Creswell Crags in Nottinghamshire has been on our family bucket list for a while now. Living in Lincolnshire they are actually the closest caves to us. Funnily enough growing up in nearby Derbyshire I’d never actually been before. With the added bonus that it’s a bucket list tick for Jamie, as he’s never been in a cave before, I was happy that we finally made it there last weekend. Luckily it was as stunning as the reviews on Tripadvisor sound. It was one of those days out that I’m looking forward to doing again soon.
This was a multi generation visit for us as it was myself, my Mum and my son. It is actually free to visit Creswell Crags (although there is a small charge for parking). However I highly recommend paying for your visit and going on one of their tours. We went on the Ice Age cave tour which was perfect for my young son. They also have a rock art tour and another tour opening up later this year.
Our Visit to Creswell Crags
Creswell Crags is located near to Worksop in Nottinghamshire. It is just a little further north from Sherwood Forest and Clumber park. It is a limestone gorge that was formed many thousands, if not millions, of years ago. It’s dotted with caves and smaller fissures. They have found many animal bones in some of the caves plus evidence that early man used and visited these caves. There is also evidence of wooly mammoth, rhinos, hippos, hyenas, lions and more. Life was very much living in this area during the Ice Age between 10,000-50,000 years ago. There’s even a cave that a witch used to live in which really sparked my son’s imagination.
The car park is close to the visitor centre. There’s no mention when you park up of there being a charge to pay for parking. However, as we were nearly at the centres entrance we noticed a sign about paying and displaying. It was only £3.00 to pay to park and as you can actually walk around Creswell Crags for free the charge was understandable. Creswell Crags is run as a charity so any amount of money helps. We noticed a few people who had biked there so they wouldn’t have had to pay anything to visit if they so wished.
When we entered the visitor centre we enquired about tours. We were notified that there was an Ice age and Rock Art tour on that day and we were able to book on either, or both. We were told that we could visit for free however the tours and admission to the exhibition within the visitor centre were at an additional cost. It turns out that if you want to go in any of the caves you have to book on a tour. So I was glad that we did as Jamie would have been very disappointed had he missed out.
We paid £9.00 for an adult and £6.00 for a child on the Ice Age tour. This included entry to the exhibition. If you retain your ticket you can visit again as many times as you like for no additional cost for the next 12 months. I never tidy my handbag out however I did the other day and I accidentally threw our receipt away. However, next time we go I think we will do both tours and upgrade the ticket anyway (as you are only entitled to the same visit you paid for on that day). If you want to do both tours it’s £13.50 for an adult and £9.00 for a child. There will be another tour added later in the year so I’m unsure if this price will increase and include all 3 tours. Children under 5 are not permitted on the cave tours.
Please see their website for opening and running days for the tours.
We had arrived a little after a quarter past 10 and the Ice Age tour didn’t start until 11am. So in the meantime we visited the cafe and had a drink and some very delicious mint cake. The visitor centre itself is very new and everywhere feels modern and fresh. The cafe area is lovely and there’s even a balcony with tables if it’s a nice day. They serve a choice of hot and cold drinks plus snacks and hot and cold food. We also had our lunch there and it was very tasty and fresh. Plus it wasn’t particularly expensive.
They have pictures on the windows for all the different birds that you can try to spot. We did actually spot a few birds which we would rarely see at home such as a great tit and chaffinch.
The Ice Age Tour
You meet your tour guide downstairs by the hyena. While we were waiting there’s an area showing the different soil levels throughout time and below it is a fun area where you can use brushes to brush away the sand and reveal bones and skulls.
You have to wear a helmet with a light on top for the tours. They do not illuminate the caves with electric lights so this all adds to the fun. In the Robin hood cave where we went on the Ice age tour there’s plenty of places you can bang your head so the helmet is a must.
Once you have been given your helmet you are encouraged into a room for photos in a ‘green room’. It then becomes a photo of you sitting on a wooly mammoth. You can purchase this later on in the shop. This is mostly for families with kids however if you’re visiting as a couple or with friends there’s nothing to stop you having a photo yourselves.
The tour guide was very informative and we learnt all sorts on the tour. He walks very fast though so we tried our best to keep up. Don’t worry about missing the rest of the lake and crags as you can walk around later without him. The Robin hood cave is the largest at Creswell crags. We were taught about life in the ice age and how they would have lived in and used the caves. Plus how they used tools in their lives and how they made these tools. It was very interesting. Although I wasn’t too keen on the cave spider!
The ground beneath your feet can be quite uneven and there’s a few places where you have to bend down low. With the only light being your own it can be relatively difficult to see so I can understand why children have to be 5 years old to visit.
The tour itself lasted for around 1 hour 20 minutes. We had been recommended this tour for kids as it is less in depth than the rock art tour. However Jamie over heard people saying that they were on the rock art tour later and he was desperate to join them. You walk back to the centre with your helmets and you are then free to continue on with your day as you please. We had some lunch in the cafe before heading back out to walk around the lake.
There is a relatively new playground at Creswell Crags. It’s probably more for kids aged 6+. Jamie struggled a bit to get around and on everything. He was very disappointed that the wooly mammoth didn’t have a slide. They’ve also suffered a bit with flooding in this area but they are trying to make improvements. It was a nice area but we didn’t spend long in this part.
Walking around Creswell Crags
The walk around Creswell crags is really beautiful. Once you have left the visitor centre kids can pretend that they’ve been swallowed by a wooly mammoth.
The walk then crosses a bridge over a fast flowing stream that comes from the lake.
You then reach the stunning lake where there are swans, ducks, moor hens and coots plus crags on either side. I could have stood there all day soaking in the sights.
The walk around the lake is circular and I was disappointed that there were no little crags to wander inside. Anything you could go in is barred off. I guess that is where health and safety comes into effect. It was a lovely walk though and well worth doing.
All of the larger caves have names. They all have a stone outside with a piece of information about the oldest thing that was found within that cave. Pin hole cave will be the next cave to be opened up for a tour.
The Ice Age Visitor Centre
If you don’t want to go on a tour but you do want to visit the new visitor centre you can look around for £3.00 for an adult, £2 for concessions and children are free. We were able to look around as part of our entry price for the tour. There was a film showing Creswell crags through three different stages of its past. This was lovely to watch and we watched it a few times over. Within the exhibition itself they have many bones, skulls and other artifacts that they’ve found during excavations at the crags. Many of the items found have been donated to museums nationwide.
Jamie’s favourite part was a screen that you can trace out the cave art and try to figure out what they were drawings of. He sat there the whole time while we were free to wander around and read everything for ourselves. It was very interesting and I was particularly intrigued by their explanation of why there are ice ages on earth. I later relayed this to my husband but he doesn’t believe me!.
I am very sad I threw away our ticket to be able to return again for no additional cost. However if I was to return I’d like to do the rock art tour and try the new pin hole tour when it opens. So we would have had to buy another ticket anyway. It was a really inspiring day out and made a lovely change to what we would normally do. Jamie loved caving so much we are taking him to some caves in Derbyshire over the summer. So watch this space!
They also hold many events throughout the year. Soon there will be a theatre performance of Alice in Wonderland in the meadow plus astronomy nights, family spooktacular, scare fest and more.
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