The coupled δ13C-radiocarbon systematics of three European stalagmites deposited during the Late Glacial and early Holocene were investigated to understand better how the carbon isotope systematics of speleothems respond to climate transitions. The emphasis is on understanding how speleothems may record climate-driven changes in the proportions of biogenic (soil carbon) and limestone bedrock derived carbon. At two of the three sites, the combined δ13C and 14C data argue against greater inputs of limestone carbon as the sole cause of the observed shift to higher δ13C during the cold Younger Dryas. In these stalagmites (GAR-01 from La Garma cave, N. Spain and So-1 from Sofular cave, Turkey), the combined changes in δ13C and initial 14C activities suggest enhanced decomposition of old stored, more recalcitrant, soil carbon at the onset of the warmer early Holocene. Alternative explanations involving gradual temporal changes between open- and closed-system behaviour during the Late Glacial are difficult to reconcile with observed changes in speleothem δ13C and the growth rates. In contrast, a stalagmite from Pindal cave (N. Spain) indicates an abrupt change in carbon inputs linked to local hydrological and disequilibrium isotope fractionation effects, rather than climate change. For the first time, it is shown that while the initial 14C activities of all three stalagmites broadly follow the contemporaneous atmospheric 14C trends (the Younger Dryas atmospheric 14C anomaly can be clearly discerned), subtle changes in speleothem initial 14C activities are linked to climate-driven changes in soil carbon turnover at a climate transition.