Not for the faint-hearted
hile England has so much to offer atop its rolling green fields, along its stunning coast and within its ancient and modern cities, there’s another whole side to the nation that many people miss. Where is this hidden land you ask? Underground, that’s where. From natural caves and subterranean netherworlds, to man-made dungeons and secret bunkers...
Wookey Hole , in Somerset, is probably a good place to start. Here a river flows out of the deep earth, providing of shelter for the early cavemen and a source of pagan and Christian legends since the Iron Age. Today Wookey Hole offers an educational and entertaining experience, with the Wookey’s resident witch always on hand to illuminate the mysteries of the caves.
Close by is Cheddar Gorge , is a system of caves made by an underground river system. It was here that Britain's oldest complete skeleton was found, estimated to be around 9000 years old. Two main caves, Gough’s Cave and Cox’s cave are open to the public, their stalactites and stalagmites are just some of the highlights of a wonderland that has sheltered and entranced visitors for millennia.
In the north of the country, Gaping Hill , deep in the slopes of Ingleborough, has the largest cavern in Britain, known as the main chamber. The Bradford Pothole Club has held a Winch Meet here for over 50 years, allowing members of the public and non-cavers the chance to visit this truly awe-inspiring underground scene.
Mind you, not all of England’s underground realms are the result of millions of years of geological activity. The London Dungeon for example features exhibits of various tortures from the Medieval Age, using the natural creepiness and history of the dungeons, plus live actors, special effects, gallows humour and rides to create an enthralling, and damn scary experience.
For other man made, uhm, delights, a tour of Brighton’s sewers is far more appealing than it sounds. Here you can walk through a Victorian engineering marvel and explore the extraordinary workings of this murky world.
And if sewers aren’t your thing, what about a tour of a secret underground city? Burlington , outside Bath, was a secret subterranean city that lies 100 feet beneath the town of Corsham. It was built in the late 1950s and was designed to safely house up to 4,000 central Government personnel in the event of a nuclear strike. Today you can take a tour of an incredible project marveling at the engineering, and paranoia, of another time.
And then there are underground tours of Manchester , Exeter , underground RAF bases and tin mines in Cornwall to name just a few more subterranean delights. Yep in England there’s always a whole world directly beneath your feet. You just have to take the time to explore it.
Psst... Handy Hints
The waterfall that lands on Gaping Gill , Britain largest cavern, is also Britain’s highest unbroken waterfall.
The temperature at Wookey Hole stays at a constant 11 degrees Celsius all year round.
The Right Stuff
Always pack a waterproof jacket and good footwear as down below tends to get a little wet underfoot.
Never fly solo
The underground is not a place for the inexperienced. Explore safely with a guide, and never, ever, roam on your own.
With 4.6 million shells.The Shell Grotto