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Top trips in Ireland?

Andy Sparrow

Active member
Hi Everyone,

Please can you advise me? Despite many decades of caving in the mainland UK my knowledge of Irish caves is quite limited. I'm writing a caving section for a book on outdoor activities. I'm going to list a few caves around the UK regions in three categories - good for beginners, classic sporting trips and extreme challenges. Any suggestions, please for Irish caves (north and/or south) for these categories? I've done Cullaun Three which seemed like a pretty good trip for beginners but I appreciate that it floods. St Catherine's to Fisher Street would a be one contender for classic sporting. And possibly Shannon Cave for extreme? I'd like to get a mix of caves around the country rather than be limited to one or two areas. Also, how easy is it to get a caving experience in Ireland? Are there centres or instructors offering introductory trips? Is it best to direct beginners to the SUI? Thanks in advance for your help and advice. Andy Sparrow.
 

mrodoc

Well-known member
I am now in my 70's and my first visit to Fermanagh was in my 60's. I have avoided the more vertical Fermanagh caves but there are some classics worthy of visiting. Relatively undemanding and beautiful is a trip through Marble Arch cave to Legnabrocky Way (if somebody wants to lug in a jetwasher they could do some good work there). It does involve some route finding but not too challenging. An easy through trip although exciting in high water conditions is Whitefathers Cave again well decorated. Another cave that requires swimming but is a bit of a classic is Pollnagollum of the Boats. In Clare Faunarooska Cave is the obvious choice with classic Clare canyon passage ending in big stuff with some fine formations. A very demanding horizontal trip is to the end of Pollnabiny Cave (near Faunarooska). Another fine trip is Poulnagree. Off to the south west in Kerry is the sadly neglected Ballymcelligot Cave that is probably the best river cave I have seen in Ireland and a very easy trip indeed; it is a shame about the car wrecks in the streamway part way through although I gather locals are striving to improved conditions. Photos are of Whitefathers, Ballymcelligot and Faunarooska. Regarding floods a lot of Irish caves are rain sensitive!
 

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nobrotson

Active member
Burren:
Poulelva - Pollnagollum provides a great through trip which is justly popular and not too hard to routefind (should take 5 - 7 hours at a steady pace if visiting for the first time); there are many other options in the high level galleries which can be visited in pretty much any weather (speak to Robin Sheen, he knows these parts very well), a pull-through down the Flyover is popular. Two really nice passages in this cave just off the through trip route which get overlooked are Cotters Gallery and East Tunnel, well worth a look.

Coolagh River Cave is another classic in the Burren, when it floods it is spectacular and quite scary. South entrance is the easiest way to the meat of the system. Loads of opportunities to explore away from the main drain, especially if you like scrotty sharp bedding caves full of water.

Faunarooska is a simple stream cave for beginners with a nice phreatic passage at the bottom; Poulnagree pretty similar and close by. Pollballiny was very silted up when I last visited in September 2022, don't think anyone has been to the end for many years. Would need some determined grovelling in wet sand at the bottom of the initial tight meander to get through (I was sciencing at the time so left it).

Glencurran cave (east of the Burren) is a very different type of trip - no water really at all, lots of flat out sandy crawling, intriguing place. The cave is very popular with bats in winter so visits are encouraged only in summer (one of the very few caves in the Burren which is on public land).

Are you sure you didn't visit Cullaun 2 as a beginners cave? Cullaun 3 is very rarely visited and is a bit of a shithole. However, Cullaun 5, which is close by, is a decent trip which needs just one short ladder (I went last summer).

Poll Gonzo offers a more vertical adventure and is a decent trip to the bottom with a variety of pitches of increasing wetness as you go down, and some very nice phreatic passage (Marmite passage) en route.

If you want to do a NFTFH style trip, Pollballyelly is the place for you. The spits were all fucked when I did it in 2018 and there are few natural anchors, its very aqueous all the way down and tight in places.

If the weather is good, Fergus River Cave is supposed to be excellent, however in bad weather its a no-go; speak to Robin Sheen or Jim Warny.

There is also some excellent trad climbing in the Burren at Ailladie and elsewhere (you could even go out to Inishmore for some sport climbing if the weather is good).

Fermanagh
I have visited this area much less often so can't offer as many suggestions, but I would agree that Prods and Noons are both great trips, and Legnabrocky Way is worth a visit (enter via Lower Cradle). Tullyhona is also a very good trip (you go upstream from a resurgence). Pollaraftra is a decent cave also, though I think there are access issues at present. Pollnatagha - Pollprughlisk is a popular exchange trip. Whitefathers and Pollnagollum of the Boats are good short caves for a dry day where really you just want to justify having a beer in the sun after. Never been in Shannon.
 

jockr

New member
HI Andy

Some suggestions for North West Ireland

Good for Beginners:
  • Pollnagollum Coolarkan (Fermanagh)
  • Boho (Fermanagh)
  • Upper Cradle (Fermanagh)
  • White Fathers (Cavan – swimming)
Classic sporting trips:
  • Marble Arch (to Legnabrocky Way) (Fermanagh)
  • Pollnagollum (Of the Boats) (Fermanagh – swimming)
  • Pollprughlish/Pollnatagha - (Fermanagh – SRT)
  • Prods Pod (Fermanagh – SRT)
  • Noons Hole (Fermanagh – SRT)
  • Cascades Rising (Fermanagh)
  • Teampall Shetric (Leitrim – SRT)
  • Carrowmore Caverns (Sligo – SRT)
  • Poll Na Leprechauns (Leitrim SRT)
  • Deep Pot on Largy (Leitrim SRT)
  • Ramsdons Pot (Leitrim – SRT)
  • Sheepfold Cave and Sulphur Pot – through trip (Leitrim - SRT)
Extreme challenges
  • Prods/Cascades/MAC – through trip (Fermanagh – diving)
  • Noones/Arch – through trip (Fermanagh – diving)
  • Polltullybrack/Reyfad – through trip (Fermanagh – SRT/access issues)
  • Shannon – past Gorges choke (Fermanagh/Cavan)
How easy is it to get a caving experience in Ireland?

Caving clubs in Ireland and Northern Ireland - Caving in Ireland and Northern Ireland

and Fermanagh Extreme Outdoor Guides (on FB)
 
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