List of caves in the United Kingdom

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This is an incomplete list of caves in the United Kingdom , including information on the largest and deepest caves in the UK.

Cave Natural underground space large enough for a human to enter

A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word cave can also refer to much smaller openings such as sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos, though strictly speaking a cave is exogene, meaning it is deeper than its opening is wide, and a rock shelter is endogene.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.


Longest, deepest and largest

The longest cave system in the UK is the Three Counties System in the Yorkshire Dales, with 86.7 km (53.9 mi) of passageways. It includes the Ease Gill system, the Notts Pot / Ireby Fell Cavern system, the Lost John's Cave system, and the Pippikin Pot system, all of which are connected. [1]

Three Counties System

The Three Counties System is a set of inter-connected limestone solutional cave systems spanning the borders of Cumbria, Lancashire, and North Yorkshire in the north of England. The possibility of connecting a number of discrete cave systems in the area to create a single super-system that spans the county borders was first proposed by Dave Brook in 1968, and it was achieved in 2011. The system is currently over 86 kilometres (53 mi) long, making it the longest in the UK and the twenty seventh longest in the world, and there continues to be scope for considerably extending the system.

Yorkshire Dales Upland area of the Pennines in Northern England

The Yorkshire Dales is an upland area of the Pennines in the historic county of Yorkshire, England, most of it in the Yorkshire Dales National Park created in 1954.

Notts Pot is cave system on Leck Fell, Lancashire, England. It is described as 'the most concentrated vertical maze in Britain'.

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave in United Kingdom

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, also known informally as OFD, is a cave under a hillside in the area surrounding Penwyllt in the Upper Swansea Valley in South Wales. It is the second longest cave in Wales and the deepest in the United Kingdom.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

A sea cave on the north side of Calder's Geo in Shetland was measured in 2014 at over 20 metres (66 ft) high and with a floor area of around 5,600 square metres (60,000 sq ft). This makes it the largest known cave chamber in the United Kingdom. [3] [4]

Calders Geo

Calders Geo is an inlet in the western cliffs of Esha Ness in Northmavine on the island of Mainland, Shetland, Scotland. A cave on the north side of the geo has been measured at more than one and a half times the size of "The Frozen Deep", a chamber in Reservoir Hole under Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, potentially making it the largest natural chamber in Britain.

Shetland Subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north-east of mainland Britain

Shetland, also called the Shetland Islands and formerly Zetland, is a subarctic archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland.

A chamber in Reservoir Hole, Cheddar Gorge called “The Frozen Deep” was discovered in 2012 and found to be 30 metres (98 ft) high and 60 metres (200 ft) long. [5]

Reservoir Hole cave in United Kingdom

Reservoir Hole is a cave in Cheddar Gorge in southwest England. It contains what is believed to be the largest chamber yet found under the Mendip Hills.

Cheddar Gorge Valley in Somerset, England

Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar, Somerset, England. The gorge is the site of the Cheddar show caves, where Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, estimated to be over 9,000 years old, was found in 1903. Older remains from the Upper Late Palaeolithic era have been found. The caves, produced by the activity of an underground river, contain stalactites and stalagmites. The gorge is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest called Cheddar Complex.


By English caving region.


See also Caves in Devon

Ash Hole Cavern Cave in Brixham, Devon, England

Ash Hole Cavern is a limestone cave system in Brixham, Devon, England. There is evidence of human habitation since Neolithic times, and archaeological excavations have been conducted, with several artefacts found. It has been a scheduled ancient monument since 1966.

Bakers Pit cave system in Devon, England

Bakers Pit is a phreatic maze cave system near Buckfastleigh, Devon, England.

Buckfastleigh town and civil parish in Devon, United Kingdom

Buckfastleigh is a small market town and civil parish in Devon, England situated beside the Devon Expressway (A38) at the edge of the Dartmoor National Park. It is part of Teignbridge and, for ecclesiastical purposes, lies within the Totnes Deanery. It has a population of 3,661. It is a centre of tourism and is home to Buckfast Abbey, the South Devon Railway, the Buckfastleigh Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary, the Tomb of Squire Richard Cabell and The Valiant Soldier. With 13 letters, Buckfastleigh is the longest place name in England with no repeated letters, tied with Buslingthorpe, Leeds and Buslingthorpe, Lincolnshire.

