“ Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 8WP. Telephone: 01433 620571 „
This cave is boring. Nothing to see, staff rude and obnoxious. Stay well away.
My son and I visited Treak Cliff - there was just us and the guide, as they are happy to show you the cavern if there is a minimum of two visitors. We spent the 40 minutes with our jaws agape looking at the Blue John, which is beautiful, and the cave formations of stalagtites and stalagmites. We were shown the tucked away parts of the cavern where mining still occurs, usually through winter months - although the cavern is open right through the year, and the temperature remains a balmy 11 degrees C throughout the year.
There is a shop selling pocket money prices of Blue John and also lovely Blue John pendants, earrings, rings etc., up to £100's (something for everyone's pocket). The stone is so rare - it is the only cave in the world where Blue John is found. The story of how it got its name is interesting too - but you will have to take the tour to find out! There is also a cafe - indoor and out, with lovely views of the valley and surrounding hills. Ever important toilets, and parking is free just outside. Need to be good on your legs as there are steps and a low cave roof in one part of the tour. Our tour was very informative, and the guide was very knowledgable and a pleasure to meet. We would recommend this visit to everyone.
Treak Cliff Cavern is a show cave near the lovely town of Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District. The cave is the home of the semi-precious stone "Blue John", found only in Treak Cliff, and the Blue John Caverns nearby.
The name Blue John derives from the French "bleu et jaune", meaning blue and yellow. The mineral is a type of fluorspar through which oil has permeated under pressure, giving the stone a gorgeous blue hue, shot through with yellow veins.
The mineral is extremely rare now, and only about 500 kilograms per year are mined from Treak Cliff.
The cavern is easily reached from Castleton, but the entrance to the cliff is a stiff climb up several steep flights of steps. Guided tours are performed quite frequently, so you should not have to wait long after buying your ticket. The tour lasts about forty minutes and takes you through a series of natural caves, with some wonderful sights to be seen along the way.
Almost as soon as you enter the cave, the tour guide points out a large vein of Blue John. This looks quite unusual, set amongst the white limestone of the cave walls. This material has been sought after for over 250 years because of its beauty and rarity. Blue John is extremely expensive. One of the lights in the cave has a small, damaged Blue John bowl next to it. Even this broken bowl is worth £2,000.
Mining is a hazardous business; in one of the first caves, you're shown a large pillar holding up the roof of the cavern. This pillar is special, as it's made of Blue John. The value of the pillar has been set at two million pounds! The temptation to mine the pillar to make it thinner (but less stable) must have been extraordinarily strong to the early miners who worked this cave!
Aladdin's cave has a really unusual set of stalagmites called the seven dwarves. Apparently, it's good luck to touch the largest of these (happy!), so most people on the tour pat 'him' on the 'head' as they go past. A weird material called flowstone is also present in this cave. This is a build up of calcium, deposited from water over many thousands of years. The contaminants in the calcium give rise to many different colours, giving a weird effect.
The most impressive cave (to me) was "Fairy Land". This has many thousands of coloured stalactites clinging to the ceiling of the cave. At this point, the tour guide turns off the lights and the stalactites are lit by concealed lighting, giving the appearance of a fairy grotto, a beautiful effect and worth visiting the cave for this alone.
The last cave is called "Dome of St Paul's" as this massive cavern has a domed roof, looking a bit like that of St Paul's cathedral. When you're inside this cave, it's worth remembering that the caves have been hollowed out of the solid Derbyshire rock, by the power of water alone. This process has taken millions of years, using billions of gallons of water, to allow you to stand where you are now, amazing!
From here, you make your way back through a slightly different route to the cave exit which is much lower down the hill from the entrance.
Here, there's a final surprise. My niece stopped about ten feet from the exit and pointed to the roof, about 18 inches above her head. White ovals could be seen dangling from the ceiling. Next to each oval was a large spider! We'd found the lair of the "cave spider", one of the largest spiders in Britain (the ovals were the spiders' egg sacs).
As I'm a bit taller than my niece, these were about three inches above my head. These spiders were surprisingly pretty, not hairy like house spiders, with subtly beautiful colours. If you don't like spiders, however, please note that the only way out of the cave involves walking underneath them!
