Best Caving Locations in England

Ellie & I only started to do some caving about three years ago. We had come across the so-called Wild Wookey experience at Wookey Hole in the Mendips in Somerset. It turned out to be one of the best caving locations in England. The three hours underground were so much fun, we have been going caving ever since.


To be clear, this article is not the gospel. I have only been caving in England a dozen times so far (not counting show caves), and some of the caves below I have never been to. The Three Counties System, for example, I’m scheduled to explore month after next month. This means I have thoroughly researched it, but not entered it, so far.


Feature photo (c) BerkeleySqB; above 2 pics (c) Somerset Adventures;
Where not otherwise indicated: (c) BerkeleySqB

Where I haven’t visited the cave myself yet, my information comes from speaking with cavers from my caving club and other friendly clubs, from reading books, and extensive online research. Everyone’s tastes are different. Let’s say, you prefer horizontal caves to vertical caves, that might rule out some of my favourite caves already, and vice versa. My aspiration is that this article will give you a few ideas for the best caving locations in England, that’s all.

In absence of pictures from several of the caves mentioned, the pictures used are from a smaller number of caves. They do not correspond with the headlines or sections of the text.


Left photo (c) Chalk & Cheese Travels


Most people who’ve heard of Wookey Hole Cave, think of the Victorian show cave. Few know, that it is one of the most important English caves for cave diving and speleological exploration. Even fewer people know, that Wookey Hole Cave means Cave Cave Cave. The name shows how serious a cave Wookey Hole is, you can’t deny it.

I would highly recommend the Wild Wookey three hour round trip guided caving experience. It is so cool to learn that caving history was written just a few metres away from these passages and potholes and subterranean cliffs, lakes, and rivers.


Wookey Hole is the location of the UK’s first successful cave dive in 1935 and to this day the world-famous state of the art Cave Diving Group is based there. In 2004, Rick Stanton and John Volanthen set the record here for greatest depth achieved in a British cave at 76m. They are the heroes who saved those 12 Thai school kids and their young coach. To this day, Wookey Hole is being explored and new passages are being mapped as we speak.



Located near Castleton, Derbyshire, Giant’s Hole connects to Oxlow Cavern and Maskhill Mine through a complex system, reserved for experienced cavers. However, many of the passages near the entrance are very wide and suitable for beginners with a tour guide.


The Three Counties System is the UK’s longest cave at just under 90km length. Only one and a half years ago, two of the world’s best cavers managed to get from the one side to the furthest entrance in one go, traversing the whole length of the system, about 11km. It took them almost 18 hours and hundreds of assistants along the way. One fifth of the distance had to be covered underwater using scuba gear.

As the bird flies, the distance between the two furthest entrances is only about 6km. The total length of the system at some 89km is being calculated using all passages, most of which are side passages and complex grids leading nowhere, sometimes in several layers on top of each other.


Two friends of mine and I will spend two days exploring the system in two months’ time. I can’t wait. We’ll be using the same company, Lost Earth Adventures, that also sponsored Ellie’s trip to Alum Pot and Sell Gill Holes last year. To prepare for the trip, the other two guys and I are currently going through SRT Training. SRT stands for Single Rope Technique, and it’s basically the technique used for vertical caving. You use so-called descenders to go down a vertical shaft, and ascenders to go back up again. Descenders and ascenders are little mechanical gadgets made of metal, roughly the size of a hand palm or a bit longer. They use friction on the rope to prevent uncontrolled falls.


Hunters’ Hole is a great cave to practice SRT at, if you don’t live close to the bigger vertical caves. It involves only a limited number of pitches, but it is complex enough to practice some of the more advanced techniques like rebelays and redirects.


A super family-friendly cave. Caving trips on offer range from a gentle 1.5h trip to a slightly more demanding 2.5h trip. The latter involves some squeezing, scrambling, and crawling. Part of both trips leaves the natural caves and ventures into the man-made mine.



The main shaft at Titan Cave is the deepest in the UK at more than 140m. Interestingly, it was only discovered some 40 years ago and it took another 20 years of digging to get to the bottom of it. In order to access this pothole, you’ll have to be an experienced caver.


This small but cute former Victorian show cave is great for beginners. I’ve used Wookey Hole as my beginner’s cave and I’ve heard people refer to Swildon’s Hole as beginners cave. One thing is certain: Goatchurch Cavern is by far the smallest and easiest of those three caves.



Gough’s Cave, like Wookey Hole, is an enormous cave with high-calibre recent exploration projects, even though the general public only know it as a Victorian show cave. The operator of the venue offers a 60-minute caving experience. It feels silly to say it, but you’ll either need to call them in advance to check if they will have some knee pads ready for you, or you’ll have to bring your own.


For Ellie & me, Sell Gill Holes was the most challenging trip we’ve done together so far. It involves three pitches, meaning three times the instructor will set up an anchor and lower you down along a subterranean rock wall. On the way back, you’ll have to climb up three rope ladders. The initial route chosen by our instructor, had also involved some squeezing so tight, that we decided to go on a different route.



