03. Caves C - Caves of North Wales
Cae Gronw Cave SJ015711 River Elwy Alt: 111.00m Archaeological (human)

Also known as Upper Pontnewydd Cave
Earliest finds: Cave bear 33,000BP

An archaeological shelter-type cave once entirely filled with deposits. Limited excavation work was carried out by the National Museum of Wales in 1985. They excavated an area of 3 square metres down to bedrock.
Finds include arctic lemming, bear and human remains of Neolithic age. The glacial fill which blocks the cave contains 'abundant' blocks of speleothem (similar in nature to unexcavated deposits filling nearby Coppy Cave No 3).
The oldest radiocarbon date from the cave relates to bone of cave bear, being about 33,000 years of age.
Source: Aldhouse-Green & Walker (2012) "Neanderthals in Wales: Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves".

"A totally undisturbed cave containing complex basal debris flow........ and a late glacial fauna including collared lemming and bear containing abundant blocks of derived stalagmite".
Source: Stephen Green in Collcutt S.N. (1986) The Palaeolithic of Britain and its Nearest Neighbours: Recent Trends. Pages 36-42.

Access: The cave lies within Cefn Estate belonging to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn and is therefore private property. Prior permission should be sought from the estate office at Cefn. Normally just a phone call in advance is required, then call in at the office on the day to sign a disclaimer.

The cave is described in 'Neanderthals in Wales', as being 21m higher than Pontnewydd Cave and 300m to the north. The writer of this website remembers reaching it by climbing up 12m to the right of Pontnewydd Cave entrance to a rough track. Follow the track to the left for 100-200m and the entrance is off to the right about 10m above the track.


SMR: 19412

Excavation: H.S. Green, 1985

Curation: National Museum of Wales (86.32H)

Burials: 1+

Finds: None

Date: Neolithic (1)

14C: 3955 bp (OxA-5731) on human bone

Source: http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/wales.htm

Aldhouse-Green, S. et al. (1996) Holocene humans at Pontnewydd and Cae Gronw caves. Antiquity 70: 444-447.
Stephen Green in Collcutt S.N. (1986) The Palaeolithic of Britain and its Nearest Neighbours: Recent Trends. Pages 36-42.

Further C14 dates:
Tooth OxA 6335: 39,068 BP (+/-1,500)
Bone OxA 5990: 23,615 BP (+/-460)


Cae Gwyn Cave Tremeirchion

See under entry for Ffynnon Bueno Cave.
(As both are only a few metres apart, and both are of archaeological importance).


Caerwys Caves 1 – 4 Centre of area: SJ12377320 Caerwys

Location of caves and St Michael's
W ell
Extract taken from the 25":1mile 1912 Ordnance Survey sheet

An interesting dry valley containing four caves, one filled cave and two blocked entrances of unknown potential (A & B below) .
The valley could repay close examination.
Only three caves have GPS locations due to the difficulty in obtaining accurate readings.

Access: Call at Barlows Caravan Park site office at SJ121736 for permission.

From the site office, drive south through the site for about 100m or so to a junction. Turn right here and follow this down to the bottom where there's a small car-park (at Fire Point 13). Park here then walk down into the woods following a rough track downhill for 200m to the dry valley where two paths converge.

Cave 1: SJ1238173185 +/-30ft

An east-facing entrance with a 9m crawl leading to a small low chamber with just enough room to turn around.
First entered in the 1970s by the group in the photo below, when only the entrance had to be dug to allow entry.

Cave 1 at the time of its discovery in 1975.

Cave 1 in 2013

Cave 1 Passage leading to small, low chamber

Cave 2: SJ1236973200 +/-28ft

A south-facing entrance chamber-cum-rock-shelter 6m wide by 1m high. A passage leads off but is blocked by clay deposits.

Although Cave No 3 opposite appears to have been partially excavated at some time in the past, Cave No 2 appears to remain untouched. It could therefore be an ideal candidate for an archaeological test excavation.

