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Cathedral Quarry: Hidden cave in the Lake District

by Sam
Main cave at Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District

Situated in the Little Langdale Valley, Cathedral Quarry is a beautiful spot for a walk in the Lake District. With no parking available at the quarry itself, there are a few different walks to enjoy depending on where you park. Owned by the National Trust, Cathedral Quarry is a relatively quiet spot, earning its place on this list of hidden gems in the Lake District. Its main chamber, sometimes referred to as Cathedral Cave or Cathedral Cavern, is quite remarkable thanks to a window-like opening allowing light in which illuminates the cave. Find out everything you need to know before you visit with this guide to the Cathedral Quarry walk in the Lake District.

Cathedral Quarry Parking

There is no car park at Cathedral Quarry itself, but you can park reasonably nearby and walk the rest of the way. Where you park depends on how long of a walk you want, but thankfully there are a few different options depending on your preference.

We personally recommend parking at the nearby Blea Tarn car park, so that you can visit a beautiful tarn and Cathedral Quarry in one trip. The car park charges £5 for 2 hours, £6.50 for 4 hours or £7.50 for the day, but is free for National Trust members. It’s probably worth paying for at least 4 hours to allow for walking time and for stops to enjoy the stunning scenery.

If you want to keep walking to a minimum then you can make use of roadside parking on Side Gates road near Damson View, at postcode LA22 9NY. It’s a relatively small stretch of road where parking is possible, but there is enough space for a fair few cars so you should be able to find a spot to park.

Alternatively, free parking near Cathedral Quarry is also available in the Tilberthwaite car park, which is to the north of Coniston village. This car park is along a single track road, which leads to Tilberthwaite Farm, and can be found using these directions.

Due to its location, there is no postcode that leads you directly to Cathedral Quarry, with the nearest postcode being LA22 9NT. Instead, make sure to use the parking listed above and make your way to the area on foot.

Inside the main cave at Cahtedral Quarry in the Lake District

Cathedral Quarry Walks

Cathedral Quarry and Blea Tarn walk

After parking at the Blea Tarn car park, you will want to cross the road and go through the gate to the lake. Start walking along the footpath and almost immediately you’ll have wonderful views of mountains towering above the tarn.

Follow the footpath towards the wooded area for a few minutes, making sure to enjoy the beautiful scenery as you walk. As you head into the trees there is a gate on your left hand side, which is where you will turn off away from Blea Tarn to begin walking towards Cathedral Quarry.

For more information about the tarn, make sure to check out our guide to the beautiful Blea Tarn in the Lake District!

This trail starts by leading you alongside a small river, taking you through the valley towards the road. The path is uneven at times, but isn’t particularly strenuous and is slightly downhill for the majority of the way.

Once you reach the road you will want to turn left and walk by the roadside for around 10 minutes. Keep an eye on your right for the gated public footpath along Tilberthwaite Road, which you will reach shortly after passing Fell Foot Farm.

Walk along Tilberthwaite Road and continue along the path for a while. There are a couple of paths which turn off the road, but continue on the path you’re on in the direction of Low Hallgarth Farm. As you walk you will get some lovely views of Little Langdale Tarn on your left side.

Continue on past the farm and after a while you will come to a split in the road, with one path leading slightly to the right. Take the path to the right and then turn right again, at which point you’ve pretty much reached Cathedral Quarry.

A tunnel will lead you into the main chamber, which is known as Cathedral Cave or sometimes as Cathedral Cavern. It’s an impressive spot, largely thanks to the unique ‘window’ letting in light which illuminates the cave.

Tunnel leading to Cathedral Cave in the Lake District

If you walk to the far end of the cave there is a small tunnel which leads you to an opening outside, and from there you can climb up to a larger opening above the cave. You can then walk round to the cave’s ‘window’ and look into the cave from above.

There are a few other bits of Cathedral Quarry for you to walk around if you like, but it is the cave that is the main attraction. When you’re ready, the easiest way to get back to Blea Tarn is to follow the same route but in reverse.

Alternatively, you can follow a path that leads you round to the other side of Little Langdale Tarn, but if you do this the majority of your walk back will be via the road.

It’s a relatively easy walk in general, and takes around 2 hours round trip from the Blea Tarn car park to Cathedral Quarry if you’re going at a reasonable pace. We recommend allowing yourself a little longer though so that you can take time to enjoy the area’s beauty instead of rushing back to the car!

