4 must see Castleton Caves
Castleton is well known for four underground caves that surround the village.
The 4 must see Castleton Caves are: Blue John Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Treak Cliff Cavern and Peak Cavern. All the caves are unique and are all worth a visit! However, it is Peak Cavern that is the only wholly natural cavern and is the least commercialised.
Let’s have a little look at the individual caves and their history.
Deep in the gorge below Peveril Castle is Peak Cavern’s imposing entrance chamber. The approach is very impressive, and it has the largest natural cave entrance in the British Isles! How amazing is that?
Locals named it ‘The Devil’s Arse’. There are miles of passages, however, the tours only go a few hundred metres into the cavern.
The only artificial part of the cave was blasted to bypass a low tunnel that was only accessible by lying down on a boat.
The cavern was declared to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Peak by philosopher Thomas Hobbes in his 1636.
Blue John Cavern
Blue John Cavern is steeped in history. It is home to eight of the fourteen known varieties of Blue John stone, a beautiful and ornamental bluey yellow stone. Interestingly, it is still being mined in the winter months!
The mined stone is made into saleable items like bowls, jewellery and ornaments, which can be bought through the gift shop.
The origin of the name ‘Blue John’ is thought to have come from the French ‘bleu et jaune’, meaning ‘blue and yellow’.
If you take a tour of the cave, old mining equipment can be viewed inside the cavern. The guides that perform the tours, are also the miners, so you know you’ll be in good hands.
Set at the foot of the spectacular Winnats Pass, high above the village of Castleton, the Speedwell Cavern takes you on an incredible underground boat journey. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
There is a chamber in Speedwell Cavern called the “Bottomless Pit”, it is one of the deepest caverns on the British Isles.
Would you believe, here you would find an underground lake and a 20m high waterfall. It sounds incredible, doesn’t it?
The underground lake was estimated to be around 60m deep, but miners used the lake to dump 2,500 tons of waste rock meaning it is now around 11m deep.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe this could be found inside a cavern and I have actually seen it. It is definitely a sight to be seen…
Treak Cliff Cavern
Treak Cliff Cavern is one of only two working Blue John Stone mines in the world and extracts approximately half a ton per year.
This cave comprises two sections, the Old Series and the New Series. The Old Series contains Blue John stone and is the second of two sites where it is still excavated.
Interestingly though, the Blue John that can be seen in the show cave is not mined. What is mined is Blue John that can’t be seen in other areas of the cavern.
The new series part of the cave has stalagmites and stalactites. These formations are Radiocarbon Dated to around 111 thousand years old!
Did you know that stalactites grow at an average rate of 1mm every 65 years!
The formations are stained orange or red by iron, white by lead and occasionally green or blue by copper. Some of the stalactites have been distorted by variations in the flow to form twisted structures known as helictites.
Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance!
For those of you who fancy something a little different and unique, you can take a tour of the cave, mine your own stone, and turn it into your own personal piece of jewellery!
The caverns in Castleton are absolutely stunning and host some amazing sights. You have to see them to believe them. So absolutely make these caverns part of your stay in Castleton.
That’s all for now…
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