Gower's natural caves are particularly fragile environments that can and have been seriously damaged in the past century, from both recreation and other land uses. Physical damage to our caves destroys vital wildlife habitats and steals away rare clues of our ancient history. The effects are very serious and are usually irreversible. These include:
- Disturbance of cave soils.
- Damage to cave formations.
- Disturbance of wildlife, such as bats and badgers.
- Removal of artefacts, bones etc.
- Vandalism of grilles and doors.
It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) to wilfully disturb bats or badgers, both of which may inhabit some caves. Destroying birds, nests or eggs, or damaging limestone pavements can also lead to criminal proceedings. It is illegal to knowingly disturb, injure or kill bats. It is also illegal to seal the access to any cave or disused mine known to house bats. Gates or mine shaft covers fitted to the entrance of such sites must contain gaps large enough to allow the passage of bats.
Only accessible at low tide, this cave can be found in the cliffs east of Burry Holmes. The narrow entrance leads to a roomy chamber. During excavations in 1924 and 1931, the skeletal remains of over 40 humans were found in the main chamber alongside the fragments of at least 11 Bronze Age burial urns. Other finds included Iron Age pottery, Romano-British coins and a brooch and brass ring dated from the Dark Ages.
The twin entrances of this small cave were discovered during quarrying work in 1839. Later in 1849 and 1933 the remains of Ice-Age animals, fragments of worked animal bone, pottery and human bones were found leading to the suggestion that the cave was first occupied by Palaeolithic man and later for domestic and funerary use during Roman Times.
Before this cave was quarried away, Colonel Wood excavated the fissure in the limestone rocks of Nottle Tor in 1869. Here he found evidence of upper Palaeolithic occupation, including some worked flints alongside other unworked flints, now on display at Swansea Museum.
This cave delves 12 metres into the cliff rock above Fall Bay and is fronted by 3 entrances, one of which is sealed with natural deposits. The main entrance is 2 metres high by 1 metre wide, but it is believed that when fully excavated, this opening will double its current size. An excavation of the cave in 1986 revealed the remains of hyena, reindeer, mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. Today, the cave is often used as a shelter by climbers.
Above the raised beach platform and the small, but noisy, blow hole located in it, are three unconnected caves. The eastern cave is blocked by cobbles deposited by the sea. The central cave measures over 3 metres high, 2 metres wide and is 5 metres deep from which Dr D Maling unearthed the bones of a bear, during an excavation in 1962. The western cave has a much smaller entrance and is again blocked by sea tossed rubble.
This disused quarry has three caves entrances of negotiable size. A report has stated that human bones were found here within the last century. It was excavated by Cwmbran Caving Club in 1985 during an attempted extension, but this has since been filled with domestic rubbish. The largest cave is partly blocked by a large boulder and is known to hibernate bats during the winter months - metal grills are placed over the three entrances over winter to protect the bats.
Sheltered within a sycamore wood, the caves, nonetheless, are frequented by locals youths giving rise to a certain amount of domestic debris and glass. The main shelter has produced some archaeological evidence during excavation, including a hacked bone fragment from an animal such as an ox and patches of stalagmite.
Called Mansel's Shelter by Mr J. G. Rutter during an excavation with Mr E. E. Rutter, there is no record of archaeological interest found. The floor of this small cave is bare rock, but is thought to have been covered in loose rock fragments fallen from the roof at one time. These fragments are likely to have been cleared during past archaeological investigations.
This shelter was used frequently by sheep until human bones were found during an 1985 excavation. The site is believed to hold more archaeological finds, such as the flint implement, charcoal, and shells found within, and has been protected from sheep damage by placing large boulders upon the floor.
Only accessible at low tide, the chamber contains a red-coloured western wall from hard sandy deposits. The cave contains no evidence of animals but may have been used at one time in search for lead and was blasted to remove calcite.
This cave is heavily blocked by large boulders, some of which were removed by the Cwmbran Caving Club in 1985 and 1989. Although access to the cave is restricted, a strong spring of fresh water is released from between the boulders. The source of the spring has not been found and it tends to stop flowing in very dry weather.
West of The Knave, this cave has an impressive 15 metre high entrance, but only penetrates the rock after a climb of 10 metres. The chamber is used as a pigeon loft.
Bronze Age pottery was uncovered from the clay earth floor of this cave in 1982. There is evidence of badgers using the shelter as a set and some unauthorised digging since the 1982 excavation.
A cave with two entrances, found to have archaeological artifacts in a 1974 excavation. A large quantity of animal bones were found but most were unfortunately thrown away in error by the Glamorgan/Gwent Archaeological Trust. Initials of previous explorers are scratched on the wall of the largest chamber along with an inscription in memory of E. C. Cunnington who was killed in the First World War.
Also known as Deborah's Spring, this caves issues forth an exsurgence of fresh water. It is not known where the source of this water is, despite searches of up to a mile inland. The cave is dangerous to explore and has been blocked by a large boulder.