Cave 2

Cave 2 viewed looking into the blocked passage

Cave 3: SJ1238573201 +/-35ft

An entrance chamber 7m wide x 1m high x 7m+ long tapers down to a passage.

The passage was not explored in 2013, but appears to have been excavated.

Update: A trial excavation in the floor of the entrance chamber, was carried out by Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust in 2015 during which a human tooth was found in a layer containing ash charcoal. The tooth is 'an upper left canine with light to moderate wear. Root apex complete, therefore (the individual was) older than 12 - 13 years. Probably either an adolescent or an adult. Slight calculus deposits' . This charcoal proved to have a 'conventional radiocarbon age' of 4498 +/-29BP (SUERC-66490 [GU40396]).

Source: "CPAT Report No. 1380: Caves of North East Wales - Archaeological Evaluation 2015-16".

It is hoped that this small but important find will lead to further excavation work in the cave.

Cave 3

Cave 3 The excavated crawl at rear of entrance chamber

Cave 3

Cave 4
A small site of little interest 1m wide x 0.5m high x 1m long which becomes too tight.
Not worth naming as a cave, but it's position helps in identifying two interesting but small holes which lie 12 metres north of Cave 4. They merely require a little excavation to assess their potential.......

Cave 4

A fifth cave existed in 1975. This was a 4m deep vertical rift excavated by cavers in the late 1960s. It lay a few metres due south of Cave 3. It was filled in by the land-owners as it posed a risk to children staying at Barlows Caravan Park and is no longer identifiable.

St. Michael's Well
An interesting resurgence (described on Page 3: Springs, Sinks & Shakeholes) further down the valley, which is easier to approach from the south west following these directions:

Take the bridleway from Caerwys golf course to a corner at SJ12307251. Turn right by a stone post and follow a rough path through woodland just beyond the golf course fence. At Coed Farm, turn downhill through the trees to meet on obvious path below. Follow this down to river level. Walk upstream keeping to the river bank passing two mined chambers at SJ12237275 to the well beyond.

(Thanks to Dave Merchant for these directions)


Castell Cawr Caves 1 – 5 SH937765 Abergele

First documented erroneously as Castell Mawr Caves in 'Caves of Wales and the Marches' (1963).
Named Castell Cawr Caves after the hill in which the caves are found.

Five caves in a small, disused and overgrown limestone quarry.

Cave 1: A 15m crawl ends at a rift 5m high. The most northerly of the five, about 1m above quarry floor.

Cave 2: Small entrance chamber immediately lowers to a low crawl for 10m passing a blind rift to the left. The crawl opens out into a chamber 3m wide and up to 6m high. Gated by CCW to protect bat colony.

20m to the left of Cave 1, an awkward 6m climb up quarry face reveals the entrance.

The other three caves are 15m to the left of Cave 2, in a vertical line one above the other.
Caves 4 & 5 can only be entered with tackle from the top of the 20m cliff-face.

Cave 3: A 3m rift passage blocked with clay. The lowest of the three. A short climb above quarry floor.

Cave 4: A rock shelter 3m across. The middle of the three being 6m below Cave 5.

Cave 5: A 5m passage becomes blocked with clay. There are two entrances. The highest of the three.

The quarry lies a few metres north of a steep S-bend on the minor road to Tyddyn Uchaf Farm.

Cefn Cave Length 220m SJ0202970556 +/-10ft. River Elwy Archaeological (human)

Earliest finds Include: hominin, mammoth, hippo, cave bear, lion (Chesters Grosvenor Museum holds 121 items including bear, rhino, lion, mammoth, hippo, reindeer and hyena).

Designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1923, Ref. DE115.

The designated area encompasses Cefn Cave's three entrances and Old Cefn Cave, the large cave and natural arch close to river level below Cefn Cave (see alphabetical entry for 'Cefn Cave, Old' below).

Cefn Cave (shown in white), based on the survey below

Survey by Bryan Ellis, with I.M. & C.J. Isles April 1965
First published: Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal Series 4, Number 1, 1966

Three entrances give access to a series of roomy walking-sized passages. Two sets of stone steps have been created within the cave providing easier access to the higher entrances.

