“ Speedwell Cavern / Winnats Pass / Castleton / Hope Valley / Derbyshire / S33 8WA / Tel: 01433 620512 / „
Have you ever been on a boat underground? If not, and you'd like to, Speedwell Cavern could be for you.
Speedwell Cavern is located in Castleton amid the gorgeous scenery of the Peak District. It is one of several 'show' caverns in the Castleton area.
To start the tour, you descend down a set of over 100 slippery, damp stone steps, to a waiting electric boat. Beware, the tunnel you descend, is not very high (all Victorian miners must have been 4 foot 6 inches tall, I think!) and you don't get your safety helmet until you get to the bottom (I can speak from experience, whacking your head on a stone roof, does not improve your day!).
Once at the bottom, you're given your hard hat and allowed to climb into the boat. This is low slung, and completely open. You're only inches from the surface of the water. Your head is only inches below the ceiling of the tunnel, too.
The boat journey consists of travelling down a straight flooded, narrow tunnel. The lack of head room means that anyone of average height is at risk of banging their head. My niece got endless amusement from sitting behind me and watching my head connect with the stone again and again (in my defence, I was not the only one; many other people did it too!).
The tour guide pilots the boat and gives an interesting summary of the history of this old lead mine. The history was fascinating, we were told of the various owners, all trying to make their fortunes in lead, and all failing miserably. The conditions they worked in, and the dangers they faced, really brought home to me how lucky we are to be living nowadays.
There was a downside to this talk, however. Our tour guide's patter, although interesting and funny, was unsuitable for children (making jokes about in-breeding, and making the words "far canal" sound like the 'f' word was not appreciated with a boat full of kids).
The sensation of being on a silent boat, cruising down an underground canal, is quite eerie. I've never had a tour like this one before and was fascinated to see the marks the miners left on the walls. It was also interesting seeing the lead ore that they were mining for set into the limestone walls.
At the end of the tunnel is a massive, natural cavern, also flooded with water. This is well lit and seriously impressive. It gives a graphic impression of the awesome power of nature when you're told that the entire cavern has been worn away by water over aeons, incredible! Apparently, the subterranean lake is 'bottomless' (but, in reality, it's just very deep).
After a short talk, and a chance to look around the cavern, you board the boat for the return journey. There will be a boat coming the other way, so there's a 'halfway house' where you pause on the way back to let the oncoming boat past. The canal is really narrow and only just wide enough for one boat, hence the 'halfway house'.
The whole tour takes only about an hour and a half, so is best combined with a visit to one of the other sites in Castleton, such as the wonderfully named "Devil's Arse" cavern. Price wise, the tour is quite expensive at £7.75 for an adult and £5.75 for kids. A two cavern ticket can be purchased for £12.00 for adults and £8.50 for kids, which is much better value for money.
Back up at ground level, there's a shop to peruse. This is typical of souvenir shops in the area, selling fossils, rocks, and also the amazing 'Blue John' stone which is found nowhere else in the world. It does sell some beautiful (but expensive) pieces, well worth a look.
Overall, this tour gives the almost unique experience of travelling on a boat on an underground canal. As long as you're not too claustrophobic, this is highly recommended. Take some soap to wash out the tour guide's mouth, just in case!
As a child I loved to visit Castleton, as a geography project at high school I was studying caves and rock formations so my parents decided to take me to Castleton to help with my studies, at the time I was less that impressed as I wanted to be out and about with my friends.
Recently me and my husband visited Castleton for a day out with the family, I have to say I enjoyed this visit much better, there were many things to do to occupy us, we could walk the castle walls, visit caves and mines and even sit down to a nice pub lunch.
The weather was a little bit dicey when we arrived it was very overcast and it didn't seem to know what to do, so we needed to do something that would not involve us getting wet and soggy.
After researching the many caves and caverns Castleton had to offer we decided on a visit to the speedwell cavern.
