Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire | What is it like?

There is one thing they are not short of in Derbyshire and that is caves. There’s 4 close to Castleton in the Hope Valley alone. We visited three of the four during our 2 night mini-break there and I was keen to take my 5 year old son to ones that I had visited as a child. Oddly I didn’t remember any of them although I certainly have memories of going to them.

The first cave we visited during our stay was Speedwell Cavern. It is just a short walk (approximately 15 to 20 minutes) from the village of Castleton. You can also drive and park there. But it’s far more fun to walk as the views are stunning and you can’t appreciate them anywhere near as much from a car. You might even encounter some sheep along the way.

Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire review
You won’t be disappointed walking through Castleton
The walk from Castleton to Speedwell cavern, avoiding the road
The walk from Castleton to Speedwell cavern, avoiding the road
Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire | What is it like?

There is a public footpath that runs from Castleton to Speedwell cavern. Google maps will try to send you down the road if you are walking, don’t do this it’s not very safe. Please find the footpath. We picked up a free map from the excellent tourist information centre in the village. If you are struggling to find one please ask, they will be happy to help.

Review of Speedwell Cavern, Castleton

The entrance to Speedwell cavern
The entrance to Speedwell cavern

First off this cavern really should only be visited by children that are confident walkers. There are 105 steps down to this underground and water filled cavern. If your kids fidget a lot and get claustrophobic then this boat journey also isn’t for them. (the same applies for adults!).

Believe me when I say that you don’t want to be the person carrying your child up or down these steps. It’s wet and slippy in the cavern and the cave ceiling is quite low in places. It might be a cavern with a journey by boat but you have to get down there first. There is a reason you wear helmets.

Tours run every 20 minutes and the queue can build up really fast so if you are visiting with children it may be to your benefit to arrive for the first tour of the day. Each boat accommodates 21 people and you will soon realise, once you are down there, why the tours run every 20 minutes and not all the time.

Once you have your tickets you are counted in as a group of 21 and you are all handed a hard hat. The cave ceiling is not only low on the walk down but also incredibly low in most places when you are on the boat.

Wearing a hard hat ready for the tour
Wearing a hard hat ready for the tour

Once you have descended the steps you will arrive at your boat. It is quite a squeeze so be prepared to share your space. Luckily we all managed to sit on a bench together but others weren’t so lucky. You then enter the incredibly narrow main tunnel. The boat knocks and grinds along the cavern and it’s such an incredibly small space. It’s hard to image the people working down there 200 years ago.

Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire | What is it like?
On the boat ready to enter the tunnel – the ceiling gets much lower and darker than this
Out of the boat in the cavern at the end of the journey
Out of the boat in the cavern at the end of the journey
Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire review
Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire review
Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire review
This is where you wait for the boat to return – you can see how low the ceiling is!

As you reach halfway this is where you may pass the other boat on a different timed tour to yourselves. The tour guide on our boat was very good and he really set the scene for what life must have been like for the workers all those years ago. Even very small children used to work down there.

You eventually reach the end of the line and you have to clamber off the boat and into a relatively small but open cavern (see photos above). Here you will most likely get dripped on! There is a talk about the cavern and you have to wait around in relative darkness for a returning boat. The boats have to run like clockwork or else they will meet in the wrong place.

It was hard to take any sort of decent photos down there so please excuse the quality of my photos.

Important Information

You can purchase tickets online in advance. There is also an option to purchase tickets on the first 3 tours of the day. An adult anytime ticket costs £12.00 if bought online in advance and £10.00 for a child aged 5-15. I did see children under 5 in the queue, however, I urge you to wait to visit until your kids are 5 and over.

If you want to pre-book on a tour on a given time and date you can also do this online in advance. This not only gives you a good discount (£9.60 for an adult ticket and £8.00 for a child) but it also guarantees you won’t have to queue unsure of which boat you will get on.

There is a small shop on site which sells souvenirs, snacks and hot and cold drinks. There is a public toilet in the car park. I believe you have to pay to park.

UK Family Days Out

*This post contains affiliate links

Find a Family-Friendly Caravan Park in Derbyshire or a Great Family-Friendly Hotel


We are very active on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Why not subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates? Or keep in touch on social media. Why not pin this post for later? Simply click on the image below and maybe give us a follow as well.

Speedwell Cavern Castleton Derbyshire | What is it like?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.