Sunday 13th February 2022
Cross street, Castleton, Hope Valley, S33 8WH
My partner and I planned a trip out for an early Valentine’s day. He mentioned he’d been to ‘Blue John mines’ as a kid and though it would be cool to revisit. On the day, we got the train from Manchester Piccadilly to Edale. We had been to Edale before, which is definitely a story for another time! On the train journey I tried to find a taxi that could take us to the cavern, because it was only a ten minute drive and it was pissing it down. No taxis would take us, so we decided to brave the weather. We stopped off at the Penny Pot Café for a cup of tea and some Wi-Fi access. There was no signal around Edale train station, but we did manage to use our phone data later in the journey. Once we had downloaded a map, we set off.
It took us about an hour to walk to Blue John Cavern. The weather wasn’t pleasant, but we maintained high spirits. For most of the journey there was a steady incline, and we had to take a few quick rest stops. Towards the end, we walked through a car park for Peak District hikers and ramblers. From that point, it was a sharp decline to our destination.
Blue John Cavern appeared to be a small house nestled in the mouth of a cave within a hill. The house turned out to be a gift shop, with an admissions desk, a small snack bar, and toilet facilities. We bought tickets, which were £15 for adults, and waited fifteen minutes for the next tour. Ten of us went down together, led by a very nice tour guide whose name I can’t remember, but he said he’d been working there since he was fourteen. And let me tell you, he definitely wasn’t fourteen anymore!
Before we descended into the cave, we were warned to watch our footing and use the handrail. There were hundreds of steps taking us down into the depths, and I clung on with an iron grip. We stopped several times on the way down, where the tour guide pointed out interesting features to us. It was fascinating, I took quite a few photos that didn’t turn out to be very impressive, but I managed to capture some sites that you don’t see every day.
Once reaching the end of the tour, we slowly made our way back up. Even though we could feel the climb in our calves, our guide gave us regular breaks so it wasn’t too strenuous. When we finally came back up for air, I bought a few crystals from the gift shop, and we had a speedy sandwich each before heading back. The return walk to the train station was somehow more pleasant, maybe due to the downhill stroll and the rain clearing up. We jumped straight on the train, but had to wait half an hour for it to set off. Feeling very damp and tired, we got an Uber from Piccadilly and were glad to peel our wet clothes off once we got in. While it wasn’t exactly the day we planned for, we enjoyed it nonetheless!
I had no signal to record a route on OS maps, but I estimate that our round trip ran roughly up to 12.8 km (8 miles), including the underground tour.
The caves have an interesting and diverse history, they are named after Blue John stone, which is a type of fluorspar only found in this area of the Peak District. The Romans were aware of the precious stone, but not this particular cavern, and ancient vases crafted from this material have been discovered. The name ‘Blue John’ is believed to derive from the French name ‘bleu jeune’, which means blue yellow. In the 18th century, French miners came to the cave to see what all the fuss was about. They noticed the blue and yellow colours in the dark stone, but after many years the French words were morphed in to the English ‘Blue John’. To add to the unusual past of this location, a man called Lord Mulgrave decided to host a dinner for the miners inside the cave. That particular spot on the tour is now marked as Lord Mulgrave’s dining room.
Links to any websites I’ve used are listed below.