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Cathedral Cave, Lake District

by | Destinations, England | 13 comments

Cathedral Cave in the Lake District National Park is a stunning landmark in this beautiful area. It will literally take your breath away. It is definitely worth including a visit to this network of caves carved into the hillside above Little Langdale.

What is Cathedral Cave?

Inside Cathedral Cave, Lake District showing rocky outcrop

Cathedral Cave, also referred Cathedral Quarry and Little Langdale Caves, is a series of abandoned slate mines. Cathedral Cave is the largest of these and it is easy to see how it acquired its name. This main cavern towers some forty feet high and is lit by two rocky “windows” which open to the sky. The sheer size of it is breathtaking. A rocky outcrop, like a cathedral pillar, dominates the middle of the chamber.

Looking down into Cathedral Cave with rocky outcrop in centre

Looking down into Cathedral Cave from above, this time with Peter for scale!

There are other, smaller caves connected to this main chamber and they are accessed by a series of tunnels. It is worth exploring the whole site and getting into the nooks and crannies.

Inside a tunnel in the Little Langdale Caves. Prick of light in distance showing way out

How to visit Cathedral Cave

Firstly, take a torch! The tunnels are not lit and are pitch black, as indeed are some of the smaller caves. When we were last there, a guide was taking a group of children into the cave with candles. The plan was to get them to blow out the candles once inside to allow the children to experience what real blackness is like. My kind of guide! The children were definitely up for exploring the caves.

Tunnel in Cathedral Cave lit by head torch

I would also suggest wearing strong, waterproof boots. There are huge puddles in the tunnels and caves which might be difficult to sidestep. It is also possible to clamber up some rocky terrain to access some of the caves. Jasper (border collie) loved it!

Rocky terrain with border collie front and centre

The tunnel leading into Cathedral Cave is several meters long, but it is not tight or claustrophobic.

Tunnel leading into Cathedral Cave in the Lake District

It is possible to go into Cathedral Cave through this tunnel, but one can also climb up above the cave and look down into it.

The ledge overlooking Cathedral Cave

The ledge from which one can look down into Cathedral Cave

Another tunnel, which leads into the small caves is much longer and goes right through the hill from one side to the other, eventually popping out at the other side.

Tunnel lit by torch

Jane at entrance to tunnel with dog

From the outside, the entrance to the tunnel at this side of the hill is quite small.

Entrance to the tunnel in the hillside

The History of the Little Langdale Caves

As mentioned above, the Cathedral Caves are not natural caves, but are disused slate mines. This does not make them any less remarkable. The mines date back to the 16th Century and were in use until the middle of the 20th Century under the management of the National Trust. The land where the caves are was purchased by Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny etc!) in 1929 and gifted to the National Trust to preserve for the nation. Beatrix Potter was a great conservationist and she did much to preserve the landscape of the Lake District.

Where is Cathedral Cave?

The map below shows the location of Cathedral Cave in relation to Little Langdale etc.

How to get to Cathedral Cave in the Lake District

Basically, reaching Cathedral Cave involves walking! There is no road adjacent to the caves. The nearest village is Little Langdale. Some of the best walks in the whole of the Lake District, however, are in this area and one of our favourite walks is from Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater and then across to Slater Bridge and the caves.

You could read about it this hike in A Lake District Walk: Skelwith, Elterwater, Little Langdale 

It is a wonderful hike, but if this is not an option, it is just a short walk (a little over half a mile and fairly flat) from Little Langdale to the caves. Head out from the Three Shires pub in the village and on the right you will see a track signposted Tilberthwaite. Follow this track until you reach the wooden pedestrian bridge which crosses the River Brathay.

Bridge over the River Brathay

Immediately after crossing the bridge take the track to the right and look for the path leading up the hill towards the caves.

Wooden gate and track leading to caves

For added interest, if you continue along the track a few hundred yards after crossing the bridge, you will also come to Slater Bridge. This is an old packhorse bridge and very picturesque. It is well worth making this short detour if you have time.

