Ireland is having an exceptionally warm summer. It might not be obvious to all visitors, but it’s actually a heat wave by Irish standards. It makes one wonder where are the coolest places to keep cool on the Emerald Isle? Beaches and lakes are an obvious pick, they don’t shield you from the sun. If one your Irish gifts is fair skin that burns easily, you do need to hide from the sun sometimes. To really dig the shade, you need to go underground. Not to an ultra-cool nightclub, but literally underground.
Beneath the surface, Ireland is harbouring all sorts of caves. Natural caves feature dazzling stalactites. Former mines give a glimpse of past as well as a break from the heat. While some have shops featuring a range of Irish gifts, the best gift involved in visiting any of Ireland’s caves is hearing the stories of their pasts. Whether it is an ancient legend, a historical tale or a more yarn spun to entertain visitors, hearing guides or locals talk about the unique features of their area is what makes a visit to Ireland unlike any other vacation.
Five Fascinating, Cool Caves to Visit in Ireland
Different types of caves are scattered around Ireland. These are five that offer visitors an unforgettable day out.
- Aillwee Caves, County Clare: In the Burren area, between Galway and Shannon, is what is arguably Ireland’s most visitor-friendly cave. Signage for this attraction features an image of a bear because the bones of Ireland’s now-extinct brown bear were found here. Guided tours include a half hour stroll through amazing chasms to see rock formations, a waterfall and the bear bones.
- Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny: Irish people have marvelled at Dunmore Cave for centuries. It’s mentioned in the 9th century Irish Triads, and it was the site of a Viking massacre in 928 AD. Inside, visitors can see some of Ireland’s best calcite formations spread through a series of chambers formed over millions of years.
- Marble Arch Caves, County Fermanagh: Follow winding passageways through magnificent chambers, along rivers and past waterfalls and rock formations in this amazing cave discovered in 1895. The man who discovered it realized its tourism potential immediately, but it almost a hundred years later before anyone did anything about it.
- Bruce’s Cave, County Antrim: This cave is really the stuff of legends. It’s named for Robert the Bruce, who hid out in the cave after being defeated by the English. He spent a few months in the cave pondering his next move and watching a spider try repeatedly to climb its web to the ceiling of the cave. The spider fell over and over before finally making it, and Robert the Bruce was inspired and decided to keep trying to regain his throne in Scotland. Today the cave is a highlight of a visit to Rathlin Island off the Antrim coast.
- Arigna Mining Experience, County Roscomon: Mother Nature isn’t the only one who makes caves. Arigna offers a different experience than natural caves with some insight into Ireland’s more recent past. A working mine until 1990, Agrina offers educational tours showing how the mine worked and influenced the area.
It isn’t often anyone in Ireland really worries about getting too much sun exposure. But regardless of the weather, some of our underground Irish gifts of natural beauty and historic lore are well worth a visit.