The Peak District can certainly be defined by its glorious hills, mountains, and dales – but with great hills comes even greater mines! Throughout the centuries, Derbyshire and the Peak District at large has acted somewhat of an epicentre for mining activity during various periods of time. During the bronze age, the Peak District was used heavily to mine for copper, and historians believe that the Romans were the first to mine for lead around the Castleton, Derbyshire area, and that the nearby lead Odin Mine, could be the oldest mine in the whole of Britain.
Lead mining came to an apex in the Peak District from the 17th to the 18th century, when lead became the second most vital sources of commerce in Britain, the first being wool.
This period of intense mining has left the Peak District with not only a rich history, but also a plethora of disused mines. Adopted by the tourist sector, exploring old mines and caverns has become one of the most engaging and educational activities that the Peak District has to offer!
Here is a list of some of the best caves and cavern experiences to be had in the Peak District, including information’s on what was formally mined there!
Poole’s Cavern & Country Park
Located in Buxton, Poole’s country park delivers in more ways than one. The park itself not only offers the chance to walk through amazing woodlands, teeming with wild birds and mammals, but also features lofty hillsides to climb. Including Grin Hill, which is complete with a viewing tower, offers spectacular views of Derby within a 15-mile radius.
The Cavern itself is rich with history spanning from as early as the Bronze age, making this a highly educational excursion. Tours typically last around 45 minutes and informatively lead you through the historical stages of the cavern, from prehistoric to Roman era uses, and even the alleged visit by Mary Queen of Scots! The main chamber is lit spectacularly by contemporary LED lights, and exposes visitors both to its alluring rock formations and its gargantuan scale- to the the point where you can’t believe you are still underground!
Open all year round, a range of tours are available that cater for all age groups.
The Treak Cliff Cavern
Located in Castleton, Derbyshire, the Treak Cliff Cavern is a family-owned mine that is still functioning today. Famed for being one of the only deposits where the rare Peak District gemstone, Blue John, can be found. This dazzling mineral is one of the rarest in the world, with its signature colour banding of blue, golden yellow, and purple, this gem has been mined for in Treak Cliff Hill for over 300 years.
The Treak Cliff Cavern experience allows you to get about as close as you can get to an active mine, where you can spectate deposits where Blue John has recently been mined for, and stand in awe at the stunning visual experience of the fossils and flowstones that make up the caverns infrastructure.
The tour is self-guided, with audio available via an app, taking around 45 minutes and stretched over 7 different chambers, including Aladdin’s Cave, Fairyland, and the Frozen Waterfall. Further into the caverns, an impressive array of stalactites can be found.
In the visitor centre and museum prepare to be amazed at the blue stone on display, and even learn how to polish one of the rarest gemstones in the world!
Heights of Abraham
The Heights of Abraham offers a caving experience and then some- enjoy a ride up to the caving location in Britain’s first ever alpine style cable car. Located in Matlock, Derbyshire, this Peak District attraction offers up a wide range of activities.
Having originally opened in the 1780’s, the Heights of Abraham is said to have gained it’s unusual name due to its similarity in looks to the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, Canada. Back in the 18th Century, visitors had no option but to scale the mountains in order to reach the caves. Luckily for visitors today, there are cable cars that can take up to 6 people right to the caves.
A spectacular view can be found at the summit of Masson Hill, known as Tinker’s Mineshaft, and built over the top of a former shaft. Tinker’s Mineshaft allows guests to view the surrounding dales, and, the unusual landscape left behind by the 19th century lead miners.
Heights of Abraham boasts two separate caverns that visitors can explore as part of a guided tour. Prepare to be fascinated by exploring the ancient caverns and caves, and by follow the mining passageways by torch light. The entrance to the Masson Cavern is found at the very top of Masson Hill and focuses mostly on how the lead was formed and the extraction process. The Rutland Cavern, on the other hand, is located lower down the hillside, and fixates more on the living conditions of a mining family. Feel immersed in the condition’s miners had to endure and learn a lot about the history of mining.