“ Pluaiseanna an Aill Bhuí / The Burren (An Bhoireann) / County Clare / Ireland „
A place of unimaginable scenery is the Burren in Co. Clare, Ireland, and nestled in amongst the craggy limestone landscape is a place of natural beauty called Ailwee Cave. The trip itself to the area is one of outstanding beauty, taking you alond the narrow winding roads of rural Ireland, however, the Burren itself is unmissable with its layers of limestone hills, naturally weathered through the years. When you approach the Ailwee Cave it looks like just another hill. I suggest you drive to the top car park as it is a bit of a trek.! Upon entry there is a small gift shop and lovely cafe, upstairs is a potato bar(yes, only in Ireland!!!), here they make delicious baked potato's covered with every imaginable topping. Pretty soon a tour guide will call everyone to get ready to visit the cave. I had the misfortune of thinking that dragging my elderly clausterphobic mother down the cave with me was a good idea.... until we began the mile long walk into the cave through a small dark tunnel and she freaked out, screaming that she needed to get out and stampeeding through the 50 other tourists behind her! I carried on into the cave and my hubby stayed with my frantic mother. The cave is amazing, as I said the part the tourists see is about a mile long on fairly flat ground. The story goes that Jack, an old farmer out checking on his animals, went looking for his dog who had run away, and stumbled upon the wonderful cave. The tour giude is fantastic, stopping at many points along the way to explain all the sights inside the cave and how they were formed. Towards the end of the walk they turn off the lights to give you a sense of just how dark the cave is without any light and it really is very dark, you cannot see your hand in front of your face. You are then led out back to the cafe for a bite to eat before continuing on your journey in this magical area.
Having lastly written about a rock, Im now going to write about a cave. This cave is Aillwee Cave which is in The Burren, which is north west of Limerick in Ireland. The Burren is effectively a very large rock that has been shaped by acid rain. This type of landscape is classified as Karst, and a feature of Karst landscapes is the evolution of underground caves / drainage systems. Aillwee Cave is one of these drainage systems, and is suspected to be one of the oldest caves in Ireland. The bit that you are taken around is the best part of a mile long and is pretty flat so not very strenuous. Also as you go around there are regular stops where the guide lights up different parts of the cave with strategically placed lights. Apparently there were bears living in the cave before, however it wasnt them that put the lights up. There are some remains however of the bears, also there are interesting formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and one big waterfall. The other part of the cave is longer but not accessible by groups, however Im sure if you had the right gear and a few spare quid they would let you try and get through the other section. However its very tight and there are a few underwater sections, I think the guide said only about 3 people have ever done it. On the main tour there are a few bridges to cross, which is a bit scary as its quite dark down there, maybe worth taking a torch if you dont plan on being at the front. The cave is a constant 10 degrees Celsius, however its certainly not cold. There is also a good bit at the end of the tour which makes you realise where you are. The tour itself is about 40 minutes At 12 Euros entry fee for an adult (5.50 Euros for a child) its worth the money as you also get to explore the local landscape on a mountain walk or a more fun walk more suited to children. Plus theres a farm shop and craft shop, and also a restaurant. Its a bit in the middle of nowhere and you keep thinking youve gone too far but it is well signposted, you definitely need a car and a good nervous system as some of the corners are very tight and you cant see much of whats coming towards you. All in all the cave is very good and not claustrophobic. Its a good introduction to caving, and you may end up getting a taste for proper caving and potholing.