The Devil’s Arse is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Peak District… but would you dare visit it??
Along with The Blue John Cavern, Treak Cliff Cavern and Speedwell Cavern, The Devil’s Arse, or Peak Cavern as it is now known, is one of the four show caves near Castleton in the Peak District, Derbyshire.
What makes Peak Cavern unique is that it is almost entirely natural, it’s the longest cave system in the Peak District, and has the largest cave entrance of anywhere in Britain.
The only part of the cave which isn’t entirely natural is a passageway which was blasted open with explosives to spare Queen Victoria the indignity of having to lie flat on a boat and be pushed through an entrance to enter the Great Cave (you can’t expect the Queen do that!)
It was also due to Queen Victoria’s visit that the name of the cave was changed from The Devil’s Arse to Peak Cavern… again, having the word “arse” in the name is not very respectable for royalty! But despite Queen Victoria’s clear influence on the caves, they were lived in a long time before she decided to visit.
In the 1500’s a village was built inside the entrance to the cave and people were allowed to live there for free, on the condition that they spent their days making ropes. From the age of four up to the average age of 40, people would make ropes for 18 hours per day in the caves and sell them on to miners and other people in the market for rope.
The guided tour starts off with the story of these ropemakers and a demonstration of how the ropes were made, before we venture deeper into the caves to see the tunnels and chambers inside.
While rope making isn’t the most exciting of tales (particularly since I came expecting to hear about the Devil!), our guide Elise did a great job in making it interesting and entertaining. And the remnants of one of the old village houses and the old rope making equipment is interesting to see.
Moving on further into the caves we stop to see some of the rock formations and stalactites on the cave ceiling… the horses head, the dragon which protected people from the Devil… this is more like it!
I’m at the front of the group and as I turn around to continue the journey, I’m a bit startled… what the hell is that?? Is that the Devil?!?!
There’s a rather scary looking figure lurking over the path ahead but turns out it’s actually Santa Claus… a left over prop from a movie called Clash of the Santa’s. The caves are quite a popular location for filming TV shows and movies, and they also host regular music concerts (a band was setting up while we were on the tour). A full calendar of upcoming events can be found on the website… https://peakcavern.co.uk/concerts-in-peak-cavern/
As we head down a slope we stop to look at a small puddle of water in a ditch on the right hand side… this, apparently, is The Devi’s Arse! Now I’m not sure what you were expecting, but I was expecting a little more than a puddle!
But it seems that in the winter this whole cave floods and as the water fills and the pressure builds, the air is pushed out and leaves the cave making an enormous farting-like sound! And back in the olden days people thought the Devil could live within the caves, hence the name The Devil’s Arse!
The next part of the tour requires us to stoop down low as we pass through the Lumbago Walk with the ceiling being really low, before we then reach the Great Cave, a 60m high cavern with a passage up to Peveril Castle which stands on top of the caves. It’s said that the passage led from the Castle dungeons and prisoners would sometimes be dropped down to live the rest of their days in the darkness of the cave, assuming they survived the drop to begin with of course.
We then reach the end of the line for the tour at the top of the Devil’s Staircase. Up until 1989 tours used to go beyond this point but they were stopped due to safety concerns. Now only potholers and cave explorers can venture into the 10 miles of caves which lie beyond, and only they know if the Devil really does reside in the darkness down there…
Where is the Devil’s Arse?
Peak Cavern is in the village of Castleton in the Peak District, Peak Cavern Road, Hope Valley S33 8WS.
Where Can I Park?
There is a car park at the edge of the village and close to the cave entrance. It costs £6 for all day parking, and you get £2 back if you visit the caves.
How Can I Visit the Caves?
The caves can only be explored on a guided tour which run every 30-minutes. It’s recommended to book tickets online in advance, but I did get lucky and just walked up and paid on the day.
How Much Does it Cost?
Tickets are £16 for adults and can be purchased online
Website for tickets: https://peakcavern.co.uk/peak_front_page/