Thursday, August 22, 2019

Doolin Cave

Doolin Cave, Co. Clare, Ireland

It was the perfect day to explore a cave. The weather was a typical Irish combination of rain, wind, and fog that made the outside world seem uninhabitable. Rather than sit inside all day waiting for the rain to stop, (it didn't) I decided to seek refuge underground.

The Doolin Cave is located in The Burren, a region of geological interest primarily located in County Clare. The landscape is dominated by limestone karsts with underground drainage systems that form caves. The word Burren or Boireann  in Irish means, "great rock." 

The Poulnabrone dolmen is also located in the Burren.
It is the oldest megalithic monument in Ireland.

The Great Stalactite

Closeup of the Great Stalactite
The main attraction of the Doolin Cave is the Great Stalactite. At 23 feet (7.3 meters) long it is the longest free-hanging stalactite in Europe. It was discovered in 1952 by J.M. Dickenson and Brian Varley. Entry required a long and difficult crawl but now the cave entry has been widened to allow for tourists. 

To get down into the entrance of the cave, visitors have to first go down 120 steps (and up 120 steps to get out again). While the tunnel has been widened, it is still very tight. This cave has everything you could ever want in a cave. It has stalactites, stalagmites, and an underground stream. It's also dark, cold, wet and slippery. Hardhats are provided because hitting your head is inevitable. Once your guide has brought you safely through the tunnel, you will have more steps to navigate to get to the Great Stalactite. If you can't manage steps, walk hunched over, or are afraid of dark tight spaces then this place is not for you.

All the cave tours are guided. Our guide, Gary, was wonderful but I can imagine his knees must be screaming after climbing up and down those steps six times a day. 

There is also a free nature trail on the grounds for visitors to explore. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the nature trail because of the weather. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Visitor Center which also houses a charming little cafe and gift shop. 

Doolin Cave is also a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network which promotes sustainable tourism in the Burren.