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Paviland Cave

Cave / Rock Shelter

<b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Also known as:
  • Goat's Cave
  • Goat's Hole

Nearest Town:Burry Port (15km N)
OS Ref (GB):   SS437859 / Sheet: 159
Latitude:51° 32' 59.21" N
Longitude:   4° 15' 16.39" W

Added by Kammer

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The secrets of Paviland Cave

To learn more about the 34,000-year-old remains of the Red Lady, our writer spent the night in the cave where his, yes, his bones were discovered in 1823.

It was probably more interesting 34,000 years ago... continues...
moss Posted by moss
25th April 2011ce
Edited 25th April 2011ce

Ancient Skeleton Goes on Display

From an article published on the BBC News web site on 7th December 2007:
A 29,000-year-old skeleton is being displayed in Wales for the first time since it was discovered in a Gower cave in the 1820s... continues...
Kammer Posted by Kammer
7th December 2007ce
Edited 7th December 2007ce

New date for Paviland skeleton

Apparently, because of contaminants from preservatives used in the 19th century, previous tests have underestimated the age of the skeleton. It's now thought that he's 29,000 years old (4000 years older than before!)... continues...
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
31st October 2007ce
Edited 31st October 2007ce

Druid campaign for sacred sites

A retired engineer from Swansea is campaigning for ancient burial sites to be considered sacred ground.
sam Posted by sam
24th September 2006ce

Campaign to bring 'Red Lady' back to Wales

"The chairman of Swansea's tourism association is backing an campaign to secure the return to Wales of the Red Lady of Paviland. The remains have been on show for decades at the Oxford University Natural History Museum.

Earlier this year, Swansea councillor Ioan Richard began a campaign to have the Red Lady returned to Wales... continues...
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th January 2005ce
Edited 4th January 2005ce

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Photographs:<b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by postman <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by Kammer Maps / Plans / Diagrams:<b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by Rhiannon Artistic / Interpretive:<b>Paviland Cave</b>Posted by GLADMAN


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After seeing this place on TV a few years ago I checked to see if anyone had been there from on this website, they hadn't, there was only Kammers implement pictures, so I thought Id quite like to be the first to post some on site pictures. Gladmans first visit failed to get there, and I was just about to start seriously thinking about getting to this hard to get to cave when thesweetcheat got there first. Winning the cave race. Blown it, taking to long to get somewhere other than North Wales, then Gladman won his round two, but only just and then Carl went and said his piece. So, far from being the first to get somewhere awesome to share with folk, which I like, i'm fourth, it'll do.
2nd September.
I thought I'd be a clever boy and check out the tide timetable, low tide 3pm, cool.
As I've said elsewhere I've managed to pry my daughter loose from her bedroom and WiFi, she followed me now along the footpath, it was luckily quite warm and sunny, which is not how the day started. After crossing five fields we get to the coastal path, I note above and to the right of us is a cliff top promontory fort, ignored, we carry on following the wall down towards the sea, footing gets more uncertain under scree and wet grass, especially for those among us that think going to the corner shop is a noteworthy expedition.
I can hear the sea now and tensions are rising, but something is wrong with the sea, besides being cold and wet, it's not out. I tell Phil to sit here in the sun and wait for me while I go down to the shore and see what I can see. The rocks going down to the sea are a major hazard, sharp, hard and twisted full of holes, if you slip and crack your head here you may never get back up again. The sea has definitely cut me off from the prize, I get as close to a photo of it as possible, admit defeat for now, collect my progeny and whisk her away up to the second prize fort.
Later that day I ask at the campsite for tide times tomorrow, the young fellow me lad, gave me the time of 2pm. I now rewrite tomorrows plans around being back on that beach for 2pm.
3rd September.
In the morning we went to a very wet little zoo near Tenby, not only was Jason Bourne and Scarlett Johansson not there, but the animals seemed to have gone on holiday too.
We raced back to Gower, at 2.10pm I was on my way back across the five fields, sans daughter, it was raining and shes already walked ten times further than her monthly allowance. On my own I was much quicker, I had my fingers crossed for most of the walk. Back on the beach I can see sand, you need to see sand, no sand = no cave.
I daintily and carefully slip and slide down onto the beach, I cant mention "the beach" without thinking about war films.
Sand underfoot I turn to the sea and give it the V's with both hands, you wont see that on Saving private Brian, whilst hoping in turn that it wont jinx me into staying too long and having to embarrassingly wade back.
Onward and upwards, another short scramble up improbable rocks and i'm standing on the threshold of the most famous cave in Britain. I enter the cave shaking after all the climbing, sweating profusely, it's warm out but raining and i'm all proofed up. It's impossible to photograph the cave in this condition so I sit and have a smoke for five minutes. In the back of my mind is the retreating tide, it's been coming in all the time I've been here so I must be vigilant. At the forefront of my mind is the incredible span of time since the interment to now, all the changes to the landscape and to the mind of man, it's just staggering.
I don't even think about climbing up to the smaller cave/chimney, its wet and slippery and my big walking boots aren't made for rock climbing, and i'm on my own with no cell reception.
One odd thing, at the entrance to the cave is a quartz seam running down one wall across the floor and up the other side. I wondered how long people had a special attachment to quartz, what if it goes back this far in time, what if they chose this cave because of it, did it keep away bad spirits, did it ensure the dead a safe passage to where ever, did it purify those entering the cave , who knows, anyway, I thought it odd.
But it's time to go, probably, I stand once more on the beach, turning to the sea I appreciate and acknowledge a worthy opponent, by sticking out my tongue and blowing hard, with that I humbly accept fourth place and quit the beach.
postman Posted by postman
4th September 2016ce
Edited 4th September 2016ce

