A narrow, rocky archway located in the centre of Castleton is the starting point of the scenic Cave Dale – a natural valley, with a bridleway running its length, defined by its spectacular limestone scenery, and nearby Peveril Castle. The Dale slowly ascends upon leaving Castleton, reaching lofty heights of over 1400ft, offering consistently beautiful views of the surrounding Derbyshire Peak District, before descending towards meadows within the vicinity of the town of Chapel-en-le-Frith. Cave Dale, with its diverse gradients, is popular amongst hikers, and is the first stretch of the 50-mile Limestone Way – a popular walk which goes between Castleton and Rocester, Staffordshire.
Cave Dale’s steep, sloping sides are the result of a river produced by glacial meltwater which redefined the limestone into a narrow dale. The water then drained out, creating impressive caverns underneath, and leaving the dale above dry, and similar to how it appears today. Eventually, the caverns underneath caved in, creating a much deeper depression in the valley. Until the 19th Century, there was a natural archway located at Castleton entrance of Cave Dale, created by the collapse, which exemplified the depth of the former caverns.
During the conquest of the 11th century, the Normans were attracted to the Cave Dale valley for its steep sides and lofty summits, which made for perfect, natural defence walls. For this reason, the Normans constructed Peveril Castle on a nearby clifftop, the ruins of which can be visited today. It was after the building of Peveril that the village of Castleton was founded.
Directly below Cave Dale lies the former caverns and caves of lead mining sites, including the popular Hazard Mine, located on the Southwestern side of the dale, which produced over 5,000 tonnes of lead was mined during its heyday in the 1830s. This mine shaft had a depth of 700ft but most of which was filled during the 1990s. There remains some evidence of the mine at surface level near Peak Forest. 250 metres to the east of Hazard Mine lay Hollandtwine mine, another major producer of lead.
Cave Dale has been used frequently as a filming location, most notably for the films Princess Bride (1987), and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008).
How to get there
The best starting point for reaching Cave Dale is Castleton Visitor Centre, located on Buxton Road, which has a reasonably priced car park, at a rate of £2.50 for 1-2 hours. From here, head left towards the Bull’s Head Pub; next, head down towards the Castle Pub; then, head towards the George Pub, where you’ll find the Castleton war memorial. Walking uphill from this square, you’ll eventually reach an inconspicuous sign which reads ‘Cave Dale’ which takes walkers up towards the start of the dale. It is very easy to miss this entrance, so look out for the sign!
Alternatively, there’s another more expensive car park situated further down the road, in the direction of the Bull’s Head Pub. This carpark has a standard rate of £5 for the day.
Good to Know
– In order to enjoy the tranquillity of the valley to the upmost, plan on visiting mid-week, as Cave Dale gets particularly busy at the weekend!
– Cave Dale itself has plenty of rocky terrain, so wear appropriate footwear.
Things to see and do while at Cave Dale (What’s Nearby)
Peveril Castle is worth visiting while in the vicinity of Cave Dale. After a slightly challenging hike up the hill, visitors are sure to be blown away by the remains of this Norman fortress, which provides unbeatable views of the Dale and surrounding Hope Valley scenery. An educational experience for all ages, Peveril will help visitors visualise what medieval life was like in a fortified castle, which even features a middle age toilet!
The nearby Mam Tor hill is also worth visiting and is often climbed as part of a popular circular walk, which stars and ends with Castleton and passes through Cave Dale. “The Mother Hill”, as its sometimes referred to, is 517 metres in height, and boasts terrific, far-reaching views – sometimes, on extra clear days, climbers can see as far as Manchester!
There is a plethora of caverns in the area, including Treak Cliff Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, and Blue John Cavern. The latter is where the Castleton-exclusive mineral stone, Blue John, is still mined for today.