Mendip Hills

The following are all within Somerset unless otherwise stated. See also Caves of the Mendip Hills.

Peak District

The following are all within Derbyshire unless otherwise stated.

Yorkshire Dales

Other areas

Northern Ireland

The following are all within County Fermanagh unless otherwise stated. See also Caves of the Tullybrack and Belmore hills.



See also

Related Research Articles

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill is a natural cave in North Yorkshire, England. It is one of the unmistakable landmarks on the southern slopes of Ingleborough – a 98-metre (322 ft) deep pothole with the stream Fell Beck flowing into it. After falling through one of the largest known underground chambers in Britain, the water disappears into the bouldery floor and eventually resurges adjacent to Ingleborough Cave.

Ogof Craig a Ffynnon

Ogof Craig a Ffynnon is a cave in Wales. The cave is about 7 km in length and is located at the base of a quarried rockface in the Clydach Gorge. Water flowing out of the cave is a resurgence of water draining off Llangatock Mountain above.

Cave Diving Group UK based cave diver training and certification agency

The Cave Diving Group (CDG) is a United Kingdom-based diver training organisation specialising in cave diving.

Marble Arch Caves Cave in the United Kingdom

The Marble Arch Caves are a series of natural limestone caves located near the village of Florencecourt in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The caves are named after the nearby Marble Arch, a natural limestone arch at the upstream end of Cladagh Glen under which the Cladagh River flows. The caves are formed from three rivers draining off the northern slopes of Cuilcagh mountain, which combine underground to form the Cladagh. On the surface, the river emerges from the largest karst resurgence in Ireland, and one of the largest in the United Kingdom. At 11.5 kilometres (7.1 mi) the Marble Arch Caves form the longest known cave system in Northern Ireland, and the karst is considered to be among the finest in the British Isles.

Pit cave

A pit cave, shaft cave or vertical cave—or often simply called a pit or pot ; jama in South Slavic languages scientific and colloquial vocabulary —is a type of cave which contains one or more significant vertical shafts rather than being predominantly a conventional horizontal cave passage. Pit caves typically form in limestone as a result of long-term erosion by water. They can be open to the surface or found deep within horizontal caves. Among cavers, a pit is a vertical drop of any depth that cannot be negotiated safely without the use of ropes or ladders.

Eastwater Cavern

Eastwater Cavern is a cave near Priddy in the limestone of the Mendip Hills, in Somerset, England. It is also known as Eastwater Swallet. It was first excavated in April 1902 by a team led by Herbert E. Balch composed of paid labourers and volunteers from the Wells Natural History Society. Progress was initially slow, but by February 1903 Balch and Willcox had discovered substantial passage, following the streamway down to the bottom of the cave. Dolphin Pot was dug in 1940 by the Wessex Cave Club, with Primrose Pot following in 1950. West End series was the most recent significant discovery,in 1983.

Rumbling Hole

Rumbling Hole is a cave on Leck Fell, in Lancashire, England. Its entrance is a 50-metre (160 ft) deep fenced shaft, and it rapidly descends a series of pitches to a low aqueous passage that has been connected to Lost Johns' Cave. It is part of the Three Counties System, an 87 kilometres (54 mi) cave system which spans the borders of Cumbria, Lancashire, and North Yorkshire.

Langcliffe Pot

Langcliffe Pot is a cave system on the slopes of Great Whernside in Upper Wharfedale, about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) SSE of Kettlewell in North Yorkshire. It is part of the Black Keld Site of Special Scientific Interest where the "underground drainage system which feeds the stream resurgence at Black Keld is one of the largest and deepest in Britain, although only a small proportion of its cave passages are accessible at present." Mossdale Caverns is also part of the Black Keld SSSI. Although a considerable length of passage has been explored in Langcliffe Pot, the current end is over 170 metres (560 ft) above the resurgence, and over 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) in distance. A trip to the far end has been described as "one of the most serious undertakings in British Caving".

