Sunday, 11 May 2014

Yordas Cave

Palace of a Norwegian Giant

This is a cave everyone can enjoy - from infants to grandmas - even great grandmas if they be so inclined! But a word of warning: Yordas is a giant of Viking legend with a craving for eating little boys and leaving their remains within.  Think carefully before taking your grandson.

The cave is situated in Kingsdale - reached by turning off the A65 for Thornton-in-Lonsdale (just past Ingleton) and then taking the minor road towards Dent.  The great flat floored valley was once believed to have been floored by a lake.  The isolated farm of Braida Garth can be seen at centre.

Yordas Cave is hidden away in a plantation of trees - and as there aren't many trees about in the dale, it's fairly easy to find: but there are no signs - no facilities - no artificial lights.  This cave is as wild as they come.

Here's the parking spot - a little lay-by just beyond the wood. You will need a good torch each - and a helmet - as well as wellies.  Aside of that - no more gear: just strong nerves if you don't like giants.

Here it is folks - it's looming on the left.  In past centuries this was a showcave - and farmers would bring the gentry in here to earn a little bit of money.  Emily Bronte came here on a visit from her school in nearby Cowan Bridge.

Writers from the past talk of a 'lunatic' who ran away from Ingleton to this cave.  It was snowing, and, wanting to avoid detection - he removed the heels from his shoes and nailed them to the front - so it looked like someone had exited, rather than entered the cave.  Why didn't he just walk in backwards???  There is also a sad tale of a woman, heavy with child, who was  on her way to Dent through this 'inhospitable dale' and was found dead in this cave in the early 1800s.

Large fangs of rock give the entrance a forbidding look.

As we entered - proof of Yordas's absence was granted as a little boy emerged - unscathed.

William Westall - an early 19th century engraver - captured the entrance perfectly.

(Picture by kind permission of Mike Hawkshaw)

This brilliant photograph taken by Mike Hawkshaw in 2008 shows the upper end of the main chamber in superb detail.  The Great Hall of Yordas is about 60 metres long, and 15 metres high and wide.  Everything seen here is pitch black in normal conditions: the Ram's Head up on the right - with the since fallen pulpit in the corner - above which stretches the 'chainmail' of Yordas himself.  The narrow slit at centre is Choirboys' Walk - leading through to the Chapter House waterfall.

The main chamber is so large it is difficult to photograph.  Basically you enter the cave - taking care on the slope down to the stream - and turn left for Yordas' Bedchamber and oven - and right  (following the sound of falling water) to the magnificent Chapter House.  Here we've gone left - and Lucy (my youngest) is posing on a mud bank created by floods at the bottom of the main chamber.

At the bottom of the main chamber - the stream runs through this arch to Yordas' Oven.  It is a wet hands and knees crawl - but there's an easier way - as I will soon show you ...

Lucy posing before the 'door' to Yordas' Bedchamber - where the giant slept off his destructive moods. This is a dry - but muddy - hands and knees crawl.

Now when Yordas Cave floods it does so with gusto.  Here you can see flood debris rammed into the ceiling.  You needn't worry about flooding in this cave though.  It is so enormous it takes a long time to fill up.  

Here we go then - through to the Bedchamber.  Yordas can't have been that enormous after all - if he could get through there.

Wonder if Yordas burnt the cakes like King Alfred?

Emerging into the Bedchamber - and of course the giant liked luxury.

These wedged boulders allow a climb into the giant's loft - with a look back down into the chamber.

Wonder how much Yordas paid for this decor?

Looking up into the ceiling of the Bedchamber.

From my position in the loft, I managed to get this photo of Lucy in the Bedchamber.  We entered the chamber from that dark passage on the right - and the passage ahead leads through to the oven.

Yordas Bedchamber decorations.

The giant usually went to sleep with a few bats for company - but we didn't see them today.

'I wonder where he kept his wardrobe?'

The passage through from the Bedchamber to the Oven .

Time to go, then.  This is as low as it ever gets in Yordas Cave - a quick hands and knees shuffle back through to the main chamber.

Easy does it!

Walking up the length of the main chamber - your eyes will now be used to the dark - and will be able to pick out the sad sight of the fallen Pulpit.  This pinnacle of limestone was one of the highlights of the cave for years.  What caused it to topple?  The giant, perhaps - fed up of people intruding on his private residence?  

Behind the Pulpit - at the top right hand corner of the chamber - is the  impressive cavity in the limestone called the Bishop's Throne.  You can scramble up here and feel like a king - with walls towering 60 feet above you - and all kinds of weird and wonderful things to look at.  

