Located in Castleton, Derbyshire, the Treak Cliff Cavern is a family-owned, functioning mine, where the rare Peak District gemstone, Blue John, has been mined for over 300 years; Blue John is a dazzling mineral and one of the rarest in the world, with its signature colour banding of blue, golden yellow, and purple.
The cavern is open for public exploration, and the guided Treak Cliff Cavern Experience allows visitors to get up close and personal with an active mine; inside, visitors can marvel at the Blue John deposits, take in the breath-taking fossils and flowstones that make up the infrastructure of the cavern, and explore the seemingly endless chambers and caves, each with creative names such as Aladdin’s Cave, Fairyland, and the Frozen Waterfall. Further into the caverns, an impressive array of stalactites can be found.
Expand your knowledge of mining and gemstones at the Treak Cliff Cavern’s visitor centre and museum, where you’ll find an informative history of Treak Cliff, and an extensive selection of both raw and polished Blue John stones.
Treak Cliff Visitor Centre also boasts a café offering light meals, teas and coffees; and a giftshop with rare gemstone souvenirs on sale.
History of Treak Cliff Cavern
It is assumed that mining operations didn’t occur in the caverns of Treak Cliff until 1745, when miners came across the extensive cave formations, the area known as the ‘Old Series’ today, when looking for lead ore. The mine was originally referred to as Millers Mine – presumably, one of the miners was called Miller – and grew, by the year 1950, into a popular destination for Blue John mining – one of the first Blue John mines in the whole world.
It is unclear how much Blue John was extracted during the first century of mining operations at Treak Cliff, as only records of lead extraction were kept; but it is clear that the majority of Blue John ornaments and vases that decorated the likes of Chatsworth House and even Buckingham Palace in the Victorian-era had their material origin in Treak Cliff Cavern.
During the war, Blue John stopped being mined for ornamental purposes and instead became a vital source of calcium fluorite, which was greatly needed as a blast furnace cleaner; this meant, sadly, that a good portion of the caverns Blue John resources were lost forever.
In September of 1921, the Neolithic remains of at least three skeletons were found in a cave located relatively close to the surface; several tools were also uncovered, including a red deer antler pick and a stone axe.
‘The New Series’ of caverns was discovered in 1926 by Bert Eyre and other miners who were blasting explosives in the old caverns. The picturesque stalactites and untouched passageways afforded by the ‘New Series’ inspired then-owner Colonel Broadbent to stop the industrial-scale mining in order to ensure the protection of the new findings.
The passageway into the ‘New Series’ was widened, the cavern itself was made safer, and Treak Cliff Cavern opened for tourists as a show cave for the first time in the spring of 1935.
The cavern was taken over by current owners, the Harrison family, in 1945. Previous owner, John Royse, had informed the new owners of a hidden vein that was rich with Blue John deposits. However, his untimely death shortly after meant he never got the chance to reveal to the new owners the exact location of the hidden section. The vein was finally uncovered in 2013 by Peter Harrison; its entrance haven been hidden behind clay, wood, and carpet.
Things to see and Do at Treak Cliff Cavern
Treak Cliff Cavern Experience – This hands-on cavern trail is like no other and gives visitors the chance to scavenge for their own piece of Derbyshire’s defining gemstone, Blue John. A member of the Harrison family, or an expert tour guide, will lead you through Treak Cliff’s fascinating caves and chambers, and teach you everything there is to know about the cavern – from the 18th century to present day – while also explaining the formulation process of Blue Stone in depth. The tour lasts for 40 minutes and is a fun and informative way of experiencing the cavern.
Visitor Centre and Museum – This is where visitors will find the most exquisite selection of Blue John in the Peak District and see how the raw gemstone is transformed into delicate jewellery and ornaments. Informative display cases illustrate the history of Treak Cliff Cavern, from its early inception as a family-run mine to it becoming a popular tourist attraction.
The Café on the Cliff – Offering a diverse menu of speciality teas and coffees, the Café on the Cliff also provides guests with lunch options such as sandwiches and soups. The café has a comfortable outside seating area, which affords stunning views of the surrounding hills and valleys. Be sure to try the exclusive Artisan Loose Leaf Blue John Tea!
Treak Cliff Cavern Gift Shop – Pick up a Blue John-themed gift at the onsite Gift Shop, which offers a wide range of jewellery, fossils, gemstones, and issues of the Treak Cliff Dragon comic book.
How to get there
By Car – Castleton can be reached by car via the A6187, and is located 29 miles from Manchester, and 16 miles from Sheffield. In Castleton, Treak Cliff Cavern can be found on Buxton Road, which is the west of the village.
Postcode for Satnav – S33 8WP
Car Park – There is a large, free carpark outside the visitor centre.
Public Transport – The 272 goes from Sheffield to Castleton. The cavern is just a short walk through the village.
Good to Know
– Dogs are permitted to visit Treak Cliff and can even explore the cavern!
– There are picnic areas outside.
– Early bird admissions are offered before 10.00am with a 20% discount.
Open seven days a week, 9.00am – 5.00pm. Last admission for the cavern is 4.30pm.
Adults – £12.50
Young Person (16-17-year olds) – £8.75
Children (5 -15-year olds) – £6
Under 5-year olds – Free