Yorkshire Photo Explorer

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

This has to be one of the most amazing things I have done so far on my photography exploration of Yorkshire. Gaping Gill, on the slopes of Ingleborough, north of the village of Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales, is one of the largest caves in Britain. It is accessible to the general public for just two weeks a year, one at the end of May and one at the end of August. The entrance into the cave is not for the faint hearted: strapped into a chair, you are winched down into the cavern through a waterfall. For me, this was part of the attraction and was an incredible experience!

I set off on the hike to the cave at 6.30am for the opening time of 8am (see the practicalities section below for details of how to get there). The cave is very popular and so an early arrival is recommended. It had been raining a lot over the last couple of days and was raining steadily the morning I visited. I think this put a few people off, so I was lucky to be number 2 in the queue. Once I had checked in, paid, donned a hard hat and was given my tag, I chatted with the other visitors who were arriving. There was a sense of excitement amongst everyone.

Gaping Gill entrance

The entrance to Gaping Gill

As it had been raining recently, the beck that pours over the entrance to the cave was in full flow. Although I was wearing a waterproof jacket, I also opted for the heavy duty caving waterproofs on offer. Before long, it was my turn to descend. Climbing down the ladders and gantry set up over the cave entrance, I was strapped into the winch chair. My tripod and camera bag were also strapped to the chair (warning – make sure your camera bag is either waterproof or has a waterproof cover over it!). The descent takes only a minute but was so much fun. You go right through the cascading waters of Fell Beck, initially really close to the cave wall, before it opens into the main chamber. On landing they then unstrap you from the chair and you are free to explore.

Gaping Gill

It took a little while to adjust to the light but it did not take long to appreciate the scale of the cave and the thunderous sound of the waterfalls crashing down onto the floor. I moved off to the side away from the spray (as much as was possible) to try my first photos. A head torch helped to set up and check settings on the camera. A mud flat worked as a good platform for a selfie as well!

Gaping Gill

I really wanted to try some shots of the winch chair. This proved very difficult as it moves so quickly and I struggled to get the shutter speed fast enough, even with the ISO set to 10,000. The best one I think is the photo at the top of this post, but the below shows how you get into the cave:

Gaping Gill

If you are able, I highly recommend visiting Gaping Gill. From both a photography and adventure perspective, it is just so much fun! I will be back in August, hopefully when it’s a little drier so I can try a few more photos. Here are some more shots from my visit:

Gaping Gill chair winch

Coming into land on the winch chair

Gaping Gill campsite

The campsite along Fell Beck at the entrance

Gaping Gill

Making a descent through the waterfall

Practicalities
Approximate post code (for sat nav) LA2 8HH (for the parking)
Parking There is a National Park car park in the village of Clapham for the start of the trail. Parking charges apply (£4.50 at the time of writing). Please see the Yorkshire Dales National Park car parking page for current rates
Entrance fees There is a charge for the descent (return included!) into Gaping Gill. At the time of writing this is £15 per person. See the Bradford Potholing Club (May) or Craven Potholing Club (August) websites for the latest fees. There is also a small charge for the Nature Trail from the village (£1 per person at the time of writing)
Recommended items to bring Waterproofs, waterproof shoes, head torch or other good torch, waterproof camera bag/cover, tripod, wide angle lens, water/food (there are no food facilities)
Directions From the car park in Clapham village, walk up through the village to the start of the Ingleborough Nature Trail.

The path is wide and easy to follow all the way up to Ingleborough Cave. Carry on past the cave (at this point it narrows and becomes rockier). The path will turn to the left and then you will reach Trow Gill. Scramble up the rocks to the top:Trow GillThe path continues up Ingleborough, following a stone wall. Eventually you come to a double stile in the wall on your left – go over the stile and across the flat grassland.Way to Gaping GillThe entrance to Gaping Gill is then ahead of you on your left. It took me an hour to walk there from the start of the trail, but it may take longer (the sign at the start suggests 70 minutes).
Website Bradford Potholing Club (May): http://www.bpc-cave.org.uk/wp/gaping-gill/
Craven Potholing Club (August): http://www.gapinggill.org/

This is the location of Gaping Gill:

This is the location of the car park in Clapham village:

Notes for next time
  • Come on a drier day to get some shots nearer the cave entrance
  • Bring better cloths to clear water spray from the lens!

5 thoughts on “Gaping Gill

  1. rob sharp

    Fantastic info, thank-you. Hopefully doing this on Saturday and im so excited! Really want to get some good pictures when I’m down there. Any advice on what setting to use? I’ve got a Canon eos1300d.

    1. Su Post author

      Glad it was helpful! My photos were taken on a wide angle lens (10mm) at f3.5 and ISO between about 2000 and 8000. I had the camera set to Av, and I was only managing around 1/4 second shutter speed (hence there’s movement in the people). It’s really dark so you’ll need to let in as much light as you can to the camera (the smallest f number you can get and crank up the ISO). If it’s a sunny day or there’s less water coming into the cave, you may be able to decrease your ISO or get more depth of field than I could. Just experiment and have fun!
      Enjoy your visit this weekend – I’m sure you’ll love it!

      1. Rob sharp

        Thank-you for the info. I did the winch yesterday and loved it. Definitely going to do it next year. Your info was invaluable to me so again thank-you. My pictures were ok – no where near as good as yours but I was quite chuffed with the outcome. Next time I will take my larger tripod and not my small one.
        Can’t wait for next year 😁😁😁😄

      2. Rob sharp

        Thank-you for the info. I’ve already commented on how the winch went but I put in the incorrect email address so wouldn’t get notified if/when you replied – I did the winch yesterday and loved it. Definitely going to do it next year. Your info was invaluable to me so again thank-you. My pictures were ok – no where near as good as yours but I was quite chuffed with the outcome. Next time I will take my larger tripod and not my small one.
        Can’t wait for next year 😁😁😁

        1. Su Post author

          Glad you enjoyed it! It’s an amazing experience isn’t it? I’m sure your pictures are great – for me it’s all about having fun and learning as you go. I rarely come away without ideas of what to do better next time!

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