Much of the cave was cleared of in­fill in the search for bones from 1830 onwards . The deposits were so rich in bone that for a while, they were excavated and scattered on the fields below, simply as fertiliser!

Finds include, hominin, mammoth, hippo, cave bear, lion and also flint flakes, worked antler and pottery. The Na­tional Museum of Wales carried out small-scale work at the cave in 1982-84. The oldest floor deposits have been dated to nearly 230,000 years (see also Pontnewydd Cave nearby).

The lower speleothem floor was dated by the National Museum of Wales (during the Pontnewydd Cave project) as being 240,000 years of age.

Source: Stephen Green in Collcutt S.N. (1986) The Palaeolithic of Britain and its Nearest Neighbours: Recent Trends. Pages 36-42.

Chronology of excavation and notable visitors to either Cefn Cave or Old Cefn Cave:

1750 (approx.) a mysterious hermit lived in the cave when the passage only extended a distance into the hillside of 20 feet. The rest of the cave, now known to extend a further 500 feet, remained filled with deposits.

1801 Richard Fenton describes (in his diary of 1808), when he discovered animal remains "....... and, from their form, some that must have belonged to animals now unknown; and quantities of stag horns of a great age with marks of their having been hacked with an edged tool, and some half burned, with quantities of charcoal". Four stone tools found in the cave were also probably found by Fenton, being described by Edward Stanley in a letter of 1832.

1830 Edward Lloyd of Cefn. As landowner at that time, Lloyd began excavating at the cave and created a series of walks through the surrounding area. He also constructed sets of stone stairs within the cave connecting its (then) two entrances. Lloyd describes rhinoceros remains "in the mud for the taking".

1831 Charles Darwin visited the cave at the age of 22 as part of a geological tour accompanied by the most respected geologist Professor Adam Sedgwick. On their visit Sedgwick noticed rhinoceros remains. Later that same year, he embarked upon his famous passage aboard the Beagle.

1832-33 The Reverend Edward Stanley having heard of the cave deposits being used as fertiliser, searched the field below and found a number of bones lying on the surface. These were sent to Professor William Buckland at Oxford for identification.

1836 William Bowman visited and remarked on the various sedimentary beds within the cave.

1838 Joshua Trimmer: One of the earliest people interested in sequencing of sediments. "The caves thus began to play a part in the contemporary debates being waged at the Geological Society in London and in publications about theories of the origins of deposits on the Earth".

1863 the cave was visited by Sir Charles Lyell with Lady Lyell and W.S. Symonds.

1866 T.J. Moore of Liverpool Museum and others excavated. Their finds included "teeth and bones of cave bear". Sadly they were never fully described and were destroyed at the museum during an incendiary fire of 1941.

1869-70 Mr Williams Wynne excavated and found further remains, some of which were given to the Grosvenor Museum in Chester.

1870 marked the first of nine visits by Boyd Dawkins up to 1877. After a visit in 1874 he records finding crumbling bone "that rose in clouds of dust as it was disturbed". Much of his time during the visits was however not spent at the caves, but at a Neolithic tomb elsewhere on the estate.

1872 W. S. Symonds visited the cave.

1887 G.H. Morton visited to investigate the deposits. He was interested in the similarities between species found here and at the nearby Ffynnon Bueno and Cae Gwyn Caves at Tremeirchion, such as elephant and hippopotamus. His collection including five hyaena teeth from Cefn Cave are now in the World Museum, Liverpool.

1923 Cefn Cave was designated as Scheduled Ancient Monument.

1952 The popularity of the cave was such that guides were provided to lead visitors through the cave.

1982-84 Excavations carried out by Stephen Green and others for the National Museum of Wales.