A small bone cave, found below and to the east of the Knave. The narrow entrance leads to a small chamber in which animal remains from the Pleistocene epoch and a possibly Upper Palaeolithic flint blade were discovered by Colonel Wood in 1861. The cave can be accessed by the larger middle entrance or the smaller east entrance, but the entrance on the west is no more than a crack. Some dates have been carved on the wall of the cramped chamber, the earliest believed to be an authentic 1734 inscription. Greater Horseshoe Bats have hibernated in the warmer second chamber on occasion, so winter exploration is forbidden.
There is some evidence that this cave had been excavated in an undocumented event some time prior to 1943. There is a mound of earth near the entrance of the cave, containing fragments of animal bones and pottery, which is thought to be the excavator's debris. Whatever was found during this excavation may have been mistakenly reported as found in the nearby Deborah's Hole.
Llethryd Swallet contains an active streamway and is hydrologically connected to the nearby Tooth Cave. However, no one, i.e. cave divers, has made the connecting dive from one to the other. The Llethryd caves (including Tooth Cave) are on private land at Llethryd Barns.
Tooth Cave is the longest cave in Gower and is listed as an Ancient Monument. It was occupied during the Bronze Age when it was also used as the burial place for at least eight people (six adults and two children). Tooth Cave is dangerous on account of the flooded sections within the cave and because of its tightness. For safety reasons, the cave entrance is protected by a locked gate. Cavers are welcome to visit the caves at Llethryd, but must adhere to guidelines set out by the South Wales Caving Club who oversee the cave system.
Easily found by following the private road/footpath that leads from The Gower Heritage Centre in Parkmill, through Parkwood, Cat Hole cave is also the easiest of Gower's caves to reach by foot. The entrance to the cave can be accessed by following a stony dirt track that rises steeply from the main footpath (150 metres past the nearby Giants' Grave). This cave was first used as a transit hunting camp during the Ice Age and was later used as a burial site during the Bronze Age. An excavation during 1958 revealed scattered human remains, a bronze axe and shards of burial urns.
Ravenscliff is a large cave, located in the rock at Pennard Cliffs some 12 metres above sea level. Its entrance, measuring 5 metres wide by 5 metres high, and unfortunately graffiti-ridden with gloss paint, narrows inside to 1.5 metres wide by 0.5 metres high and continues some 7 metres into the cliff rock. Excavated around 1860 by Colonel Wood, his finds here included the bones of a hippopotamus, straight-tusked elephant, slender-nosed rhinoceros, horse, bison, hyena, cave lion and cave bear.
Resurgence Cave is located between the high and low water marks on the rock, the cave is only accessible at very low tides. Flowing from the cave is the Westcliff Spring, which is unfortunately polluted and exudes a rather offensive odour here. Entering the cave, a passage can be followed for 10 metres at which point the spring can be seen to well up from a narrow fissure in the rock. Past this point the passage continues to a narrow shaft which rises to a slender opening higher on the cliff face.
Spurge Hole in Southgate was excavated by J.G. Rutter & M. Davies during 1985-86 and found it to be the burial place of at least two adults of Neolithic date.
Named after the man who excavated the site in 1919, Forester's Cave measures 12 metres high by 10 metres wide by 8 metres deep, and is washed at high tide by storm waves. The only find of any archeological significance was a bone of a woolly rhinoceros. This now lies in public view at Swansea Museum.
Devil's Hole, which is also known by the name of Bowen's Parlour, is a decent sized cave which is divided into two by a horizontal partition of rock some 0.5 metres thick. Its entrance is over 6 metres high, but only the lower portion, some 3.5 metres high, is accessible from the exterior of the cave. The partition extends well into the cave before finally being undermined by sea-erosion. From here, the upper portion of the cave can be explored. The floor of the cave is covered in stalagmite which extends to the full 12 metre depth of cave.
Ogof-y-Cregyn Cave was only discovered in September 1986 and is located at the foot of the cliff 6 metres below High Pennard Promontory Fort. With a rectangular cave entrance measuring 2.3 metres by 1.1 metres high, it penetrates the cliff face to a depth of three metres. The remains of sheep, goats and humans have already been uncovered here despite the fact that the cave has yet to receive a thorough excavation.
The area of Bishopston Valley contains a few caves, with 'Guzzle Hole' being the easiest to reach. The sound of water rushing underground from the partly subterranean stream can make some rather unusual sounds, hence the name 'Guzzle'.
- Foxhole Cave- SS 4383 8601
- Spring Squill Hole- SS 4393 8578
- Blackhole Gut Hole- SS 4415 8558
- Upper Blackhole- SS 4422 8557
- Rockrose Hole- SS 4488 8519
- Stonecrop Holes- SS 4493 8514
- Longhole- SS 4513 8505
- Wilbower Cave- SS 4558 8492
- Ramsons Hole- SS 5039 8508
- Double Arch Cave- SS 5452 8728
- Crow Hole - SS 5577 8681
- Pwlldu Bay Cave- SS 5739 8700