30+ caves you can visit in UK national parks

Activity, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Clare Willcocks on 10th August 2021

Peak Cavern

The 15 glorious national parks of England, Scotland and Wales not only harbour some of the most stunning natural scenery in the UK but, in some cases, what’s found below ground is equally impressive as what lies above. From sprawling networks of interlinked caverns, to remote caves accessible only to experienced potholers, our national parks are studded with intriguing underground voids, just waiting to be explored.

Some of the most notable natural caverns have been shored up and transformed into showcaves. At Dan yr Ogof in the Brecon Beacons, visitors can enjoy self-guided tours, while Speedwell Cavern in the Peak District can be explored on a subterranean boat trip!

We’ve picked out some of the best national park caves in the country to spice up your holiday itinerary. So hole up in one of our holiday cottages across the UK, and head off on an exciting underground adventure.

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Caves in the Lake District National Park

Rydal Cave in the Lake District

Rydal Cave

Rydal Cave is a manmade cavern which was created during the mining of slate. It lies above Rydal Water on the north side of Loughrigg Fell in the Lake District. There’s a small, shallow lake at its entrance, but handy stepping stones allow you to explore the inside of this gaping cavern.

Access: A 2-mile walk up and back from Ambleside, stepping stones into cave

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes


Cathedral Cavernm

Cathedral Cave

Close to Little Langdale, another former slate mine, Cathedral Cave, boasts a 12-metre-tall cavern, accessed via a tunnel, with various others to explore. Bring a torch because you’ll need it for the tunnels, though the cavern is lit by two windows.

Access: Walk from Tilberthwaite, near Coniston – 3.7-mile circular walk

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes, but keep an eye on children, especially near the pool and in the caves


Honister Slate Mine

Honister Slate Mine

Gaping chasms and a network of tunnels lie deep underground at Honister, England’s last working slate mine. While still working 11 miles of underground tunnels, parts of the mine have been converted for tours, climbing and via ferrata.

Access: Free parking for customers

Entry: Mine tours – child £9.50, adult £17.50, family £49

Family friendly: Yes, but minimum ages for some activities apply


Threlkeld Quarry

Threlkeld Quarry

Enjoy a guided tour through a reconstructed lead and copper mine and explore the site to learn all about the industry with the help of unique artefacts such as excavators and other machinery. Also take a ride on one of three passenger locomotives on the narrow-gauge railway.

Access: Free parking

Entry: Child £3.50, adult £6.50 (includes museum and one train ride)

Family friendly: Yes


Dove Crag viewpoint

Priest’s Hole

Close to the summit of Dove’s Crag is Priest’s Hole. It’s not much to look at, just a shallow cave beneath a rocky overhang, but a manmade wall has made it more enclosed and sheltered, rendering it a popular spot for wild campers.

Access: Approximately 3-mile walk along Dovedale from Brothers Water with a bit of a scramble up to the cave at the end.

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes, for intrepid families with older children!


Rosthwaite near Millican Dalton's Cave

Millican Dalton’s Cave

Named after the ‘Professor of Adventure’ who used to live there every summer for nearly 50 years, Millican Dalton’s Cave is actually two connected split-level caves, formed by slate quarrying. Carved into the wall of the cave by Millican himself, are the words ‘don’t waste words, jump to conclusions’.

Access: A 3.5-mile circular walk from National Trust car park or Borrowdale Institute car park in Rosthwaite

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes


Hodge Close Quarry

Hodge Close Quarry

A magnificent water-filled cavern which you can admire from above as well as ground level, a visit to Hodge Close Quarry feels like a real adventure. You can enter the cave and look out at the water, which is up to 32 metres deep. Care should be taken on the approach as there are sheer drops and loose rocks.

Access: Walk approximately 0.75 miles there and back from the free car park

Entry: Free

Family friendly: The walk is manageable for children, but there are dangerous drops and loose rocks. Not recommended for young children.

