Minchin Hole, Southgate

SS 5554 8687

Minchin Hole is, without question, the largest and most impressive of all the Gower bone caves, but is quite difficult to reach. This fact, however, has ensured that it has not been spoilt by graffiti or littered like many of the other more accessible caves on the peninsula.

It is located some 600 metres south-south-east of the old bus terminus at Southgate, where it can be found below a small limestone knoll. The route down the cliff requires some very careful scrambling and access to the cave should not really be attempted by anyone faint of heart.

Minchin Hole has been excavated on several occasions; Colonel Wood being the first to investigate the cave in the middle of the 19th Century. Later excavations took place in 1932 by T. N. George and then again between 1946 and 1957 by J. Mason and J. G. Rutter (former Curator of Swansea Museum). Their extensive finds, available to be viewed at Swansea Museum, include the remains of a straight-tusked elephant, bison, soft-nosed rhinoceros, cave bear, reindeer, wolf and hyena.

Inhabited during the Upper Palaeolithic period, the later excavations by J. Mason and J .G. Rutter proved that the cave was again inhabited during both the Romano-British occupation and again in the Dark Ages when the cave would have offered a secret hideout to anyone who made their home here. Finds of these periods include over 750 pieces of cooking pots, jars, beakers, dishes and bowls, spindle whorls, combs, finely worked bone spoons, bronze brooches and numerous coins.

Minchin Hole is still worthy of investigation, but cavers should proceed with caution as the cave is home to hibernating bats in winter months.

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