Our Caves

Creswell Crags is a spectacular magnesian limestone gorge that straddles the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It is dotted with a large number of caves, fissures and rock shelters, many of which harboured secrets from our Prehistoric past. Archaeologists have been excavating these caves since the 19th Century, when the Victorians first discovered the artefacts that lay beneath the cave floors. So much material was excavated early on that many of today’s archaeologists now excavate the spoil heaps (rubbish dumps) of previous excavations to find any artefacts which were missed!

Our 9 largest caves are detailed below, but there’s no better way to get to know the caves than by visiting them for yourself!

Robin Hood Cave

Legend has it that Robin Hood Cave provided a hide out for the famous outlaw to evade capture by the Nottinghamshire authorities. However, as with many Robin Hood tales, it is likely that fiction far outweighs the facts. One thing we can be sure of however is that it seemed to provide a popular home for people during the Ice Age.

The Neanderthals arrived first, occupying Robin Hood Cave until around 40,000 years ago. They made hand axes and scrapers from flint, quartzite and clay-ironstone to help them survive on the Ice Age grasslands. Homo sapiens came later and used the cave from around 22,000 years ago until the end of the Ice Age and beyond. They left a wide range of tools and butchered animal bone, as well as an image of a horse’s head that had been intricately engraved on a piece of horse rib bone. You can see this rare find for yourself in our museum!

Church Hole

Church Hole is a world-famous cave, containing examples of the oldest verified cave art in the UK. This includes images of bison, reindeer and birds, as well as some abstract symbols which may have had religious meaning.

As well as these artistic and religious activities, it appears that Church Hole was also inhabited at some stages. Archaeologists have discovered quartzite and flint tools which they believe belonged to Neanderthals, and flint, antler and bone tools used by modern humans during the last Ice Age.

Pin Hole

Excavations of Pin Hole found two examples of engraved bones which represent some of the earliest ‘Art Mobilier’ (portable art) from the UK, roughly 12,500 years old. ‘Pin Hole Man’ is a bone which features a profile of a man or beast stood on two legs. A rib-bone with a cross-hatched design has also been found. This may have been some form of symbol, language or counting, or it may simply have been a doodle; we’ll never know for sure.

Mother Grundy’s Parlour

In the mid 19th Century, a woman from Creswell village dreamt that there was treasure to be found in Mother Grundy’s Parlour. Her husband decided to see if this was true and conducted the first excavation of the cave. We do not know the results of this excavation but believe that a hippopotamus tooth was discovered and sold soon afterwards. Treasure of sorts.

Since then at least 6 teams of archaeologists have excavated inside the cave and within the scree deposits and spoil outside. An interesting find is the collection of fractured horse teeth which show that Ice Age hunter-gatherers were butchering horses at this site 12,000 years ago.

Boat House Cave

In the 19th Century the Duke of Portland created the picturesque lake which separates the crags. Originally conceived as a boating lake it was formed when the stream was dammed.

A channel was dug to flood this cave and create a boat house for the Duke to moor his boat. Concrete was used to create a watertight foundation. When the archaeologist Leslie Armstrong tried to excavate the cave later, he was forced to use explosives to penetrate the concreted surface to the cave floor below!

The Arch

A small area of The Arch was excavated in 1974 but no evidence was found of any humans. However, the cave was home to bear, spotted hyaena, woolly rhinoceroses, reindeer and bovids.

A reindeer leg bone with cut marks on it was also found in either The Arch or nearby Cave 7 or Cave 8. The archaeologists are undecided as to whether these could have been made by humans or Neanderthals.

Yew Tree Shelter

Yew Tree Shelter is a 22m-long rock shelter on the North side of the gorge. It would have been sunny and appealing to Creswell Crags’ hunter-gatherers.

It was excavated in the 1930s and was found to contain stone tools and animal bones, like many of our caves. However, flint tools dating from the Mesolithic were also found. This shows that Creswell Crags was occupied by hunter-gatherers long after the last Ice Age.

Dog Hole

The excavations at Dog Hole are something of a mystery. We know that the cave was excavated by Robert Laing, a Newcastle doctor, sometime in the 1870s or 1880s. However, all of the artefacts from this excavation have been lost.

More recent excavations of Laing’s spoil (rubbish heap) have found lion, spotted hyena, woolly rhinoceros, horse and reindeer bones that he missed.

Dog Hole Fissure

This narrow fissure was discovered in 1978 when a rock fall west of Dog Hole exposed the opening. The fissure was excavated by staff from Creswell Crags Museum, and finds are now housed in our collection store.

Cave Tours for Your Family, Household or Safe Bubble.
Available from 10th August onwards

Explore our limestone caves with your family or household group, under the guidance of one of our expert tour guides.

Whether you choose Life in the Ice Age or Witch Marks in Robin Hood Cave, or Rock Art in Church Hole, you’re sure to learn something new, have a fun adventure, and be awed by how many stories of the past come alive at Creswell Crags.

