“This is the way to the cave. It is really worth visiting”, an older gentleman points to a neat tunnel on the side of the hill. “I know, but we are taking the other way in.”
The gentleman offering his help to us has just visited Cathedral Cave which is one of the most photogenic caves in Lake District, England. It is the gem of the Cathedral Quarries in Little Langdale, where I have earlier had some vague thoughts about the fear of the dark.
Visiting Cathedral Cave doesn’t require any special skills or equipment and you definitely do not need a guide. A torch of some sort is useful.
The disused quarries sit on the hills behind the River Brathay. Paths lead up to the hills and into the woods from the road. It should not be difficult to find the bottom entrance of the cave which is marked with a big scree platform and a nice sign. The gentleman and his wife entered the cave here.
We want to enter the Cathedral Cave from the top level and that’s why we are walking around the slate littered hills. After following some narrow but clear paths we come upon another sign. This is where we dive into a low ceiling tunnel that stretches some 100 meters.
I have a head torch, and I shine the way through the dark tunnel which turns a few times, passes a bigger cavern, and ushers us into a large open pit. The pit has an open-top but the only way to get there is through tunnels or by abseiling.
A big hole on the opposite wall of the pit draws my attention and I walk closer. “The water is so clear that it looks like the pillar in the middle is twice its height”, I think before I realise that it is not a water-filled cave I am looking at, but a window to another cave with a good 10-meter drop. The pillar really is quite high.
A rocky path from the middle of the open pit leads to the cave I spied from above. This is The Cathedral Cave people come to check out.
If you look closely, you can see some old pegs, rotten slings, and some shiny new bolts on the walls and the ceiling. Local climbers have put up some routes in the caves. I have also heard stories that suggest that these climbers would have been responsible for a goldfish who used to live in the puddle in the cave. I don’t know if it is still alive, but if you look at the picture above closely you can see something orange in the water. However, muddy pond in England is not a natural habitat for a goldfish so one can only wonder how it got there in the first place.
When you exit the cave, you come to the spot where the gentleman greeted us. I think that my way around the caves is more fun, but feel free to use the conventional way if it suits you better.
- What: Cathedral Cave, caves and tunnels
- Where: Cathedral Quarries, Little Langdale, Lake District, England
- Why: walking, trad climbing routes
- Note: might need a torch