream passages to the famous Cheese Press squeeze.
Alum Pot, Selside, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 0HZ.
Excalibur Pot is the only known major cave in the North York Moors National Park. Discovered by two divers in 1981, it wasn’t until years later when the York Caving Club forged an entry point. Now, everyone with a permit can enjoy Excalibur, named after the legendary sword of King Arthur, and all its incredible rock formations. Boasting tight squeezes and big dips, this is one for the more experienced cavers. There’s also a serious chance of flooding, so be sure to time your excursion to Excalibur right.
Excalibur Pot, Kirbymoorside, Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire, YO62 6UQ. A permit for entry is required from the Council of Northern Caving Clubs (CNCC) due to it being on a private shooting estate.
Not only is Gaping Gill one of the most famous caving spots in the Yorkshire Dales, it’s also Britain’s biggest underground chamber. At 650-feet deep, this behemoth promises one of the rarest potholing experiences around. Fell Beck Waterfall cascades into the cave at twice the height of Niagara Falls, so the entrance to the cave is off-limits – except for twice a year. Every May and August, local caving clubs wind up a winch to allow a few lucky people to explore the cave below. If you get the chance, it’s a must for cavers.
Fell Beck Waterfall, Gaping Gill, Clapdale Lane, Yorkshire Dales National Park, LA2 8EE.