Visited 18.4.14

Being such an iconic site, Paviland Cave is a place I have been desperate to visit for a number of years. My ‘close but no cigar’ visit of last year had only made me even more determined to finally gain access to the cave.

The opportunity for a re-visit was both unexpected and very welcome.

It was a beautiful spring day but I had been earmarked for painting duties! Sophie was out for the day and before long Karen could see I had itchy-feet and was less than happy at the thought of being stuck inside on such a lovely day. Karen then asked if there was anywhere I fancied going for the afternoon? I checked the tide times and found that low tide on the Gower was approximately 3pm. Now was my chance.

Karen knew about my previous failed visit and also knew how much I wanted to visit the cave. By 12.30 we had all piled into the car (Owen came with us in Sophie’s absence) and we were soon on our way – I was so excited!

I was a bit concerned about the traffic we would hit on a sunny bank holiday and sure enough the first bottle-neck was at (the less than delightful) Port Talbot. Once through that we again ground to a halt in Swansea. Clearly we weren’t the only people intending to visit the Swansea area today. The shop car parks we passed were full to over flowing – haven’t people got better things to do on a beautiful bank holiday than go shopping? It seems not.

I kept checking my watch and remembered how I had misjudged the tide last time. But what can you do when stuck in a traffic jam? After what seemed like an age we got through Swansea and onto the quieter roads of the Gower itself. To be fair to Karen she drove a quickly as she could (within speed limits of course) and we eventually arrived at Pilton Green.

Myself and Owen jumped out of the car (Dafydd wanted to come with us but I didn’t think it would be safe for him - given the sharp rocks I knew we had to cross) so Karen and Dafydd drove on to the car park / café / shop in Rhossili.

We jogged through the fields and down towards the rocky gorge. With great relief I saw that the tide was still out – hurrah!

We slowly and carefully made our way across the sharp rocks down onto the flatter part of the beach. I looked back to realise that the last time I visited and sat on the rocks (and was tempted to try to wade out to the cave) the depth of water would have been way over my head – so I am glad I didn’t try it!
We walked around to the right and there it was, up in the cliff face – Paviland Cave!

From the beach the cave didn’t look as big as I was expecting and we wasted no time in clambering up the rocks to get to the cave entrance. Outside the cave the sun shone in a dark blue cloudless sky and it felt like summer. Inside the cave it was much cooler which was welcomed after our jog and clamber.

