Review: Speedwell Cavern, Peak District Review
Speedwell stood out from the other caves in the UK due to its unique feature; exploring requires a boat trip 450m underground. So I was very excited to book two spots on a Speedwell cavern tour one rainy afternoon. Due to the pandemic spots were very limited and booking was required.
The trip from Castleton Town to Speedwell Cavern took less than 5 minutes and we drove through beautiful Hope Valley with its dramatic scenery.
The cavern was isolated and surrounded by hills and grass, so I was a little surprised that we had to pay for our parking in a small area across from Speedwell’s entrance. It wasn’t expensive, but just odd considering all the nature surrounding us.
An 18th century lead cave with an underground cave named the ‘bottomless pit’, the profitability of Speedwell Cavern was grossly overestimated and the development of the mine, which started in the 1770s, stopped and all operations ceased by 1790. It found far more luck as the tourist attraction it is today.
We joined a small queue in a sheltered section protecting us from the afternoon drizzle; the wonderfully British kind that slowly wears you down and soaks you to the bone. Thankfully we didn’t wait too long and soon descended over 100 slightly slippery steps into the cavern’s darkness. Fairy lights lit our way prettily and gave the narrow walls a romantic glow if you like that sort of thing.
Our boat was waiting for us and we clambered into our socially distanced spots.
The space was very tight and mostly lit by the boat lights. It would have been an eery and claustrophobic experience if not for our cheerful young guide’s friendly chatter.
The majority of my photos were trash though.
Apparently it’s a popular pastime for the guides to shout funny things when passing other boats; our guide once shouted at a group of children and told them they were going to die. That sounds reasonable to me.
In the past the miners dug further into the mine through the use of dynamite and it was a race on boats to avoid the explosion. It was a pretty interesting, but grim, fact.
Due to the limited service we didn’t need to pull up into a tiny mooring space at the Halfway House to wait for other boats to pass; so we pulled up to the Bottomless Pit in record time. This is the fun name for an area of the cave where the cavern opened up completely and we gathered on a platform above a huge subterranean lake.
It was a small area but the height of the cavern made the rushing lake feel all the more majestic. We spent around 20 minutes taking photos of the water before the next boat arrived and we rode back to the mooring area.
When our tour finished we exited through the gift shop connected to Speedwell, which contained several souvenirs utilising the local Blue John stone; with various price tags ranging from a little high to very dear.
Speedwell Cavern wasn’t the experience I expected and shorter than anticipated, but it was unique and the guides are enthusiastic and friendly. Just make sure you aren’t claustrophobic.
Address: Speedwell Cavern, Winnats Pass, Castleton, Hope Valley S33 8WA
Opening hours: 10:00 – 16:00
5 – 15 yrs: £8.00
Family Ticket: £32.00
4 year olds and under: free