Castleton, Home of peak cavern and Mam Tor

Treak Cliff Cavern

Treak Cliff Cavern in Castleton is of international fame and geological importance. Situated a little higher up the old Mam Tor road, Treak Cliff Cavern has within it an array of delectable stalactite and stalagmite formation. For several years Treak Cliff has been considered a Site of Special Scientific Interest and in agreement with the English Nature, all the Blue John Stone deposits on the visitor route are preserved. However, Blue John Stone is regularly mined in Treak Cliff Cavern, from areas not seen by visitors to Castleton. It is then crafted into jewellery, small bowls, ornaments and other decorative items and is often sold in gift shops around Castleton. Treak Cliff Cavern still mines approximately 500 kilograms of Blue John each year.

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Although the walk from Castleton village through Treak Cliff Cavern is not a difficult one, there are a small number of low roofs and some steps that need to be negotiated. The veins of Blue John are easy to notice and many of the formations are excellently lit.  

There are two distinctive series of caverns in Treak Cliff. Firstly, there is the outer series. This was exposed by Castleton lead miners during the 1700’s, and contains some attractive areas of Blue John Stone. This first part of the cave is primarily artificial, being the remains of a Blue John mining operation. However, even in this part of the tour there are many small natural caverns which saved a lot time during mining.

The inner series was found when the Castleton miners broke through into natural caverns beyond the outer series in 1926, only to find the newly found caves had some fine natural formations. They were immediately given such names such as the Frozen Waterfall and Aladdin’s Cave. Aladdin’s Cave contains one of the best displays of stalactites in the whole of Castleton. From this chamber a channel leads into a circular chamber known as Fairyland, which contains within it a series of pretty stalactites that appear carrot-like when looked at from below ground.

You will see veins of Blue John Stone across the cave roof, and 'The Pillar', the largest piece ever found. Your will also see fossils in the limestone rock which formed the hillside above you 330 million years ago.
Following the route from Fairyland, you next arrive at Dream Cave. Here, many of the formations have been given names, such as the Crucifix and the Elephant. The longest stalactite here is nearly four feet in length and underneath it is a stalagmite about a foot high, only 1.5 inches away from it. It will take over a thousand years at the present rate of growth before they join up. The most famous formation is 'The Stork', standing on one leg. At nearly 40 feet high, the next chamber, Dome of St. Paul’s, is a veritable cascade of colours, the stalactite draperies adorning the walls making for a wonderful exhibition.  

Upon leaving, you will exit from a passage adjacent to Fairyland, and you will be greeted on your departure by a fantastic view of Hope Valley, Castleton.  

The tour will be educational as well as visually stimulating. Whilst walking the routes, your guide will explain how Castleton miners in the 1750's constructed a tunnel using only hand tools to reach the Blue John Stone deposits inside the hill. You will have explained to you where Blue John Stone came from, how rushing water made the caverns and how stalactites are formed. When the route comes to an end, outside there are light refreshments available, with tea and coffee made from water collected in Castleton. You can also browse Castleton Gift Shop where there is a selection of jewellery and ornaments made from Blue John Stone.

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