I went straight to the back of the cave to take in the famous view of the teardrop shaped cave entrance looking out onto the (for today anyway) clam blue sea. I looked all around the cave and was appalled to see that someone had scoured the words ‘Myke and Christie’ onto the cave wall – I hope they are very proud of themselves? :(

I then tried to climb up to the high 'upper chamber' on the right. I was in two minds about attempting this as the cave wall is vertical and I didn’t want to fall and injure myself in here! However, there were very tempting natural hand-holes so I went for it! I managed to get up to the edge of the cave but I couldn’t find a final place to hold to get up into it. I did however get high enough to see that the cave sloped upwards to the left and that there was light coming in from the end of the cave – another entrance perhaps?

I then spotted the sanded over section towards the front of the main cave, presumably where the skeleton was found? The sand covered a Hessian sheet which I assume is to protect an archaeological dig?

We sat and pondered and I was explaining to Owen the importance of this cave and why I wanted to visit it so much. I also explained how the view out of the cave would have been very different to what we saw today! He found this fascinating – as did I.

At this point another family arrived, two adults and a boy of about 11. We said ‘hello’ and I had a quick chat to the lady. It was clear that she was the main reason they were visiting today! Myself and Owen went outside to explore the many rock pools and sea anemones and to leave the family have their turn alone in the cave.

The tide began to turn and we all made our way back up the rocks to the safety of the gorge. It wasn’t long before flat part of the beach became submerged and the cave once again cut off. I felt both elated and relived to have completed my ‘pilgrimage’.

We walked back up to the road (about 1 mile) and I ‘phoned Karen to pick us up.
One problem – there was no signal in Rhossili.
Only one thing for it – a 4 mile walk along narrow country lanes, in the blazing sun, to Rhossili. To say that Owen was unimpressed would be putting it mildly!

It goes without saying that this is a ‘must see’ site for all those able to do so.

A few tips when planning your visit to Paviland:

1. Despite my initial reservations it appears to be ok to park alongside the farm track opposite the public footpath sign in Pilton Green. There were several cars parked there and as long as it isn’t too muddy you should be ok.

2. The walk from the road to the cave is easy, through a couple of fields / kissing gates. However, once you get to the gorge the rocks are very sharp and quite difficult to cross safely. It is only suitable for those who are mobile and fairly agile. The rocks from the beach to the cave present the same problems.

3. There is no ‘phone signal in the area around the cave and I would advise you take someone with you. I would dread to think of the consequences if you had a fall and injured yourself / knocked yourself out when the tide turned.

4. It is obviously vital you check the tide times and make sure you don’t get cut off.
Posted by CARL
22nd April 2014ce

Perhaps it is an inherent fear of death - a tragic irony when born into a monotheistic society nurturing an implacable rejection of life, of the here and now - that has resulted in me not being particularly fond of caves... with the notable exceptions of a rather, er, idiosyncratic gentleman named Nick.... and that overwhelming pitch black fissure within the Carreg Cennen. Guess I'd rather be afflicted by a dose of 'no pussy blues' (tell me about it) than entombed with a terminal case of the subterranean variety. Consequently I opted to heed the siren's call of the high places, a brutal environment offering no succour to the physical self, but arguably unlimited scope for that most human of traits, introspection. Like a moth unto the flame, a limited secular intellect, lacking the analgesic 'safety net' of religious faith, contemplating the most cosmic of questions with all the cutting insight of Rodney Trotter. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong? Suffice to say the project remains a work in progress.

