11 March 2008 09:00
Can you recommend any good caves to sleep in?
1 The Priest’s Hole
Dove Crag, Eastern Fells, Lake District
Maps OS Landranger 90; OS Explorer OL5 & 7
Situated in the Fairfield Horseshoe, Dove Crag is a mighty fortress of sandstone beloved by climbers and ridge-walkers alike. Hidden within its buttresses is the famous Priest’s Hole (marked on the OS map), which is roughly five metres deep. It has a rubble wall built in front for extra weather protection and is often used as an overnight camp. It’s well stocked and even has its own visitors’ book, but it’s not easy to find in bad weather. NB: A group of young Scouts was recently rescued from here after it started to snow.
Perfectly placed for a classic round of the Fairfield Horseshoe from Ambleside, with Fairfield (873m/2,863ft) as its zenith.
2 Millican Dalton’s cave
Castle Crag, north-west Lake District
Maps OS Landranger 90; OS Explorer OL4
The self-proclaimed ‘Professor of Adventure’ used to sleep in this cave every night in summer, for the last 50 years of his life. Having eschewed a sensible white-collar job in the city, Dalton proceeded to create a real home from home here during the 1930s and 40s, sewing his own clothes and even growing potatoes. Attributed to ‘MD’, the aphorism ‘Don’t waste words Jump to Conclusions!’ is carved into the wall. It’s a somewhat silly philosophy, given he had far more profound things to say.
Perfectly placed for any walks around Borrowdale and Derwent Water. Great Gable is conveniently close, and a Trail 100 peak (899m/2,949ft).
3 Gryp’s Chamber
Craig Maskeldie, Angus
Maps OS Landranger 44; OS Explorer 388
This hillside cave on Craig Maskeldie to the west of Loch Lee was once used by a notorious reiver (robber) named Gryp, who mugged hundreds of travellers from Angus and Deeside. The mountain rises steeply and the cave can be hard to find, but the views are fabulous.
Perfectly placed for trails around Glens Lee and Esk. An ascent of Craig Maskeldie (687m/2,253ft) shouldn’t pose too many problems for a doughty s type.
4 Coire Gabhail
Glen Coe, Argyllshire
Maps OS Landranger 41; OS Explorer 384
This rocky refuge lies in the very sneaky and hard to spot ‘lost’ valley of Coire Gabhail (‘Corry Gale’) off the south side of Glen Coe. Once a hideout for rustled cattle used by the MacDonald clan, the entrance to the valley is partially blocked by a bus-sized rock. Inside, the flat, green meadow floor is enclosed by steep mountains: the perfect place to hide during a bloody massacre like the one in Glen Coe, 1692, when the Campbell lads invited the MacDonalds for tea, then butchered them as they dozed...
Perfectly placed for a mighty scramblefest on surrounding Munros and other pinnacles – Gearr Aonach (692m/2,270ft), Beinn Fhada (876m/2,874ft), Stob Coire nan Lochan (1115m/3,658ft), Stob Dearg (1022m/3,353ft) and Bidean Nam Bian (1150m/3,773ft).
5 Goatscrag Hill
Maps OS Landranger 75; OS Explorer 339
Excavated in the late 1960s, artefacts found here point to it being used as a prehistoric burial site during the early Bronze Age. If that thought doesn’t chill you to the core, it’s an ideal overnight stop for walks in the region – though it lies a car drive from the Northumberland National Park. Animal carvings – perhaps deer – decorate the wall above one of the rock overhangs. Ray Mears woz ‘ere once, too, making a BBC documentary. But no, he didn’t sign the walls.
Perfectly placed for joining the 60 mile St Cuthbert’s Way at Wooler. The full trail extends from Melrose on the Scottish Borders to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) on the Northumberland coast.