Source for chronology: Neanderthals in Wales (2012)

For a detailed bibliography, see: http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/cefncaves.htm

Access: The gorge forms part of Cefn Estate belonging to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn and is therefore on private property. Prior permission should be sought from the estate office at Cefn. Normally just a phone call in advance is required, then call in at the office on the day to sign a disclaimer and ask for directions to the cave.

Closer to river level, below Cefn Cave is Old Cefn Cave, a high natural arch. An archaeological cave exists in one wall of this arch (see Old Cefn Cave below).


SMR: 19306, 102135, 102136

SAM: De 115

Excavation: J. Trimmer & E. Stanley, 1830-32; T.J. Moore et al., 1866; W.B. Dawkins, 1872; H.S. Green, 1982-84

Curation: Chester Museum; Liverpool Museum; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (66.88/4-7, 68.88, 83.108H, 92.224H)

Burials: 1+

Finds: Pottery, flint flakes, worked antler, animal bones

Date: ? Neolithic (3)

Human bone was carbon dated to 2835bp (OxA-6233) and 1445bp (OxA-6234).

Source: http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/wales.htm

Grosvenor Museum in Chester hold 363 bones from Cae Gwyn, Cefn and Plas Heaton Caves: http://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=11306

They have kindly granted consent to reproduce the following images from their collection.....

Hyaena mandible from Cefn Cave. Photo: Courtesy of Cheshire West Museums
(Grosvenor Museum Ref: 1992.224H/016)

Elephant tooth from Cefn Cave. Photo: Courtesy of Cheshire West Museums
(Grosvenor Museum Ref: 1992.224H/090)

Hippopotamus tooth from Cefn Cave. Photo: Courtesy of Cheshire West Museums
(Grosvenor Museum Ref: 1992.224H/105)

Bear tibia from Cefn Cave. Photo: Courtesy of Cheshire West Museums
(Grosvenor Museum Ref: 1992.224H/117)

Early home-made postcard of West Entrance

West Entrance in the 21st century

The small tube passage visible in the right-hand wall runs for a few feet to a right angle bend to

the right, after which it is festooned with spiders (Meta Menardi) and then closes down

West entrance

Steps leading up to south entrance

Graffiti of the early 1900s, about 3 metres up in the roof: Presumably written before the floor was lowered to its present level


Cefn Cave, Old Length: 30m SJ0202170460 +/-45ft River Elwy Archaeological (animal only?)

Designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument No. DE115 (which also includes Cefn Cave)

A 30m long passage forms a large natural arch (10m high x 2.5m wide), through which the old St.Asaph to Denbigh road once passed.

At floor level near the west entrance is a small descending passage which opens in the rock face below.

At the east entrance is a large rock shelter containing a blocked passage where the first archaeological finds were made.

This cave is perhaps the earliest recorded excavation producing ancient remains in Wales. Richard Fenton describes h is work of 1801 in his diary of 1808. During this 1801 visit he discovered remains of small animals "....... and, from their form, some that must have belonged to animals now unknown; and quantities of stag horns of a great age with marks of their having been hacked with an edged tool, and some half burned, with quantities of charcoal" (Source: Neanderthals in Wales 2012).

Reverend Edward Stanley subsequently excavated in 1833, when he referred to the site as 'Cefn Cave'. This later led to confusion after the discovery of archaeological remains in the more extensive cave above which also became known as Cefn Cave. To clarify this confusion, the National Museum of Wales decided that the lower cave (the natural arch) would be known as Old Cefn Cave, whilst the cave above would be Cefn Cave. Source: Neanderthals in Wales (2012).


Old Cefn Cave can be found 10 metres above river level some 20 or 30 metres below Cefn Cave. It lies within Cefn Estate belonging to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn and is therefore on private property. Prior permission should be sought from the estate office at Cefn. Normally just a phone call in advance is required, then call in at the office on the day to sign a disclaimer.

