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Cathedral Cavern is a disused slate quary which has created a beautiful cavern - the size of a Cathedral - with a spectacular pillar and a marvellous window out to the sky - well worth a visit. Take a torch if you wish to explore beyond the Cathedral - but no torch needed if you just wish to visit the main Cavern and bag the cache. PLEASE NOTE : THE CACHE IS INSIDE THE MAIN CAVERN : NO GPS SIGNAL IN THERE SO THE HINT IS NEEDED
Cathedral Cavern is situated in an area of old slate quarry workings near Slaters Bridge in Little Langdale. It is a short detour from the byway that runs from Stang End past (not across) the Brathay Ford to Low Hall Garth Hut. This is a walk in cache with very limited parking, the closest being several hundred metres from the entrance. The byway over the ford is now closed to motor vehicles so please plan your route accordingly.
The best walking access is through a wooden gate (new in August 2015) with a style on its left (about 200 metres along from the Brathay Ford), then up a sloping track for about 100 metres to a level area where the entrance to the Cavern is quite obvious and now marked by a National Trust information board.
The entrance tunnel is level, 30 metres long and about 8 feet high. No torch needed. In the Cavern itself you are met with the dramatic sight of a large pillar holding up the roof with a skylight window opening. On sunny days in the mid afternoon light floods in through this skylight giving an even more magical feel to the Cavern. Beside the pillar is a small area of water in which lived a few goldfish. These can be quite ellusive (especially in winter) but they certainly were there.
Cathedral Cavern is part of a larger quarry system that may be explored by adventurous types equipped with good boots, able to scramble up a short rocky climb and carrying a torch. To do this, walk through Cathedral Cavern and into a short tunnel directly opposite the entrance. This brings you out into the bottom of a huge area of old quarrying with a large man made cliff face towering above you. This is popular with abseilers and climbers. You need to scramble up about 6 metres then carefully negotiate an area of large, jumbled rocks - heading straight ahead towards the bottom of the cliff face. At the foot of that cliff hides the entrance to a tunnel that goes through the hill and comes out after about 120 metres on the Tilberthwaite side of the hill.
Before commiting yourself to this tunnel, scrambling around the side of the open quarrying area will bring you to the skylight window looking back down into Cathedral Cavern. Take great care here as the window is open and there is no fence above the drop. Singing back through this window brings a fab echoing sound. There is another tunnel opposite this window but it is a deadend and holds water.
Back at the tunnel under the cliff - follow the wire handrail around large rocks down to the tunnel entrance. Have your torch ready and take care not to bump your head ! Half way along this tunnel is a short detour to the right to another cavern which is now fenced off but which can still be viewed if your torch is bright enough.
The whole of the tunnel is flat (although there can be a few inches of water lying along the initial part of the pathway) and averages about 6 feet high. One stretch towards the far exit is about 5 feet high so anyone taller than that will need to hunker down.
Once out of the tunnel at the far side there is a steepish path down to the left which quickly rejoins the main bridle path between Tilberthwaite and Little Langdale through a nice stone style. Turn left on that bridle path to follow it back around to Brathay Ford and the gate back up to the Cathedral's entrance.
Alternatively take a path upwards from the tunnel exit point which leads up to the top of the cliff that you were looking up at from below. Take great care here as a very large drop over the cliff edge. This rough and rocky path then continues back over the hill and down to the entrance tunnel passing various old mine buildings, bridges and excavations.
PARKING: Cathedral Cavern is best visited as part of a walk which takes in Little Langdale (possibly from Great Langdale or Elterwater). Parking in Little Langdale itself is in very short supply. There are a couple of places near The Three Shires Inn (but these fill up quickly). There are no parking places on the lane that runs North South from near The Three Shires to the Ford over the River Brathay. And the Ford itself is closed to motor vehicles. You can drive to the area using the very narrow lane from the A593 (junction at GR3294 0222 take the right fork down hill) which runs past High Park and through the farm yard at Stang End. The tarmac runs out about 150 yards past Stang End and then is a dirt track for another 50 yards to a place near the Brathay Ford where there are a couple of parking spaces.
HISTORY: These quarries were mainly worked during the 19th century when demand for slate for roofing, building and walling material was very high. Back then the site was variously known as Little Langdale Quarry, Outcast or The Wood and was one of many slate quarries in the area. A book written in 1854 called "The Old Man or Ramblings and Ravings Round Conistone" describes the area as follows. "cross the valley to examine another slate quarry belonging to Mr Marshall, in which you will find a magnificent cavern, not dark, but quite as light as any part of the world without, having an ample window near its roof; it is nearly circular, about 45 yards diameter, and the same in height, forming a grander dome than is possessed by any artificial edifice I have yet beheld". That description still holds true today, over 160 years later. The quarry area continued to be worked for slate through into the 20th century but ran down quickly following the outbreak of the First World War when many quarry workers left to join the army and didn't return.
FOLLOW UP : Has visiting Cathedral Cavern left you interested to learn more about the fascinating history and legacy of quarrying and mining activity in Cumbria ? If so, take a look at the website of CATMHS (Cumbria Mining History Society) at CATMHS org uk or buy a book on the subject such as "Slate Mining in The Lake District" by Alastair Cameron.
WARNING: As a disused slate quarry there are many potential dangers here such as rocks on the floor (some hide in shadows), risk of rocks falling from the walls or ceiling and sudden drops on unguarded edges. The area of water beside the pillar is deep. Please supervise children very carefully and take great care. 1,000's of people enjoy visiting here every year but do be aware of the risks.
Thanks for awarding this cache so many favourite points !
Srry vafvqr gur cvyyne
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum