Gaping Gill is the largest underground cave chamber in Britain.
It’s often said, without exaggeration, that this dramatic chamber is big enough to fit a cathedral.
It is so big that there has been an attempt to fly a hot air balloon inside the cave. The vertical main shaft from the surface to the floor of the chamber is about 98m deep and normally contains a substantial waterfall, the route by which the surface stream, Fell Beck, finds its way to the chamber floor.
The chamber and the extensive cave system it is a part of are usually only accessible to experienced and properly equipped cave explorers.
But for two separate weeks of the year (around the August and late May public holidays) two local caving clubs provide a winch to allow members of the public to be lowered down the shaft on a boatswain’s chair, and later winched out again.
Once inside you can just explore the chamber, or the slightly more adventurous can enter some of the easier and closer passages of the 16.6km cave system.
It’s a good idea to wear waterproof clothing as the winch passes you through the spray from the towering waterfall.