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For thousands of years, iron ore mining was the main industry in the Forest of Dean. At Clearwell Caves you discover the hidden world the miners created, as they dug through impressive natural caverns to remove iron ore and ochre pigment.
Open to all ages, our nine awesome show caverns are full of exciting things to discover. All you need is a pair of sensible shoes and a sense of wonder and we'll provide the rest.
The caverns are a chronicle of thousands of years of mining at Clearwell Caves and you can still meet the local Forest Freeminers here, men whose birthright entitles them to dig for iron ores and precious ochres still found here today.
As more mined caverns have been uncovered over the years we have discovered many artefacts that record the history of the mines and show that children as young as seven, known as 'billy boys', would use a 'billy' or hod to carry 60-70lbs of ore at a time. If you're feeling strong, you can test your strength down the mine and see just what 60-70lbs feels like.
Discover a pool of tranquillity deep underground and come face to face with the ancient creatures of the area as they are brought back to life upon the very walls of the caves they went on to form 350 million years ago. You might even discover a hidden skeleton!
The Silent Cave Dwellers
The caves are home to a variety of bats including greater horseshoe, natterers and long-eared bats. It is unlikely you'll spot one of our hidden inhabitants on your adventure, as they are most active on warm evenings after they've come out of hibernation. Luckily, the constant temperature and lack of disruption in Clearwell Caves provides an ideal sanctuary for the bats, which are currently on the decline in the UK.
Like our nocturnal residents, you can now experience how sound reverberates against the cavern walls. Play an instrument crafted from an old air receiver found in the cave; create a beat and fill the cavern with sound and activity, as it was in its mining past. Press the red button to hear a standing wave, creating loud and quiet areas as you walk around the cavern, creating a sound landscape, just like bats do!
Follow in the footsteps of Dr Who and Merlin
A space this unique naturally provides the kind of magic and wonder that works so well on film and video, which is why over the years we've played host to the filming of programmes such as His Dark Materials, Cursed, Britannia, Dr Who, Merlin, The Chronicles of Narnia, Da Vinci's Demons, Kidnapped, The Changes and many others.
Our gift shop sells unusual mementos and even ochre pigment from the mine. The cafe sells a wide range of delicious food and cakes, with excellent leaf teas and organic espresso based coffees.
If you feel even more adventurous, you can book to go deeper into the workings and explore parts of the Caves well beyond the public areas. See separate listing in Activities or our website for more details.
Free parking. Picnic and children's play area. See website for full details of activities and special events.
- Disabled toilets
- On-site light refreshments
- Baby changing facilities
- Facilities for educational visits
- Facilities for groups
- Guided tours for groups
- Free Parking
- Dogs not accepted (except guidedogs)
- Gift shop
- School Trips
- Accepts groups
- Coach parties accepted
- 5 Food Standards Hygiene
* Check our website for opening times.