Sometimes it’s good to be a tourist, and LincsGeek and I used our night in The Royal Hotel, Kirkby Lonsdale to do just that. Having walked the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail the previous day, we decided to head underground and explore one of the many caves close to Ingleton. There are two main ones advertised – Ingleton Cave and White Scar Cave. Looking at the websites of each, and a few reviews online, we chose to head to White Scar Cave, just a couple of miles outside Ingleton village and which we could see as we were walking the previous day.
White Scar Cave from a distance (the buildings in the centre).
Said to the the longest show cave in England, you might wonder what I was doing choosing to go in a cave after everything I said about my experience at Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean (definitely worth a read if you haven’t done so already!). But this was very different. There were no squeezes or scrambles, it was all properly lit (and so no need for head torches), I didn’t need overalls, and it’s a tourist attraction so it has to be safe! The literature said we would be walking around a mile in total and that it would include around 100 steps up (and down again), and that while the caves were officially “wet” as they follow a river and there is a number of waterfalls, there are metal-grille walkways and handrails wherever you are by the river.
Waterfall inside White Scar Cave.
We parked up in the cave car park (which is free) just before the first tour of the day which starts at 10.20am. The way it works here is the ticket booth opens just five minutes before each tour starts, so you buy your ticket and go straight in the cave. As this was a Friday morning it was very quiet – just LincsGeek and myself with another couple – plus our guide of course.
Witches fingers?! Creepy whatever they are!
We were each provided with a hard hat, vital health and safety equipment for anyone entering a cave, and made our way through the man gate. Apparently this is the entrance that has been used since the caves opened as a tourist attraction decades ago. Our guide instantly got to work sharing stories of how the caves were found and the geology of the area, taking us through the tunnels that have been shaped by water over thousands of years, following the path of a river. The waterfall was one of my favourite features, it was very beautiful and you can hear it throughout the cave system.
The narrowest part of the cave walk.
Apparently these caves flooded just last August and washed away a number of the features they once spoke about, but that is just a demonstration of the life of a cave. There are still plenty of strange shapes made from the calcite, which is constantly growing and forming, and stalagmites and stalactites that take thousands of years to form and are very fragile. This strange calcite formation called “witches fingers” was a bit creepy!
Inside the largest cavern.
There are a couple of low sections as you make your way to the main feature, the largest cavern in England. Neither last very long and as long as you can walk bent over you’re fine, you’re not down on your hands and knees or anything like that. Then there are the steps, 90 of them in one go, to get up to the cavern that makes this particular cave system famous. It was quite the spectacle, a huge space inside the hill that was formed by water and ice at the end of the last ice age. It was found by a small group of potholers who spotted a small gap in a boulder pile, the smallest member of the team, an 18 year old girl, was sent up to see what she could find, and now we stand above looking down.
Doing my thing inside White Scar Cave.
From there it was back out the same way we came in, but because we were walking in the other direction we spotted different features in the rock, including hundreds of fossils left here over the years. I found these particularly fascinating, especially after Jenni took me fossil hunting at Runswick Bay at the end of last year.
Fossil inside White Scar Cave.
It’s worth noting that while the river (and waterfall) was still flowing, the water levels are super low in this area at the moment. We’d seen it above ground too, but here in the cave it was even more clear that it had been very dry for a while and that we are heading towards a drought if the rains don’t come soon. Apparently it needs to rain pretty consistently for two months to get things back to where they should be, and that was very obvious inside the cave where the water is normally touching the walkways but for us they were very low.
White Scar Cave cost us £9.95 each and there were no hidden extras for parking or the like. There’s a shop and café on site and great views across the valley. It’s well worth it. We didn’t visit Ingleton Cave and so I cannot compare it – feel free to comment below if you have done both and would recommend one over the other.
Find out more about White Scar Cave on their website > http://www.whitescarcave.co.uk/