For more information

If you want to be sure you’re on the right route then we recommend downloading maps.me – an offline map app which has walking routes well marked. It’s best to download the ‘North West England – Lancaster’ map in advance of your visit so that you don’t have to rely on mobile data to download it once you’re there.

Circular Cathedral Quarry walk from Little Langdale

If you use the roadside parking on Side Gates Road in Little Langdale then the circular Cathedral Quarry walk should only take around one hour in total.

The first section of the walk is along the roadside in the direction of Little Langdale Tarn. After around 5 minutes you want to turn onto the road on your left, which is shortly after the Three Shires Inn.

Walk along this road for another 5 minutes and you should reach a public footpath on your right hand side. Take this path, and after 5-10 minutes you will come to Slaters Bridge.

Built over 300 years ago, this stone bridge is a lovely picturesque spot to visit on your way to Cathedral Quarry. The bridge will lead you across the River Brathay, and a short while later you will reach another footpath.

Turn to your left at this point and follow the footpath along for a few minutes until the path splits in two. Take the path leading slightly to the right, and turn right again shortly after.

At this point you’ve reached Cathedral Quarry and you will need to head down a tunnel to reach the main cave. If you want, you can continue through another tunnel and then climb up to look down into the cave from the ‘window’ above.

After you’ve finished up at the quarry head back to the path you were on but continue in the direction you were going previously. A few minutes later while you will come to a bridge on your left which leads you back over the River Brathay.

At this point continue along this path/road for around 10-15 minutes until you reach Side Gates Road. Once you reach the road turn right and continue back along to where you parked.

Main cave at Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District

Circular Cathedral Quarry walk from Tilberthwaite Car Park

Turn left from the Tilberthwaite car park and walk along the road until you reach Tilberthwaite Farm. There are two public footpaths to choose from at this point.

As it’s a circular walk you can take either path, but we’d suggest taking the path to the right. From there it’s a relatively straightforward route to follow just by sticking on the same path.

After a while you will have the choice to either turn right or left, and you need to take the path to the left. Continue along this path for a while and eventually you will need to take a left, at which point you’ve arrived to Cathedral Quarry, but from a different side to the walks above.

You will need to walk a bit further before you find the tunnel leading into the section known as Cathedral Cave. Once you’ve found this, head into the cave to enjoy one of the Lake District’s most unique spots.

When you’re done make your way downhill from the quarry, and once you join the path continue to your left in the direction of Low Hallgarth Farm. After a few minutes you should find a path to your left which will begin leading you back to where you parked.

When you join another path, turn left and continue onwards until you reach Tilberthwaite Farm, at which point you’re only a short distance from your car.

It’s definitely worth having maps.me if you’re planning on doing this circular walk to Cathedral Quarry and Cave. It makes the route a lot easier to follow, as it isn’t always the most clear at times.

Cathedral cave viewed from above

Tips for visiting

Abseiling – If you want a unique experience then try abseiling at Cathedral Quarry. Abseiling can be booked online, with prices starting from £69 per person. Click here to find out more!

Dog-Friendly – The Cathedral Quarry walk is suitable for dogs, but they should be kept on leads whilst at the quarry and cave. If you’re doing the walk from Blea Tarn then it’s a great dog walk, as it provides a few hours exercise as well as the chance for dogs to cool off in the tarn at the beginning and end of the walk.

Three Shires Inn – Located in Little Langdale, the Three Shires Inn is a great pub to visit for some food or drink – and it’s dog-friendly too!. It’s particularly convenient if you’re parking on Side Gates Road as you’ll have to pass the pub on your route anyway! Find out more on the Three Shires Inn website.

Maps.me – A great tip for the Cathedral Quarry walk, and any walk in the Lake District, is to download maps.me. Walking routes are well-marked on the app, and as the app doesn’t rely on mobile data then you can make sure you’re following the right path even when you don’t have signal!

Torch – It can get a little dark in the tunnels at Cathedral Quarry, so you may want a torch to see where you’re going. Most smart phones these days have a torch option, so you can easily just use that if you like!

Sturdy footwear – It’s worth having some good walking shoes for the Cathedral Quarry walk, as the path can be uneven at times. We both invested in some proper walking shoes a few years ago and they make a real difference, especially if you opt for waterproof ones! Click here to find some great deals on walking shoes on Amazon’s website!

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