Castleton is a well-known village in the Peak District National Park. Located at the head of the Vale of Hope, lovers of underground show caves travel from all over the world to visit the four major ones open to the public in the village. Castleton itself is surrounded on three of its sides by steep sided hills. Mam Tor is visible from parts of Castleton, two miles away. The Norman fort, Peveril Castle keeps vigil from a nearby hill.
Most people visit the Peak District National Park to trek or take part in some outdoor sporting pursuit, Castleton is an ideal base because it is located close to many activity hotspots. One of the best places in the UK to go caving is the Peak District, especially around Castleton and there are quite a few schools you can join to train then guide you underground to the endless maze of natural caves, mineshafts and adits.
The four showcase caverns are all very impressive in different ways. Firstly, Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff were both mined for a certain yellow and blue fluorspar called Blue John. Castleton is the only place in the world where it can be found. You can still find small pieces on the hillsides, yet it’s the larger samples that attract serious value. During 1770, at the zenith of the Blue John mining boom there were 16 mines devoted to finding the mineral. Also, 4000 year old bones were found in Blue John Cavern in 2012. The fantastic discovery was made by a family of speleologists who were completing a cave survey. Amongst the find was the pelvis of an aurochs, a species of cattle that’s been extinct since the early 1600s. Make sure that you visit Speedwell Cavern, a must-see for its so-called ‘bottomless hole’. Because access is flooded, the cave system here is accessed by boat. Over the years, the ‘bottomless hole’ has been choked with mine spoil but the actual depth is estimated at 150 metres. As you can expect, the surface has barely been skated and there are cave systems and mines that connect together in all directions. The fourth cave, Peak Cavern is the source of Peakshole Water, the river that passes through the middle of Castleton. It is the UK’s largest cave mouth entrance.
A good walk up to Peveril Castle is certain to clear the cobwebs. The views and the fort itself are worth the trek up from the village. It has held its place above Castleton long before it the settlement existed and long will it remain to. Now managed by English Heritage, Peveril Castle was built by Henry II in 1176 and was one of the first Norman forts in the UK. Take a summer picnic and wear good shoes for one of the most rewarding strolls near Castleton.
The Peak District is a great place to dine out. Castleton has its share of good restaurants too. Why not splash out? With live music every Saturday, Ye Olde Nag’s Head offers a stone-baked pizza menu and a breakfast one as an alternative to the main menu. A 17th century coaching inn, Ye Old Nag’s Head is easy to find at the centre of Castleton. Also try out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn, that is characterised by its white walls and ornate oak beam supports. This establishment serves up a choice of traditional meals and beers. It certainly looks like a cosy place to while away an evening.
“Make sure you visit all four show caverns in Castleton…”
Castleton is driving distance to Sheffield for all the nighttime entertainment and shopping thrills. Yet, the village facilities meet most visitor’s requirement, you may have to journey to one of the larger settlements for any unusual items. Please note that the nearest chemists are in Tideswell and Hathersage both of which have a slightly wider range of shops and banks. Castleton’s High Street is largely made up of gift shops and cafés to idle away your time and pick up presents for your family.
Castleton has a good tourist information office, so be sure to stop by in order to get all the latest local news and insider knowledge.