Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill – everything you need to know

Gaping Gill in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales is one of Yorkshire’s hidden gems. Very few have ventured there so if you have, welcome to the VIP club! Gaping Gill is the largest underground cavern in the UK. Only accessible to the professional cavers, except for 2 weeks a year when the local pot holing clubs open it up and facilitate access. Getting down into the cavern though is no easy feat and can only be done via a boatswain chair lowered down on a winch.

Gaping Gill
Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill is a sight to behold, from the top you would never know it was there. Plenty walk past daily on their way climbing up Ingleborough one of the Yorkshire 3 peaks not even aware of the 9 mile cave system below them.

Once inside Gaping Gill you are instantly transported into another world. Dark, damp, cold and vast. And by vast I mean vast! It’s large enough to fit a cathedral inside at around 100m high! This cavern is unbelievable and truly breathtaking.

During these accessible 2 weeks a year (one in May and one in August) the cavern is expertly lit to highlight its best features. You can just go down and straight back up on the chair lift or you can get off at the bottom and look around the cavern. There is also the option to go off and explore some more within the cave system accompanied by an experienced guide, the option is yours. Either way these open access days are not to be missed, so tick this bucket list experience off your wish list at least once in your lifetime.

What to expect;

Entry down into Gaping Gill cavern is an experience in itself. Lowered down on a winch 100m into the earth your life is literally hanging in the balance here! All perfectly safe yet there is always that element of doubt once the winch starts and your belly flips at the start of the descent. The point of entry is a narrow opening where you do pass close to the rock face. At this moment it did make me question my decision to go down but then immediately it starts to open up and you are faced with the spray from the waterfall from Fell Beck that you have to navigate past. Very refreshing! The cavern starts to emerge below you and this is the start of the jaw drop that carries on until you are back out again!

Where is Gaping Gill?

Gaping Gill is situated at the foot of Ingleborough and can only be accessed on foot. The route from Clapham is via the Ingleborough Estate Nature Trail which is paid entry (£2.50 per adult). This takes you all the way up to Ingleborough Caves along a track. From the Caves the path gets increasingly rocky and steeper in places before climbing up through a small gorge. The scenery is outstanding and a great introduction into what lies beneath! Once past the gorge the path veers to the left up towards Ingleborough and the sound of the winch plus the tents for all the volunteers means you won’t miss where to go. This walk will take you around an hour so factor that in to your timings.

Additional FAQ’s for Gaping Gill Winch Meet

When is Gaping Gill open to the public?

One week at the end of May (2024 dates are Saturday 25th til Friday 31st) and one week mid august (2024 dates are Friday 9th til Friday 16th)

How much does it cost?

£20 pp – cash only

What age is it suitable for?

Adults plus children above age 6 are allowed to enter however they do need to ride the chair alone so this may not be suitable for all children of that age.

What do I need to wear?

It’s cold and wet down there so take layers, waterproofs and gloves. Even if it is a warm day the cave will still be cold. Helmets are provided FOC by the pot holing club.

Anything else I need to get the best out of the Gaping Gill experience?

A head torch is advisable to aid with exploring as you need your hands free to climb/scramble so a hand held torch is not ideal. Camera to take photos too of course.

Where do I park?

Village of Clapham. YDNP car park or street parking if available in the village.

Can I book in advance?

No. First come first served. It’s a ticketed system so queue up for your ticket and you will be given an estimated wait time. It opens at 8am and is open all day. Be warned however that you may be waiting onwards of 4 hours if you arrive mid morning onwards. For context we arrived at 730am and went down around 830am so get there early!

Waiting to go down Gaping Gill
Waiting to go down Gaping Gill

Are there any facilities?

No facilities available so do take a packed lunch, drinks and plenty of snacks. There is a small shop and toilets at Ingleborough Caves which is around 20 minutes walk away.

Where can I find out more?

Bradford Pot Holing Club website

Craven Pot Holing Club website

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