4 BEST Lake District Caves To Discover (Hidden Gems Revealed!)
4 BEST Lake District Caves To Discover (Hidden Gems Revealed!)

4 BEST Lake District Caves To Discover (Hidden Gems Revealed!)

Teeming with outdoor splendour, the Lake District is certainly in no shortage of fantastic caves for adventurers to explore. 

Rydal Caves, Inside, Views
Host to both natural & man-made caverns, the National Park’s rich industrial history means the landscape is now littered with long disused quarries.

As a self-professed expert of Lakeland, safe to say I’ve explored a great deal of its landscape since childhood – including some of the very best caves on offer.

Providing walkers with a nice change of pace from the usual fell-hiking that the National Park is most renowned for, head out to any of the caverns listed below and I guarantee you’ll be in for a belting adventure!

Likewise, with none of the walks being too long in length, visiting these caves can be suitable for walkers of all abilities, making them perfect for a family day out.

Interested? Let’s get to it 👇👇

Best caves in the Lake District

Trip map created with Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android 

Rydal Caves

Starting with one of the most iconic caves in the whole National Park, there’s good reason as to why Rydal Caves has long been a such a tourist hotspot.

Carved into the craggy landscape after years of quarrying during the Industrial Revolution, flanking the dramatic cavern on all sides you’ll also find sublime Lakeland scenery.

Rydal Caves, Lake District, Walk, Swim, Stepping Stones

Tucked away on the slopes of Loughrigg Fell, the cavern is just a stone’s throw from Rydal Water and offers gorgeous views out towards Fairfield Horseshoe & Nabscar looming in the distance.

With stepping stones conveniently laid above the water allowing you to hop deep inside the cave, there’s simply no denying the enchanted atmosphere radiating from its historic walls.

The site is so highly praised, Netflix even used it as a filming location for their hit fantasy series ‘The Witcher’, which has only served to make the location more popular as of late.

Most easily accessible from either Black Moss Car Park or Rydal Village, the stroll to-and-from the cavern is only 2 miles in length, though there is plenty of opportunity to extend your outing if you so wish.

For the full lowdown be sure to check out our Ultimate Rydal Caves Walk Guide here!

Rydal Caves, Inside, Lake District, Rydal Caves History, Loughrigg Quarry

Milligan Cave

Nestled within the stunning Borrowdale Valley, it’s not everyday you get to discover a genuine hermit cave!

Millican Cave was once home to the locally famed Millican Dalton, also known as the ‘Borrowdale Hermit’.

Technically speaking however, Millican Dalton was not a hermit, but more of a cave dweller.

He actually spent much of his time with folks, leading mountaineering expeditions around the Lake District to earn enough pennies to fund his humble lifestyle.

 

Locally known as Millican Dalton’s Cave, this fascinating site is burrowed on the eastern flank of Castle Crag and consists of two inter-connected split-level caves formed by past slate quarrying.

Used as a home for almost fifty years by Dalton, in the upper chamber of the cave you can find a cryptic carving on the cavern wall warning visitors “Don’t Waste Words (sic), Jump to Conclusions”.

Fun fact – While living an alternative lifestyle is quite trendy these days, Dalton was doing this long before it was commonplace, and was renowned for being a vegetarian, pacifist and completely tee-total. 

A self-proclaimed ‘Professor of Adventure’, the nearby town of Keswick is now called the ‘Adventure Capital of the Lakes’ in ode of Dalton.

With the cave best found along the 3.5-mile Rosthwaite Circular Walk, this trail is by no means overly-difficult, though it is perhaps the hardest on our list.

A hike which requires you to summit Castle Crag before heading towards Millican Cave, this walk is full of scenic vistas throughout; especially as you head along the riverside path through Borrowdale Valley during the latter half of the trail.

Hodge Close Quarry (Skull Cave)

Hodge Close Quarry, Cave, Skull, Rail Track

One of the lesser-known gems of the Lakes, Hodge Close Quarry is one of several historic and remote slate workings in the Tilberthwaite Valley.

Also known as ‘Skull Cave’ due to the cavern entrance eerily resembling the shape of a skull, the quarry is so atmospheric that it was used as a filming location for Netflix’s fantasy drama ‘The Witcher.’

While it’s only around a 15-minute drive from the village of Coniston however, the country roads to get here are VERY narrow and winding.

With only a handful of designated passing places to make way for oncoming traffic, please take your time and drive carefully.

You’ll know once you reach the carpark since you should see vehicles parked to your left before the path dips down towards Hodge Close Cottage (don’t drive past the carpark to the cottage since you’ll struggle to turn your car back around!).

Parking is free but spots are limited so be wise when choosing visiting times!

Hodge Close Quarry, Lake District, Bottom, Cavern

While the walk down to the cavern is rather short, it can still prove tricky for some due to the steep scramble segment up and down the quarry.

The scramble is nothing overly difficult, but only those who are steady on their feet & confident in their clambering ability should attempt to head inside the Quarry’s main chamber.

Likewise, the trail down to the quarry is quite well-hidden and easy to miss. On our first visit it rather embarrisingly took us a good while to spot it!

For the full breakdown on how to navigate your way down to skull cave, be sure to head on over to our detailed guide on Hodge Close Quarry.

Top tip – To see the skull, the trick is to look for the reflection of the caves in the body of water, snap a pic and then turn your photo on its side.

Skull Cave, Hodge Close Quarry
The cave is only half of the equation – you need the mirroring nature of the water to complete the terrifying illusion 💀💀

Type it into Google and look for yourselves at some of the phenomenal photos people have snapped (admittedly much better than mine!)

Cathedral Cave (Cathedral Quarry)

Likewise, situated nearby Hodge Close Quarry you can also uncover the incredibly picturesque Cathedral Cave.

Only around a 30-minute walk from Hodge Close, Cathedral Quarry is a perfect little add-on for visitors wanting to extend their adventurous Lake District ramble.

 

Despite the name, Cathedral Cave does not stand alone, but is actually part of a series of interlinking & historic mining quarries situated just above Little Langdale.

Best known for its main chamber which contains two Cathedral-like window openings, Cathedral Cave derives its name from the atmospheric & churchlike lighting that’s filtered in through the ‘window’ and stands at a whopping forty feet high.

Cathedral Cave, Quarry Window
Read through our detailed Cathedral Cave Walk Guide here!

For a direct route to Cathedral Cave, your best bet would be to start from Little Langdale, where you can follow a picturesque & gentle 1.6 mile stroll which leads you directly to the quarry.

Top tip – While you’re in the Little Langdale Valley, we’d definitely also recommend checking out Blea Tarn. Described as the jewel in the crown of wild swimming locations in the Lake District, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to take a dip than here!

Lake District Walks, Blea Tarn, Wild Swimming

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While you’re here…

Why not explore more from the Lake District area of our blog? I’m sure there’s something that’ll tickle your fancy!

Best Lake District Scrambles - Bleancathra Sharp Edge
Check out our latest post listing ‘9 Easy Lake District Walks’ suitable for all abilities!

Happy walking 🚶🚶