Lacy’s Caves in Penrith

Rory Calland
Visit Cumbria

Lacy’s Caves in Penrith is a fascinating place that just so happens to be made for wild swimmers. The river Eden meanders invitingly past these curious caves and the Victorian gypsum mines. Colonel Samuel Lacy’s pet project is a bit of an oddity – the five chambers were carved directly into the sandstone on the former war hero’s commission in the 18th century and no one quite knows why. It’s easier to explain why letting yourself drift peacefully along the river Eden is a treat. Here the water is plenty deep and if you’re so inclined, leaping into the water from a stack of rock known as ‘the tower’ is apparently a knee-wobbling thrill.

The Eden Valley is as picturesque as the name suggests, and the Settle-Carlisle railway trundles right through it. If at all possible, that could be the ideal way to make your way to the caves. That way you get to enjoy one of the most iconic heritage rail journeys in the country, then alight at Lazonby, and head to the caves on foot via Great Salkeld in under an hour.

The area reflects nature and industry side by side and it is now listed by the council as a Regionally Important Geological Site. Evidence of the mining history is written in the rock and the remnants of rails that you’ll find as you walk up the path. It’s in the caves themselves where the geology seems particularly interesting though – to a layman at least – there you’ll see a lattice of criss-crossed ridges embossed on the walls and arches. Apparently the eccentric-sounding Lacy used to entertain guests in the caves and even hired a local hermit to live in them for reasons resoundingly unclear.

Little SalkeldPenrithCA10 1NW View map
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