Treak Cliff Cavern is an excellent show cave with some wonderful geological features. As the cavern contains Blue John, found nowhere else on earth, this makes this cave almost unique and well worth a visit.
There's a shop where you can buy some (very expensive) Blue John ornaments as well as other typical tourist fare. The shop also sells hot drinks and a few snacks. If you buy a cup of tea, it may taste a little strange. This is because the water is drawn directly from the cave, giving it quite an unusual taste.
The prices are not excessive at £7.95 for adults and £4.00 for children, or £22.00 for a family ticket.
Treak Cliff Cavern can be found on the fringe of Derbyshire's Peak District town of Castleton. Cutting deep into the limestone hillside this is actually one of four different cave systems that penetrate this impressive landscape. This landscape and the caves were formed between 350 and 300 million years ago when this whole area was submerged under the sea.
Treak Cliff Cavern is perhaps the least known of Castleton's caves, although it still attracts many thousands of visitors each year. This may have something to do with the fact that it is the least accessible and it is also much smaller than Peak Cavern, the largest cave here and the Blue John Cavern. Castleton's other cave, Speedwell Cavern benefits from having an entrance directly next to the road and also has the added appeal of being flooded by water, meaning that a trip into this cave is on a boat.
Treak Cliff Cavern is however by no means difficult to access. There are two different approaches. The first of these is from the car park of Speedwell Cavern, which can be found at the bottom of one of the steepest roads in England called Winnats Pass. There is a car park here but be warned, this costs £3.00 (4.50) to park here for 3 hours.
Alternatively, Treak Cliff Cavern can be approached from the Mam Tor road. Mam Tor is the largest mountain in this area and dominates the area. The Mam Tor road was once a route over the Pennines to Manchester from here, but due to serious land erosion this road has been closed since 1979. It is however possible to drive about one mile (1.5 Km) along this road before it is blocked off. Parking on this road is free but there is no designated car park so the cars just park on the grass verge.
From here Treak Cliff Cavern is a steep climb up the hillside. This certainly would not be suitable for the disabled or the infirm but for the able-bodied it is quite an interesting experience.
The climb to the cavern entrance is very steep, but it is a well walked footpath and there are several sets of steps to make the climbing easier. It is actually possible to see the entrance to the cavern from the road, and to be honest it is not actually that far, and should only take about 15 minutes to complete.
At the entrance to the cavern there is a gift shop, some toilets and a cafe. It is possible to browse around here without paying the cave entrance fee but the prices at both the cafe and gift shop are rather high.
Entry into the cavern is through a turnstile where it is necessary to pay the entry fee. Again this does not come cheap. Admission charges are currently £8.50 (13) for adults and £3.80 (6) for children.
It is not possible to wander through the cavern without a guide for safety reasons and the trip through the cave is conducted as a guided tour. These tours leave at approximately every 45 minutes, and each tour lasts about 40 minutes, so it is pretty much a case of as one party comes out another one goes in.
There were about 15 people in our party, which included people of all ages including a couple of small children.
The first thing that was noticeable was that it was not cold, I expected it be quite cold, but I barely noticed any difference in temperature change at all. It is however very damp and there is a slight stale smell.
The cavern is well lit with electric lighting and there are wooden planks on the sections of the floor that are a little bit hazardous underfoot.
Treak Cliff Cavern, along with the other caves here are famous for a rare type of mineral quartz known as Blue John. This purple coloured semi-precious stone occurs here and nowhere else in the World. It has been mined from these caves for centuries and in fact the large entrance to this cave is more or less man made as a result of these mining activities.
All along the route our guide pointed out examples of Blue John, which looked like purple veins within the rock. In places there is a sufficient amount of this to reflect the light and cast quite an eerie purple glow. He also pointed out fossils of creatures in the rock wall that had been there for millions of years. Some of these are remarkably well preserved.
There are several interesting features within the cave beside the Blue John and many of these areas have fancy names. These include areas known as Aladdin's Cave, Fairyland, and Dream Cave.
Aladdin's Cave was first discovered in 1926 and contains some of the largest stalactites in England. From here a passageway leads to Fairyland, where there are even more stalactites hanging down from the roof. These are smaller in size than those in Aladdin's Cave and look more magical than the larger ones. Our guide described them as looking like rows of tiny carrots and this description was rather apt.