So why come to Paviland, to the limestone cliffs of the Gower's shattered southern coastline... to the very aptly named 'Goat's Hole', if harbouring such a distinct reticence for entering holes in the earth to my doom? Well, the catalyst was as mundane as a ridiculously poor next day forecast for The Brecon Beacons upon returning from a sojourn upon Mynydd Epynt. What to do? Having recently re-read the hirsute Scottish dude's 'History of Ancient Britain' the insidious thought popped into the head. Oh dear. Not possessing the flowing locks and rugged, granite-hewn athleticism to contemplate abseiling, I conscientiously checked out TSC's tidal times link and... well what do you know? That's handy. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The specific archaeological allure of sites such as Paviland Cave is, to my mind, hard to define, if equally difficult to refute. Others may disagree. Perhaps an appropriate analogy might be visiting a now vanished stone circle, a completely ploughed-out long barrow, a henge only discernable as crop marks from the sky? Yeah, nothing now remains in situ within this deep gash perched overlooking the Bristol Channel. At least nothing tangible. But there is so much more to be experienced that must remain unique to each individual. So much more. Now I would assume most TMA'ers are well aware of what the Rev William Buckland excavated here in 1823.... the skeleton of, as far as I'm aware, the oldest anatomically-modern human to have lived and died upon this landscape we now call Wales - or Cymru, of course - that we know of. There were associated grave goods including a mammoth skull, ivory rods and periwinkle shells assumed to have formed necklaces. The most enigmatic detail, needless to say, was a coating of crimson ochre. Whatever the intended symbolism, to my mind there can be no doubt that the death .... and by definition the life... of this apparently young bloke some 33,000 years ago (at the last count) deeply affected those who knew him. OK, the gentleman resides here no more... at least in a corporeal sense. But the knowledge of the incredibly 'modern' emotional response seemingly evoked by his passing back then generates corresponding thoughts in this traveller, thoughts amplified manyfold - for whatever psychological reason - by physical association with place. In short the passing of this man matters to me, if only for the selfish opportunity proffered to 'gaze' with wide-eyed curiosity, albeit perhaps touched with a degree of morbid curiosity, through a window at my own species. Hey, myself. Arguably a treasure of much more intrinsic value than others reluctantly given up by the earth.

Needless to say I was oblivious to all the above as I struggle to park upon the verge of Pilton Green Farm access track, the sodden grass, courtesy of months of seemingly unrelenting rain, a far cry from last Easter. As previously I head - or rather slither - coastward upon a public footpath across the B4247. In about a mile I resist the temptation to break right for the superb cliff fort and instead descend to the rocky foreshore below, as of course it would be. The path ends abruptly at strata of jagged rock, thankfully arranged in a very roughly horizontal plane, so clambering down to the current(!!) sea level is not too intimidating (those in search of more perpendicularity need only glance up to left or right, the latter concealing the cave within, no less). I notice, by default, that the tide is most certainly out, so there is no impediment to undertaking what is actually a less strenuous scramble than I anticipated. As TSC relates, however, the rock is far from smooth rendering a fall potentially catastrophic. Fatal, even. I'm therefore glad I elected to wear 'soft' boots with plenty of grip. Then, suddenly, there it is.

The cave entrance could be said to resemble a pear.... or, if looking for potential symbolism, perhaps the most intimate area of a woman. Let's go with the latter. No doubt Mr Cope would have an appropriate phrase which I find I clearly lack. My mind, instead, reels. Give me a break... what could be so wondrous, so life-affirming, so natural, so welcoming? A surrogate womb, maybe? Aside from this observation, what strikes me most is the sheer height of the gash in the cliff face, water dripping from the towering roof onto my camera lens as I venture inside. Doh! I'm not used to being underground. Especially not when half way up a rocky crag. The next surprise is the length of the cavity, another, following in quick succession, the abundance of natural light, even under today's overcast conditions. The only sound is that of the breakers thundering upon rock outside, sending me periodically scuttling without to check the current position. Hey, what's the big deal? Looks fine. The cave possesses an additional 'chamber'- hey, a 'cavelet' - set high up to the right, near the entrance. I agree with TSC, however. There was no way I was going up there. You would need to be one of the proverbial goats of lore. Or Neil Olliver. I stand and look at the cavity within the outer left hand flank of the cave. One presumes this was where the 'Red Laddie' once lay? Again, just the crash of wave upon rock down below. I sit at the inner extremity of the cave and eat lunch, gazing out of the gash in the rock to water that was apparently once many miles distant, an unfathomably long time ago for people like us - well, at least physically - to have been around. I try to imagine what it would have been like. But I can't. It is enough to try, perhaps?

