Photo: © Mark Burkey

About Gaping Gill

The Gaping Gill system on the southern slopes of Ingleborough is one of the largest cave networks in the UK, comprising over 15km of passage and totalling 190m deep. The system is named after the famous main chamber, Gaping Gill, large enough by volume to accommodate York Minster!

Above ground, Fell Beck, which flows down from Ingleborough, terminates at a huge hole, where it plunges into the darkness, falling 100m directly into Gaping Gill chamber itself. This creates the longest unbroken waterfall in the UK and is a truly spectacular sight.

Cavers have been exploring the Gaping Gill system since the first attempted descent in 1842, and have now identified at least 21 entrances, including of course the most famous, the main shaft, following alongside the falling water of Fell Beck.

Experience Gaping Gill for yourself!

The beauty of Gaping Gill can be enjoyed by cavers and non-cavers alike, thanks to two local caving clubs. For a one-week period in May and August, the Bradford Pothole Club and Craven Pothole Club run a ‘winch meet’ event, at which they set up a winch to allow members of the public to descend into the chamber. The descent takes a matter of minutes, and the explorer is then able to wander around Gaping Gill chamber, under the beauty of floodlights, to see the magnificent sights.

Full details, including upcoming dates, can be found on the club websites:

Although the meets last two weeks or more, a significant amount of this is setup and setdown, as well as a period when the winch is exclusively for club members and visiting cavers, so do check dates carefully for when the winch is open to the public.

Booking a descent is usually done at the event, first come first served, so we recommend that anyone wishing to descend the winch should arrive early (often by late morning, all available timeslots for the day are taken). The site is best approach by a picturesque 60–90-minute walk from Clapham village, passing Ingleborough Show Cave (also worth visiting on the way back down). There is ample excellent accommodation and hospitality in the area, and parking in Clapham village.

We strongly recommend stout footwear and all-weather clothing including good thermals, plus all the usual outdoor equipment you would expect to take on a walk in the Yorkshire Dales (maps, compass/GPS, packed lunch, water, torches). The weather conditions on Ingleborough can change rapidly. You may have some time, maybe even a few hours, to kill before your allocated descent. Once you get underground, Gaping Gill chamber is draughty and cool, and you may have to wait before your upward journey. Go well prepared to get the most out of your day!

For obvious reasons, the winch may be unable to operate after prolonged heavy rain.

A day out at Gaping Gill is both memorable and inspiring, and a chance to see one of the UK’s most awesome natural wonders. If, after your visit, you feel inspired to see more, explore more, do more, we recommend visiting for more information, or of course, have a chat to the caving club members you meet on the day.

Upcoming winch dates (public access)

Access for experienced cavers

Outside of winch meets, experienced cavers wishing to visit and descend either the main shaft or any of the other entrances to the Gaping Gill system, can do so freely. The caves are on access land and no prior permission is required. However, as courtesy to the landowner and to other visiting cavers, we encourage you to plan your visit using the online booking system set up and administered by the Council of Northern Caving Clubs:

View access information and how to book.

During the winch meets however, the clubs running the winch take control of all access to the system, and some routes are not possible. They usually rig several of the popular entrances for the duration of the event for your enjoyment. If wishing to take advantage of this, simply call at the tent by Gaping Gill before heading underground. More details below:

Click here for further details for cavers on the CNCC website.