Great Masson Cavern

Useful Information

Location: Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. Situated on summit of the Heights of Abraham, reached by ascending Holme Road from the A6 trunk road. Car park at the side of the A6 trunk road, next to the railway station, cable car to the caves.
Open: 13-FEB to 21-FEB daily 10-16:30.
27-FEB to 14-MAR Sat, Sun 10-16:30.
20-MAR to 03-OCT daily 10-17.
04-OCT to 30-OCT daily 10-16:30.
Fee: Adults GBP 11.50, Children (5-16) GBP 8.50, Children (0-43) free, Seniors GBP 8.50, Family (2+2) GBP 35.
Groups (20+): Adults GBP 9.70, Children (5-16) GBP 6.50, Seniors GBP 7.40.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave with lead mining.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=800 m.
Guided tours: L=400 m, D=30 min.
Bibliography: Roger Flindall and Andrew Hayes (1976):
The Caves and Mines of Matlock Bath, Part 1 The Nestus Mines: Rutland and Masson Caverns.
Buxton, Derbyshire, Moorland Publishing Co. 72 pp, maps, illus, figs, surveys.
Address: The Heights of Abraham, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire DE4 3PD, Tel: +44-1629-582365 (24 hour hotline), Fax: +44-1629-581128. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1844 opened to the public, the first show cave in Britain.


Hurricane lamps and candles are carried in this cave so that one gets "all the thrills of an underground exploration in complete safety, with experienced guides".

The cave consists largely of an old lead mine which breaks into a natural cavern at the end.

It has a long history, for this cave was first opened to the public in 1844. The entrance is through a door in the bottom of a little gorge, which leads into a long, narrow rake, where the old miners scraped out lead to eke a living from the earth. The way winds down this narrow corridor, the flickering lights of the visitors and the guide casting eerie shadows on the rocks, making shapes which look like goblins or the ghosts of the old miners, waiting to pounce on the unwary. It is possible to see traces of the old miners in their pick marks on the walls.

The Lake, an old, flooded level, is passed, as well as many calcite and stalagmite formations which have been given names suggested by their shapes, such as the Crocodile, the Lion, and high up, 90 feet above, in the tallest dome of the cave, the pure white head of a woman, described as "the largest natural cameo in the world".

Text from: Tony and Anne Oldham (1972): Discovering Caves - A guide to the Show Caves of Britain. With kind permission by Tony Oldham.

Since my visit in 1972 the mine has changed out of all recognition. It is now lit by electric lighting throughout.

The visit begins with a 6 minute video presentation in the pavilion and a few safety warnings - there are a lot of steps in this cave! From the rear of the pavilion it is only a short walk to the entrance, where a flight of 30 steps, in a narrow mined passage called the Bacon Rake leads one down into the first chamber. More steps, this time in wider passages which increase in size and finally opening out into the Great Cavern 40 m long 10 m wide and 15 m high. It is reputed that the shaft in the roof was the original way in. The way out is via a flight of 78 steps, but fortunately the guide stops half way and gives a long spiel (so it is possible to get one's breath back again) including some amusing anecdotes and historical notes which really brings the visit to life.

The mine is noted for its pick marks where the old miners took every bit of lead they could find. The exit is higher up the hill, with a short walk back to the entrance. Before entering the cave you are warned about how strenuous the trip is, this warning should be heeded.

Updated 2001 by Tony Oldham.