Caves in Castleton
Castleton is often on the list of places to visit in the Peak District. The reason is that there are several tourist caves in Castleton. The Castleton Caves are not actually in Castleton itself, however, they are very close. The furthest is the Blue John mine, near the top of Winnatts pass. Needless to say, the caves all have gift shops selling souvenirs.
The other three tourist caves in Castleton are the Speedwell cavern, the Treak Cliff cavern and the Devil’s Arse (Peak Cavern). The Devil’s Arse is the closest to Castleton itself and is situated right below Peveril Castle. Peveril Castle was built in the 12th century and is what put the ‘Castle’ in Castleton. It was built by William Peveril after the Norman conquest or England and it is said that he is the illegitimate son of William the Conqueror, though it is more likely that he was in fact a legitimate son.
All of the caves in Castleton have diversified and offer a variety of events from candlelit carol concerts at Christmas to hand on workshops.
Peak Cavern – The Devil’s Arse
Of the four Castleton Caves, this is the closest to the other visitor facilities. Prior to the visit of Queen Victoria, it was always called the Devil’s Arse (any guesses as to why?). The name was changed to avoid offending the Queen’s sensibility and relatively recently, it is being actively promoted again as the Devil’s Arse. It is the source of Peakshole Water, the ‘river’ that flows through Castleton.
It is part of the largest cave system in the Peak District and, unlike the other caves in Castleton, is natural. The entrance vestibule is reputed to be the largest cave entrance in Britain. In the 17th century, it was home to rope makers (some of the ropewalks are still in existence) who supplied the local mines. It was occupied just into the 20th century.
Beyond the public area of the cave is the access for cavers. They are able to connect with the Speedwell mine and the deepest vertical shaft known in England, Titan Shaft. Titan was discovered on New Year’s Day 1999 but wasn’t announced until some years later, after creating an artificial access to it.
Run by the same people who run the Devil’s Arse, Peak Cavern Manangement, you can buy joint tickets for these two caves in Castleton and save yourself a little cash. Apparently you can save even mor if you buy online from their web site.
The Speedwell cavern is a bit different to the other caves in Castleton as it involves a boat trip. The tour lasts about an hour and you travel along an underground canal created by the miners to get at Blue John, a variety of fluorspar (calcium fluoride). It is sometimes claimed that Blue John is unique to the Peak District. It is, in the UK but it is found elswhere in the world. It is thought that the name is a corruption of the French description of the colours of the mineral, ‘bleu et jaune’. The canal is about 200m long and part way along you will find ‘halfway house’ where a short sections has been doubled up to allow two boats travelling in opposite direction to pass.
At the end of the canal, you enter a cavern containing what has been called the bottomless pit. It was so-called by the miners as they dumped all of the excavated material from the canal into it and it didn’t fill up! Who knows, it could be even deeper than Titan …
Cavers can get through into Peak Cavern from here and into the James Hall Over Engine Mine, giving over 18km of underground passages through which to squeeze and get cold, wet and muddy.
The Blue John Cavern and mine
This is the furthers of the Castleton caves and is situated near where the old main road meets the road coming up from Winnatts pass. As its name suggests, it was a major source of the mineral Blue John. As you will see in local shops, it is worked into jewellery and ornaments and whilst not classified as a precious stine, items of Blue John command high prices on the whole. The cavern boasts 50m high chambers and is over 500 metres in length. There are regular tours, each lasting 45 mins to 1 hour. You will see how this fabulous stone was mined and the equipment used, as well as the natural features of the cavern.
Treak Cliff Cavern
Situated alongside the disused section of the A 625, this Castleton Cave offers a tour lasting almost three-quarters of an hour for you to be impressed by the stalagmites and stalactites of this cavern, another important source of Blue John and not the only source as claimed on their web site. Blue John is also found in the USA, the Middle East and more recently in China. Traces of human occupation dating back to the bronze age have been found here. There is easy parking for all four of the Castleton Caves.
Websites of the caves in Castleton