Pridhamsleigh Cavern is surprisingly easy to reach from London, considering the substantial distance. It is known to offer an enormous variety of routes ranging from super-easy to very difficult. If you’ve gone through the appropriate extensive training, you can even dive down 25m in one underground lake, then go through a small hole into another lake. To this day, I’ve never squeezed any tighter through any potholes than on this trip. It is also the only location where I fell from height so far. Luckily it was not a vertical wall, but at an angle, with no protruding bits. I didn’t even get any bruises.


Only a three-hour hike from the Three Counties System’s closest entrance, Gaping Gill is one of the biggest caves in England in its own right. The gigantic main chamber is 130m long and more than 30m high. Twice a year, local caving clubs lower members of the public down the main pot via a winch in turn for a small donation.


Fltr (c) Chalk & Cheese Travels, Somerset Adventures


Swildon’s Hole is connected to Wookey Hole. How do we know this? In the 1930s some speleologists put some dye into the water at Swildon’s Hole, and it emerged a few kilometres downstream at Wookey Hole.

Swillie’s is special to me, because it is the location of my first (and so far only) sump dive. My good friend Richard from Chalk & Cheese Travels and I both made it through the tiny, submerged, 2m long pothole called Sump 1. We then continued towards Sump 2, but made a U-turn before we reached Sump 2, to get back to the entrance within the assigned 6-hour time frame. For this trip and several other trips, I used Somerset Adventures, who have also sponsored me on a couple of occasions.


Half a year later, I got hypothermia pretty bad at Swildon’s. In summer, the water temperature had been the same as the general all-year round cave temperature: 11C. The last time around, the cave temperature was the same, as you’d expect. However, due to the outside temperature being -4C, the water temperature inside the cave, at least near the cave entrance, was at or near freezing point.


Both pics (c) Somerset Adventures

The people I had gone caving with were from another caving club. I had never done any caving with them. They could see that at 200cm/6’7’’ I was fairly tall. However, their advice on how to climb up the various small waterfalls was not appropriate for someone my size. Time and again, I was leaning away from the cliff at an almost horizontal angle, because the holds my hands grabbed onto were too close together. I got soaked in the freezing water for several minutes per incident, at times.

When I reached the top of a cliff, I just let myself fall into the respective water puddle at the top, face up. The 15-minute walk back to the hut at -4C, while completely soaking wet, gave me the rest. In short, I felt a bit under the weather for the following 6 weeks, but hey, didn’t deter me from caving.

Exploration at Swillie’s is still in full swing, with cave divers trying to ‘break’ another sump beyond the dozen or so that have been successfully dived so far. No part of the cave is a show cave. It feels ‘serious’. At the same stage, Swildon’s Hole’s upper passages can be accessed by complete newbies (with instructor). During my first visit I came across a 5-year old girl, who had the time of her life with her parents and an instructor.



While Swildon’s and Wookey Hole are much closer to my heart, Alum Pot has to be the prettiest cave I’ve visited so far. The pot is a vertical, cylindrical hole, about 110m deep and 30m in diameter. All of the vertical walls are covered in the most amazing, almost tropical-looking vegetation. Ferns. Mosses. Lichen. Crippled tiny bushes and weeds. It feels like Skull Island (from King Kong) or Dominica or Hawaii, not like the Yorkshire Dales.


There are hundreds of further caves in England. In East Sussex, you’ll even have a completely imaginary cave system, which I’d highly recommend you visit: Crowborough Caves. Caves are among the most beautiful natural formations known to man. Personally, I certainly find them as magnificent as mountains or rivers or lakes. As a matter of fact, many caves combine those latter three. There is plenty of elevation gain (or rather loss, when you descend), there are very tall rock faces, and an abundance of subterranean rivers and lakes.

It was my intention to keep the article reasonably light-hearted, and to retain the flow. So I did not add info sections to each cave with public transport connections, length & depth of the cave, etc. However, where I’ve blogged about the cave, you can click on a link to that blog post. Moreover, it is easy to find more detailed information on the internet. In a few cases I’ve added external links about the respective venue.


The Mendips, the Peak District, Devon, and Gloucestershire can all be done from London in day trips. For the Three Counties, Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire, you should stay at least for one night, as it takes about 4h each way to get there.

In order to stay safe underground, it is absolutely vital that you only ever go with competent cavers such as experienced caving club members or qualified instructors. I hope you’ll enjoy the world down there as much as Ellie & I do. Let me know how it was, here in the comments section.

Looking for more outdoor adventures? Check out my blog posts about jetskiing, jetlevving, flyboarding, rock-climbing, open-water swimming, long-distance running, quad-biking, motocrossing, and mountain-biking.

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  1. I am always in complete awe of your adventuring! I might give the super easy, suitable-for-kids level a try. Other than that, I’m not sure I could do it! Keep sharing!

    1. Thank you so much for your support, Peggy. You guys do the real cool stuff, like open door heli flights over Hawaii and visiting Bora Bora… 🙂 I’m sure you’d be good at ‘proper’ caving, if you’d give it a shot. And you’d probably enjoy it.

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