Looking for a family adventure in the Yorkshire Dales? We’ve got just the thing! Follow in the footsteps of brave early Victorian explorers by venturing underground at Ingleborough Cave, learn about magnificent limestone structures and discover the enchanting Ingleborough Estate Nature Trail, stopping for a family picnic along the way.
This is an adventure that the whole family can get involved in. The trail is moderately easy (1.3 miles each way along a gravel track, with a steady incline on the way up) and can be managed by children from three upwards. Descending 500 meters beneath Ingleborough mountain, the cave is a great option come rain or shine. Both the cave and the nature trail are open all year round (up to date opening times can be found here).
In total, you’ll be walking around 6 miles. Some of it is on uneven terrain, so make sure you come prepared with appropriate footwear and waterproofs if rain is likely, as well as plenty of food and drinks for the day.
On this walk, designed for adventurous and active families, we go as far as Gaping Gill, but those wishing to challenge themselves may choose to continue up Ingleborough!
How to get here;
- By car
- By train
- By bus
09:00 Ingleborough Estate Nature Trail
Set off for the picturesque village of Clapham. Allow around an hour to walk up the 1.3 mile Ingleborough Estate Nature Trail. The trail is the gateway to some of the U.K’s most stunning limestone scenery including Trow Gill Gorge & Gaping Gill pothole, the limestone pavements, Norber Erratics and ultimately the summit of Ingleborough. Alfred Wainwright, the esteemed guidebook author and illustrator, called this route up Ingleborough, ‘the finest of all, a classic’.
Here are 10 things to spot on the trail.
10:00 Arrive at Ingleborough Cave
First stop, the cave. Collect your hard hats from the entrance and let the adventure begin! Ingleborough Cave, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. First discovered in 1837 by brave Victorian explorers with only candles to guide them, They drained the lake and discovered 500m of previously unexplored passages delving deep beneath Ingleborough mountain. Today, the cave is well lit, and you can follow in the footsteps of those pioneers on an awe-inspiring voyage of discovery.
A concrete footpath leads you past breath-taking stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones, and our expert guides bring to life formations and artefacts dating back millions of years. Keep your eyes peeled – you never know what you might find!
10:45 Snack Time
Adventuring is thirsty work. Stop for some refreshments at the picnic tables provided outside the cave. Hot and cold drinks, snacks and of course, ice cream, are all for sale on site. You are also welcome to bring your own picnic.
11:00 For the More Intrepid Explorers; Trow Gill and Gaping Gill
Head 15 minutes further up the valley and discover Trow Gill, a huge, limestone gorge formed when the 400 metre deep sheet of ice melted at the end of the last ice age. Scramble through the gorge and follow the path until you reach a big double stile on your left. Hop over the stile and follow the trodden path around to the right, and you’ll see a big fenced off hole, this is Gaping Gill. Its the most famous pothole in the U.K, and at just under 100 meters deep, it is large enough to house York Minster. That’s pretty big!
Gaping Gill is the other end of one of the U.K’s most famous cave systems that starts down the valley at Ingleborough Cave, where you earlier visited. Twice a year local caving clubs erect a winch and chair lift and members of the public can take the plunge. The walk from Trow Gill to Gaping Gill takes around 30 minutes.
Perhaps when the kids aren’t in tow, Mum & Dad might want to come back and continue this walk up to the summit of Ingleborough (723 meters), on the route described by guidebook author and illustrator Alfred Wainwright as, ‘the finest of all, a classic’.
11:45 Heading for Home
Instead of going back the same way, once you get back to the stile, climb over and head straight on instead of turning right and going back the way you came. Please note that the following route has a couple of steep parts that you walk up and down, and can be fairly boggy in very wet weather, so if either of these are a problem it may be best taking the route that you came along. Follow the trodden path until you drop into a U-shaped valley, and you’re carrying on straight again up the steep hill until you reach a gate onto a very clear lane. Follow this lane (you are on higher ground now, so look out for the cave entrance) until you get to a fork in the path. Take the right hand path which will bring you through some tunnels and back into Clapham village.
The tunnels were built to allow workers to access Ingleborough Hall (which used to be the residence of the lord of the manor) without the inhabitants having to see them. Today, the hall is an outdoor residential centre where schools come and stay.
You will pop out of the tunnels opposite Clapham’s lovely park, alternatively pop in for a drink or a snack at the pub or one of the wonderful local cafes!