West entrance (looking to the east)

East entrance (looking to the west)

View from west entrance into main passage

Main passage

Unexcavated (?) passage below east entrance, filled with deposits

East entrance and large rock shelter

Large mound of debris removed from blocked passage (centre right) by badgers
Possibly the site of Victorian archaeological excavations

View of east entrance from rock shelter


Ceiriog Cave, Lower Length 155m SJ2654437472 +/-16ft Chirk

CLICK TO ENLARGE Click BACK button to return to this page
NB The survey is about 90 degrees out at the end, presumably an error from 1959: "The passage from the low pool heads about NNE in a straight line towards the river, by a small resurgence downstream of the main entrance (awkward to get to in Winter)". With thanks for this information from a visitor (Dec. 2018).

An early account describes the cave as follows:

“E.A.P. writing in the Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury for 1905 gives an interesting account of his exploration of a cave in the Ceiriog Valley. The cave, it was reputed, extended over 6 miles in the direction of Oswestry, but the furthest reached was little over 500 feet in all. The cave mouth is about 20ft. above the river in a cliff facing due north, in which the limestone is tilted at an angle of 45 degrees. After two or three bends, the roof as well as the floor rises and the passage opens into a chamber about 20ft. by 20ft., and turns south-east, and then a second chamber widens out, 50ft. long by 6ft. broad. Rising 10ft. the passage continues to the east-south-east; the walls converge, and then it opens out again and becomes loftier but narrower. Nearer the cave mouth, matches and candle grease and the marks of crawling were plentiful, local adventurers having got in nearly 100ft.. Pushing on, the explorer found himself in another horizontal tunnel, and presently emerged into an open passage 25 – 30ft. high, which led him out through a parallel passage, which, however, had to be cleared out of big stones. On a second visit the explorer and a friend penetrated to a small chamber with four exits, each of which they explored. Every branch led eventually to other points of divergence, and ultimately to small tunnels or pipes, through which the water flowed in rainy weather into the head of the cavern. There were numberless chinks and fissures, all very interesting as a concise example of the whole history of the formation of a cave, but the furthest point reached was, by measurement, only a little more than 500ft. from the entrance. There were only in places stalagmite curtains on the walls and small stalactites, and patches of white amorphous tufa. Curious filaments of cave weed, white and brown, without a vestige of leaves, abounded throughout the cavern. Not far above the cave mouth he came across the exit of the water, a beautiful spring, pouring down into the Ceiriog a few yards away. Source: “By-gones” Jan 3rd 1906".

The text was taken from “A General Reference to the Caving Areas of North Wales” 1961, Derbyshire Caving Club, Bulletin No.1.

From Chirk high street, take the B4500 alongside the River Ceiriog for 1.9 miles, then take the lane on the left (Castle Mill) for 250 metres to a junction. Park on the left here, and look for a rather vague track at a gap in the verge, at this junction (see photo).

Follow the steeply descending route in the Chirk direction for 200 paces to the cave entrance.

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Entrance viewed looking downstream

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Rift passage Photo: Dominic Gillespie

Entrance is 2015 Photo: Dominic Gillespie

Entrance in 1907 Photo: Netherworld of Mendip (1907) by Baker & Balch

GE image showing where the rough 'footpath' begins (on left of photo) at the road junction,

viewed looking towards the cave.


Ceiriog Cave, Upper Length 53m SJ250367 (approx.) Chirk

Cave is no longer open. Its description (with 1905 photo) has therefore been moved to Page 14: Lost & Non-caves


Coed-y-Trap Cave

The cave lies a few metres south (to the right) of Afon Meirchion Upper Cave, and is merely a 4m crawl which re-emerges at a second entrance just around the corner.
The cave was first named by cave archaeologist Rob Dinnis, who carried out test excavations near the entrance in 2012 (see CPAT report 1469, 2017).

