Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park, Poole's Cavern Visitor Centre, Green Lane, Buxton, SK17 9DH – Visit Now
Named after a 15th-century outlaw who reputedly used the caves as a lair and base for robbing travellers, Poole’s Cavern has held a firm grip on the human imagination for countless years. Just 10 minutes’ walk from Buxton town centre, this vast, two-million-year-old limestone formation is considered one of the finest ‘show caves’ in England and has been attracting visitors since the 1500s, when Mary Queen of Scots braved its dark depths, and the 17th century travel writer Charles Cotton included it among his seven ‘Wonders of the Peak’. The cavern was also frequented long before these intrepid adventurers, however, by prehistoric people from the Neolithic and early Bronze ages. Today, it is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and further excavations are revealing additional chambers still to be explored.
Modern day visitors are invited to experience the caverns and the remarkable crystal stalactites and ‘poached egg’ stalagmites they enclose by embarking on one of the expert guided tours that run each day. These provide an engaging (and kid-friendly) introduction to the geology of the site, highlighting important fossils and the vibrant red, orange and blue hues that adorn its walls. Above ground, a follow-up trip to the cavern exhibition at the visitor centre offers a chance to absorb this history in further detail.
Poole’s Cavern is located directly beneath Buxton Country Park, which is well worth a visit itself. Once part of the Chatsworth Estate, its rolling green expanse includes stretches of protected woodland, home to an abundance of wildlife and rare wildflower species (look out for Mountain Pansy, Leopard’s Bane, the Globeflower and wild orchids), adventure activities, and a nature-inspired sculpture trail; as well as Grin Low, which affords panoramic views over Buxton and the surrounding countryside (look out for Mam Tor and Kinder Scout on the horizon). Trek to the hill’s summit and you’ll find Solomon’s Temple – a Victorian folly that sits above an ancient burial mound – as well as evidence of the limestone mining that has occurred throughout the region for millennia. The park is prime picnic territory, but the centre’s cafe is on hand in case of less clement weather.
If you’re visiting with children, consider booking onto one of the Outdoor Genius sessions. Roughly two hours long, these offer woodland-based group activities linked to the National Curriculum and include fossil hunting, shelter building, bush-craft and (closely-supervised!) fire building. The Buxton Tree Top Adventure zip-wire route through the woods is likely to appeal to both little and big kids too.
Altogether, Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park is the perfect place to enjoy some nature without straying too far out of town, and to discover Derbyshire on a subterranean level.