The Caves of Ribblehead

So, here I was, back at Ribblehead, with a bit of time on my hands, clear blue sky overhead and wall to wall sunshine spreading its munificence to one and all. And when I say ‘one and all’, I do so advisedly, because, in stark contrast to how quiet it had been at seven thirty, Ribblehead was now thronged with people.

I had ‘Walks in Limestone Country’ in my pack: I had a bit of a shufti at that and decided that Walk 22: The Caves of Ribblehead, or at least part of it, was just what was required.

This is one of several entrances to Roger Kirk cave.


I didn’t venture into this one, and now that I’ve read a little more about it*, I’m happy with that decision.

(*If you’re thinking of poking around in these caves, you’ll need a more knowledgeable and comprehensive guide. Fortunately, there’s one available here, and a very interesting read it is too.)

The caves in this first section of Wainwright’s walk are all close to Runscar (the OS map has Runscar Scar but that sounds awful, a tautological nightmare like Windermere Lake or Torpenhow Hill)


Runscar’s clean white rocks add interest to what otherwise might be a rather bleak stretch of moorland.

I couldn’t find all of the cave entrances which Wainwright mentions, but, disconcertingly, found some that he doesn’t mention. Both Thistle Cave and Runscar Cave have upper and lower sections. I didn’t find the top entrance to Thistle, but I had a good poke around in Runscar Cave. Which was most enjoyable.


Then I was across the limestone pavement (Penyghent in the background)….


…and heading towards the upper branches of a tree apparently emerging at ground level from the otherwise tree-less moor. The tree is a good marker for Cuddy Gill Pot…


You can scramble down into the bottom of the pot, pausing on route to enjoy a marvellous display of primroses…


At the bottom, Cuddy Gill appears from under a low lintel of rock and almost immediately disappears beneath another. In the bright sunshine it was hard not to notice that some of the rock had tiny, shiny crystals catching the light and sparkling. What would these be in sedimentary rock? (A geologist’s opinion required please. Amateurs welcome. Actually, almost any opinion welcome – keep it clean however, this is a family show.)


Not far from the pothole, and upstream, is Cuddy Gill Cave, which also has a number of entrances. I had a bit of a look in there, but it’s narrower and the rocks are sharp edged, and to my mind, worth a look, but not as satisfactory as Runscar Cave.

Here’s Penyghent again…..


…because, well….why not?

Turning back towards the car I came across this resurgence, which I now know is Runscar Cave again.


I went in a little way, but when it looked like I might need to use my knees, decided that shorts are not the best attire for caving and left it at that.


Must go back and have a more thorough gander sometime.

I’d seen this tight cave entrance under a small bluff on my way out, but a lady with two dogs was sat nearby eating her lunch and it seemed rude to interrupt. I crawled a small way into it now, but, not knowing what I was letting myself in for, thought better of it. In fact this is the exit for the top section of Thistle Cave.


As I say, I shall definitely have to come back and follow through the top sections of Thistle and Runscar Caves as Stephen describes on A Three Peaks Up and Under:

A Rabbit Round Ribblehead

The Caves of Ribblehead

11 thoughts on “The Caves of Ribblehead

  1. When I was 6 or 7 years old, living in Hartlepool, a regular holiday destination for us was Ingleton. We had a tiny caravan and we always used to set off late on the Friday evening then spend the night in the van at the road junction at Ribblehead, before completing the journey on the Saturday morning. It used to be so quiet and peaceful.

    About two years ago, on the way to the Lakes once, we decided to similarly spend the night at Ribblehead in our campervan. It was very atmospheric and snowed quite heavily overnight. At about 7:30 in the morning though – whilst all still snoozing peacefully – we were awoken by an almighty racket going on outside. On looking out the windows, we saw we were surrounded by a dozen parked cars, all disgorging fit-looking fell runners out into the snow, who then proceeded to run off into the still falling flakes. No sleep in for us then that morning!

    How times change…..

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      This was at Easter. There were hordes of people, a burger van, an ice cream van, cars parked on every feasible bit of hard-standing. Oddly, when I arrived there was a large campervan, which had clearly been there all night. When I returned, it was still there and there was a couple outside sat on their deckchairs seemingly unperturbed by the crowds around and about.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      “The river is swollen up with rusty cans
      and the trees are burning in your promised land.”
      “Like a worm on a hook,
      Like a knight from some old fashioned book”
      Hi Dan.

        1. beatingthebounds says:

          This will make no sense at all to anybody else who reads my blog. Fortunately, nobody else reads my blog, so we’re fine!

  2. An area for play with the kids at Xmas then, assuming its not too far from the road. Takes me back to that weekend me you and GM spent caving with head torches and building site hard hats. They were happy times 🙂

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Not far from the road at all. Prone to flooding however, so we would need some better weather than last year.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thanks Emma, hope you enjoyed your walk. I was hoping that I would be able to go back and do the rest of Wainwright’s suggested walk despite the lack of rights of way. Is that a non-starter?

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