WARNING: Caves & mines are extremely dangerous places. If you want to try caving, get in touch with your local club.

Hell Gill: Canyoning in the UK


Okay, it’s nothing compared to the crazy canyons you can find abroad, but Hell Gill is a pretty good canyonlike experience, right here in our fine Yorkshire Dales in Northern England.

The trip starts rather peacefully at the top end of the canyon where Hell Gill begins cutting down into its bed as it reaches the limestone. The stream is easily gained, and with a bit of attention paid to slippy rocks throughout, you make your way into the mouth of the canyon.

A climb down a waterfall leads you deep into the confines and the canyon proper starts. A winding course beneath 10 metre deep walls takes you on a satisfying descent through pools and down rapids. A couple of short wider sections allow the sun to pour in and providing welcome heat. You did choose a scorching sunny day for this trip, right?

A slip is usually inevitable at some point on this trip with the amount of moss-covered rock, which is why it’s important to wear safety gear and most definitely, a helmet.

About a third of the way down, you’ll spot a few caves in the canyon walls. They’re worth a short nosey around for a few minutes but they don’t go more than a few metres.

Shortly afterwards, you come to (arguably) the most fun part – a good dunking. The stream cuts down and options run out as it plunges a couple of metres into a deep pool. It’s not daunting, but depending on the water temperature your brief underwater excursion might take your breath a little.

Or if it’s a real scorcher of a summer’s day, a few minutes floating in this raised pothole pool brings welcome relief. Be aware that taking the plunge here is difficult to reverse, so if you’re unsure about water levels/fitness etc. at any point here, don’t descend as it’s your last chance to turn back!

Scramble out over the lip and down into a low and mysterious section – a long pool of calm water below rock bridges, adorned with dense fossils and very atmospheric.

You’ll shortly pass beneath the bridge high above. The walls are pretty high here, and there’s nothing too difficult at stream level so you can enjoy the scenery a little more, passing into the lower reaches and regaining sunlight.

A scramble out over a wall on the right is your exit. You can enjoy the small pools and waterfalls below the anus of the canyon now you’re back in sunlight, or head straight back down the track towards civilisation and your car heater.


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