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Exploring Cathedral Cave in the Lake District holiday cottages

Exploring Cathedral Cave in the Lake District

Kim Brough 13 April 2022

Cathedral Cave, also referred to as Cathedral Quarry, is part of a National Trust-managed quarry near the Langdale Valley and Coniston. It’s the star attraction in an area that’s packed with remainders of the Lake District’s industrial heritage. 

There is actually a full network of small caverns and tunnels that make up Cathedral Quarries, but the largest cave is by far the most impressive. This 40-foot-high chamber is flooded by light from a high opening where greenery trails in: claiming back the land from this now-unused industrial site. A large pillar of rock juts through the centre of the cavern, adding to the drama of the location (though really it’s to support the roof!).

Exploring Cathedral Cave in the Lake District

While Cathedral Cave is the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring of the quarry caverns, you don’t have to stop there. If you have a torch and good boots, you can continue through the tunnels (including one that’s 120 metres long!) to discover caves deeper in the rock. Small scrambles will also take you to different levels of the quarry complex. The cave is open all day, every day, and is completely free to enter: just take appropriate care during your visit. It’s also a popular location for abseiling and rock climbing, with around 29 recognised routes ranging between 5C and 8B+ proficiency levels.

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How to get to Cathedral Cave

Cathedral Cave

There is a very pleasant 3-mile circular walk to Cathedral Cave, which also takes in Hodge Close Quarry. Starting at the small car park near Bakestone Barrow Wood, head north until you reach Hodge Close Quarry. You can stop here for some pictures: on its side, the reflections in the water create a terrifying skull!

 After giving yourself a fright, take the path left downhill and towards Pierce How Beck before turning right up the bridleway alongside Moss Rigg Wood. When you meet the river that flows into Little Langdale Tarn, turn left and follow the path until it turns back on itself and through a gate. The cavern is up here.

Head through the short tunnel and gasp in wonder as the cathedral opens up before you. Once you’ve had your fill, you can retrace your steps alongside the river to the byway, which leads south back to the car park via a circular route.


The history of Cathedral Cave

Cathedral Cave

Slate quarrying in the Lake District dates as far back as prehistoric times. Though Cathedral Cave and the Little Langdale Quarries aren’t quite that old! They were created in the 1700s as part of the popular slate mining industry that plays a big part in the area’s history. It was used for extracting the Lake District’s famous green slate, which is still seen on the buildings of many of the towns and villages in the national park and beyond.

The busiest period for this quarry was in the 19th century during a housing boom, and quarrying continued until the 1950s.

In 1929, the site was bought by none other than Beatrix Potter, who later gifted it, along with much of her other property, to the National Trust. It has been under their care since, and they are responsible for keeping the site open so that visitors can enjoy the impressive man-made structures.


FAQs about Cathedral Quarry

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Where are the Cathedral Caves in the Lake District?

Cathedral Cave and Cathedral Quarries are in the valley of Little Langdale, approximately a 15-minute drive from both Coniston and Ambleside. The postcode is LA22 9NT.

Is Cathedral Cavern open?

Cathedral Cavern is open all day, every day. There is no charge to enter and it is unmanned. This makes it a fantastic place to visit at any time of the year, though you should take necessary precautions due to sheer drops and slippery rock. 

How long is the Cathedral Caves walk?

You can visit Cathedral Cave as part of a circular walk from Hodge Close Quarry, which is approximately 3 miles long. The walk is relatively easy to follow and gently undulating. It takes in much of the quarrying history of the area, as well as woodlands and riverside strolls.

Where do you park in Cathedral Cave?

There is no parking at Cathedral Cave itself and you will have to walk to get there. However, there is a car park just south of Hodge Close Quarry. Alternatively, there is further parking near Tilberthwaite Farm.


Self-catering cottages close to Cathedral Cave

Cathedral Cave is in the Langdale Valley, a glorious location for a Lake District holiday. It’s also easily reached from our self-catering cottages in Coniston and Ambleside.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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