Another 'crash' of waves shakes me violently back to the 'present day'. I undertake yet one more tidal status check and decide the water is probably close enough to warrant leaving. Er, possibly...... As I prepare to do so I approach the left hand flank (looking seaward, that is) and duly freak out. Seems I've seriously underestimated the velocity of the incoming tide which is now surging between me and the near shore. I look for an alternative way out, climbing above and across the rock... but it looks suicidal. No matter, since this has happened to me before, as I recall, cut off by the tide asleep on a Ring of Kerry beach. Hey, I'll just wade across. How deep can it be? The answer comes as a severe shock, the water reaching my belly button as I jump in and decide to make a splash for it. Not that wise, to be honest. It would have been approaching the Mam C's neck.... which is a very disconcerting thought indeed. Particularly concerning the subsequent fate of my neck. Yeah, for the only time I can recall I'm glad she is not here. A few more minutes and I would've had to have abandoned my rucksack, camera etc. Or stayed the night. However as the delectable Ms Harry sang 'the tide is high but I'm holding on' and I duly make the sanctuary of the far rocks to sit, soaking wet, finish my coffee and gaze up at the enigmatic Goat's Hole I've just vacated with such excess muppetry. I almost expect a young bloke to walk past, dyed red and leading a mammoth by a piece of string, pointing at me with his free hand whilst exclaiming "ha! ha!" Such is the surreal nature of the moment. But there you are. Thankfully it's only a mile back to the car and fresh clothes. And all is well. But only just. Not for nothing do I gravitate toward the high places, since I've clearly a lot to learn when it comes to the coast. But hell, what an experience.

SAFETY NOTE: In retrospect - as TSC has shown - a perfectly safe visit to this impossibly enigmatic site is possible as long as you know what you are doing. Clearly I did not. If I was to attempt it again I would arrive before low tide, watch the water recede, set my watch alarm for 60 minutes.... and then leave. No ifs, no buts. PLEASE LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES AND DO NOT MAKE THE SAME ERRORS I DID. KEEP A BEADY EYE ON THE INCOMING TIDE AND STAY SAFE.
4th April 2014ce
Edited 6th April 2014ce

Failed visit 30.9.13 :(

The ‘Red Lady’ of Paviland – a name surly to stir the imagination.
A site of international importance and one I am sure that most, if not all, of the readers of this fine website would love to visit.

And here I am, a mere 60 or so miles away – so why I haven’t I as yet made the ‘pilgrimage’?
The obvious answer of course is because of the well know difficulty of visiting the site. Indeed, some books I have read positively warn of the perils of undertaking such a task.
Even Neil Oliver went for the abseil approach – no doubt also making better TV of course.

I had recently come across a website which actually gave details of how to access the cave (without the need of a rope!) and by co-incidence within days TSC posted his fieldnotes – and thus confirming the access details I had read.

Time to put this right. A day off work, no children in tow, weather forecast reasonable for the time of year and an O/S map and tide timetable at hand. What could stop me?

The tide timetable stated that low tide was at 10.00am. I set out at 7.30am to allow plenty of time to drive to the Gower and walk to the cave by low tide. My plan was to park on the B4247 and take the footpath directly south to the cave. Unfortunately there was absolutely nowhere to park on this stretch of road and in the end I decided the best option would be to park in the large car park in Rhossili, next to the N.T. shop, and walk along the coastal path to the cave.

I arrived early enough not to have to pay the £3.00 parking fee (the little shed wasn’t yet open) and I eagerly made my way past the N.T. shop, coastguard station and east along the coastal path. T

he weather was warm, dry and only a little breeze so all was good. I avoided the temptation to check out the several cliff/promontory forts I passed as priority for today was the great cave itself. After all, I could take my time and look over the forts on the way back.

