Tag Archives: caves

It’s The Way I Shell ‘Em

Shell grotto skylight

I don’t think anyone outside of the UK is likely to get the joke in my headline, but never mind, it gave me a chuckle.

We’re returning once again to the list of challenges y’all set me just before Christmas. Today I take on the one set by Sue from Travel Tales of Life. First Sue suggested Flyboarding, she then went on to suggest a polar dip, Via Ferrata, caving, ziplining, stand up paddle boarding or a bobsled ride. Anyone who follows Travel Tales of Life will know that these are all things she has probably done herself, so kudos to Sue for not suggesting something she wouldn’t be willing to do herself (unlike some of the suggestions other people made, ahem, yes, you know who you are).

Sue was clearly thinking “Adrenaline”, I was clearly thinking “Gift shop” – which one of those activities would likely come with a good gift shop? And then I spotted it – caving! Close to where I live is the old seaside town of Margate, and in Margate is the Shell Grotto cave that I’ve been meaning to visit for years, so this was the perfect opportunity. I appreciate this probably isn’t quite what Sue had in mind when she suggested caving, but as far as I’m concerned:

CAVE + ME IN IT = CAVING. It adds up right?

The Shell Grotto is a small but fascinating place. A mere 21 metres long, but with walls covered in a whopping 4.6 million shells; what a feat of shell-sticking! The shell grotto was apparently accidentally discovered in the 1830s by a school boy who fell into it through a hole in the ground while trying to retrieve something. Let’s just pause on that for a minute and imagine – you’re a schoolboy and you fall into this magical shell-covered underground world that nobody knows about – this is the stuff of great adventure stories right?

There are many theories, but nobody actually knows exactly how old the grotto is, or why it was made in the first place. I can understand how they might not have figured out the original purpose yet, but I can’t understand why they haven’t been able to do the dating – I don’t think that’s beyond the scope of modern science. Maybe Jacqueline could come over and help them.

Click on any pics you want to make bigger…

Entrance to grotto

Now don’t tell me this entrance isn’t adrenaline-inducing, look at the steep twisty stairs, and the handrail!

Walking through to shell grotto

No shells yet, but whoa! Scary!

Vanessa in shell grotto

Ooh now we see the pretty shells

Old photo of ladies at grotto

It’s like I’m there with them

Shell grotto altar


Vanessa peeping round shell corner


I’m fairly certain that Sue also suggested that after the activity, I should stroll along the seafront to a charming cafe so that Neil could buy me a beer and some lunch (no need to check, I’m pretty sure that’s what she said).

Vanessa with a beer

Looking at shells is thirsty work!

  Vanessa's lunch

Anyone have any suggestions about why this grotto was created then?

Old grotto poster