Cleeves Cove cave

Cleeves Cove cave

Infobox Cave
name = Cleeves Cove
photo = Cleevescove3.jpg
caption =
location = North Ayrshire
length = 500 feet
discovery =
hazards =
coordinates = coord|55|41|29.3|N|4|40|45.6|W
access = Safe
translation = The word 'Cove' as used here means 'Cave'
language = Scots

The Cleeves Cove cave system is on the Dusk Water in North Ayrshire near Dalry and Kilwinning, Scotland.

The cave system

Cleeves, or Cleaves, cove cave system is situated in the lower bed of carboniferous limestone. It measures around 500 feet if all the passages were put together. The caves are now well above the level of the Dusk Water and lie close to Cleeves Farm and Blair Mill on the Blair Estate. Many of the stalactites and stalagmites have been damaged by visitors. The cave has three practical entrances facing onto the Dusk Water which should be approached with due caution and appropriate footwear.

A number of older books refer to "the romantic sylvan dell of Auchenskeigh" (now Auchenskeith). The calcareous incrustations in these caves were compared with Gothic fretwork. A number of old limestone quarries lie close to the modern day farm of Auchenskeith, but it is likely that Auchenskeigh is a synonym for Cleeves Cove.Harvey, William (1910), "Picturesque Ayrshire." Pub. Valentine & sons, Dundee, etc. P. 90.]


The word 'Cove' in Scots means 'Cave',Warrack, Alexander (1982). "Chambers Scots Dictionary". Chambers. ISBN 0-550-11801-2.] however 'cave' is added here as this Scot's word is not widely known or used nowadays (2007). John Smith published a monograph entitled "Cleaves Cove Stalactites and Stalagmites", published by Mr. Elliot Stock in which he provided drawings and a detailed description of these structures within the cave system.Smith, John (1895). "Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire". Pub. Elliot Stock. P. 62 - 68.] This is fortunate, for as previously noted, many have been destroyed. The site was previously known as the 'Elfhouse' or 'Elfhame'Paterson, James (1863-66). "History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton". V. - III - Cunninghame. J. Stillie. Edinburgh. P. 140.] the locals at that time believed that these magical creatures had made this their abode.Dobie, James D. (ed Dobie, J.S.) (1876). "Cunninghame, Topographized by Timothy Pont" 1604–1608, with continuations and illustrative notices. Pub. John Tweed, Glasgow. P. 125.] NessNess, J. A. (1969 - 70). Landmarks of Kilwynnyng. Privately produced. P. 31. calls the site 'Glen O'Dusk' or the Elf-hame, the caves being the Elf-house.The cave system was created in the Dusk glen when the waters of the Dusk (Gaelic for 'black water')Dobie, James D. (ed Dobie, J.S.) (1876). "Cunninghame, Topographized by Timothy Pont" 1604–1608, with continuations and illustrative notices. Pub. John Tweed, Glasgow. P. 124.] ran through and eroded the limestone, followed by a period when it was relatively dry allowing the stalactites and stalagmites to form and finally a progressive infilling with soil washed in from above, resulting in a partial infilling of the caves and passageways; at this point John Smith obtained permission from Captain Blair, R.N., of Blair House to explore and ultimately remove some 300 tons of material.Smith, John (1895). "Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire". Pub. Elliot Stock. P. 62.] The cave now lies 40 feet above the Dusk Water due to the excavation of the gorge by the river. Near the middle is a spacious chamber, 35 feet long by 27 broad and 12 high. The internal surfaces of the chambers and passageways are covered with calcareous incrustations and numerous crevices branch off in all directions. It was regarded in Victorian times as one of the greatest natural curiosities in Ayrshire.Dobie, James D. (ed Dobie, J.S.) (1876). "Cunninghame, Topographized by Timothy Pont" 1604–1608, with continuations and illustrative notices. Pub. John Tweed, Glasgow. P. 125.]

Dr.Duguid refers to "Smith's Room" in the caves although he did not know if Smith was a hermit, smuggler or covenanter. The name is a coincidence as the recollections are before John Smith's time.Service, John (Editor) (1887). "The Life & Recollections of Doctor Duguid of Kilwinning." Pub. Young J. Pentland. P. 58.]


During his excavations John Smith unearthed a number of man-made objects such as a flint knife, spindle-whorl, bone spoon, bronze finger-rings, bone spoon, a stag's horn handle, spear heads, parts of a bridle, an iron battle-axe and a cut-glass emerald. Various bones were found, including those of beaver, sheep, hare, rabbit, cat, rat, dog, weasel, pheasant, partridge, duck, goat, ox, pig, and goose. The seeds of fourteen species of plants were found, however none were from edible cereals.Smith, John (1895). "Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire". Pub. Elliot Stock. P. 62 - 68.]

Human and animal occupants

Charcoal deposits were found, suggesting that fires had been lit within. The evidence suggests that the caves were used at some point by humans for either temporary shelter, refuge at times of crisis or both. DobieDobie, James D. (ed Dobie, J.S.) (1876). "Cunninghame, Topographized by Timothy Pont" 1604–1608, with continuations and illustrative notices. Pub. John Tweed, Glasgow. P. 125.] records that the cave system was used as a refuge for the local Covenanters during the times of their persecution by the government of Charles II (1630 - 85) and Paterson confirms this, indicating that the "Statistical Account of Ayrshire", written by the local ministers, was his source.Paterson, James (1863-66). History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton. V. - III - Cunninghame. J. Stillie. Edinburgh. P. 140.] At other times the cave system appears to have been the haunt of foxes, bats and other animals.

=Gallery of cave

The Pondery Geocache

A Geocache is located at Pondery Hill in the nearby Pencot and Bowertrapping Community Woodland. A GPS will be required to locate it. Please go to for further information

See also

*Ley tunnel


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