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About the Caves

New for 2013 Fairy Palace Cave and it's stunning formations including the shimmering wall available to view on our Gallery

How the Caves Were Formed

The formation of Stump Cross Caverns began millions of years ago, when the area which is now the Yorkshire Dales was covered by oceans. Sediment from the ocean floor would eventually form limestone, the basic material from which the caves are made. The caves themselves began to form as the limestone was eroded by weak acid rain, created when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere mixed with the precipitation to form carbonic acid.

Many years ago, underground streams found their way into the cracks and began to expand the cave system as more rock was worn away. Once the streams had gone from the upper levels of the valley the cave system was left behind, and the mineral structures that are present today slowly began to form as water dripped through the caverns.


The caves at Stumps Cross were then discovered in 1860 by miners who looking for lead seams in the Yorkshire Dales. Although they didn't find any lead, they did find the natural caverns which you can see today. Miners often didn't see any commercial value in the caves, however a man named William Newbould had vision enough to see that they could be a profitable enterprise, and opened the caves to the public at a cost of 1 shilling per visit.

Remains of wolverines, a giant member of the weasel family have been discovered at Stump Cross. It is thought that these animals entered the caves looking for food such as reindeer and bison, the remains of which have also been found. The wolverine remains are on display in the visitor's centre.

Record Attempts

Geoff Workman holds the world record for the longest time spent underground, and this record attempt was completed at Stump Cross Caverns in 1963. Geoff spent 105 days underground in solitude as part of an investigation into the effect on the body of depravation of the day and night cycle.


The cave system at Stump Cross extends well beyond the show caves which are open to the public, to an overall length of approximately 6km. Many of the deeper caverns are only accessible to experienced cavers, but there is a possibility of further sections of the caverns being opened to the public in the future. Indeed, the impressive reindeer cavern was opened to the public in 2000 after debris was removed and the cave was made safe.

Entrance to the Caves