It’s just a cave. Or is it?

Posted on January 18, 2012

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It wasn’t until I became one of Cavog’s best friends that I really found out about Kents Cavern.

If you’re not close friends with an actual ‘caveman’ but just a visitor, you’d probably be like I was: Kents Cavern’s a great place to visit in Torquay. A show cave. Not a crawly through type of cave, it’s pretty majestic; not a cold, damp or claustrophobic type of cave, it’s got high ‘ceilings’ and well planned pathways; not a quick in/out attraction – once you’ve been on the guided tour, there’s a woodland trail, a great shop and a delicious café.

But, once you’re in the caveman’s inner (stone) circle, you really start to learn about the caves.

It may have been ‘enticing explorers’ since 1571, but it’s actually been a ‘home’ to humans and animals for hundreds of thousands of years. It may be a show cave, but it’s also a protected national site and the most important prehistoric dwelling in Britain, known worldwide following the recent ‘jaw dropping’ find. It may welcome 85,000 visitors every year, but as they’ve even found 2,000 year old roman coins there, perhaps the Romans were the earliest paying visitors?

It’s also welcomed many famous visitors. Beatrix Potter who was ‘amused by’ the ‘proprietor’ (as the current owner pointed out in a tweet recentlyThat’s my great grandfather Beatrix Potter is talking about in 1893!’); Agatha Christie who refers to the Caves in her novel ‘The Man in the Brown Suit’, calling them Hempsly Cavern; Haile Selassie (Emperor of Ethiopia) who enjoyed his visit so much he gave his guide a gold sovereign; and, whilst Queen Victoria was taking a short break in Torquay, the young Prince of Wales (future King George V) had a quick visit to the caves.

It’s not just rocks, either. It’s been a family business for five generations, and it’s the gateway to the UNESCO* endorsed English Riviera Geopark. What a great way to start a 400 million year old geological story of South Devon and beyond.

I was always told to ‘look up’ in town centres, to spot the real architecture of the buildings rather than just the modern shop fronts. However, in Kents Cavern’s case, it really is a question of digging deeper.

So, yes, it’s a great place to visit, but it’s an even better place to discover.

*United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organisation

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