For some people a perfect day out is an expedition and a voyage of discovery with challenging climbs or a crawl through a narrow space. Discovering the caves of the United Kingdom can provide such a voyage and in some cases is a great journey in to the unknown.
Venturing into a dark cave might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but caving is an increasingly popular sport in the UK. Some caves require experienced guides, ropes and other pieces of equipment to assist the adventure, whilst others are show caves that are well lit to accommodate tourists of all ages and sizes.
The longest cave in the country is in the Yorkshire Dales and should be negotiated by experienced cavers. The Three Counties System is 75 kilometres (47 miles) long and has at least 28 entrances.
Coming in at a close second in the longest cave charts is Ogof Draenen in South Wales, which is approximately 70 kilometres and has stunning displays of calcite decorations.
If you want to climb in to Britain’s deepest cave then you need to stay in South Wales for Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, which also happens to be the third longest cave. Its deepest point is 308 metres and entry here is controlled by the South Wales Caving Club. This cave also has the distinction of housing the UK’s longest stalactite at an extraordinary five metres long.
The longest show cave in the UK is White Scar Cave in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. A guided one mile walk takes approximately 80 minutes to complete and provides visitors with fantastic views of a cascading waterfall. No matter how many times you see the stalactites and stalagmites in a cave they still look amazing, and the carrot coloured ones at White Scar Cave are no exception.
There are many other show caves across the UK with their own different myths and legends. Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset has the story of the Witch reputedly turned to stone by a monk from Glastonbury. The constantly low temperature in the cave also enables Cheddar Cheese to be matured here.
Wookey Hole is said to be haunted and as with most dark places, many other UK caves have stories of ghostly figures. Other caves are just magnificent sights such as Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish island of Staffa, which is formed entirely from hexagonally jointed basalt columns. Whether you want to challenge yourself or take a guided walk through a show cave, there is something for everyone in the UK’s caves.