Yordas, of course, peers down on all who pass.  The central mass of flowstone here is his chainmail coat, leading up to a roaring face at ceiling level - with his brandished club over on the right.  In the feeble light of candles, held on a stick - this sight no doubt terrified the 18th century romantics!

Sitting on the Bishop's Throne - we are met with a feature I always call the Holy Turtle.  His head is protruding from the shell on the left.  Others see a fleece here - belonging to the ram we shall meet later.

The Giant's Club has been carefully positioned in the aven above the Bishop's Throne - to warn little boys what to expect if they mess!

Looking up into the magnificent aven above the Bishop's Throne.

A view of the ceiling - the calcite was stained by the smoky torches of past tour guides.

Just behind the pulpit is the Giant's Prayer Book - left in a recess and not read for centuries.

The sad remains of the Pulpit - the huge pinnacle of rock fell off its base - probably a result of freeze thawing in the recent harsh winters.  

The highlight of the cave is the wonderful Chapter House - a chamber with beautifully fluted sides into which a waterfall roars - and accessed through an anvil-shaped window in the rock.

Lucy only had 'doc's' on her feet, so she couldn't step in.  Usually you can step through into the pool for a breathtaking experience .....

You can see what's going on through the window ... let's step though into the pool ...

The Chapter House waterfall is very difficult to photograph - but here's a much edited version - bringing out the colours superbly.

A stunning photograph of the Chapter House in Yordas Cave, taken by Mike Hawkshaw in 2008.   Many thanks, Mike, for giving me permission to add this great shot.

An alternative way into the Chapter House is along the little passage known as the Choirboys' Walk.  Your kids will just love this.

A joint passage leading off the Choirboys' Walk.

With your back to the Chapter House, continue along the wall of the main chamber for the encrusted mass of flowstone known as the Map of Wales.  Look - it even has an Anglesey. From here, Yordas planned his domination of the Welsh giants.

The Map of Wales - written about by tourists for centuries - and still there as the 18th century romantics described it.

Formations on the walls of the main chamber - close to the Chapter House.  Could this be where folk of yesteryear saw a polar bear standing on an iceberg?

The curious Ram's Head - high up in the ceiling - is another feature described by the earliest visitors to the cave.

The Ram's Head dominates the right wall (as you move upstream) like a gargoyle of sorts.

In this superb engraving by William Westall - a tour guide points out the Ram's Head to an inquisitive pair of Georgian tourists.

Back past the fallen pulpit to the entrance ... and it's goodbye to a familiar and much-loved place.

Yordas Cave, in its beautiful setting.

Lucy in her own world.  Not a worry - as the giant only went for boys, by all accounts!

Cavers entering Yordas Wood for an excting route through from the top entrance before abseiling down the Chapter House waterfall.

Yordas Pot - the top entrance to Yordas Cave - lies in the gill just above.  It needs gear and experience to have a go but is still a lovely sight.

Yordas Gill - active only in times of flood.

The enigmatic Yordas Cave - a place of legend.  For years a stone archway was built around the entrance, but this has been removed and the remains can be seen either side.

Yordas awaits his next visitor - and with relish!


  1. Definitely on my list of things to visit. I've favourited this one. Thank you. :-)

  2. Pleasure - it's a wild place and very beautiful. Best to go in totally alone!!!

  3. Another great post. Yordas is an old favorite of mine and I plan to take my 6 yr old grandson there one day this year. We used to have barbecues (and beer) and once a disco in there when I was with White Rose - many many years ago...thanks for the memory :-)

  4. I came to this post via the Beating the Bounds blog - fascinating stuff. The trees and rocks outside are very beautiful too. Thank you for sharing the photos.

  5. Going to try this tomorrow! Just came back to your blog first for a final read - I am worried I will get lost! Kids, Jan and I are excited - this will be our first caving adventure ever as a family! But will it be ok if it has rained all night long?

  6. Hi Jo - you'll be fine - it takes massive amounts to flood and you can see it coming a mile off. Just be careful letting your eyes get used to the dark. Turn left for bedchamber and right for the Chapter House. Hire a light from Inglesport rather than a torch. Hope you love it!

  7. Hi Jo - you'll be fine - it takes massive amounts to flood and you can see it coming a mile off. Just be careful letting your eyes get used to the dark. Turn left for bedchamber and right for the Chapter House. Hire a light from Inglesport rather than a torch. Hope you love it!

  8. Was there a week ago. The youngest caver in our group was 3, the oldest 97! I was last there 30 years ago and is still remains good.