Aillwee Caves, Ballyvaughan
The Burren is a large area of ground made up of limestone. Because limestone is porous, over the years, water has penetrated to the lower strata and formed many caves and chambers underground.
Aillwee cave was formed in this manner and is the only cave in Ireland where it is safe for the public to enter, without using specialist pot-holing equipment.
The name “Aillwee” is made up of two Irish words, “aill” meaning yellow and “wee” means entrance. The yellow part came from the yellow gorse bushes that surround the entrance and area of the cave.
Only a few miles outside Ballyvaughan there's Aillwee Caves. A farmer found these caves in the 1940s when his dog ran into one of the entrances. He kept quiet for around 30 years (amazing for an irishman!!) before he told anyone about what he found! Since then the cave has been made accessible for the public.
You get an amusing guided tour through the cave, see bones of bears that used to live there more than 1000 years ago, stalagmites and stalagtites and everything gets explained very well and light effects are really nice!
As mentioned previously, the cave tour takes about 30 minutes to walk. You are lead through the caves by an experienced guide who will point out areas of interest and will light the way as you go.
2 or 3 warnings for you: -
At one point, seemingly deep underground, our guide warned us to stand perfectly still and explained that she was going to turn off the lights. When she did this, she explained that this was perfect darkness and that our eyes would never adjust to it. As you can imagine, if you are afraid of the dark, this would not be a good tour to take!
If you are tall, watch your head as some of the roofs are quite low but there are mercifully few of these low roofs and you will not walk many steps before you can stand upright again.
Because there are a few stairs and the ground can be uneven, a couple of the cave rules are:- no wheelchairs, no pushchairs and all children must be accompanied by an adult.
The cave sits in an area of ground that would probably be nice to visit, even if you did not want to take the tour. There is a nice wooded area and you can always take a hike up the mountain above the cave.
There is also a very nice cheese shop near the car park that sells other local food and sweets as well.
The car park costs €2 but it may be worth it if you just want somewhere to have a picnic.
The cave tour costs: -
Students (with valid student card) €6.50
Family ticket (2 adults plus 2 children) €22.00
Family ticket (2 adults plus 4 children) €26.00
Opening Hours: OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND. There are reduced opening times during the winter months.
10.00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Last Tour: 5.30 p.m.
The caves contain several examples of stalagmites and stalagtites. These are formations of rock that come down from, or rise up to, the ceiling of the cave. They are created by water dripping down through the roof over periods of 100's of years, carrying limestone with it. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind the limestone, creating the formations.
For those of you that can't remember which type comes down from the ceiling and which rises up, here is how I remember:-
Mites run up (legs) while tites comes down.
The pciture shows some stalagmites. They are quite peculiar as they look like a pair of hands, praying. They only look like this from one firection. From any other, they just look like any other stalagmite.
Aillwee cave entrance area holds a shop that holds many local crafted items of interest to take up your time while you are waiting to go on your 30 minute tour of the cave.
It also has a small cafe that serves basic home baked food and drinks.
There are two waterfalls that can be found in the cave although only the one shown in the picture was truly running, at the time that we took the tour.