About Caving
© Cambrian Caving Council 2024

Discover the hidden world beneath your feet

Going underground will take you into remote territory apart from the everyday: an escape into secret and quiet places with hidden beauty. Caving is all about companionship in an exciting setting that presents physical and technical challenges, providing opportunities to make your own discoveries about the natural world. Wales is blessed with vast cave networks, mainly in the Brecon Beacons National Park but also in other major limestone areas like Pembrokeshire, Denbighshire and the Forest of Dean. Neighbouring counties in England, like Shropshire and Gloucestershire, have many mines which add to the underground historical attractions to be found within Wales. Exploring caves first means finding entrances: many have had to be dug open. Caves can form in many ways, perhaps even being initiated soon after the enclosing rock strata was laid down. Most of our caves date from tens of thousands to a few million years ago, usually much helped by floods of glacial water. However, glaciers also blocked some entrances, and cut valleys down to leave passages abandoned or lost entirely. Entry-level caving activities For beginners, there are many easy short caves to explore in relative safety, for example Eglwys Faen which is next to the former tramroad in the photo above on the Craig y Cilau National Nature Reserve near Crickhowell. It has a dozen or more entrances, a couple of which are large enough to walk or scramble into. Inside there are large walking-size passages and chambers with stalactites. The photos below show some of its entrances: You can get into these walking-size passages wearing normal outdoors gear and boots. A helmet with a lamp fixed to it is ideal, but if your objective is only a quick look around then one torch per person will do. Don’t go caving alone. Remember the rocks and surfaces underground will be uneven and slippery, so exercise due care. To venture further in here needs proper caving gear - a helmet with caving light, wellies, oversuit etc. There is much more information for people who are thinking about going caving at https://newtocaving.com/ To explore safely, cavers learn the underground routes, take the right equipment with them, and not get lost or become an accident statistic. The best and usual way to learn about caving is to join a club where there are experienced and willing people to help. Cavers tend to go underground in the company of their usual and trusted friends. But there are also professionally-led courses available. Contact us to be put in touch with a caving or mining club or training provider in your own area.

Advanced caving activities

Quarrying sometimes exposes small cave entrances in a cliff face after rock has been cut away. Perhaps the modern course of a river exposes a small hole in the riverbank, as in the photo below left, which might lead via a few tight passages into huge ancient cave passages that run far deeper underground. In extensive cave systems like Daren Cilau and Ogof Draenen, remote camps have been set up underground as bases from which to discover even more: kilometres from the cave entrance and heading deeper into the unknown. Sometimes roof falls or run-ins from the surface are encountered. It might then be possible to remove blocks of rock to reach large passages on the other side of a collapse, perhaps securing the way through with scaffolding. Sometimes there is only one tiny natural passages connecting two sections of enormous and long passages so finding the way on (and later finding the way back) might not be obvious. As noted above, joining a caving club is the best way to learn: this applies as much to advanced cavers as it does to beginners. Many clubs have experts in underground photography, cave biology, making surveys of caves, discovering new caves, and other specialities in which their experienced members have developed special interests. These might interest you too.

Underground tourist attractions in Wales

Dan-yr-Ogof Show Caves in the Swansea Valley provide a great day out for the family in a well-managed safe environment. No special equipment required. There are three caves to visit on this site, all with mains lighting and concrete walkways, plus a cafe and other attractions like the dinosaur park, shire-horse centre and the llama farm. Go Below provides amazing unforgettable adventure days out exploring disused mines in North Wales - zip wires, boats, ladders, abseiling - all in the company of experienced guides. No prior experience is needed. All specialist equipment is provided. National Trust offers straightforward guided underground visits into the Roman gold mines at Dolaucothi near Carmarthen. All specialist equipment is provided. Please contact us if you would like your underground tourism business to be mentioned here
Cambrian Caving Council