Tom Taylor's Cave

Useful Information

Location: Near Pateley Bridge, Nidderdale.
From Pateley Bridge drive north to Lofthouse, after the town turn left to the gorge.
(54.157520, -1.858437)
Open: All year daily 9-17.
Fee: Adults GBP 7, Children (5-16) GBP 5, Children (0-4) free, Concessions GBP 6.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: none, bring electric torch.
Dimension: L=150 m.
Guided tours: D=20 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Tony Waltham (1984): Caves, crags and gorges, A guide to the limestone country of England & Wales.
335 pp. Constable, London.
How Stean Gorge, pp 158-161, map, photo.
Address: How Stean Gorge, Lofthouse, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire HG3 5SF, Tel: +44-1423-755666. Proprietors: H. & P.A. Stevenson E-mail: contact
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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How Stean Beck is a major tributary to the River Nidd. The gorge is reached by a very narrow lane connecting Lofthouse and Stean. Where the river is crossed by the first bridge it is a rocky ravine only a few meters deep. It therefore comes as a surprise, when crossing the next bridge, just above the cafe, the gorge is now 15 m deep. Upstream, a cliff top path leads to How Stean Tunnel. Not recommend as there is a pool part way along the passage, which is deeper than the average rubber boot. Down stream the path follows a series of slippery ledges until Tom Taylor's cave is reached. The cave starts as a tall, narrow canyon, and wooden steps lead down into the tiny stream cave. Upstream the cave widens and rises slightly. Following a roof joint it heads, almost in a straight line for the upper entrance which is called Cat Hole. There are other caves nearby, eg Elgin Hole etc but they are low and muddy and best avoided.

Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.

Tom Taylor's Cave was named after the notorious local highwayman Tom Taylor. According to legend he used to hide in the cave with his ill-gotten gains. Obviously a poor idea, as the cave is flooded after heavy rains, and the valuables are gone.

The cave is located at the How Stean Beck, downstream from the bridge across the gorge. The cave passage is a classic example of a keyhole shaped vadose stream passage. This means the passage was formed by flowing water, starting at the ceiling and then continually deepening the passage. At first there is a waterfilled passage, which is typically almost circular. When the water starts to flow like a river, it starts to erode its bed. Fast flowing water creates a fast and narrow cut, slowly flowing water creates a wider passage which lowers much slower. The result are passages with an almost circular hole at the top and a vertical cut below, which often becomes wider. As a result a keyhole shaped profile is actually quite common.

After entering the cave in the gorge, take the right hand passage, which goes upwards. The cave is a through cave and you will reach the exit after about 100 m. The exit is located in the middle of the camp site at the far end of the car park. It is also possible to enter the cave from this side, but its better to use the common direction. The cave is quite narrow and its diffivult if there is traffic in both directions.

The gorge and the cave are on private ground and there is an entrance fee. Drive to the huge parking lot and go to the visitor center and cafe first. There are trails along the gorge and if you have basic caving equipment you can vist both on your own. The operators also offer a wide spectrum of caving and canyoning trips, and there is a via ferrata. For the cave we recommend sturdy boot or rubber boots, old clothes, helmet and headlamp, an additional lamp, and gloves. Afterwards you will need a plastic bag for the dirty clothes, a towel and clothes to change.