North Wales cave books

Archeological titles

The first references to caves of the area are archaeological. During the 1800s 'bone hunting' became very popular and many caves produced ancient human and animal remains. 'Cave Hunting' by William Boyd Dawkins was published in 1874. This describes his work throughout Britain and includes his work at the Llandegla caves of Rhos Ddigre and Perthi Chwareu, where he identified the first British instances of 'platycnemic' shin bones. The book even contains chapters describing the various types of caves; instruments used in cave hunting; 'three modes of cave digging' and 'stalagmitic floors to be broken up'. Original 1874 books can be obtained for prices between £120 and £200+ (the writer still has a spare first edition in good [almost very good] condition for £110). 1973 reprints can be bought for between £25 and £35.

Another archaeological work 'Pontnewydd Cave - The First Report' was published in 1984 by the National Museum of Wales. It's a detailed account of the excavations of 1978-1984 that established the human finds as being 230,000 years old. The book can be obtained second-hand for prices starting at about £60. This has now been superseded by a final report 'Neanderthals in Wales - Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves' published in 2012, also by the National Museum of Wales.

For a shorter, more readable precis of the areas archaeological caves, 'Ice Age Hunters' fits the bill well. Published in 1991, again by the National Museum of Wales, it provides the current state of our understanding of Welsh 'bone caves‘. It also gives brief, but sufficient, background information on the first Welshman and the animals he hunted.

In 1986 "A Survey of English & Welsh Palaeolithic Cave Sites" was commissioned by English Heritage and CADW. The survey is a fairly thorough assessment and makes clear that the state of archaeological caves in the area left much to be desired. The authors were very concerned about the poor state of archaeological caves. Although many firm recommendations were proposed, only a few were adopted. This worthwhile survey was sadly unpublished and just one copy now resides in Wales (with Cadw). An omission within the report is any mention of Gwaenysgor Cave, described in the 1920s by Wilfrid Jackson (Britains leading cave archaeologist at that time, who excavated at the cave) as being "used by Palaeolithic man".

‘Limestones and Caves of Wales’ was published in 1989 by the British Cave Research Association. This includes a chapter by Mel Davies entitled 'Cave archaeology in North Wales' which provides a very good overview of local archaeological caves. Copies of the book can still be obtained for around £20.

A monograph d escribing Lynx Cave near Eryrys, is John Blore’s The Enigmatic Lynx’ (ISBN: 0-9541835-0-9) published in 2002. John has been excavating Lynx Cave near Eryrys, ever since 1962. An extremely able self-taught cave archaeologist, John has produced several reports on the cave; his latest title being: 'Lynx Cave, Denbighshire; 50 Years of Excavation 1962 - 2012'.

In 2013 Rob Dinnis (British Museum) and Cris Ebbs published a paper on archaeological caves of North Wales, suggesting that the archaeological potential of many caves has never been assessed: 'Cave deposits of North Wales: Some comments on their archaeological importance and an inventory of sites of potential interest' . Cave & Karst Science. Vol 40, No 1, 2013. Transactions of the BCRA.

A good source of primary and secondary reports relating to archaeological caves can be found here: The site is run by Andrew Chamberlain, having a page dedicated to the caves of Wales where human remains have been found.

Caving titles

One of the first people to take an interest in the spelaeological potential of the area was Peter Wild (as mentioned above under North Wales Caving Clubs above) . In 1939 he published Some Caves in North Wales (Journal of the Rucksack Club, Vol 9, No.2, page 212). In 1940 W.C. Freeman published an article under the same title Some Caves in North East Wales (British Caver, Vol 5, page 22) which briefly described 10 caves. Others subsequently interested in local potential published further articles on north Wales caves, but most described no more than a dozen cave sites.

The first more formal cavers' guide to cover the area was Britain Underground published in 1953, which mentions about 20 caves in North Wales. Two years later came Caves in North Wales (1955) by D. Turner (Cave Research Group, Newsletter No.55). This was followed in 1960 by Caving in North Wales by Shepton Mallet Caving Club. In 1960 ‘Caves of Wales and the Marches’ by D. W. Jenkins and Ann Mason Williams was first published. Eight of its eighty pages were devoted to 'Mid and North Wales' in which 60 caves were briefly described. Four years later in 1967 the book was revised and published in a different format small enough to fit into a boiler-suit pocket, which it frequently did. The only addition was Ogof Dydd Byraf, discovered in 1964.

In 1961, Derbyshire Caving Club published their Bulletin No.1: A General Reference to the Caving Areas of North Wales . The 18 page guide describes about three dozen caves between Llanymynech in the south, and Llandudno. Also mentioned are several swallets and one or two other potential caves with grid references (although some may be questionable). Derbyshire Caving Club have supplied this website with a copy (as a PDF file) and have kindly given their consent to make it more widely available. To request a copy, simply use the e-mail address on the Homepage.

Shropshire Mining Club published their Yearbook 1962 , covering the clubs first year. This contains information on numerous short North Wales caves. It is available online:

A small book on N orth Wales Caves was privately published around 1962 by P. Howden of Prestatyn. This was only produced in very small numbers and copies are rare, although it is thought that it describes about 60 'caves', some of which are apparently, mines.

In 1977 bubonic plagiarist Tony Oldham edited the first of several editions of The Caves of North Wales, later to become the alleged Concise Caves of North Wales. It was a photocopied publication containing many errors, but in the absence of any competition it sold for a number of years.

‘Limestones and Caves of Wales’ was published in 1989 by the British Cave Research Association. This includes a chapter at the end of the book entitled The Caves of North Wales . It is not a guide book but it does describe the geology, underground drainage, cave systems and the influence of mining on water tables. Written by Peter Appleton, it is a good introduction to the caves and lead mines of North Wales. The book also contains a chapter by Mel Davies entitled 'Cave archaeology in north Wales ' which provides a very good overview. Copies of the book can still be obtained for around £20.

Another publication to include local caves is Underground Clwyd by Cris Ebbs, published in 2000. Its 74 pages contain 65 photos of mines and caves. It is not however a guide book, but merely a book of photos with additional text.

In June 2000 Cris Ebbs first published An Introduction to the Caves of north-east Wales (ISBN 0 9522242 1 6) in an effort to correct some of the errors in Oldham's book. It very briefly described about 200 caves.

Although unpublished, valuable sources of information are The Caving Diaries of Tony Jarratt . Fifteen volumes are available at: Tony carefully logged every caving trip he ever did between the years of 1964 and his death in 2008. The main diary describing his time in North Wales, whilst working as a surveyor for Ordnance Survey, is Volume 2. This provides plenty of 1970s digging information and many sketch surveys not found in any other source.

Please see page: 28. Bibliography for further reading on the caves of north Wales.