Family Caving Adventures In The Peak District
The Peak District areas of Castleton and the Hope Valley are wonderful places to camp and there are plenty of great locations to pitch your tent on well-established sites with good facilities.
The vast majority of the visitors to come here to walk on the Peakland hills and moors.
But once you discover the underground playground of the Peakland caverns and caves, a whole new world opens up to you.
And what’s more you don’t need to be an experienced caver to see it – the main Peak District caverns are geared up for the general tourist and make an exciting day out that will enthral.
The majority of the show caves are in the vicinity of Castleton itself, but there are a few others worth checking out too like Poole’s Cavern at Buxton and the Heights of Abraham Caves near Matlock.
Castleton is a quintessential English village and is a delight to spend time around. There are pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops but don’t forget other villages and hamlets nearby that are worth looking at too with the likes of Hope, Hathersage and Edale all having charms of their own.
And wherever you go in this region you will have the ever changing background of the Peakland moors and hills that look at their magnificent best in late August and September as the heather changes colour to dreamy shades of purple and red.
You don’t need any special equipment to explore these caverns, just comfortable clothing and sensible footwear. But don’t forget to take a fleece or jacket no matter how hot the day may be – it can be quite cold underground!
PEAK DISTRICT CAVERNS TO EXPLORE
Winnats Pass, Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 8WA
Speedwell Cavern offers a fantastic journey down the narrow dimly lit flooded workings of an old lead mine. Boats take visitors along small tunnels barely high enough to avoid banging your head on. At the end of these you clamber out of the boat and entre a high cave to see ‘the bottomless pit’, the fluorspar veins and stalagmites and stalactites. Speedwell Caverns offers a great trip into the hillside but might prove a little much if you are claustrophobic. The flight of steps down to the boat is steep and has to be re-climbed at the end!
Peak Cavern Road, Hope Valley, Castleton, Derbyshire, S33 8WS
Peak Cavern is different from other show caves in the Castleton area in that it is almost all entirely natural. It is also known by the great name of The Devil’s Arse because of the flatulent sounding noises that come from inside the cavern when flood water is draining away. There are several passages leading from the entrance area which is known as The Vestibule. Only one passage is open to the public and this isLumbago Walk’ which is named because most adults have to stoop down here. The route continues through The Great Cave and Rogers Rain House and reaches Pluto’s Dining Room, which is the furthest point currently open to the public.
BLUE JOHN CAVERN
Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 8WA
Blue John Cavern is named after the semi-precious Blue John stone (or Derbyshire Spar) and is home to eight of the 14 known varieties. It is still mined in small amounts outside the tourist season and made into jewellery in the local area. Guided tours are conducted throughout the cave system at regular intervals during the day and take around 45 minutes to an hour. The tour takes in a series of magnificent water worn caverns where Blue John can be seen in its natural state along with stalactites and stalagmites. Highlights include The Waterfall Cavern with its multi coloured dome, Lord Mulgrave’s Dining Room and The Variegated Cavern which is 150 ft/46 metres high.
TREAK CLIFF CAVERN
Buxton Road, Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire S33 8WP
Treak Cliff Cavern is another old mine and one where The Blue John stone was once mined and can still be seen. The cavern comprises of two sections – The Old Series, which was discovered by the lead miners of the 18th Century ,and The New Series, which was uncovered during blasting in the 1920s. Only The Old Series contains Blue John Stone with the other being home to Flowstone, stalagmites and stalactites. The cavern, opened to the public at Easter 1935, is accessed up steep steps from the nearby road. Highlights include The Witches Cave, Aladdin’s Cave, The Fossil Cave, Fairyland, The Dream Cave and The Dome of St Pauls.
POOLES CAVERN AND COUNTRY PARK
Green Lane, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9DH
Located near Buxton and often called ‘the wonder of the peak’, Poole’s Cavern is one of Derbyshire’s most spectacular natural show caves. It was named after an outlaw, Poole, who is reputed to have used the cave as a hiding place in the 15th Century. It was opened to the public in 1853 and around 1,020 ft/310 metres of cave are available for general viewing. Stalagmites and stalactites are named after things they look like, such as ‘the flitch of bacon’ and ‘Mary Queen of Scots Pillar’. Part of the cavern is wheelchair accessible.
HEIGHTS OF ABRAHAM SHOW CAVES
Derby Road, Matlock Bath, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3NT
Located near to Matlock and a major tourist attraction in its own right, the Heights of Abraham has its own show caves to boost its already considerable popularity. Winding deep under the hillside the cavern tours run at regular intervals during the day and explore the site of a former lead mine. The rich mineral deposits left behind a large network of naturally formed caverns and passageways with The Masson Cavern and Rutland Cavern being highlights which are brought to life by your guides’ commentary and clever lighting.
WHERE TO CAMP
LANESIDE CARAVAN PARK
Station Road, Hope, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 6RR
Located a short five minute walk from the village of Hope, Laneside Caravan Park is well located for exploring The Hope Valley and the caverns and caves of Castleton. The site has over a hundred pitches with 65 having electric hook-ups. A good road runs around the site with the main camping area being in fenced off grass sections near a small river – pitches are flat and the grass well cut. There are clean and tidy heated toilets with disabled facilities and also a laundry. The site has a small shop, free Wi-Fi and is beautifully landscaped.
COOPERS CAMPING AND CARAVAN SITE
New Fold Farm, Edale, Derbyshire, S33 7ZD
Cooper’s Camping and Caravan Site is situated in Edale village next to the Nags Head Inn. The valley location is stunning and the site covers about seven acres and can take up to 135 units - there are no electric hook ups for tents. The fields are slightly sloping and nearly all the pitches have exceptional views from them. There is a clean toilet block with showers and hot water sinks located nearby. The site has a shop/post office and a café/snack bar. Coopers Camping and Caravan Site is set on a working farm and is very popular.
BEECH CROFT FARM CARAVAN PARK AND CAMPING SITE
Blackwell in the Peak, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9TQ
Beech Croft Farm Caravan Park and Campsite is about six miles from Buxton. The site takes caravans, campervans and tents and there is a choice of three fields for camping. The site is set on different levels with an excellent access track running around it. Most of the pitches are level but there are some sloping ones. There is a play area for children. The toilet/showers are modern and very clean with under floor heating. There are disabled toilets and a laundry. The site has a small shop and a camper’s cabin with a microwave and vending machine. There is also Wi-Fi.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
This is a dramatic and atmospheric limestone pass west of Castleton. It is an adventurous drive on a rising road beyond Speedwell Cavern.
PEVERIL CASTLE AND CAVE DALE
The ruins of Peveril Castle tower over Castleton and are very impressive. The castle was built in 1176 by Henry 11. Beyond the castle rises the dry limestone valley of Cave Dale which has a path dramatically running up it.
DERWENT RESERVOIR AND LADYBOWER RESERVOIR
Derwent Reservoir is the middle of three reservoirs in the Upper Derwent Valley and it is where the World War Two Dam Busters practiced with their bouncing bomb. Every September there is a remembrance fly over by Lancaster bombers. Also worth a visit is Ladybower Reservoir which is close by.