Taking the Nature Trail footpath through the estate grounds heading for the summit of Ingleborough you pass through the beautiful woodland where, in the early 20th Century, the famous botanist Reginald Farrer introduced many new Far Eastern plants into Europe. After about 2km you reach Ingleborough cave, which was discovered in 1837 and is open to the public.
Continuing on, you soon reach the steep gorge of Trow Gill where the galleries and caverns of Ingleborough Cave pass silently beneath your feet on their way toward Gaping Gill itself.
Reaching the fell wall with it's double stile, the obvious rocky hole fringed with several small trees to the left of the path is Bar Pot, one of the dry upper entrances of the system. A little ahead a mature stream, Fell Beck, terminates abruptly in a shallow blind valley and plunges 340 feet into the limestone forming Britain's most spectacular waterfall as it begins its long underground journey to emerge at Ingleborough Cave.
Surprisingly there is much activity, a tented village, and the sound of machinery. At the base of the open hole or Main Shaft, the action of water on faults in the rock has carved out a huge cavern, large enough, it is said, to swallow St Paul’s Cathedral.
At first the darkness hides the bulk of this vast cavern from the visitor gliding down the Main Shaft in the winch chair. But as eyes slowly become accustomed it is possible to pick out a gentle arc of rock curving upwards to form a vaulted roof some 150 feet above. Nearby, two columns of water crash to the floor; fragmented to a myriad of droplets they whip the air into violent winds.
Finally, aided by subdued artificial light the chamber appears, longer than it is wide and with a level floor of water washed pebbles, sand and silt. A walk in the pool of light provided by a guide's light takes us first to the western end of the chamber with its silt floor and burbling stream, and then on to the foot of the East Slope. A glance back here reveals that the Main Chamber is indeed one of nature’s wild places.
Voices, muffled by the echo and the sound of the waterfall precede the appearance of lights, now moving across the boulder-covered slope above. In turn cavers pass by, returning from a trip into the further reaches of the cave, from places with evocative names… Mud Hall, The Blowhole, and Far Waters. These places are only for the competent caver and anyway we were only out for a gentle walk up Ingleborough – what an experience.
Winched descents into the Main Chamber are possible on two occasions during the year:
In May - operated by the Bradford Pothole Club.
In August - operated by the Craven Pothole Club.