On the Wildside: Cave explorers take steps to be careful

Inchnadamph bone caves
Inchnadamph bone caves

On a visit to the North West Highlands we decided to visit the bone caves near Inchnadamph on an amazingly dry and sunny morning.

As we set off on this extremely popular three-mile walk, swallows were chittering, flitting in and around a hay barn.

Along the banks of the Allt nan Uamh we were lucky to see pied wagtails, dipper, wren, wheatear and meadow pipit, all near a beautiful waterfall.

We stopped to stare at an astonishing underground watercourse flowing out from near the base of a crag like a wide river. Such large burns appearing from nowhere are characteristic of limestone country. There was another of these springs by the bed of the burn a short distance further on.

As we neared the caves the limestone riverbeds had become completely dry.

The caves, with various sizes of openings, are visible high up on a steep slope at the foot of a cliff. They were excavated in 1889 by the geologists Peach and Horne when they found the remains of animals which once roamed the Highlands, including lynx, polar bear, arctic fox and lemmings. It is believed that the caves may have once sheltered these animals and also the humans who hunted them.

It’s a very narrow, steep and dangerous path to access these ancient caves, but so well worth the effort taking extreme care.

It is apparently possible to pass between the inner parts of two of the caves, but we certainly weren’t brave enough to try. However, the inside of each cavern can be explored, taking care as the floors are exceedingly wet and slippery.

The walls were adorned by many tiny ferns and all around the entrances were wonderful clumps of wild flowers, some alpine – deep purple orchids, red campions, wild strawberry, dog violets, primroses and globeflower.

A constant drip, drip of water flowed over the openings, causing hilarity when it caught the back of a neck unexpectedly.

The bone caves can be viewed from a path on the far side of the riverbed for anyone unable or unwilling to clamber up the hillside.

On our return along this lovely remote little glen we met a continuous stream of visitors all ready to stop for a friendly chat which we found very pleasing. Many asked if the caves were easily accessible!

By the path edges were cuckoo flower, heath milkwort and an abundance of daisies.

This had been a short walk, but so very interesting.

No tea and scones for us today as the local hotel had closed for a private function. What a disappointment!

Scottish Wildlife Trust is a Registered charity.

To find out more phone Ron Mcbeath: 01289 308515

www.scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/local-member-group/berwickshire/