Cathedral Cave Wild Camp

Bust zips, 160 mile round trips, candy floss and fish n chips....

The original plan was for me n Stan to head up to The Lakes on Tuesday, park up near Skelwith Bridge and hike across to Cathedral Cave and spend the night there and hike back the following day.

Everything was going swimmingly. A stop in Ambleside for some lunch and a pint (a coke for Stan!) followed by a call in Alpkit for another bivvy bag (the Hunka, which worked a treat when I finally got to use it!). We mentioned our plans to the girl in Alpkit who advised us to lookout for the goldfish in the pool at Cathedral Caves, a piece of information which would prove useless until the following day!

So, we got back in the car for the short drive to Skelwith Bridge. We arrived in the car park and I was just zipping up my brand new Terra Nova Laser 25 pack when the zip came off in my hand... The zipper had just broken completely in half... My rucksack was now useless. Having no other means to carry our gear and no tent our only options were to spend the night in the car or go home, defeated.

I posed the question to Stan and he decided he wanted to go home. We were gutted. In the car on the way home though I started to think. We could come back tomorrow. But we were all going to Blackpool on Thursday, girls as well. We could still do that on the way home, right? The girls could catch the train and meet us! I’d figured it out and we would still have our night in the cave....

The following day (Wednesday) after a bit of paperwork in the morning and with another backpack(!), we headed out on another 160 mile round trip, back up to the Lake District, this time to a revised destination. As it was a bit later in the day we headed for Tilberthwaite instead which would give us a shorter hike to the cave and get us there just before sunset.

It was a lovely hike up and over. After leaving the tarmac at Higher Tilberthwaite we followed a rough track for about 3/4 mile before picking up a single track path that took us over and then down to another track near to Little Langdale Tarn and the river that flows between the Tarn and Elterwater. Once on the track we spent about 10 mins locating the cave, dug our our torches and headed into the cave!

Once we had walked through the 60m(ish) tunnel cut into the side of the hill we emerged into a huge 12m (ish!) high cavern. We were greeted by a colossal pillar stood tall in the middle of the cave. This pillar must have been around 3m in diameter. Just to the right of the pillar we could immediately see why our torches were not needed any more, a huge window out to the forest above allowed light to flood into the cave. It really is a magnificent sight.

We continued our exploration of the cave, tracking between the pillar and the small pool to the rear of the cave. We then went through another small tunnel to emerge (after a small scramble) in the forest above.

We retraced our steps, checking the pool for the illusive goldfish only to be disappointed. We decided it was time to eat so got out the pocket stove cooked our dinner and some coffee and sat in the wonder of our surroundings consuming our feast.

Once the sun set it soon became dark in the cave and the stars began to glisten through the Cathedral window. I have no photos of this though as the camera on my phone is useless in the dark. I really need to invest in a decent camera for trips like this me thinks... We also played with the torches and the light reflections on the water in the little pool, it was like 1998 all over again, trippy man!! Alas, again the camera proved useless at capturing this....

After a few more shadow puppets we settled down with a chapter of Swallows and Amazons before getting tucked inside our sleeping bags in our bivvy bags. The floor was hard and stony but we’d got a couple of short air beds to make our night a pretty comfortable one.

I slept pretty well on and off, although a cave can be a pretty noisy place. The wind would howl through the cavernous space. Water would drip in a never ending cacophony of aquatic symphony. Then a blood curdling screech would cut through it all... I can only assume it was an owl, maybe? I dunno. But we were safe and warm tucked up inside our bags...

We woke around 6 the following morning. The stars still shone through the Cathedral window creating an ethereal light in the cave... We got ourselves up, made a brew and packed away our kit. By the time we were done the sun had risen and the cave was slowly waking from the gloom of the night. We decided to have one last look in the pool for the goldfish before we headed back to the car. And we saw some!! It really did make the trip! A great big thank you to the girl at Alpkit for giving us the heads up on this!! 😊

We finished loading up and then headed back to the track along the river. After skimming a few stones on the river we picked up the track that headed up into the woods and back over to Tilberthwaite and to the car.

Once we got back to the car we had a wash in the river and changed before heading back to Ambleside for a well deserved full english... Once replete we headed back to the car had a little snooze and then drove down to Blackpool to meet the girls at the station, eat candy floss, fish and chips and walk through the illuminations. We finally made it home about 9pm and slept.. A long deep sleep.... We’d definitely earned it.

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