The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Smoo Cave

Cave / Rock Shelter


Smoo Cave. You know it's going to have something about it, just from the name :) Though it's supposedly one of those daft names like River Avon that means the same thing twice. Perhaps that makes it even better.

Although it should be a pretty remote spot, there were a good deal of tourists stopping here, some in massive buses having come all the way from Austria. But somehow, the site's just about escaped being over-domesticated. There are fences to stop you falling to your doom, and some nice interpretation boards next to the car park. But the balance seems alright.

Firstly, up on the land, there's Allt Smoo, a babbling stream that disappears suddenly into a hole in the ground in an alarming way (for fans of the mysterious karst feature, that's the origin of part of the caves). That's quite a strange thing to see. And then you can wander down many steps into the curiously long inlet from the sea (Geodha Smoo) and into the massive cave entrance itself to see the golden-brown peaty water emerging back out into the world. You can't help imagining what such a huge interior space would seem like to anyone from countless centuries who'd have never otherwise been in such a place. Today we've been to big halls, shopping centres and so on and rather take it for granted. But this would be something quite novel. Not that you yourself are likely to have been in such a big sea cave before, it's said to be the largest in Britain. So you'll be impressed, but possibly in a different way.

Once inside the cave you can pad around on the earth floor looking up at the strange shapes of the rocks above you, but then you can hear the sound of the water pouring in from the stream, and you are drawn to the narrow entrance into the next part of the cave. In this smaller chamber there's some natural light that spills down with the waterfall, and the noise from the water is very loud. It's rather impressive and elemental. Everywhere smells mossy and earthy and damp.

The waterfall chamber is completely flooded, and you're only there easily because of a little platform that's been built. It would be quite something else to have had to paddle or wade through to see it in the gloom. You might have felt a little reticent.

There are even further chambers, as Carl mentions. They're lit up with amber light in my photo. But I just can't imagine wanting to have ventured in there with a burning torch, ducking under the low rocks. I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to dark, enclosed, water-filled underground places. I don't think that's too unreasonable.

If the people who lived here in prehistoric times thought Strange Things about this unusual place, I wouldn't be surprised. They may have just thought it was cool. Which would be fair enough.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th August 2012ce
Edited 31st August 2012ce

Comments (5)

Is this a trip in your van? How exciting! Are we going to get more Rhiannon fieldnotes now? I hope so, great stuff.

Think I'm with you on water-filled underground places lit only with a smoky, fizzling and spluttering torch though. (Reminds me of the bit in Over Sea Under Stone where they go into the costal cave).
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
24th August 2012ce
Cool and cool.
Kind of reminds me of the waterfall cavern at Dan yr Ogof, don't know what those smell things are though, sounds nasty.

Yes, more please.
postman Posted by postman
24th August 2012ce
ooh yes the van, you've got a good memory. Susan Cooper definitely needs a reread. And that's a good mention of Dan yr Ogof, I went there as a child and although I have no recollection of what it looked like, I remember being pleasantly scared by the idea of Bone Caves and how people had been there in the dim and distant past.

Thanks for the encouragement. Many places beckon, Mr Rh is keen to be off to the outer hebrides (I don't think he knows how many stoney stopping opportunities there are though, poor man).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
25th August 2012ce
Great, keep 'em coming. Outer Hebrides, lucky you, we'll look forward to plenty from that trip then.

I also went to Dan yr Ogof on a school trip as a child, also can't remember it. I've been to the visitor centre recently, as it's near Cerrig Duon and Maen Mawr and Y Mynydd Du, there's fake stone circles and rows, a reconstructed chambered tomb and life-size plastic dinosaurs! I don't think any of those were there in the early 80s or whenever it was I went before. I really fancy revisiting the caves themselves at some point soon though.

Re: Susan Cooper, definitely, I re-read that series every couple of years, still my favourites.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
25th August 2012ce
You are right TSC - the 'extras' now at the caves are fairly recent - within the last 10 years or so?. They are god though - even the plastic dinosaurs!! Posted by CARL
28th August 2012ce
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