Lake District cottages


Caves in the Peak District National Park

Peak Cavern

Castleton Caves

The Castleton Caves are a collection of showcaves, each individually impressive and unique. Peak Cavern boasts the largest natural cave entrance in the British Isles, through which lie a network of chambers, magically lit by fibre-optic lighting. Speedwell Cavern offers a boat trip like no other, from a landing stage 105 steps down from the cave entrance, gliding 200 metres through a tunnel which opens out into an underground lake in a huge cavern.

Blue John Cavern is where the eponymous stone has been mined for centuries, used for in jewellery and ornaments. Enjoy a tour of the cave system to see delights such as the Waterfall Cavern and the astonishing Variegated Cavern. Finally, Treak Cliff Cavern completes the offering at Castleton Caves, also home to large deposits of Blue John stone and explored on a self-guided audio tour.

Access: Car parks at each location, some pay and display

Entry: Varied entry prices, please see individual websites

Family friendly: Yes, please see websites for accessibility information


Solomon's Temple in Buxton Country Park

Poole’s Cavern

Discover a world of stalactites on a tour through these wonderful underground passages and head outside to continue your explorations through the country park woodland.

Access: Pay and display car park £2 for 4 hours or £3 all day

Entry: Child £6, adult £12.50, family £32, students and seniors £10

Family friendly: Yes

Heights of Abraham in the Peak District

Heights of Abraham

There are two magnificent, illuminated caverns to explore at the Heights of Abraham, Great Masson and Rutland. They were formed over 350 million years ago and a guided tour will help you discover their story. There are numerous other attractions at the Heights of Abraham, including a cable car, museum, a children’s play area, walks, viewpoints and a restaurant/café.

Access: Nearest car park is pay and display at Matlock Bath train station, close to the cable car station.

Entry: Under 5s free, 5 – 15 £14, 16 plus £21, family £65 – includes free access to all facilities and cable car.

Family friendly: Yes


Thor's Cave

Thor’s Cave

This impressive natural cavern sits in a limestone crag, offering a fantastic photo opportunity looking out over the valley through the arched entrance. It was a Neolithic burial site and excavations have found numerous artefacts of archaeological interest, including pottery, beads and human bones.

Access: Free parking at Wetton, less than a mile walk from the entrance of Thor’s Cave

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes


Dovedale

Caves in Dovedale

Dove Holes and Reynard’s Cave are great points of interest on a walk through Dovedale. These cavernous holes were created by glacial meltwater around 10,000 years ago and are now top spots for a rest and to snap a few photos.

Access: Free parking at Milldale car park. The walk from Milldale to Dovedale, taking in both caves, is 2.5 miles (5 there and back).

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes


Robin Hood's Cave

Other caves in the Peak District National Park

There are a number of other caves in the Peak District which you can tie in with a scenic walk. Wolfscote Dale Cave is one such example, a lovely spot to sit and admire the view; the smoothened stone a mark of its popularity! It can be visited as a detour on a walk from Hartington.

Up on Stanage Edge, Robin Hood’s Cave sits amongst the rocks, with a glorious ‘balcony’ offering panoramic views across the Peak District National Park. The Hermit’s Cave at Cratcliffe Tour features a crucifix hewn into the rock and entry to the cave is blocked by railings to protect this relic. Still, bring a torch to peer inside - it makes for a nice stop on a walk from Birchover.

The final cave of note in the Peak District is Thirst House Cave in Deep Dale. At 58 metres long, set into a flat rock face, it’s an impressive example and worth a visit to tick off your cave bucket list. Read our guide to Peak District caves for more information.

Peak District cottages


Caves in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

White Scar Cave

White Scar Cave

The longest showcave in Britain, White Scar Cave has a plethora of interesting features to discover on your 1-mile, 80-minute tour along its length. A subterranean waterfall, curiously shaped stalactites and stalagmites, a dripping ‘Devil’s Tongue’ and the impressive chamber of Battlefield Cavern are just a few of the delights that await.

Access: Car park near entrance to cave

Entry: Under 3 free, child £8, 16 plus £12, family £34

Family friendly: Yes


Ingleborough Cave

Ingleborough Cave

First discovered by Victorian explorers, Ingleborough Cave is another showcave in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Lit with floodlights and lined with a concrete footpath, you can wander through at your leisure, admiring the fascinating cave structures.

