Hell Fire Caves (14 miles)
14 miles (30 minute drive) from Chartridge Lodge. Hell Fire caves were originally created as part of a project to help relieve serious local unemployment after the successive crop failures of 1748 – 1750. No one is quite sure why Sir Francis Dashwood ordered the excavation of the caves. While most of his contemporaries were building lavish grand houses and amazing wonders above ground, he would be the first to do so on such a scale underground.
The caves gained notoriety in the late 18th century as a regular meeting place for the infamous Hell Fire Club. The purpose of the club was aptly put by John Wilkes MP, one of its members. That a set of worthy, jolly fellows, happy disciples of Venus and Bacchus, got occasionally together to celebrate women in wine and to give more zest to the festive, meeting. The caves eventually fell into disrepair and were closed until 1951 when they were reopened to the public.
The caves are open all year round except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. During the summer season (April – October) they are open from 11.00 am to 5.30 pm. During the winter season (November – March) they open from 11.00 – dusk. The current entrance fee is £5.00 for adults with additional concessions for children, students, OAP’s and members of the National Trust. Guided tours can also be arranged by calling 01494 533739.
Whilst there is limited car parking at the caves, there is ample parking at the nearby West Wycombe Garden Centre. For directions to the garden centre, search on postcode HP14 3AP. [Image Source: The Hell Fire caves by drew_anywhere under Creative Commons Licence – image cropped]