Caves, Caverns and Grottoes

Sculpted by natural forces and long used as shelter by people and animals, the caves and caverns of the South West offer a glimpse into the underworld. The caverns below Cheddar Gorge in the Mendips were formed from huge flows of meltwater, when glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age, while those those higher on the plateau were eroded by the powerful action of water on rock. In some places many thousands of animal bones have been found, including those of hyena, mammoth, lion and buffalo; in others archeologists have uncovered the remains of our cave-dwelling ancestors. Sea caves, scoured out by pounding waves, also offer a fascinating insight into the world beneath our feet.

Most of the places recommended have large, safe openings, but if you venture further into the interior, you will need specialist equipment. In all cases, we would suggest wearing a cycle helmet, old clothes and wellington boots, and carrying a torch. Sea caves should only be explored in calm seas and in a group, with everyone wearing helmets, life jackets and wetsuits.