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Caves, Caverns, Mines, Tunnels, Bunkers

Impressive limestone features in a  cave

Explore some of the many underground features in the UK. Go behind the scenes in road tunnels, understand the thinking behind bunkers, see the conditions early cave dwellers endured, be guided through mines and let experienced miners tell you about the conditions that they toiled in.

Peak CavernBoat ride at Speedwell Cavern

The photographs above are from Peak Cavern and Speedwell Cavern in Derbyshire. Peak Cavern has a large entrance where occasional concert performances and daily rope making demonstrations take place. Speedwell Cavern is flooded and the water level maintained so that tours can take place by boat. If you wish to visit these cave systems, a good place to stay is the town of Castleton, that has 3 local cave systems with a castle sitting on the roof of one system.

Many caves and tunnels have been enhanced to make the experience more enjoyable. A good example of this is Wookey Hole in Somerset. A visit to the cave system includes a guided tour. The caves contain storage for the famous Cheddar cheese. Outside there is a Fairy garden, dinosaur trail, Circus museum, paper making demonstrations, a show, small hall of mirrors and a crazy golf course. The exhibit even has a hotel with a roof shaped like a witches hat. Great day out for kids.

The hotel with the witches hat style roof at Wookey HoleThe dinosaur trail at Wookey holePirates adventure golf at Wookey Hole
UK Cave systems Underground Bunkers Underground Boat rides
  • King Arthurs Labyrinth - Sail along an underground river, through the great waterfall, and into King Arthurs Labyrinth.
  • Canal Tunnel trip - Travel by boat through Islington tunnel on the Regent's Canal for approximately three quarters of a mile. When the tunnel first opened boats had to be pushed through by a process of "legging" where men lay on the boat and pushed against the walls with their legs.

Caves. Caverns, Tunnels, Mines and Bunkers have all been used in many different ways. Many of these offers tours that show how they were used and the conditions that existed at the time. Sometimes the cave or cavern may be large enough to hold concerts and performances. Some caves have been used in films and TV programmes such as Doctor Who. Some tunnels are functional and it is rare to gain access.

Mersey Tunnel Tours - Liverpool

Mersey Tunnel tour - The control room

Liverpool has two road tunnels under the river Mersey. The first tunnel to be created was the Birkenhead tunnel which was mainly constructed by hand. Originally, the plan was to have two levels in the tunnel. However, the bottom level was never used. The tunnel tour takes you below the main road to the tunnel below. The tour also shows you behind the scenes: how traffic is managed via the control room, the emergency evacuation centres, the huge fan directing clean air into the tunnel and the infrastructure surrounding it. The tour last for approximately two and half hours.

Liverpool has a labyrinth of tunnels in the Edge Hill area of the city. The tunnels have caused major problems for local builders as any plans or maps of the network (if there were any) have been lost.

The tunnels were funded by Joseph Williamson a local businesman and constructed over a period of 35 years using local unskilled labour. The reason for the construction is unknown and the most popular theory is that Joseph Williamson was providing employment for soldiers returning from the Napoleonic war. Some have suggested that the tunnels were training grounds for Builders, Miners or Railway engineers.

The public are restricted to a very small section of the tunnels for health and safety reasons. However, it is believed the tunnels stretch for miles. The tunnels are in 3 clusters and the search is on to find the linking tunnels. The tunnels are strange in nature and pass through the Red Sandstone bedrock of Liverpool. The tunnels have brick built arched ceilings and are stacked 3 high in places. Sometimes, one arch sits on top of another arch which in turn sits on another arch. It is highly likely that this is an example of engineers practicing their skills.

Work on the tunnel system was very secretive. On one occasion, while engineers were constructing the main rail link into Liverpool's Lime Street station they accidentally discovered the tunnel system. A cutting was made through the Sandstone and this cut straight across one of the main tunnels. Railway workers were alarmed to discover men underground 'in the rock' and thought that they had stumbled across Hell. Afterwards, many of the tunnel workers were offered jobs constructing the railway.

After the death of Williamson the tunnels became the property of the local council. The tunnels were filled with rubbish and waste from local factories. Local people excavated 'waste shoots' into the tunnels smashing through the roof of the arches. A number of the tunnels have collapsed as a result. A society has been formed with the aim of excavating the tunnels. Occasionally this society has special events and members are taken into the closed sections of tunnels.

The Williamson tunnels in Liverpool

The Mystery of the Williamson Tunnels - Liverpool

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