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

Paviland Cave

Cave / Rock Shelter


Visited 26 April 2013

Back in the autumn last year, as we made our snail-like way around the Glamorgan coastline on the newly opened Wales Coast Path, we promised ourselves a Gower weekend in the Spring. This gave us something to aim for, an elusive Shangri-la to spur our efforts onward, possibly more in hope that expectation.

So I'm mightily excited that we've reached the Gower on time and the long-awaited trip has even tied in with some promising weather. We're staying in Scurlage, but come down the day before our first walk. I've managed to remember to bring the tide times with me, ostensibly on the off-chance of a visit to Worm's Head tomorrow, but I've realised that the tide will be at its lowest point about an hour after we arrive at our accommodation, itself less than an hour's walk from the coast path and the wonders of Paviland.

From Pilton Green, a footpath sign points to "Foxhole Slade". We scurry and hurry along the path that runs smooth and easy alongside hedges for about a mile, conscious of the limited, precious minutes ticking away. We meet the Coast Path, to the left heading to Longhole Cave and then Port Eynon (3.5 miles), to the right climbing up to the cliff forts on the headland above and onward to Rhossili (4 miles), but our route carries straight on down towards the azure sea, glimpsed tantalisingly between the V of steep cliffs.

There is no footpath, just a sheep track heading down over initially grassy then increasingly rocky slopes, alongside an old drystone wall. The cliff on our right looms intimidatingly steep, a sheer tower of rock, and I start to wonder how accessible the cave is actually going to be.

The path peters out and we find ourselves scrambling over sharply sculpted rock, millennia of wind and water have carved this foreshore into a serious obstacle. Progress is slow but the tide is at least out (thank you, tide timetable). I've read that you have to get down to "beach" level before climbing back up to the cave, so that's what we do. The foreshore is rock, slick and jagged, but not impossible to negotiate. Once down on the relative flat, we turn round and scan the cliff face above. From here, the entrance to the cave faces us rather obliquely, but that's definitely it! The pear-shaped opening of Goat's Hole is recognisable from photos I've seen, with a smaller cave entrance visible to the left.

G/F hadn't decided until now whether to stay on the shore and wait for me, or to come up to the cave. Once down, the scramble doesn't look too difficult, the rocks rise from the shore at a fairly gentle angle until the cave itself, where the cliff then shoots up vertically. She decides to come with me, good choice. I will say that although the scramble isn't all that difficult, it isn't all that easy either, the rocks are very pointy! Wear appropriate footwear and don't try this if the tide is on its way in, that's my advice.

Luckily we have no such worries, at least an hour or more before we would really have to start hurrying.

Scramble over, we reach the cliff face and the opening. It's apparent that this is actually a very big, open cave - no ducking and squeezing here. The thrill of stepping over the threshold is almost too much. It's just a cave, no piles of jewels, no genied lamp, but it's soooo exciting coming here. If you have even a passing interest in the past of these islands, this has to be one of the most overwhelming places you can come. I'm almost beside myself.

The cave floor has been dug out, so there is a bit of a pit on the left hand side, which I think must be where the Red "Lady" was laid to rest. The cave goes back somewhat further, a spacious place and certainly one that you could imagine being holed up in, as it were, for a while. There does not appear to be any entrance to goblin town from the back of the cave. There is however another "chamber", high above the main area. It looks possible to access, but I wouldn't even attempt it without rope and safety equipment (helicopter on standby, for example). G/F is strangely keen to have a go, despite her previously stated absolute aversion to potholing and confined spaces, but I dissuade her from making the attempt. There's more than enough excitement in the main area.

We stay for an hour or so, sitting and gazing out of the cave mouth across the Bristol Channel. The lapping of the waves, the sun playing on the water, creates such a feeling of calm, I could stay for days. One of the many joys of a visit here is to picture the sea replaced by a plain, stretching away for miles and miles, roamed by antelope and mammoth. Wow.

Eventually we reluctantly decide that tide will wait for no man or woman and we must start our return. Before departing, we scramble some way up the ridge at the side of the cave, just to enjoy the vantage point. We also visit the smaller cave to the west, which is rather less interesting and doesn't go far back at all.

The return to the shore seems easier than the scramble up. There is also an enormous, echoing sea cave to the east of Goat's Hole Cave, worth a look as the tide is still out. From there, the waters are obviously starting to creep up the beach and we make our exit. In our excitement at climbing up to the cliff fort above, I completely forget to look out for Foxhole Slade cave, which is in the cliff here somewhere.

Of all the prehistoric sites I have visited, Goat's Hole may be the most evocative, the most overpoweringly redolent of an impossibly long-vanished age, and people like us and yet not. Come if you possibly can. Truly a cave of wonders.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
8th May 2013ce
Edited 9th May 2013ce

Comments (12)

Great fieldnotes, hope that GF of yours is doing fine. You take her to all the good places :-) drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
10th May 2013ce
Thanks Drew, yes she's doing fine indeed, thanks for asking. :o) thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
10th May 2013ce
Have been looking to visit the cave for a few years. Having read your notes and seen your great photos I am definitely now looking to visit at some point this year - fingers crossed! Thanks for the info. Posted by CARL
10th May 2013ce
Totally cool and extremely exciting. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
10th May 2013ce
Awesome, makes me long to return to the Gower. Ravenfeather Posted by Ravenfeather
10th May 2013ce
Many thanks everyone. If anyone gets the chance, it's definitely worth the effort - just don't forget the tide times! thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
10th May 2013ce
Good show. Won't say I ever will, but then I didn't expect to like the Oldbury shelters and did. So one day, perhaps. Or not. Good to know its not as daunting at it appeared to me from above - great pioneering work you two. GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
14th May 2013ce
Thanks Robert, I can't recommend highly enough. If you even feel slightly like you want to, you really should go. The mini-scramble access from below will be no problem for you and the Mam C. Make sure you have plenty of time there, it's a great place to stop for a while. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
14th May 2013ce
Brilliant fieldnotes. Was reading about the Red 'lady' just the other night in Ronald Huttons Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles. Great stuff. Evergreen Dazed Posted by Evergreen Dazed
15th May 2013ce
Just read this A ... sounds absolutely wonderful. Made me realise what I have been missing by not visiting TMA in recent weeks. An inspiring write-up. tjj Posted by tjj
15th May 2013ce
As you can imagine, very very jealous.
Was it a morning visit ? what time was it ?
Just wondering for future reference, do tide times change over a year or from year to year ?
Very jealous, in an ideal world i'd have been ages ago, oh well, it's still on the list. One day.
postman Posted by postman
15th May 2013ce
Many thanks everyone, I'm glad you enjoyed the notes, although the cave deserves better, I don't have the words to do the feelings justice. I hope they maybe inspire a few more people to visit for themselves.

It was an afternoon visit (getting on for 2 o'clock when we got to the cave itself). I've posted a link to the tide times, which hopefully will help anyone visiting.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
15th May 2013ce
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