About a quarter of a mile beyond Durlston Castle and its Great Globe lies an entrance to the Tilly Whim Caves.
These are not natural caves, but rather a group of three limestone quarries dating back to the 17th Century. They were extensively worked in their day, producing stone which was used to build fortifications along the south coast during the Napoleonic Wars. After the end of the war demand for the stone fell; the quarries were little used from 1812 onwards, save by smugglers. In 1887 the owner of Durlston Castle re-opened the caves as a tourist attraction. Public access continued right up to 1976 when serious rock falls made the caves so unsafe that they were closed. They remain closed to this day. This is the old tourist entrance.
It is thought that the caves got their name from a former quarryman named “Tilly” and the word “Whim”, a type of crane. The whim would lower quarried blocks down the cliff edge and into waiting boats below. These boats would then transport the blocks off to a larger sailing ketch anchored out at sea, or take them direct to the yards at Swanage.
I gazed at the entrance wondering what might be inside. I looked at the heras fencing that was blocking the access.
“I wonder,” I thought, “If I take off my pack I might just be able to squeeze over. It’s almost as if they left that gap at the top deliberately…”
Slightly further along the coast we came to another entrance. This entrance was also accessible if you really wanted to have a look around; indeed I know one person who has gone into the caves from here to explore.
“Are they dangerous?” I asked.
“Not at all,” he said, “Unless they collapse…”.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Eastern Entrance to Tilly Whim Caves: N 50° 35.568 W 001° 57.410
- Western Entrance to Tilly Whim Caves: N 50° 35.534 W 001° 57.490
Walk #77 Statistics (of which this post forms the third part):
- Date of Walk: 27 December 2014
- Walk #77 total distance covered: 9.55 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 651.00 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!