Carreg Cadno is a hill five miles northeast of Abercraf in the county of Powys, south Wales. It lies within the Brecon Beacons National Park and Fforest Fawr Geopark. Its summit at OS grid ref SN 874161 reaches a height of 538m / 1763 ft above sea level. The hill is within the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu National Nature Reserve which is owned and managed by the Countryside Council for Wales.

The Nidderdale Caves are a series of caves in Upper Nidderdale in North Yorkshire, England. There are two cave systems and most of the caves are in some way linked with one or the other. The smaller system is the Eglin cave system in the valley of How Stean Beck, a tributary of the River Nidd, associated with How Stean Gorge. The larger system is the Goyden cave system under the valley of the River Nidd, which flows east from Scar House Reservoir, then south, and shortly after disappears underground down several sink holes to reappear at the rising just beyond the village of Lofthouse. Cavers are able to access several sections of this system via the different entrances.

Short Drop Cave - Gavel Pot System

Short Drop Cave and Gavel Pot are different entrances into the same cave system on Leck Fell, in Lancashire, England. The main top entrance, Short Drop Cave, is a small hole in a fenced off shakehole near the main stream sink; Gavel Pot, a window into the system, is a large fenced shakehole some 40-metre (130 ft) deep requiring tackle to descend. There are two other smaller entrances into Short Drop Cave. At its base the system links via a sump with Lost Johns' Cave, and is part of the Three Counties System, an 87 kilometres (54 mi) cave system which spans the borders of Cumbria, Lancashire, and North Yorkshire.

Disappointment Pot

Disappointment Pot is one of the entrances to the Gaping Gill cave system, located in a steep grassy shakehole some 120 metres (130 yd) south-east of Gaping Gill Main Shaft. Its mainly narrow stream passage descends a number of small shafts to enter the main system as a major inlet of Hensler's Master Cave. It lies within the designated Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Stream Passage Pot

Stream Passage Pot is one of the entrances to the Gaping Gill system being located about 320 metres (350 yd) ESE of Gaping Gill Main Shaft. It is a popular and sporting entrance into the system, featuring three well-watered big shafts. It is the highest entrance of the Gaping Gill system, so the full depth of the system, 198 metres (650 ft), is measured from its entrance. It lies within the designated Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Flood Entrance Pot

Flood Entrance Pot is one of the entrances to the Gaping Gill cave system located about 300 metres (330 yd) south of Gaping Gill Main Shaft. It was the first alternative entrance into the main system to be explored, and it is now a popular entrance into the system, with a fine 38-metre (125 ft) pitch landing in Gaping Gill's South-East Passage. It lies within the designated Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Jib Tunnel

Jib Tunnel, also known as Lateral Passage is one of the entrances into the Gaping Gill cave system, located behind a large boulder in the north bank of Fell Beck adjacent to Gaping Gill Main Shaft. Although short, it leads to Lateral Shaft, a direct descent into Gaping Gill Main Chamber which is a popular caving route, and has had considerable significance in the history of the exploration of Gaping Gill. It lies within the designated Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Yordas Cave

Yordas Cave is a solutional cave in Kingsdale, North Yorkshire, England. It has been renowned since the eighteenth century as a natural curiosity, and was a show cave during the nineteenth century. It is now a popular destination for cavers, walkers, and outdoor activity groups.


  1. Allen, Tim (Oct–Nov 2014). "The Longest Cave". Descent. Wild Places Publishing (240): 36.
  2. "Ogof Ffynnon Ddu - Surveys". South Wales Caving Club. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  3. " 'Biggest cave' is Calders Geo in Shetland at Esha Ness". BBC News. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  4. "Esha Ness sea cave is 'largest in Britain'". BBC News. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  5. "Cheddar cave 'biggest in Mendip Hills'". BBC News online. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.