Ludwig's Cave

Useful Information

The Portal, Ludwigshöhle, Germany. Public Domain.
The huge main entrance, Ludwigshöhle, Germany. Public Domain.
Location: A9 exit Trockau, 3.5 km southwest Ahorntal-Kirchahorn at the castle Burg Rabenstein. 45 km NNE Nürnberg.
(49.8265548, 11.3770640)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave KarstCollapsed Cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=50 m. Portal: W=15 m, H=11 m. Main hall: L=28 m, W=20 m, H=10-13 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: William Buckland (1823): Reliquiae Diluvianae Or, Observations on the Organic Remains Contained in Caves, Fissures and Diluvial Gravel. J. Murray, 1823 - 303 pages. online
Address: Touristinformation Ahorntal, Kirchahorn 63, 95491 Ahorntal, Tel: +49-9202-200, Fax: +49-9202-1572. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1816 explored by William Buckland.
1822 explored by William Buckland.
23-JUN-1830 banquet given for Ludwig I., King of Bavaria, inside the cave, cave renamed Ludwigshöhle for his honour.


The view into the cave from the smaller side entrance, Ludwigshöhle, Germany. Public Domain.
The whole cave, Ludwigshöhle, Germany. Public Domain.
The only side passage has an impressive circular shape, Ludwigshöhle, Germany. Public Domain.
The cave is a "through cave", the trail goes through the cave, Ludwigshöhle, Germany. Public Domain.

The Ludwigshöhle (Ludwigs' Cave) is one of the largest and also the easiest cave to visit in Franconian Switzerland. The large cave ruin is located in the Ailsbach Valley, opposite the Sophienhöhle. If you choose to visit the Sophienhöhle from the car park in the Ailsbach Valley, you can reach it by crossing the stream and walking a little more than 50 metres. Nevertheless, many visitors do not even notice that it exists because it is usually hidden by trees.

You climb slightly from the bottom of the valley via some stairs and stand in the cave portal. Occasionally, the slope is cleared of vegetation to reveal the view of the imposing cave portal. If this has not happened for a long time, only a visit in winter will help. The large cave room runs transversely, with a short continuation straight ahead, another to the right and a second portal to the left, through which another hiking trail leads out. So it is fair to say that there is a hiking trail through this cave. A 7.24 km circular trail from Oberailsfeld up the valley and back across the plateau is also advertised as a cave hike in the Ailsbach valley. The Sophienhöhle cave, Rabenstein Castle and the Schneiderloch cave are also on the trail.

Originally, the cave was known as Kühloch (cow hole) or Rabenloch (raven hole). When the Bavarian King Ludwig I and his wife Therese visited the Ailsbach Valley in 1830 at the invitation of the Imperial Councillor Count Erwein von Schönborn-Wiesentheid, a banquet was held here in his honour. For this purpose, the count had the cave completely redesigned. He had the cave floor levelled and a plaque with the inscription Ludwigshöhle (Ludwig's Cave) put up. This was a fait accompli and from then on the cave was known as Ludwig's Cave. However, it is also known as König-Ludwig-Höhle (King Ludwig's Cave).

The cave had been used for centuries, and so massive changes were repeatedly made to the cave floor. Today's cave floor, with the terraced slope in the portal, the footpath, the flat floor inside the cave and, of course, the wooden railings, is entirely due to human influence. The cave was used for celebrations and hunting parties and was modified for this purpose. The king's visit was just one of various large-scale events. Unfortunately, bones and other archaeological finds were carelessly thrown aside. And even though many finds are still presumed to be in the sediments, they are of little interest from a scientific point of view, as they are completely torn out of their association. Although hardly any finds have been preserved from this cave, it is assumed that it was visited by prehistoric people. A decade before King Ludwig I, the cave was visited by William Buckland, who gained a very different impression:

It now remains only to speak of the cave of Kühloch, which is more remarkable than all the rest, as being the only one I have ever seen, excepting that of Kirkdale, in which the animal remains have escaped disturbance by diluvial action; and the only one also in which I could find the black animal earth, said by other writers to occur so generally, and for which many of them appear to have mistaken the diluvial sediment in which the bones are so universally imbedded. The only thing at all like it, that I could find in any of the other caverns, were fragments of highly decayed bone, which occurred in the loose part of the diluvial sediment in the caves of Scharzfeld and Gailenreuth; but in the cave of Kühloch it is far otherwise. It is literally true that in this single cavern (the size and proportions of which are nearly equal to those of the interior of a large church) there are hundreds of cartloads of black animal dust entirely covering the whole floor, to a depth which must average at least six feet, and which, if we multiply this depth by the length and breadth of the cavern, will be found to exceed 5000 cubic feet. The whole of this mass has been again and again dug over in search of teeth and bones, which it still contains abundantly, though in broken fragments.
William Buckland (1823): Reliquiae Diluvianae

The Bible-based theorising which explained everything with the Flood seems rather strange nowadays. Nevertheless, the description of the sediments gives an impression of how much was destroyed by later reshaping. In the meantime, nothing more can be broken, and there is no objection to the cave still being used for all kinds of events.

The cave is located at a level only a few tens of metres above the stream. The obvious assumption would therefore be that it formed when the stream was at the same level as a receiving watercourse. However, investigations in the cave suggest that it is a result of Cretaceous karstification. At the end of the Jurassic period, the Jurassic limestones were uplifted and formed an island in a tropical sea during the Cretaceous period. The karstification at that time created large cavities that were later completely filled with sediments. By sinking below sea level, sediments were deposited again at the end of the Cretaceous period. After renewed uplift during the Tertiary period, these were almost completely removed and the Ailsbach cut into the Jurassic limestone. When it reached the filled Cretaceous cave, it cleared out the loose sediments.