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Top caves to visit in Cornwall

Cornwall’s rugged coastline and rich geological history make it a treasure trove for cave enthusiasts. From ancient formations sculpted by the relentless force of the sea to hidden caverns steeped in folklore, Cornwall boasts some of the most mesmerising caves waiting to be explored, making it a great day out when planning a stay at campsites in Cornwall.

In this guide, we have looked at the geological wonders and historical significance of these caves in Cornwall while providing essential tips for safe exploration.

Merlin’s Cave, Tintagel

Merlin’s Cave in Tintagel, Cornwall

Nestled beneath the iconic Tintagel Castle, Merlin’s Cave is steeped in Arthurian legend. Named after the legendary wizard Merlin, this sea cave is accessible at low tide, allowing adventurers to wander through its dark chambers and marvel at its towering walls.

Carved by centuries of relentless waves crashing against the rugged cliffs, Merlin’s Cave offers a glimpse into Cornwall’s mythical past and provides a unique opportunity for exploration.

Geological Features

Formed from slate and volcanic rock, Merlin’s Cave showcases the raw power of nature and the intricate beauty of coastal erosion. The cave’s cathedral-like structure, with its high ceilings and narrow passages, creates an otherworldly atmosphere that captivates visitors.

Historical Significance

According to Arthurian legend, Merlin’s Cave served as a secret passageway between Tintagel Castle and the mainland, providing refuge for the wizard and the infant King Arthur. While historians debate the validity of these claims, the cave remains a popular destination for those enchanted by the tales of Camelot.

Safety Tips

Visitors should check the tide times before venturing into Merlin’s Cave and should exercise caution when navigating the slippery rocks. It’s essential to wear sturdy footwear with a good grip and to be mindful of the changing sea conditions to avoid being cut off by the tide.

ALSO READ: Rural activities in Cornwall

Cathedral Cave, Holywell Bay

St Cuthbert’s Cave, Cornwall

Located near the picturesque village of Holywell, Cathedral Cave, also known as St Cuthbert’s Cave, is a hidden gem nestled amidst towering cliffs and golden sands. Accessible only by sea or at low tide, this cavernous wonderland offers a glimpse into Cornwall’s geological past and provides a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Geological Features

Cathedral Cave gets its name from its soaring arches and grandiose chambers, reminiscent of the vaulted ceilings of a cathedral. The cave’s intricate rock formations, including stalactites and stalagmites, offer insight into the geological processes that have shaped Cornwall’s coastline over millions of years.

Historical Significance

While Cathedral Cave lacks the mythical allure of Merlin’s Cave, it holds its own historical significance as a haven for smugglers during the 18th century. Legend has it that the cave was used to store contraband goods, and remnants of this clandestine past can still be found hidden within its depths.

Safety Tips

Visitors should be mindful of the tide when exploring Cathedral Cave and should avoid entering the cave alone or in adverse weather conditions. It’s advisable to bring a torch for illumination and to wear appropriate clothing to protect against the damp and chilly conditions inside the cave.

ALSO READ: Things you didn’t know about Cornwall

Poldark Mine, Helston

Old mine in Helston, Cornwall

Venture beneath the surface at Poldark Mine and discover a subterranean world steeped in mining history. Located near the historic mining town of Redruth, Poldark Mine offers guided tours that take visitors deep into the heart of Cornwall’s mining heritage, allowing them to explore labyrinthine tunnels and marvel at the ingenuity of past generations.

Geological Features

Poldark Mine showcases the industrial legacy of Cornwall’s mining industry, with its labyrinthine tunnels, underground chambers, and mineral-rich veins. Visitors can witness firsthand the geological processes that have shaped the Cornish landscape and learn about the techniques used to extract tin and copper from the earth.

Historical Significance

Dating back to the 18th century, Poldark Mine played a vital role in Cornwall’s mining industry and was once a bustling hub of activity. Today, it stands as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Cornish people and offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s industrial past.

Safety Tips

Guided tours at Poldark Mine are led by experienced miners who prioritise visitor safety. However, visitors should wear sturdy footwear and be prepared for uneven terrain and low ceilings. It’s also essential to follow the guide’s instructions and to stay with the group at all times to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

ALSO READ: A guide to wildlife in Cornwall

Carnglaze Caverns, St Neot

Blue water in Carnglaze Caverns in Cornwall

Tucked away amidst the lush woodlands of Cornwall lies Carnglaze Caverns, a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Carved deep into the earth by the forces of nature over millions of years, these caverns offer a captivating glimpse into Cornwall’s geological past. As you descend into the depths of Carnglaze, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering rock formations, shimmering underground lakes, and a sense of awe-inspiring wonder.

Geological Features

Carnglaze Caverns showcase a stunning array of geological formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone cascades. These formations are the result of thousands of years of mineral-rich water slowly dripping and depositing calcium carbonate, creating intricate patterns and shapes that adorn the cavern walls. The caverns also feature underground lakes formed by the erosion of limestone over millennia, adding to the mystical allure of this subterranean world.

Historical Significance

While Carnglaze Caverns lack the mythical tales of some of Cornwall’s other caves, they hold their own historical significance as a former slate quarry. The caverns were mined for slate during the 19th century, and evidence of this industrial past can still be seen within the chambers. Today, Carnglaze serves as a testament to Cornwall’s mining heritage and offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s industrial past.

Safety Tips

Despite their enchanting beauty, Carnglaze Caverns can present hazards to the unwary explorer. Visitors should wear sturdy footwear with good grip to navigate the uneven terrain and steps within the caverns safely. Be mindful of low ceilings and watch your head to avoid injury, especially in areas with lower clearance. Follow the designated paths and stay within the marked areas to avoid getting lost or wandering into unsafe areas. Listen to the instructions of the tour guides and adhere to any safety guidelines provided during guided tours. By following these safety tips, you can fully immerse yourself in the wonder of Carnglaze Caverns while ensuring a safe and memorable experience for all.

From the mythical depths of Merlin’s Cave to the industrial heritage of Poldark Mine, Cornwall’s top caves offer a diverse range of experiences for intrepid explorers. Whether you’re drawn to the ancient legends that shroud these subterranean wonders or simply intrigued by their geological significance, a visit to Cornwall’s caves is sure to leave you spellbound. Just remember to heed the safety advice and tread carefully as you delve into the hidden depths of this enchanting region.

For more information and travel guides, take a look at the rest of our blog.

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