The Caves of Northumberland by Chris Scaife


Active member
The Caves of Northumberland by Chris Scaife 155 pp, many photos, Sigma Leisure, ?8.99

Many years ago I visited Saint Cuthbert?s Cave in Northumberland on an expedition back from Scotland.  It occurred to me at the time no one had published a book on the Caves of Northumberland.  I immediately  resolved to do this thinking it would be a very thin booklet of perhaps only a few pages and confident the I had enough followers who would buy any book by me so long as it had the word ?cave? in the title.

Imagine my surprise when this 155 page tome arrived on my desk.  Very few caves are in limestone.  A major exception being Ayleburn Mine Cave with a total length of 1700 m of which the natural cave is only 200 m.  Unfortunately is closed.  No information is given as to why it is closed and who is the owner.  A slight oversight because if I lived in the area I would investigate.  For each cave there is an Introduction , then a Route through the cave and finally Making Day of It which describes nearby tourist attractions.

Most of the caves have length of under 10 metres, but there are exceptions.  The most noteworthy being Ayleburn Pot with a length 223 m and a depth of 12 m.  The 35 m long Catheran Hole is good example a mass movement cave in sandstone. 

Huel Crag in Redesdale is a fantastic place , where huge boulder, rifts and scars poke though birch. lichen and moss to give the appearance of The Lost World.  Here we find Heul Rift Cave 1 Length 34 m.  Heul Rift Cave 2 Length 15 m.  Heul Rift Cave 3 Length 21 m.

I could go on but I think you need to buy this book too see for yourself.  I bought my copy of this book from Inglesport who sent it by return of posted.  Mike Moore also stocks this book.

Ayleburn Mine Cave is accessed via a mine level but is entirely natural passage. More like 1.7km of cave accessed by 200m of chest deep wading in mud in the old level and a short climb up. Great trip with the Banana Peeler forming a natural restriction to access to the further reaches.


Thanks for the review, and I'm glad you think people need to buy the book.

Perhaps I could just point out one or two inaccuracies in your review. First of all, I have made it very clear that the natural passage in Ayleburn Mine Cave is 1,700m long. I have not included the mine level at all in the length or depth stated for this cave. The old mine entrance has been sealed because the current owners, Shepherds Solid Fuel, have resumed quarrying/mining operations.

Quite a few of the caves are in limestone and most are definitely more than ten metres! However, what first inspired me to write a book about Northumberland's caves was the fascinating history and folklore associated with so many of the shorter caves, which is why you will find far more written about the short caves than you might usually expect in a caving guidebook. There are also detailed descriptions of the longer caving trips, such as Hartleycleugh Quarry Cave (a glorious 383m limestone cave with a long duck halfway along) and Elpha Green Caves (260m of wonderfully-decorated stream passage). All written in a very interesting and entertaining way, I hope.

Chris Scaife

Jenny P

Active member
We now have our copy for the British Caving Library and a grand little book it is too.

The way it is set out makes it easy to follow and plan for trips: the maps preceding each section are good and the general introduction to the section gives a clear idea of the sort of thing to expect.  Having 8-figure grid references is extremely useful, the directions for finding each site are straightforward and the level of difficulty (and hence the kit needed) is indicated so, having decided upon your "day out", you shouldn't have any problems. 

Most of the caves are not of any great length - but to many cavers that doesn't matter, it's just having a chance to poke around in an intriguing hole.  If you're in the area and are interested in caves, then this is a must-have to pop in your rucksack, along with torch and helmet.



I tried to find St Cuthbert's Cave when I was up there - but failed. Hopefully I will have more sucess when I visit again in June.


Well-known member
I happened to be passing Ingleton today so I popped in to purchase a copy. Imagine my delight to find it signed by the author! Now that's what I call good value.