It took me 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the cave and my heart was racing with expectation and excitement. (This will no doubt sound ‘sad’ to most people but TMAers will know what I mean.) I quickly identified which was the correct headland with photo’s I had taken with me and was soon scrambling down the ravine with the drystone wall running down the middle of it. Why on earth would anyone bother to build a wall here?

I passed Foxhole Slade Cave and was soon onto the treacherous rocks. I have never visited a place before where the rocks were so sharp. They were covered in barnacles and one slip would have resulted in my legs being badly cut (I was wearing shorts). However, this was quickly put to the back of my mind as I was now only a few metres from my goal.

It was at this point that my bubble of excitement burst. The tide was still not far enough out to get around the headland. By now it was 10.30am and I assumed the tide hadn’t fully gone out and I would just have to wait. I sat there like King Cnut and watched the waves roll in and out. To my surprise a seal swam past, sticking its head out of the water to look at me as it did so. I bet he/she could see the cave!

I decided to have a look at Foxhole Slade Cave while I was waiting but my mind was fixed on the tide and Paviland Cave. I returned to the rocks and sat and waited and waited. By 12 noon it was obvious (even to me) that the tide wasn’t going out any further. I tried to get to the cave by scrambling along the side of the headland and also from the other side of the headland – DO NOT attempt this as it is dangerous.
The only safe way to access the cave would be from the beach – which was still underwater. I was so desperate to see the cave I would have swam for it if I had taken bathers with me – that would have been a first!

Despite my best efforts their would be no visit by me today. I had to be sensible from a safety point of view as if I did fall and incapacitate myself, not only was I on my own, but there is no mobile phone signal from the rocks. I slowly and disappointedly had to head back up the ravine and onto the coastal path. So close – but so far. Gutted.
All I can think of is that the low tide wasn’t low enough and that not all low tides allow access – if you see what I mean. A ‘low’ low tide is perhaps necessary?

On the way back to the car park I visited the other sites along the way and tried to enjoy the coastal views but no doubt my disappointment took the edge off it. This is clearly one place I will need to come back to. As Fu Manchu used to say (ask your dad) ‘I will return!’

For anyone contemplating a visit can I offer the following advice?

1. The cave would be accessible to most people once the tide is far enough out. The walk off the coastal path down the ravine is straight forward although the sharp rocks are a little tricky. I would not recommend a visit for those with mobility problems.

2. The walk from the car park in Rhossili is long but offers great views. The quickest way would be to get someone to drop you off on the B4247 and head directly south. However, the coastal path is steep and narrow in places and is often close to the cliff edge. I would not recommend a visit with children – far too dodgy.

3. Check the tide times (try to get a ‘low’ low tide and leave yourself 1.5 hours to walk to the cave if coming from Rhossili.

I hope this is of some help and you have better luck than I did. I still feel gutted about this ‘failed visit’ – more so than any other ‘failed visit’ I have had over the years.
One day…………
Posted by CARL
4th October 2013ce
Edited 4th October 2013ce

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


Add folklore Add folklore
The vulgar belief is that the Red Lady was entombed in the cave by a storm while seeking treasure there - a legend the truth of which no one can dispute with authority, since the bones are certainly of a period contemporary with the Roman rule in this island.
From 'British Goblins' by Wirt Sikes (p387) 1880.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th November 2005ce


Add a link Add a link

Swansea Tide Times

Essential information for a non-abseil visit. Times are for Mumbles (a little way up the coast), so add 15 minutes approx for Paviland.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
8th May 2013ce
Edited 8th May 2013ce

Welsh Journals Online

Advice for visiting the cave (inc map) from 'Gower' magazine, v13 (1960).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th January 2012ce

Google Books

'Reliquiae Diluvianae' - You can read about Reverend Buckley's exploits in the cave on p82, and then on p274 are his drawings. I was inspired to look it up after seeing Neil Oliver's enthusiasm on the new 'History of Ancient Britain' series.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
10th February 2011ce

British Archaeology

In the magazine's 'Great Sites' series, an article by Stephen Aldhouse Green on the palaeolithic 'Red Lady' burial.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th December 2004ce