Top 5 Lake District secret caves

6 mins read
Cathedral Cave - Lake District secret caves
Cathedral Cave - Lake District secret caves

Discover some of our favourite Lake District secret caves

Ancient volcanoes and glaciers helped shape Cumbria’s landscape above ground. But they also left precious materials deep in the earth, prompting mining on an industrial scale. Those miners may be long gone, but they created some remarkable Lake District secret caves to explore.

You don’t have to be experienced in caving, here are some of our favourites to enjoy when you’re out and about walking and hiking.

5. Lacy’s Cave near Penrith

Beside the River Eden near the village of Little Salkeld lie five chambers carved into red sandstone cliffs.

They’re named after Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Lacy who owned the Salkeld estate in the 18th century. At the time it was fashionable to create romantic grottoes, ruins and follies. Apparently, the Colonel even hired a man to live in the caves and pretend to be a hermit!

How to get here

The 7km/4 and a half mile path from Little Salkeld can sometimes be closed. Please check the Eden Rivers Trust walk guide before making a trip.

Discover more: Little Salkeld

4. Millican Dalton’s Cave near Keswick

At the southern end of Derwentwater lies the beautiful valley of Borrowdale. Castle Crag juts up in the centre of its ‘jaws’, and was once home to many slate quarries.

From 1903, former London insurance clerk Millican Dalton occupied this cave in summer, switching to a wooden hut in the winter. This fascinating self-proclaimed ‘Professor of Adventure’ lived off his earnings as a walking and climbing guide.

Tip: Can’t find the entrance? Look for Dont Waste Worrds Jump To Conclusions carved in the rock. 

How to get here

It’s a rugged climb up from Rosthwaite village. The excellent 6.5km/4 mile Millican Dalton’s Cave – Castle Crag walk by WalkLakes includes a map.

3. Rydal caves near Ambleside

These man-made caves from slate quarrying are a definite family favourite. Don’t just stop in the little one. The large cave is very impressive and large enough for Christmas carol concerts!

Rydal Cave - Lake District secret caves
Taken from inside the Rydal cave located in the national park near Lake Grasmere, in the UK Lake District

Braving the stepping stones is worth it. And there are seating spots dotted around to help you drink in the atmosphere. 

Rydal Cave from the Outside - Lake District secret caves

Tip: Head to the back and take a picture outwards, you’ll see the jagged outline of the cave’s top ‘teeth’! The largest cave also turns up in our Film locations in Cumbria blog.

How to get here

Walk from Ambleside or head up from White Moss car park between Rydal and Grasmere. There are more details in our Family friendly walks blog.

2. ‘Skull’ cave of Hodge Close Quarry, near Coniston

After mining for slate finished in the 1960s, water flooded the cavern creating dramatic reflections. To see the ‘skull’, you’ll need a calm day with perfect reflections. From the viewpoint above, look for a face tipped on its side. A pile of rocks creates the ‘teeth’. Rotate your image 90 degrees to get the full effect.

If you walk down to the cave itself, you can look out through one of its ‘eye socket holes’.

Tip: It’s pretty spectacular but it’s a tricky path down, so mind your step! Make sure to visit Cathedral Cave – number 1 on our list – too.

How to get here

Walk up from Coniston village or Little Langdale. There is also a car park at LA21 8DJ but parking is limited. Third Eye Traveller includes route directions in their Hodge Close Quarry blog.

1. Cathedral Cave, Coniston

This area has been quarried for slate for centuries. In 1929, Beatrix Potter bought the area, before giving it to the National Trust. 

Cathedral Cave the largest chamber is a whopping 12 metres high. It really is quite the sight and has even appeared on TV and film.

Tip: As well as the cave, there are lots of old mining tunnels you can explore. Bring a torch, waterproof shoes and a sense of adventure! Oh, and a favourite song. If you like singing, give it a go here, the acoustics are amazing.

How to get here

Park at Tilberthwaite Farm or Hodge Close Quarry. Or you can walk in from Little Langdale or Coniston village. You could also take the 516 Langdale Rambler bus from Ambleside and walk from the Old Dungeon Ghyll.

We like Hiking Photographer’s Little Langdale route as it also includes the scenic Slater’s Bridge.

Want to add to our list of Lake District secret caves?

If you know of one not on this list, please let us know! When you post a photo, just tag in @cumbria_dot_com on Instagram or @cumbriadotcom on Twitter.

Disclaimer: We’ve tried to be as accurate as possible when writing this article, but information can change. Please check for yourself before making any decisions based on this blog.