Access: The cave is reached along the 1.3-mile Ingleborough Estate Nature Trail. A powered mobility scooter can be pre-booked by disabled visitors. Pay and display parking in Clapham.

Entry: Children over 3 are 50p, adults £1

Family friendly: Yes


Stalactites in a cave

Stump Cross Caverns

In the beautifully lit showcaves of Stump Cross Caverns, you can ogle the remains of plants and animals, hundreds of millions of years old. Wander through the caves, learning about the history and geology from information boards. There’s a fossil quiz and fairy door trail for children, and hard hats are provided!

Access: Free car park next to the entrance. Caves are down a set of steep steps.

Entry: Under 2 £2 (includes fairy door trail and prize) or free, 3 – 13 years £7, standard £11

Family friendly: Yes


Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

The name Gaping Gill doesn’t really do this magnificent cave justice. With enough room to fit an entire cathedral, this cave is monstrous, usually featuring a waterfall which drops 98 metres to the floor. Unfortunately, access is mainly restricted to experienced cave explorers, however, there are some dates when caving clubs offer a winch service for visitors.

Access: Normally walking from the pay and display car park in Clapham, past Ingleborough Cave (approx. 2.4 miles)

Entry: Experienced cavers only, except during public winch days offered by local caving groups (fee applies)

Family friendly: No


Yordas Cave

Other caves in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Once a Victorian showcave, Yordas Cave near Ingleton is a single large cavern which you can now explore freely with a torch. An easy cave to tick off your list, there is parking just 100 metres away.

Other caves which may be of interest to cavers include Victoria Cave, Ease Gill Caverns and Skirwith Cave. There are also some on private land or only accessible by arrangement with the landowner, notably Weathercote Cave and Alum Pot.

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Caves in the Brecon Beacons National Park

National Showcaves Centre for Wales

Dan Yr Ogof

The National Showcaves Centre for Wales at Dan yr Ogof gives you the chance to explore not one, but three incredible caves. Dan-yr-Ogof, Cathedral Cave and Bone Cave, respectively, boast beautiful rock formations, an underground lake, and Bronze Age human skeletons.

Access: Large car park, free for cave visitors

Entry: Under 2 free, child 3-16 £13.50, 16 plus £16.50

Family friendly: Yes


Big Pit National Coal Mining Museum

Big Pit

Take an underground tour at Big Pit National Coal Museum. Descend 300 metres underground and learn what life was like for the miners who worked here, before exploring the Mining Galleries, Pithead Baths and colliery buildings.

Access: Parking £5 per day, to be booked in advance

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes


Henrhyd Falls

The Bat Cave

Follow in the footsteps of world-famous superhero Batman, retreating into the cave behind Henrhyd Falls which doubled as the Bat Cave in The Dark Knight Rises. What’s special about this cave is that you can look out at tons of water pouring down from the river above.

Access: Via a short woodland trail and footbridge

Entry: Free

Family friendly: Yes, though the walk is steep and slippery in places


Porth yr Ogof

Porth yr Ogof

Porth yr Ogof has the largest entrance of any cave in Wales. Once a showcave, it’s now a good beginners' cave for training people in potholing. Including the large entrance, the cave has 15 other access points, and the interior features challenging elements which have been given names such as the Letterbox, Washing Machine and Wormhole.

Access: Paid parking at Cwm Porth car park with steps down to the river and cave entrance. Enter only with an experienced potholing guide.

Entry: Free, but only with an experienced guide

Family friendly: No


Carreg Cennen

Carreg Cennen

Foreboding Carreg Cennen castle sits atop a dramatic limestone crag, but what lies beneath is equally astonishing. Take a torch and descend down a steep set of stone steps into the damp and dark limestone cave in the bedrock. An exciting adventure for children (and big kids!).

