Sleeping in a cave; our experience

A few weeks ago, while we were deciding where we wanted to go to for our week away in the campervan, we asked our son what he would, if anything, especially like to see or do. “Sleep in a cave” was his immediate reply. “Um, are you sure that’s what you definitely want to do?” “Yup!”

So, off we went to do a bit of research. I’ve never slept in a cave before, but I have seen plenty of scary movies where beasties swoop up out from the caves and do, well, what carnivorous beasties do. That didn’t help me whatsoever! But our son was so adamant that was what he wanted to do, so we thought we had to give it a go. Me and Keith looked over blogs where people had previously slept in caves, under overhangs, looked at bothy potentials but we if we’re honest, we knew there was only one place for us to try. What better way to get in touch with our inner cavepeeps than to try the Bone Caves. We’d been there several times before and knew they’d be perfect for the night in terms of space, location and length of walk-in. There are three main caves, each relatively shallow and a much bigger cave network that extends beyond these initial caves. Bones of wolves, bears, lynxes and arctic foxes have been found here, as well as a polar bear skull, while radio-carbon dating done on human bones puts them at around 4,500 years old.

We headed to the North West of Scotland in the van, with the canoe strapped to the roof hoping to get a few good days of canoeing in while we were away. The weather didn’t disappoint and we felt really spoilt to be having fun, in the middle of October in shorts and sandals!

Canoeing on Loch Maree in wonderful conditions
Canoeing on Loch Maree in wonderful conditions

 

We went to Loch Maree, and to the only island on a lake on an island on a lake in the UK – nope, that’s not a typo. Kinda messes with your head doesn’t it? We spent a few days canoeing, playing on loch shores skimming stones, we watched stunning sunrises, played on beautiful beaches overlooked by looming mountains, we flew kites, the menfolk made fire and we ate marshmallows. And we talked. I mean we really talked and we weren’t distracted by a thing. It was great fun and we were totally immersed in our little family holiday.

Kite flying on one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to!
Kite flying on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to!

 

And then came the realisation that the week was quickly flying by and we had to head up to that cave, sooner or later. We checked with our mini adventurer, making sure it was what he wanted. It was. So after a hearty dinner, we packed our rucksacks, mattresses and down quilt and headed off for a short walk up along a valley.

Starting the short walk to the Bone Caves
Starting the short walk to the Bone Caves

The path up to the cave is pretty straight forward until the last section which is a bit steep and always makes my stomach lurch, any time of day! The sun was making its way down so once we’d picked our cave we set up home for the night; we got a fair few glow sticks dotted about the place and the airbeds and quilt set up.

We already knew from previous visits what to expect from the cave. How far back it went, what the rough slope of the ground was like, if there were any further tunnels going deeper in to the mountain. Now in this particular cave, while it was the biggest it also did have other tunnels heading further back. We put walking poles and rucksacks front and back to let our son know the no-go areas, and Keith shone a headtorch towards the back of the cave. Glad to see those scary films got to him too!

We sat and talked, watching the stars come out. We also heard the deer start to rut. In an echoey valley, they sounded really fearsome. Think hungry lions and you’re there. We also caught a glimpse of the Northern Lights which were beautiful.

Northern lights from the Bone Cave
A tiny glimpse of some Northern Lights

 

We checked in with our son, who was having the time of his life and thought it was a great adventure! There was no where else he wanted to be, and was soon asleep. He’s turning in to such a little adventurer with a terrific imagination and we envied his ability to sleep through the noise the deer were making! I think in total us big kids slept about 4hrs before the sun came up and we slowly packed ourselves up and make our way back down to the van.

Walking back to the van, the morning after
Walking back to the van, the morning after

 

Would we do it again? Now this is tricky and one that even our son can’t answer. No. Maybe. Probably. Can we get back to you? We’re game to try anything once but for me, my problem was a lurchy stomach every time I looked out the cave. Spooky films didn’t come close to playing games with our imagination when echoing roaring deers were somewhere, prowling around. And I like sleep a bit. Am I glad that we did it? Heck yeah! Our son wanted to give it a go, and we couldn’t not give it a go with him. A first all round for us. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or something like that. And it was without a doubt, most definitely the highlight and most adventurous thing we’ve done all year, let alone on our weeks family holiday!

The week was great fun. It was relaxing and fun. We kept busy but took it slow. It was challenging but inspiring. We took ourselves away on our family holiday, away from distractions and really connected again. And I can’t wait for our next holiday together…I wonder where or what the little man will want us to get up to next time??? I’m sure I heard him and his dad talking about snowcaves…….

Tips for cave sleeping:

  • Pick a good cave! Check it’s flat enough/large enough/pointing in the right direction so not into wind and rain.
  • Check it’s dry as possible.
  • Is it safe? Has it remained unchanged for many years? Is it prone to rockfall? Do animals live in the cave?
  • Is it easily accessible?
  • Remember headtorches and plenty of glow sticks.
  • We also bought dustsheets with us to put on the ground first to protect the airbeds but also allowed us to walk around with no shoes.
  • Airbeds and puncture repair kit.
  • Warm sleeping bags or down quilt.
  • Waterproofs.
  • Hats, gloves, scarves.
  • Thermals and extra layers.
  • Food and drink. Cooker if wanted.

 

 

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