Ingleborough Cave

by Tony Oldham

Visitors to this cave walk beside the underground watercourse of the subterranean Fell Beck.

The entrance to Ingleborough Cave has been known for centuries, but in 1837 the cave was extended. A stalagmite barrier 70 feet inside the entrance, damming up the Fell Beck, was removed. The water was thus released and the cave opened up.

For the most part the passages are wide and high, and the water level from the time before the barrier was chipped away can be seen on the walls. Two water levels will be noticed, and these are caused by a seasonal fluctuation in water.

In the section of the cave known as Eldon Hall is a group of the peculiar formations known as helictites. These are very thin, and twist and turn in all directions. Nobody knows quite how they are formed but they certainly are a most curious phenomenon.

As visitors progress along the show cection they see many pendant stalactites, but two of the most impressive formations are the Jockey's Cap, a large stalagmite about 10 feet round, and about 3 feet high, with water continually dripping on to it from above, and the Elephant's Legs, two sturdy columns where stalagmites have joined stalactites.

Soon the roof begins to come down and banks of sand and gravel are passed, until a point is reached where the cave is suitable for cavers only. This is the point known as the Pool of Reflections, where the stalactites in the roof are mirrored in the water below.

The cave stretches into blackness, but now, a quarter of a mile from the entrance, the visitor must retrace his steps. As mentioned previously, the route followed in the cave is the old watercourse of Fell Beck, and although the cave still carries some of this water, most of it sinks in the limestone, and flows through another system. Some of this water reappears from a low cave just outside Ingleborough Cave, but the bulk of this water, which sinks in the famous cave called Gaping Gill, appears in Clapham Beck Head Cave 75 yards upstream from Ingleborough Cave. Divers have tried to make the connection between the three caves, but without success.

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