Torquay-based Kents Cavern, regarded as one of the most important Stone Age sites in Europe, has been sold to a hotel and leisure firm for an undisclosed amount.
The estate, which includes prehistoric caves formed more than 2.5 million years ago, went on the market for between £2million to £2.5 million in May and had previously belonged to the Powe family.
The new owner is The Tudor Hotel Collection, which also owns the Bodmin jail visitor attraction and hotel in Cornwall. According to a BBC report, "the sale included the underground caverns, woodland trail, visitor centre, restaurant, car park, surrounding land, and a recently refurbished three-bedroom holiday let".
The caves, which have been open to the public since the 19th Century, have been hailed as Britain's 'oldest home' as they were once occupied by prehistoric humans and Ice Age animals.
More than 80,000 Stone Age artefacts have been recovered from the caves over the years. Among the most notable is a 40,000-year-old human jawbone that was discovered in 1972. It is reportedly the oldest human fossil that has ever been found in North-West Europe and confirms that Kents Cavern was once home to humans.
The outgoing owners of the site, Nick and Sheena Powe, thanked their customers and staff for their support, adding that the new owners would be able to take Kents Cavern “to new heights”.
Mr Powe said: “The family are delighted to have found an experienced operator to continue caring for the caves, continuing my family’s legacy established over the last 120 years. The new owners will be bringing the Stone Age heritage alive, offering a better visitor experience, exactly what Kents Cavern needs and what I couldn’t do."
Rob Cox, chief executive of The Tudor Hotel Collection, said the new acquisition represented "a proud moment for us and underpins our commitment to collating the finest collection of historic hotels and visitor attractions".
He added: "Kents Cavern is a wonderful and unique attraction and we are very excited to continue the amazing work of Nick, Sheena and their family. It’s wonderful to be actively engaged in bringing the rich history of England to people from all over the world."