First of all, here's a bit of background on the caves, and they're well worth a visit: just as nearby Brimham Rocks' towering gritstone cliffs and pinnacles have attracted names for their mysteriously recognisable forms, so have the remarkably spiritual calcite formations scattered throughout Stump Cross's system been imaginatively presented as, for example, 'The Wedding Cake' or 'Sandcastles'. Let your imagination run wild - and don't forget tea and homemade cake in the visitor centre afterwards!
Anyway, cave formations weren't the main focus of today's trip, but it was still Yorkshire's famous limestone playing the starring role. Troller's Gill is an entirely natural chasm in the ground - like its neighbouring caves, formed by water - yet its darkly towering gorge walls hint at something altogether more sinister looming just around the corner... and so there might be.
Way back when the Norse Vikings made their way into the Dales over a thousand years ago, they left many a legacy in our place names and language, and Troller's Gill is one of them: quite literally, 'troll's bottom ravine'.
So this idea of dark, supernatural happenings in the depths of this intimidating gorge was certainly not a new one when the legend of the Barguest of Troller's Gill was at its prime...
According to artist Ian Scott Massie whose fascinating book 'Tales of the Dales' features many similarly spooky legends,
"A ghostly dog - a bargest or padfoot - lives here with "eyes as big as saucers", eyes which flame, burn and will kill you if you look into them.
There is a story that a man who lived near the Gill, and who had laughed at the stories, decided to spend the night at Troller's Gill. He walked into the ravine, on a dark night of howling gales, and made for an old yew tree in the heart of the Gill. He had come prepared with a charm to protect him.
He summoned the beast by calling out and, out of the darkness the shaggy shape of the enormous dog appeared, its huge eyes glowing red in the night.
His body, or what scattered pieces remained of it, was found the following morning..."
In the summer, climbers, walkers and wildlife fill Troller's Gill with activity, but on an icily cold, still, silent grey December day, it wasn't hard to envision the terrible demise of one local sheep, its last few bones scattered the length of the gorge...
The mysteries of this short but very well-formed route don't end with the Vikings and Victorians though... En route to the top of Troller's Gill from Stump Cross, you'll notice a few scattered and inconspicuous bracken-swallowed small gritstone boulders. Step back a few thousand years, and you'll find them being painstakingly carved upon by some of the post-glacial Dales' earliest human residents. Science and historical study have so far failed to confirm the precise reason or meaning behind such carvings, and perhaps it's a wonderful thing that they maybe never will... Just one small gem of mystery we can treasure a little bit longer in such a scientific age.