Snib's Cave

Bennane Cave - Snebb's Cave


Useful Information

Location: North of Ballantrae.
2.9 km north of Ballantrae on A77, turn left 350 m to the end of the road, 5 minutes walk.
(55.133117, -4.995154)
Open: No restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologySea Cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=30 m, VR=6 m, A=25 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
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Address:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1573 first written mention of the cave.
1978 explored by the Glasgow Speleological Society.

Description

Snib's Cave is actually named Bennane Cave, because it is located at Bennane Lea, at the foot of Bennane Hill. In the oldest written reference from 1573 the whole area was granted by a crown charter to Hew Kennedie, eldest son and heir of Katherine Kennedie of Bennen. It was just mentioned as "cave", obviously it had no name. Later it was called Cave at Bennane or Bennane Cave. When it was first visited by speleologists in 1978, by members of the Glasgow Speleological Society, it was home to an eccentric hermit or troglodyte who was called Snib, so they named it Snib's Cave or Snebb's Cave. Since then the cave is known under this name.p

"A cavern more than 100ft long, 30ft high and 20ft wide, which has been strongly defended by a wall of crude masonry 5ft thick, parts of which remain at the mouth, attached to the rock both above and below. The entrance has been further protected by a breast work in front, which appears to have been flanked by smaller buildings. The cave is divided into two compartments by two stone walls and appears to have been inhabited in recent as well as ancient years. The outer wall has a door, window and fireplace, but the inner compartment is dungeon-like with only a door in the wall."
J. Paterson, 1847

Henry Ewing Torbet (*1912-✝1983) was born in Dundee and trained as an accountant. At 33, with a well paid job in a Dundee bank and engaged to be married, he severed all connections and took to the road. In the next ten years he was arrested several times for aggressive begging in Perth and Kirkcaldy and the assault on a shopkeeper. At this time England still had ration coupons, and the shopkeeper refused service when he did not have them, so he threw a bag of flour and two bars of soap at the shopkeeper. Later he lived in a derelict miner's cottage at Waterside in Ayrshire. Then he moved into the cave. He was self-sufficient by hunting rabbits, gathering leftover potatoes, foraging the beaches for fish and driftwood for his fire and to cook on it. He also did odd jobs for the locals and collected bottles. He never claimed state benefits. And it seems, he changed his mind about begging, he did not accept charity or donations. People left food or clothing on the dyke near the cave, and he collected them once the donor had left. In December 1983 a fierce gale made his cave uninhabitable, and he became sick. He was found in his cave suffering from pneumonia and hypothermia, was taken to hospital, where he died two days later.

The cave is a raised beach sea cave, so it was formed by the waves when it was still at sea level. After the last ice age when the glaciers on northern England and Scandinavia melted away, the land started to uplift, because it was now much lighter. Such raised sea caves are quite common all around Scotland. The cave was once located at A77 highway which ran between the coastal cliffs and the sea on a narrow coastal plain. However, the ground was not very stable and resulted in expensive repair works, so the road was rebuilt across the hill. The old road is not only abandoned but partly removed. From the end of the southern remains it's a five minutes walk to the cave.

The cave has a huge entrance portal which is closed by a massive wall, it has a door but no window. The wall ends below the cliff face, so there is today an opening. Its obvious that there was once a small roof or the wall was higher, to avoid rain and rocks from the cliff face falling into the building. Some traces of mortar on the rocks above the wall suggest that the cave was completely walled up. The wall once had a window which is now blocked, and there are remains of a fireplace. There is a second, parallel wal, which divides the cave into two parts. The front of the cave is very damp, the back are relatively dry, which led to the legend that it was the bedroom of the dwelling. That's obviously nonsense, the front part would also be dry if the wall was closed.

The cave is often mixed up with nearby Sawney Bean's Cave, in both historic and modern reports.