The area around Ingleton contains some of the deepest and longest cave systems in the British Isles. The two local show caves Ingleborough Cave in Clapham and White Scar Cave in Chapel le Dale (less than 2 miles outside of Ingleton) can be easily explored as they are both fully illuminated throughout the show cave routes and groups are accompanied by a guide at all times.
All other caves in the area require ropes, specialist clothing, safety equipment and experience to explore them safely, if you are not in possession of all these elements the best advice is to keep well away, open shafts on moorland are a very real hazard, they can range from 1 metre to over one hundred metres in depth, it is highly recommended that these too are avoided.
If cave exploration appeals to you, the best advice is to join a caving club. There are many operating in the Yorkshire Dales area all have experienced members and proper equipment. All will welcome potential cave explorers. Individual caving groups usually unofficially adopt local pubs as their recreational meeting places on weekend evenings, so you might be able to make contact with one or more individuals or groups undertaking their second favourite pastime in any of the following establishments:
The New Inn at Clapham
The Marton Arms at Thornton in Lonsdale - Ingleton
The Helwith Bridge Hotel at Helwith Bridge near Settle
The Crown Hotel at Horton in Ribblesdale
The Station Inn at Chapel le Dale - Ingleton
Failing this, contact can be made through many sites on the internet which list the names and contacts of the many caving groups that operate in the Ingleton, Clapham and Horton in Ribblesdale areas.
Some of the major cave systems in the Yorkshire Dales area are listed below:
Gaping Gill is probably Britain’s best known the open pothole is a huge shaft over 110 metres deep – (DANGER keep well away from the unfenced open hole unless you are an experienced caver planning a descent). It’s system has many deep pothole entrances located on the slopes on Ingleborough, the most important of these being Bar Pot, Disappointment Pot and Stream Passage Pot.
The West Kingsdale System has many associated pothole entrances containing fine streamways these include Simpsons Pot, Swinsto Hole and Rowten Pot: WARNING - The latter is an obvious unfenced vertical cleft, but beware also of the smaller hole a short distance away to the south west, this also is a very deep vertical drop 60 metres in depth which is also unfenced.
The Easegill Caverns and Lancaster Hole System, which together with other associated cave entrances combine to give the longest cave system in the British Isles. This system is very complex, with passages, galleries, chambers and streamways all interconnecting and which combined total over 50 kilometres in length of known cave.
For the curious and adventurous visitor who would like an introduction to caving, Yordas Cave at the topmost end of Kingsdale could wet the appetite. A visit to the main chamber is quite straightforward, however you will need a reliable torch and a pair of Wellingtons or stout boots. Stone steps at the entrance can be slippery with mud (take care). The steps lead down to a short length of stooping height passage which in turn leads out into the large main chamber area. WARNING – Visitors are advised to confine their visit to the main chamber only - DO NOT enter any of the side passages as these are well supplied with obstacles and hazards which could trap the unwary. Avoid the cave in wet weather when the floor of the chamber may have deep pools of water.
Note: Caving helmets and lights together with other safety equipment can be hired or purchased form either of the two caving shops in Ingleton, these being Inglesport and Bernies Café on the High Street.
If you are a visitor to Ingleton without caving experience be aware that renting the appropriate clothing and safety equipment does not mean you are fully transformed into an experienced caver/potholer – CAVES AND POTHOLES ARE DANGEROUS PLACES FOR THE UNWARY - IF IN DOUBT STAY OUT.