Above the exquisite village of Castleton in the north of Derbyshire the hill rises steeply, a cliff behind the village and a rounded slope above it on which stands Peveril Castle, from which the village is named. Beside the castle is a crack in the rounded slope, a deep, vertical chasm, and at the end a deep hole: this is the Devil’s Arse.
The cave is the village’s concert hall. Since the Victorian Age the cave has been opened as a show cave, under the politer name of the ‘Peak Cavern’ (although the older, more robust name, is used again today in marketing. It has a vast cavern entrance, so large that concerts are regularly held there: big names (or big tribute acts) come from across the nation to perform in Old Nick’s Posterior.
That there should be such an empty void beneath a hill without the earth falling in, achieved by nature which no human architect could achieve, is wonderous in itself. The void in the dark fills the visitor with awe, which today adds a frisson to the concerts here.
Within the dark depths of the Devil’s Arse is more mystery, for the intestines of the cave run deep and narrow. Cavers have found their way through these passages far beyond what the public can see or imagine, tracing them out to the Speedwell Cavern up the valley and a network of channels, sumps and passages beyond number, which perhaps reach even to the bottomless Eldon Hole. There is in these depths more wonder than Camden, Defoe or Hobbes imagines.
Behind a ruin’d mountain does appear
Swelling into two parts, which turgent are
As when we bend our bodies to the ground,
The buttocks amply sticking out are found.
I’th’ midst there is a Cave: and on each hand
A lofty Rock does as supporter stand
Of a vast weight of earth, which else would fall,
So to the midst with safety guards us all,
And now we’re come (I blushing must rehearse)
As most does stile it to the Devils Arse;
Peaks Arse the Natives.
A noble Cave between two Rocks appears,
Unto the Sun unknown, but to the Stars
Fearing to be immerg’d, and both the Bears
Turn’d, it its mouth with horrour does present:
Just like a furnace, or as Hell they paint,
Swallowing with open Jawes the Damned croud.