Millican Daltons Cave

Dalton’s Cave - High Hows Quarry


Useful Information

Location: 1.5 km south of Grange.
(54.533780, -3.158250)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: MineSlate Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Millican Daltons Cave
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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History

1920s Millican Dalton moves into a disused split level quarry in Borrowdale.
1947 Millican Dalton dies aged 79 in a hospital.

Geology

The valley is formed by the erosion of the river Derwent, which actually follows a fault line, because the fault caused cracks in the rock and so it is easier to erode. So while the Fault is named after the Derwentwater lake which is named after the river, it is actually the reason for the valley, the lake and the river. The higher ground to the northwest of the Derwentwater fault is composed of the Birker Fell Formation, plagioclase-phyric andesite lavas and subordinate sills. Castle Crag (290 m asl) is on the lower side and shows rocḱs of the Eagle Crag Member, a mixture of siltstone, sandstone, conglomerate and tuff with frequent andesite sills. The slopes and the summit of Castle Crag are extensively quarried with pits and levels on the northern and south-eastern flanks.

Description

Millican Dalton’s Cave is not a cave, it's a former slate quarry named High Hows Quarry, and it was renamed after Millican Dalton, who lived in this cave for nearly 30 years. The cave is located on the side of Castle Crag in Borrowdale close to Keswick in the Lake District.

Millican Dalton (*1867-✝1947) started work in London as an insurance clerk when he was a young man. He was a keen cyclist, camper and climber. At the age of 36 he felt constrained by humdrum work life and bowed out, a radical act for his times. He changed to a simple life of self-sufficiency, built a forest hut in Buckinghamshire where he lived during the winter months, and camped in the Lake District during the summer. he baked his own bread, manufactured his own clothes with a sewing machine, and followed a healthy natural diet. He called himself “Professor of Adventure” and began offering adventure trips to outdoor lovers. He led parties in rafting and climbing, and even guided mountaineering trips in the Swiss Alps. He delighted in campfire conversations and offered his services to young women long before this became socially acceptable. At this time women were not accepted as mountaineers, but he taught rock-climbing to his female charges, and allowed them to lead when their climbing skills permitted.

When he died aged 79 in a hospital in 1947, his cave soon became a site of pilgrimage. It has two interconnected split-levelled chambers. In the upper chamber he etched an epitaph into the wall “Don’t Waste Words, Jump to Conclusions”. And he left another riddle, a book lay uncompleted by his bedside titled “Philosophy of Life”, containing his observations based on thirty years living in the wilderness. But the book vanished and has never been found.