Victoria's Secrets Dirty WeekendTravel back in time 600,000 years with DigVentures


There was a time when species such as elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus roamed the subtropical Yorkshire Dales, hunted by king predators such as lion, wolf, bear, lynx and hyena.

Victoria Cave, along with several smaller caves located nearby, contains an incredible record of these staggeringly rich ecosystems and now-extinct animal species, as well the arrival of modern humans in the north of England after the last glaciation. Stretching back nearly 600,000 years, Victoria Cave’s internationally-important archive is now being made available to the public through the DigVentures ‘Under the Uplands’ project.

As part of the ‘Victoria’s Secrets’ Dirty Weekend, you will venture back into geological time with cave archaeology experts and learn the secrets of these incredible sites, and have the chance to view, handle and learn about these incomparable objects that tell the story of millennia.

Tell me more!

Through successive periods of glaciation and warming, the distinctive cave systems of the Dales’ limestone uplands were formed, sealing evidence of a vanished landscape and its populations under laminated clays and impenetrable flowstone.

Victoria Cave, the jewel in the crown of this deep-time landscape, is an awe-inspiring destination. Nestled on a scar above the nearby town of Settle and providing stunning views of great views of Pen–y-ghent and Ingleborough – two of the three Yorkshire Peaks – Victoria has the longest record of human use of any cave in the Dales, with a collection of artefacts including bear skulls, baby elephant teeth, rhinoceros and hyena bones, Palaeolithic harpoon points, the largest Romano-British cave assemblage in the United Kingdom, and other votive objects indicating that the cave was an important destination for thousands of years.

In partnership with Tom Lord, the custodian, scholar and worldwide authority of the Victoria Cave archive, we are thrilled to offer this opportunity to explore Victoria and its neighboring caves – Jubilee, Wet, Attermire, and Horseshoe – as well as spend time with the internationally-important archive of artefacts and evidence gathered over the past 200 years.

Brown Bear Skull - 14,000 years old

What will we be doing?

The Victoria’s Secrets Dirty Weekend will begin with a Friday evening orientation, where you will meet the DV team and fellow participants. We’ll cover the itinerary and Health and Safety, as well as provide a Risk Assessment, and possibly have a pint or two!

Saturday will consist of the walking tour of the caves, led by Nigel Steel, DV’s Community Archaeologist, who is a member of the Yorkshire Subterranean Society and an experienced caver. Nige will provide tons of information about the caves, landscape, and the history of caving in the UK, as well as plenty of time for questions at each location. You will have the opportunity to experience the interior of caves in total darkness, and illuminated by candlelight as they would have been during ancient use, and during the excavations of the 1800’s.

Please note that we will be staying out on the walk for the duration of the day (including lunch), so please come prepared with a packed lunch and appropriate outdoor clothing.

Sunday is a very special opportunity to view a selection of objects from the Victoria Cave archive, including faunal material, Romano-British artefacts and other distinctive objects from Yorkshire’s deep past. This session will be led by Tom Lord, the custodian, scholar and world authority of this tremendous collection, which contains close to 3,000 objects.


The Details

Dates: 6 – 8th November 2015

Cost: £195 per person, which includes tuition in the principles of cave archaeology, guided caves tour, archives discussion and object handling, and a DigVentures tee shirt.

Total distance for walk: approximately five miles

Terrain/difficulty: Medium. Ground is uneven limestone uplands with some gradient. There is no wheelchair access, and participants will need to be reasonably fit and able to handle the walk. There is a short climb up to Victoria Cave on a well-established footpath, and further areas of exploration may require walking in varied terrain. There will be no technical climbing or caving.

*You must be 16 or older to participate. Minors are welcome if accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian who is also a registered participant for the weekend, and if the minor is of a suitable age to keep a reasonable walking pace with the group.

Note: UK weather in November can be changeable, and we will proceed as long as the conditions are not dangerous. If weather causes a cancellation, we will re-book the weekend, and your booking will also be valid for a future Dirty Weekend on any DigVentures site.

Meeting point: the Yorkshire Subterranean Society Schoolhouse, Austwick Road, Helwith Bridge, North Yorkshire, BD24 0EH


Ingleborough in the distance


Friday 6th November: 8:00pm arrival at the Helwith Bridge Inn, which is immediately adjacent to the Yorkshire Subterranean Society Schoolhouse. Please note there will be a mandatory Health and Safety talk, as well as a Risk Assessment. If you cannot make this meeting, please let us know as soon as possible.


09:30     Meet at Lower Winskill Farm. This is accessible by taxi from Settle, and there are parking spaces available at the farm with other spaces at the top of the road, and the base of the Victoria Cave pathway. Please ensure that you make parking arrangements with us in advance.

09:45     Orientation to the internationally-important Victoria Cave archive with Tom Lord, independent scholar and custodian of the collection.

10:15     Walk begins! Proceed on foot from Lower Winskill Farm.

13:00     Lunch (don’t forget to bring a packed lunch and beverages)

13:45     Further exploration of Jubilee, Wet and Attermire caves

17:00     End of day! You’ve got time to get refreshed and have a bite of delicious food (we recommend the Helwith Bridge pub right next to the YSS Schoolhouse) prior to joining us for the optional evening DVIP lecture about the Under the Uplands project.

20:00     DVIP lecture about the Under the Uplands project at the YSS Schoolhouse


10:00     Meet at the YSS Schoolhouse

10:30     Discussion of the history of excavations at Victoria Cave, with Tom Lord

12:00     Tea break

13:00     Lunch (please remember to bring a packed lunch and beverages)

13:45     Discussion of archive, artefact handling session and Q&A

15:30     End of Day

Victoria Cave entrance


Accommodation and Travel

*Please note, accommodation is not included in the Victoria’s Secrets Dirty Weekend cost.

But never fear! Yorkshire is full of beautiful, convenient and affordable places to stay. Here’s a quick list of nearby accommodation, and a quick search on Air BnB also turned up some charming places. Bunk barns are often the most reasonably priced, and there’s a great list available here.  Easy peasy!

How to get to Settle

By car: From the A65 turn onto the B6480 at Lawkland or Cleatop and follow to the centre of Settle.

By train: Settle station, services operated by Northern Rail.

Bus No. 580 from Skipton and Giggleswick, operated by Pennine Motor Services or No. 581 from Ingleton and Kirkby Lonsdale operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire.

Suggested map: OS Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western areas

What should I pack?

You will need warm clothing, suitable for walking – please remember to bring layers, and extras of everything in case you need a change during the day.

  • A full set of waterproofs
  • A good, strong torch (essential)
  • Sturdy walking boots or wellies, plus a change of footwear
  • Backpack: to bring a change of clothes to site
  • A warm hat and gloves
  • A plastic carrier bag to put your muddy boots in when we go to the pub and Schoolhouse
  • Anything else you might need for a two-day active weekend in changeable weather
  • Please consider bringing a personal protective helmet such as a hard hat, bike, skateboard, or snowboarding helmet. We will have extras available for those who do not have one. This is not essential as the caves are well-visited recreationally, however you may wish to have one for your own personal comfortability in cave environments.
Settle station

Any questions? Send us an email on or call 0333 011 3990

Want to bring a friend, or plan a group outing? Ask about discounts through our Friends with Benefits programme!

  • Receive 20% off the price if a friend joins you
  • Sign up five friends and you come for free!
  • Special rates available for larger groups

Want to buy a Dirty Weekend as a present for someone? 

Drop us an email on and let us know – once we have processed your booking we can send you a PDF certificate to give.