Please pay careful attention to the notes and terms and conditions of your booking. Contact us if you need more information. Bookings cannot be amended on the day of the tour and maximum numbers will be strictly adhered to.

Rock Art Tours in Church Hole Cave

Available between March and October, closed in winter due to roosting bats.

Hear about Creswell Crags in the Ice Age and see Britain’s only Ice Age rock art, in this small but internationally important cave.

Available times: 11:00, 12:30, 13:30, 15:00

Group Size Cave Tour only price Cave Tour Package price
Number of people in your group

Includes:

  • Cave tour

*Please note, that if you are bringing a car to Creswell Crags, you will need to pay parking at our parking machines - £4 for 3 hours, or £6 for full day

Includes:

  • Cave tour
  • Full day parking for 1 vehicle
  • A free drink token for every member of the group, to spend in our café
  • A souvenir pencil and a Creswell Crags postcard for every member of the group
  • A 10% off Birthday Party voucher
2 £30 £40
3 £40 £50
4 £50 £60
Additional information
  • These tours are for household bubbles of up to 4 people who do not need to socially distance from each other; there shall not be space for guests to always socially distance from each other within the cave. Due to social distancing with the tour guide, we cannot accommodate more than 4 guests in this cave.
  • We require face masks to be worn by all adults and children over 11 years old, unless exempt for medical reasons. All visitors must be willing to wear a helmet (provided) when in the caves, and must consent to the caves being secured from the inside while the tour is in progress.
  • Unfortunately dogs are not allowed in the caves unless they are support dogs. In this instance we ask that you let us know in advance so that we can make appropriate arrangements.
  • Your tour guide shall be wearing a helmet with face shield, and maintaining a minimum of 1m+ distance from all guests on the tour. All guest helmets are sanitised between tours, and hand sanitiser is provided.
  • Children must be 5 years or older to go in the caves, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • We have cave spiders at Creswell Crags. Whilst large, they are harmless. If you have a severe phobia, please alert a member of staff.
Instructions once the tour is booked
  • Please arrive at our Reception desk at least 15 minutes before your tour time. A member of staff shall provide you with your tickets/tour pack, and direct you to where you should meet your tour guide for the start of your tour.
  • If you have purchased a cave tour package, your parking pass shall be included in this pack, and you should have time to return to your car to display this in the windscreen.
Exploring caves at Creswell Crags

Life in the Ice Age OR Witch Marks Tours in Robin Hood Cave

Explore our largest cave, named after our region’s famous outlaw! Choose Life in the Ice Age to learn all about the prehistoric heritage of Creswell Crags, and what life would have been like for the early humans who took shelter in the caves. Choose Witch Marks to focus on the early modern apotropaic marks in the cave – carved in the depths of the cave to keep away evil spirits. We have more Witch Marks in one cave than anywhere else in the UK.

Available times: 10:30, 11:30, 13:00, 14:30, 15:30

Group Size Cave Tour only price Cave Tour Package price
Number of people in your group Includes:

  • Cave tour

*Please note, that if you are bringing a car to Creswell Crags, you will need to pay parking at our parking machines - £4 for 3 hours, or £6 for full day

Includes:

  • Cave tour
  • Full day parking for 1 vehicle
  • A free drink token for every member of the group, to spend in our café
  • A souvenir pencil and a Creswell Crags postcard for every member of the group
  • A 10% off Birthday Party voucher
2 £30 £40
3 £40 £50
4 £50 £60
5 £60 £70
6 £70 £80
Additional information
  • These tours are for household bubbles of up to 6 people who do not need to socially distance from each other; there shall not be space for guests to always socially distance from each other within the cave. Due to social distancing with the tour guide, we cannot accommodate more than 6 guests in this cave.
  • We require face masks to be worn by all adults and children over 11 years old, unless exempt for medical reasons. All visitors must be willing to wear a helmet (provided) when in the caves, and must consent to the caves being secured from the inside while the tour is in progress.
  • Unfortunately dogs are not allowed in the caves unless they are support dogs. In this instance we ask that you let us know in advance so that we can make appropriate arrangements.
  • Your tour guide shall be wearing a helmet with face shield, and maintaining a minimum of 1m+ distance from all guests on the tour. All guest helmets are sanitised between tours, and hand sanitizer is provided.
  • Children must be 5 years or older to go in the caves, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • We have cave spiders at Creswell Crags. Whilst large, they are harmless. If you have a severe phobia, please alert a member of staff.
Instructions once the tour is booked
  • Please arrive at our Reception desk at least 15 minutes before your tour time. A member of staff shall provide you with your tickets/tour pack, and direct you to where you should meet your tour guide for the start of your tour.
  • If you have purchased a cave tour package, your parking pass shall be included in this pack, and you should have time to return to your car to display this in the windscreen.