Some of the larger stalactites and stalagmites have been given names. The largest stalactite here is called the Elephant and hangs down 1.5 metres from the roof. Directly below this there is a stalagmite growing upwards, which is only about 5 centimetres away, but our guide explained that it would take another 1,000 years before the two structures would join up.
Our guide was very knowledgeable, although I guess that he must have done these same tours hundreds of times before and been asked the same questions over and over again.
Overall I would definitely recommend a visit to Treak Cliff Cavern. It is a lit bit expensive, but it really is a once in a lifetime experience, and something that you will probably only ever do once.
Treak Cliff Cavern
Telephone - (01433)620571
We are told that there is only one place in the world where you can find the Blue John gemstone and that is in the hillside to the north of the town of Castleton in Derbyshire, England. You can see this gemstone in its natural surroundings in the caves of the Treak Cliff Cavern and learn all about its history during a visit to this showcave. In the 1750’s the local miners dug a tunnel into the hillside looking for Lead, and although at that time they did not find any Lead they found a dark mineral that they believed was Coal. When they examined the mineral more closely they discovered that it was not Coal, but that it was a blue translucent mineral that was ideal as a gemstone. Blue John is a form of Fluorspar that has been coloured by the unique combination of minerals in the hillside and is now famous world-wide, and still mined today from this series of caves (about one tonne per year). The caves are open to visitors all year long and you are taken on a tour of the caves by a local guide. The cave complex comprises of a combination of man made tunnels and large naturally formed caves with some spectacular natural rock formations. The tour takes about 40 minutes and they are started at least every 30 minutes (more frequent during busy periods). The tours cost £5.50 for adults and £3 for children or £15 for a family ticket. This is not a tour for anybody unsteady on their feet as there are a lot of steps to negotiate and there are a number of places where the roof is a bit low and you have to be careful not to bump your head. The guide is very careful to point out these places and to make sure the whole tour is perfectly safe. The sight of Blue John stone in the cave is quite impressive, but much more impressive are the stalagmites and stalactites in the lower caves, together with the large naturally formed Limestone caverns. Within a number of the caverns there are also spectacular formations of mineral
deposits over the hard Flowstone which give the appearance of frozen water flows. There are also a large number of fossils in the Limestone rocks that the guide will point out to you. I suppose that like all cave visits the guides point out natural features that are supposedly reminiscent of famous people or features. This cave visit is no exception and in particular is the witch cave where the combination of lighting shows the shadow of a witch (Gertrude) on the wall of the cave. This is a bit corny but it really impressed the younger members in our party. At one point the guide turns off all of the lights (after preparing everyone for this) so the visitors can appreciate what total darkness is really like. A couple of minutes was quite long enough for me. Also at the end of the cave there is a pipe collecting the natural water in the cave and visitors have the chance to taste completely fresh water. As there is no mains water to the Treak Cliff Cavern the guide also points out that this water is piped out to the Tea Room for making the drinks. You leave the caves by a different route and descend the hillside by a long zig-zag path back to the cave entrance. In the buildings here there is a Tea Room, a gift shop, some toilets, a picnic area and a viewing area looking over the surrounding countryside where you can admire the hills of the Peak District for miles around. In the gift shop are many items made from Blue John, by their own craftsmen. There is also a bigger selection in their shop in the town of Castleton. (The Castleton Gift Shop) There are also displays of rocks and minerals, together with tools from the caves and a video telling you more about the caves and their history. All of the staff are extremely friendly and are all very knowledgeable on the history of the caves and the surrounding area. When you visit the caves you can park in a parking zone on the road, but at weekends and Bank Holi
days this is a Pay and Display zone and this will cost you about £2 (dependant upon how long you may want to stop). Again there are a lot of steps from the road up to the entrance of the caves. If you want any more information about the caves then you can look on their website at: http://www.bluejohnstone.com Altogether this is a very enjoyable and informative visit. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Treak Cliff Cavern and I would encourage anyone else to pay it a visit, as long as they don’t mind going up and down a lot of steps.