Gaping Gill Photo by Craven Pothole Club

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill is one of the most famous caves in the Dales and one of the largest underground chambers in Britain. It is normally reached from Clapham by walking past Ingleborough Cave and up on to the slopes of Ingleborough. Please take care around the entrance as it is unfenced.

The main chamber measures 129m long, 31m high, and 25m wide. Fell Beck pours over a lip of rock above and crashes 100m to the floor of the cavern before draining through to Ingleborough Cave.

The Gaping Gill cave system is one of longest and most complex in the UK, in fact, it wasn’t until 1983 that members of the Cave Diving Group made the connection between this cavern and Ingleborough Cave.

Settle man John Birbeck, who also made the first descent of Alum Pot, attempted the first descent in 1842, having first diverted the beck. He was lowered on a rope by farm labourers but he only reached a ledge 58m (190ft) down. It is known today as Birbeck’s Ledge.

In 1895 Frenchman Edouard Martel made the first descent to the bottom using a rope ladder and a candle. He kept in contact with the surface by telephone.

Nowadays members of the public can descend to the main chamber twice a year when the Bradford and Craven pothole clubs set up a winch over the main shaft entrance.