Access: Walk up to Carreg Cennen Castle from the free car park

Entry: Concessions £3.50, over 65s £4.50, adults £3.50, family £16

Family friendly: Yes

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Caves in Snowdonia National Park

Llechwedd

Llechwedd Slate Caverns

The Deep Mine Tour at Llechwedd Slate Caverns transports you over 500 feet into the mountain on board a cable railway. Then take an underground walk, during which you can wander at the marvellous lighting, enhanced reality technology and special effects, learning as you go about the mine and people who worked there.

Access: Free car park

Entry: Up to 4 people £60, up to 6 people £80

Family friendly: Yes


Woman going exploring

Zip World Slate Caverns

An experience like no other, partake in a number of subterranean activities including zip lining, trampoline-style bouncing, and an adventure course at Zip World Slate Caverns.

Access: Free car park

Entry: Prices for activities vary, please see website

Family friendly: Yes


Conwy Falls near Go Below

Go Below Underground Adventures

In a similar vein to Zip World Slate Caverns above, Go Below offers the chance to engage in some seriously exciting activities, deep underground. Abseiling, ziplining, boating, and climbing are just some of the features of their three ‘adventures’.

Access: Car parks at the two Go Below locations – Conwy Falls and Tanygrisiau

Entry: Prices for activities vary, please see website

Family friendly: Yes, though the ‘adventures’ are age restricted, the first starting from 10 years old.


Sygun Copper Mine

Sygun Copper Mine

Strike out on foot to wend your way through the tunnels and chambers of Sygun Copper Mine, past awe-inspiring stalactite and stalagmite formations and see the veins of copper ore – the reason for the cave’s existence.

Access: Car park

Entry: Under 3 £7.50, 3 – 15 £7.50, 15 plus £10, student £9, family of four £30, family of five £36.50

Family friendly: Yes


Dogs are allowed in Llanfair Slate Caverns

Llanfair Slate Caverns

Take a self-guided tour through nine impressive manmade caverns, emerging at the end to be rewarded by wonderful views out over Cardigan Bay. Unlike many cave tours, dogs are welcome too!

Access: Car park at the Children’s Farm Park

Entry: Children £6, senior £6.10, adult £7, family of four £24.80, family of 5 £30

Family friendly: Yes

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Other national park caves

St Cuthbert's Cave

The geography of some of the UK's national parks is such that there aren’t many, if any, caving opportunities to be had. Places such as the New Forest and the Norfolk Broads are best enjoyed at ground level, while Exmoor and Pembrokeshire Coast have a few coastal caves which may be accessible in the company of a professional guide.

If you’re looking for caves in Dartmoor National Park, head for Buckfastleigh where there are a variety of caves to discover with the help of the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust. The South Down’s National Park has little in the way of publicly accessible caves, but if you’re looking to scratch a cave-hunting itch, make your way to Mother Ludlam’s Cave near Farnham, and peek through the grate which shuts it off from the world.

The North York Moors offer several caves for experienced potholers, though access is limited and via permit. Excalibur Pot and the Ryedale Windy Pits are a couple of the most notable; more information can be found on the North York Moors Caving Club website.

In the Cairngorms, snow caves can be found which are created when the snow begins to melt and the water flows underneath, carving out unusual tunnels. They are elusive and temporary, but walkers may stumble across them when rambling in the national park.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park boasts few caves worth a mention, but in Inversnaid, on the banks of Loch Lomond, lies the hideout of infamous Scottish outlaw, Rob Roy. It’s tricky to find and tricky to access, but the hunt for it is fun if you’re walking in the area. In Argyll and Bute, a walk to the Arrochar Caves is also rewarding if you can find them!

Finally, when looking for caves in Northumberland National Park, there’s only really one to speak of – St. Cuthbert’s Cave (or Cuddy’s Cave as it is also known), which sits in scenic woodland in the Kyloe Hills.


Map of caves in National Parks


Planning a holiday?

If you’re heading off on a hunt for any of these caves in our glorious national parks, you’ll find a wonderful range of accommodation in our collection. Cosy cottages for two, comfortable houses for intrepid families and large group properties, perfect for a caving expedition or special celebration! Have a browse today, and start looking forward to a holiday to remember.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.