Slater Bridge near Little Langdale

Parking for Cathedral Cave

There is some limited parking in Little Langdale, but please be considerate as the roads in this area are quite narrow. Alternatively, there is a small carpark a little further away at Bakestone Barrow Wood near Hodge Close Quarry. We have never used this carpark. As mentioned above, we usually incorporate a visit to Cathedral Cave in a hike from Skelwith Bridge or Elterwater, where there is more parking.

Final Thoughts on Cathedral Cave in the Lake District

Cathedral Cave has the Wow Factor! Visiting Cathedral Cave and the adjacent small caves, which form part of the LIttle Langdale Caves network, is a memorable experience in itself. Add in a hike in the surrounding Lake District countryside and this is a great way to spend a day in this area. Children will love exploring the caves. I think most adults will too!

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13 Comments

  1. Spelunking is a worthwhile hobby. I have explored a few caves in the mountainous regions in my place. You don’t know what to expect when you’re inside a cave. Cathedral Cave in the Lake District is an absolute gem! Its towering rocky pillars and sky-lit windows are truly breathtaking.

    Reply
    • I agree. We have explored several cave systems across the world. They never fail to amaze.

      Reply
  2. we love visiting caverns like this.. have visited a few in california and each one was amazing this looks beautiful as well

    Reply
  3. I’ve always been drawn to places where you can truly sense the passage of time, and this seems like one of those rare spots where history and nature intersect in the most dramatic way!

    Reply
    • Yes, that is a very apt way of putting it!

      Reply
  4. Your detailed description of Cathedral Cave and its surroundings in the Lake District is truly captivating! It’s evident that you have a deep appreciation for the natural beauty and historical significance of this landmark. The way you paint a picture of the towering caverns, rocky outcrops, and winding tunnels makes me feel like I’m already there, ready to embark on an adventure.

    Your inclusion of practical tips, like bringing a torch and wearing sturdy boots, shows consideration for the reader’s experience, ensuring they’re prepared for the exploration ahead. And your personal anecdotes, like Jasper the border collie enjoying the rocky terrain, add a delightful touch of charm to the narrative.

    I particularly enjoyed learning about the history of the Little Langdale Caves, from their origins as slate mines to their preservation efforts by figures like Beatrix Potter. It adds another layer of fascination to an already intriguing destination.

    Overall, your enthusiasm for Cathedral Cave and the surrounding area shines through in every word. It’s clear that a visit to this breathtaking site is not just a journey through nature, but also a journey through history and conservation. Thank you for sharing such an engaging and informative piece!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for giving such detailed feedback. This has really made my day! Very much appreciated.

      Reply
  5. Saving this for our next UK trip this summer. Exploring caves like this is always a fun addition to a visit.

    Reply
  6. This place looks amazing! If heard the lake district is beautiful but didn’t know there were caves there.

    Reply
  7. We definitely want to visit the Lake District when we finally get a long trip to England. So we will have to check out Cathedral Cove. I am sure the old slate mine makes for interesting caves. Good to know to be prepared for the dark. Although I am not sure I want to carry a candle!

    Reply
    • No, me neither Linda, but it was fun for the kids. I think the guide had a torch in his pocket ready to go!

      Reply
  8. I would love to explore Cathedral Cave in the Lake District National Park! I find this so fascinating. And awesome to learn that Beatrix Potter is behind preserving this cool piece of history.

    Reply
    • Yes, Beatrix Potter was a great conservationist. She also purchased the beautiful Tarn Hows and gifted it to the National Trust. My gran lived next door to her in Sawrey!

      Reply

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Hello

Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

We gave up work in order to travel and do all the things we were not able to do in our careers. We know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do this.

We are quite active and love skiing, hiking, biking, exploring etc, but we also enjoy history, art, music, science…..and good food and wine! In this blog, you will find articles on all of these subjects as we discover them on our travels.

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Jane

Meet Jasper, our border collie!

Jane and Peter with black and white dog on rocky landscape

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