With fun to be had both above and below ground, Poole’s Cavern and Country Park is one of the most diverse days out on offer in the Peak District. Expert-run guided tours of Poole’s Cavern itself is the biggest incentive to visit the park, which is an LED-lit adventure through the limestone show-cave, where visitors will learn all about its millions of years’ worth of history – and the stories of noteworthy visitors, including Mary Queen of Scots – while being mesmerised by intricate crystal formations throughout.
Above ground, Grin Low Country Park boasts miles worth of open plains and woodlands, which stretch out towards Grin Low Hill itself, which is crowned by Solomon’s Temple, and is where you’ll find unbeatable views of Mam Tor, Kinder Scout, and several Peak District towns.
Poole’s Cavern and Country Park is also home to a Go Ape outdoor adventure park, alongside a number of amenities such as a visitors’ centre, safe play areas, a café, and a picnic area.
History of Poole’s Cavern and Country Park
Based on the vast amount of coins and brooches that have been found throughout the Cave, it has been determined that Poole’s Cavern has been known about, and frequented, since the early Roman occupation of Britain. Archaeologists have also suggested that the cavern was used for a place of worship or a religious shrine, used by the Romano-Britons, and that it was later occupied during the Bronze Age.
Several Medieval records mention Poole, and the Cavern is in fact the namesake of 15th century notorious Derbyshire outlaw, John Poole, who, according to legend, made the cavern his hideout from he law; apparently the entrance to the cavern was much smaller than it appears today, which benefited Poole massively as it was easier for him to defend.
Poole’s Cavern thereafter became a popular destination for leisurely visits, most notably, Mary Queen of Scots was said to have visited Poole’s Cavern during her detainment in Derbyshire. The story goes that Mary walked through most of the Cavern before stopping and turning back at a large stalagmite, which remains today and has been labelled ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ Pillar’.
Poole Cavern’s growing popularity during this time led to it being highlighted by Charles Cotton as one of his Wonders of the Peak in 1683.
In 1853, Poole’s Cavern was officially made a show cavern by the 6th Duke of Devonshire. Many of the early official ‘tour guides’ of the cavern were known to take advantage of visitors once deep into the cave; prior to the installation of gaslights throughout the cavern, the unscrupulous guides would blackmail visitors with threats of abandonment if they didn’t hand over sufficient funds. Visitors would often vandalise the cave in retaliation, mainly by throwing rocks and destroying some of the cave’s stalagmites; evidence of this can be seen today, particularly at the section of the cave known as ‘Poole’s Chair’.
Following the uptake in visitors, the entrance was widened, and gas lighting was added in 1859 – the first ever usage of gas lamps in a show cave. The cave remained much the same until it suddenly closed in 1965, following the death of then-owner, Mr Lesley Alcock. It was electrified and reopened by Buxton & District Civic Association in 1976.
Things to see and do at Poole’s Cavern and Country Park
Cavern Tour – The Poole’s Cavern guided tour takes place every 20 minutes daily and lasts just under an hour. Visitors are sure to be mesmerised by the seemingly limitless caverns and caves, while being entranced at the stalagmites and stalactites that decorate the walls and ceilings. The expert tour guide will walk you through the cavern’s chambers, including the Roman Chamber, the Great Dome, the Sculpture Chamber, and the Poached Egg Chamber, while explaining the rich history of each stretch of the cave. Be sure to look out for the Flitch of Bacon – a stalactite that has a striking resemblance to a streak of bacon – and Mary Queen of Scots’ Pillar.
Café at the Cavern – the perfect place to rest and reflect after exploring the cavern, the onsite café is sure to quench your thirst or satisfy your appetite. Alongside teas, coffees, and soft drinks, the café also offers light meals such as baguettes and filled-jacket potatoes.
Gift Shop at the Cavern – The gift shop sells a diverse range of unique souvenirs including gemstone gifts, jewellery, books, candles, and soaps.
Woodland walk to Solomon’s Temple – The surrounding country park is perfect for a quiet stroll, with thriving wildlife found in the woodland areas, and numerous pathways to follow. One path leads you, within 20 minutes from Poole’s Cavern, to the summit of Grin Hill, where you’ll find Solomon’s Temple. Sometimes referred to as Grin Low Tower, this Victorian-era two-story folly provides unrivalled views of Kinder Scout and Mam Tor.
How to get there
By car – Poole’s Cavern and Country Park can be reached from the A53, A515, or the A6 by following the brown signs for it.
Address for Satnav – Green Lane, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9DH
Car Park – The onsite car park charges £1.50 for 4 hours, or £3 for the full day.
Public Transport – There are no buses that pass by Poole’s Cavern; however, Buxton railway station is only a mile away from the site.
Good to Know
– There are plenty of picnic benches located outside the café, where you can either eat food from the café or your own packed lunch.
– Buggies and prams are allowed in the cavern.
– Dogs aren’t allowed to explore the cavern, but they are permitted in the country park.
– Tours must be pre-booked online.
Opening Times and Prices
The Cavern is open 10am – 4.30pm every day.
Adult – £11.00
Child aged 5 – 16 – £5.50
Family (two adults and three children) – £28
Student – £9.00
Concession – £9.00