THE SPEEDWELL CAVERN
This cavern is located at the foot of Winnats Pass, high above the Castleton town itself. It is roughly half a mile from the village but can be walked to with out too much hassle. We parked the car in Castleton itself and took a slow walk up to the Speedwell cavern, it was a gentle walk and none of the hill walking and hiking.
On arrival I thought that it looked very tiny and I didn't want to pay the entrance fee as I thought it wouldn't be very interesting, but everyone voted to enter the cavern.
Once the entrance fee was paid we climbed down roughly 100 steps, and at the bottom my eyes were opened to a water filled cave, we stepped upon and boat with our own tour guide and set off down the 800 meter river canal.
At the half way point, the half way house they call it, the canal splits into two so other boats returning can wait until you pass, as you sail through this 200 year old lead mine, you think of all the work that the miners out in to create this wonderful scenic mine, it is truly stunning.
At the end of the underground rivers you come to the best part of the trip, there is a bottomless pit with a huge lake, it is very hard to believe but if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it either, this is truly stunning and was worth every penny, I just couldn't believe that I was 200 meters under ground and this beautiful sight was there to see.
I have to say if this was there I wondered how many places like this existed and we didn't know about them.
Every step of the way our tour guide gave us in great detail how the mine was formed, how old it was and answered any questions we had, he made the trip for us as we found him to be fun and he also knew what he was talking about.
After returning by the boat we climbed back to the top of the entrance and there was a cute little gift shop, where you could buy gifts and souvenirs. Yes these could be a little bit pricey but you just have to buy something.
ABOUT THE CAVERN
This cavern began in the 18th century as a lead mine, all of the canals and passages were carved and built by the miners in search of the lead, but sadly the lead mine closed after 20 years as there so no lead left.
During this 20 year mining period the whole mine became flooded, so I am sure this had an impact on the mining industry as everything had to be accessed by boat. This is one of the only caves that can be accessed by boat that is open for public viewing.
Called bottomless pit.
At first I thought this was very pricey but after the visit, my mind was changed as I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
It cost 7.25p for adults and senior citizens and 5.25 for children up to the age of 13.
If you go as a group of family they also offer a family discount ticket which will allow 2 adults and 2 children in for 25.00 so it can save you a bit of money.
We went with a party of 10, the family is massive and they did a better deal for this group, you just need to ask, I think the adults paid 6.00 each and the kids were 4.50 each. I am sure we only got this discount because we asked.
We all really enjoyed this visit, not only was it informative for both adults and the kids but the views were fascinating, very unbelievable if I had not seen them.
I love the way the cavern and river canals are all lit up with tiny green, blue and yellow lights, these give the magical appearance and show the cave in the best light, you feel like you are in a Disney film.
I lake or bottomless pit is also very spectacular, the water here is illuminated by neon green lights from underneath, so it just looks like a body of clear green water.
The staff at the speedwell cavern take safety very seriously and got through all of the precautions before hand, each passenger is issued with safety gear and a hard hat. This I thought was fantastic as the kids were so excited and I thought they wouldn't listen to the guide, but he had a way with them and they were good as gold and held on to his every word during the trip, All the way home it was Eric this and Eric that, they found a new friend that day.
I have also visited another cave when I was younger, but as I said I didn't appreciate it then so I am sure we will visit again to try out Castleton's other caves and attractions.
All in all Castleton offers four caves and caverns for public viewing, one of which was the speedwell cavern.
The others include Peak cavern dubbed the Devils Arse, Treak cavern and Blue Johns cave.
We intend to go back and visit them all so watch this space and I will give you my opinion when I return
The Speedwell Cavern is one of the four touristic caves in Castleton, Derbyshire, England. It consists of a horizontal lead miners' adit (a level passageway driven horizontally into the hillside) leading to the cavern itself - a limestone cave. The lower part of the adit and the floor of the cavern are permanently flooded, which results on Speedwell Cavern's (locally unique) feature : the visitor makes the journey into the cave by boat (originally legged through by the guide, but now powered by an electric motor).