Due to its close proximity, a plan and photos are included in the entry for Afon Meirchion Cave, Upper

Driving north out of Henllan village on the B5428, take the first 'C' road off on the left (signposted Bont Newydd). After about 40 metres park at a disused gate on your right. Walk a few metres further along the lane to the first gate on the left, where you enter the field. Walk west across the field to another gate and into a second field. Keeping the woods on your right, pass through the gate in the right-hand corner of the field, then immediately, pass through a footpath gate on your left into the woods. Following the dell downstream (west), walk for 125 paces, following a vague footpath which crosses the dry stream-bed obliquely, and follows the line of an old stone wall on your right. After crossing this dry stream-bed, continue for another 50 paces or so, then just before the steepest slope down onto the Afon Meirchion stream below, turn to your right and cross over the stone wall walking north, skirting below, but keeping close to, the limestone cliffs. Afon Meirchion Upper Cave lies about 70 paces north of the stone wall. Coed-y-Trap Cave is found nearby, by scrambling up just to the right of the entrance to Afon Meirchion Upper Cave, along the cliffs about 20m to the south.


Coppy Farm Caves 1 and 3 Henllan Road, Denbigh

Three small caves were nestled in low cliffs overlooking the Denbigh to Henllan road, but in the late 1970s Cave No.2 was lost as a result of the creation of a new farm access track.

Cave 1: SJ0427666788 +/-9ft Length: 8m

An 8m crawl to where the roof lowers almost to the clay floor. May benefit from a trial pit to assess its archaeological potential.

An earth bank now lies in front of the entrance, almost sealing it. May require the removal of a few boulders to gain entry.

At the north-western end of the limestone outcrop visible from the road.

Location of Cave 1

Entrance of Cave 1 obscured by a few loose boulders (Nov. 2013)

Passage just inside entrance of Cave 1 (Nov. 2013)

Cave 2: Now lost, entrance presumed blocked

For further details, see under: Lost & Non-caves page.

Cave 3: SJ0443366705 +/-20ft Length: 8m
Also called Denbigh Cave

A 3m x 5m entrance visible from the road almost totally plugged with glacial debris flow deposits. A crawl over the top of the deposits becomes too low after about 8 metres.

Excavations carried out at the nearby caves of Cae Gronw, Cefn and Pontnewydd revealed important archaeological remains mixed with debris-flow deposits (forced along the cave by glacial action) containing derived speleothem (stalactites/flowstone etc, moved from elsewhere in the cave). Uranium series dating of speleothems at Pontnewydd Cave provides a date of 313,000 years. Source: Neanderthals in Wales (2012). Coppy Cave 3 may be the only remaining unexcavated cave in north Wales with such a large entrance and known to contain similar debris flow deposits. At the entrance, substantial blocks of in situ and derived speleothem can clearly be seen. Despite the cave having the potential to be as important as the nearby Pontnewydd Cave, no archaeological assessment of the site has been carried out.

Tenant farmer Mr Tudor of Henllan, who has farmed the area all his life, stated (in October 2012) that the field in front of the cave entrance was once about 10 metres lower, until it was filled with waste material from a local housing development in the 1960s. Prior to this, a second similar entrance was clearly visible at the base of the now-filled depression. He describes the entrance as being at least as large as Coppy Farm Cave 3, and also almost plugged with deposits. This would suggest that before the 1960s, Coppy Cave 3 was elevated some 10m above ground level, and may possibly account for the fact that in 1974, the deposits plugging the entrance had been almost unaffected by animal excavation (see top photo below).

There is a possibility that Cave No. 3 and Plas Heaton Cave (1.6 miles to the north west) are two ends of the same large passage, although this is pure conjecture.

Permission: The cave lies within a private estate from whom prior permission should be obtained. Management of the estate is handled by a firm in Denbigh, who cannot be described as welcoming towards those requesting access.

Just outside Denbigh on the Henllan road. The outcrop and cave are visible from the road on the right (after leaving Denbigh), just after passing Coppy Farm.

Coppy Farm Cave No. 3 in 1974 when the deposits were almost unaffected by badgers

Archaeologically unexcavated debris flow deposits plugging the entrance in 2012

View showing the spoil bank thrown from the cave by badgers (2014)

En situ speleothem close to roof level at the cave entrance

View from entrance towards the Denbigh - Henllan road