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Home Tourist Attraction The 8,000-year-old UK caves where David Bowie and the Rolling Stones performed

The 8,000-year-old UK caves where David Bowie and the Rolling Stones performed

by Staff

A UNIQUE UK attraction found underneath the ground has been the unlikely site of some of the country’s most fascinating parts of history and culture for thousands of years.

From hosting some of the most famous bands Britain has ever produced, to protecting people during the Second World War, the caverns have played an important part in modern history.

Some of the most famous bands Britain has ever produced have performed in the cavesCredit: Getty
The caves were also used as a shelter during the blitzCredit: Alamy
Chislehurst Caves are a 22-mile-long labyrinth of manmade tunnels that some people date back to as long ago as 6,000 BCECredit: Alamy

However, they date back thousands of years and throughout their history, are said to have been graced by Druids, Romans, Shakespeare and many other people.

The Chislehurst Caves are a 22-mile-long labyrinth of manmade tunnels that some people date back to as long ago as 6,000 BCE.

There is some debate over how old they actually are, but few people are split on how interesting they are as a location.

It was early 20th century archaeologist William Nichols who came up with a lot of the theories about the cave’s beginnings, finding what he believed to be Druid altars and Roman features.

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His suggestions have been heavily disputed since, although they remain at least fascinating ideas.

The tunnels were first opened to the public as an attraction in 1900, with guides telling the Victorians all about Nichols’ theories.

However, over the next hundred years or so, the caves became much more than a tourist attraction.

Firstly, they were used for munitions storage for the Woolwich Arsenal During World War I.

During the 1920s and 1930s they were used for mushroom growing before they were turned into a huge underground town during World War II.

Chislehurst Caves were the largest air-raid shelter outside of London and protected more than 15,000 people every night during the Blitz.

They were fitted with lights, a hospital, a chapel and even a barber shop among other facilities.

After the war, the caverns became an improbable music venue and hosted concerts by some of the UK’s biggest names, including David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones among many others.

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Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix are also on the list of people to have performed there, although it wasn’t always an enjoyable experience for those putting on shows.

David Bowie’s guitarist John “Hutch” Hutchinson once recalled: “The place was damp and horrible, but it was a prestigious gig, all the top acts would appear there.”

The caves have also been used as a unique party location over the years, with several interesting get-togethers taking place along their many miles.

Nowadays. the caves are once again open mainly as a tourist attraction.

They also have a gift shop and café and can be hired out for private functions and children’s parties.

However, they are also used as a filming location, with Doctor Who and 2008’s Merlin among the shows and movies to have been shot there.

The caves picked up a TripAdvisor traveller’s choice award last year due to the number of positive reviews they’d received, with hundreds of people giving it the full five stars.

One wrote: “A really interesting and fun place to visit. The entrance costs are very reasonable too.”

Another said: “Fantastic experience, our guide Pete brought the story of the caves to life in his own unique way!”

A third added: “Excellent place to visit! The tour guide was brilliant and made the experience worth every penny.”

Entry into Chislehurst Caves costs £8 for a full-paying adult.

Away from Chislehurst, a number of fascinating caves and caverns can be found throughout the UK.

Gaping Gill, Yorkshire

For anyone who might be afraid of heights or the dark or both, the idea of being lowered from almost 400ft up through a waterfall into a cave might seem like a daunting prospect.

However, others have been blown away by their trip down Gaping Gill in Yorkshire, where twice every year, visitors can be lowered into the cavern on a winch.

Painsill, Surrey

Painsill in Surrey is home to Europe’s largest man made crystal grotto.

The grotto is described as a “highlight of any day out at Painshill” where “children are captivated and adults stand in awe of the incredible man-made feature”.

Carnglaze Caverns, Cornwall

The Carnglaze Caverns are nestled 60m below ground.

They were originally created by a group of local miners over 300 years ago, but have since opened as a tourist attraction.

There are three separate caverns to explore, including one that has since been flooded and transformed into an underground lake.

Meanwhile, here are five cheap and free activities to do over the summer holidays.

Now, Chislehurst Caves mainly operate as a tourist attractionCredit: Getty
Bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones have performed in the cavesCredit: Getty
The tunnels were first opened to the public as an attraction in 1900Credit: Alamy

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