“ Marlbank Scenic Loop, Florencecourt, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland BT92 1EW. tel = Tel: +44-1365-348855, Fax: +44-1365-348928. „
The Marble Arch Caves make up part of a global geopark, and are located in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland - about 30 minutes from the provincial town of Enniskillen.
What makes them special is that they provide from some dramatic underground cavescapes are accessible to the public to boot.
Reaching them is not always simple. If travelling by road, google maps should provide better directions than I ever will. If on a tour, then you've nothing to worry about. If relying on public transport - then you may have a problem and be forced into taking a taxi all the way from Enniskillen, which will be costly.
If you do find a way to get to the Marble Arch Caves, entry is £8 for adults, £5 for children, and there is a whole other range of prices and packages available to cast your eyes over at their website: http://www.marblearchcaves.net/
What can you expect when you enter the "geopark"? You'll be assigned a particular tour group, usually including between 15-20 people. If you are short on time, try to book ahead, so as to secure your preferred slot.
You will then be taken by a specially trained tour leader, down some slopes and into the caves. Depending on who you get, you will either find yourself with a barrage of information - much of which is probably not that neccessary. Alternatively, it'll be just the right amount. Simply depends on the tour guide of the day.
Once down in the caves, you'll have the odd and also somewhat enjoyable experience of cruising through the caves in a small craft. That's because in order to reach the main area of the underground caves, you have to move through a small water system. The voyage lasts only 5 minutes, with safety instructions provided beforehand. It's altogether very easy going, but the less mobile will have to bear this in mind when choosing to go.
Once at the other end, you are taken on approximately a 1 mile walk through the cave system. Here, you are directed towards many of it's most interesting features, such as the stalactites and stalagmites, as well as some of the reflecting pools of water. Don't expect to get decent photographs, but do expect to be impressed by the underground structures and geology.
Overall i'd say the Marble Arch Caves are well worth the visit. The total duration of the tour ranges between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 40. Leave a bit of extra time if you are just turning up. Also bear in mind that the caves are only open to the public from March to September - so entry over the winter is not possible.
It was a strange kind of day on Saturday. One minute it was raining, the next the sun was splitting the rocks. In fact it even was hail-stoning for a short time. And this was June! I don?t remember June ever being like this when I was small. But on with my review? I was staying in Fermanagh with my boyfriend. He lives there, but to me, it?s a holiday every time I visit. After weeks of saying that I wanted to see the Marble Arch Caves, and getting the response ?Please don?t make me take you there!? from him, I eventually persuaded him that it would be easier to get my trip over and done with, than to listen to me. So when the sun shone for more than fifteen minutes, we took the chance and drove to the caves. The ?Marble Arch Caves? are located in County Fermanagh in the North of Ireland. If you drive through a village called Florencecourt you will see the signs directing you there. The road is quite barren as you proceed to the centre. But the grounds of the caves are lovely and so well kept. And with the sun shining we had to look around and say it was breathtaking. At this stage I said to my boyfriend ?Why haven?t you taken me here before!?? To which he replied ?Because I?ve been here so many times now, I could take the tour myself!? I had to giggle, as what he said was true- Any time that he has friends visiting, they always ask to see the Caves. They are probably Fermanagh?s biggest tourist attraction and this means darling boyf has been there taking the same tour at least two times every year for the past ten years. I?d probably be sick of it too! Bearing in mind that these are caves, and it takes hundreds of years to change even the slightest stalactite. The Centre ++++++++ The Centre at the Caves is a lovely new development in a grey stone effect, this blends in very well with the location, and is a fine piece of architecture. Inside there is a gift shop and a café, and many little displays and models of the caves. Here you can
wander around finding out how they were discovered, how they were explored, and how they are explored today with the new equipment. The displays were very interesting, and we found out that the centre also had an audio-visual theatre. In the gift shop you could buy all the little things that kids love, pens, erasers, car stickers, little models of cavers, and all very reasonably priced. For fun I picked up a pen, and a car sticker, and this came to 90p. Of course I?ve put the sticker in my car, as boyfriend not taking me to the caves has become a bit of a running joke with our families, so I had to have some proof of my visit! After we had a look around, we thought we?d better check out what time the next tour was at, so we asked the girl at the counter. Unfortunately, because of the heavy rain that day, we were told that it was unsafe to take the complete tour, with the boat trip, so instead she would give us a free ten minute tour so we wouldn?t have had a wasted journey. It was a little disappointing, but still, we were getting to see the insides of the caves, and there were loads of pictures on the walls and explanations that gave me a feeling for the inside of them. My Short Tour +++++++++++ There are 150 steps down to the caves, and so you have to climb all 150 back up again, and this is very tiring. If you had any walking difficulties, then the caves probably wouldn?t be a good day trip for you as the steps are very wet and rather slippy. Anyhow, our guide took us down all the steps and apologised that we wouldn?t get the complete tour, but that when he took us further into the caves we would be able to see that the tour would have been impossible. After breaking us into groups of two as the stairs were too small to hold everyone, he led the pairs down into the cave entrance. As we stood at the top of the metal staircase, which should have led us on to the path we saw water gushing down the path at a very fast speed
indeed. Had we have tried to walk on the path we would have been swept into the caves and probable never have been seen again. The Stairway, while not ideal, allowed us to get a look into the cave and see a little of what was in the distance. I was very glad that we had not driven a long way to visit the caves, like some of the people outside, but it was disappointing to get there and get no further than the front door. Of course my boyfriend suddenly became interested in the caves when he saw the water rushing around inside. Each time he had been before, the caves were dry (as dry as caves can be) and he had never seen anything like this before, so suddenly it became exciting to him. To think that it was the cladagh river running right under our feet was quite bewildering! My Long Tour +++++++++++ This wasn?t my first visit to the Marble Arch Caves, so I will be able to complete the review. Nearly every Northern Ireland schoolchild gets taken to the caves as a geography project while they are at school, and so I had been there before, I just couldn?t remember it well. But reading the information on the walls and seeing the photographs gave me a feeling of déjà vu. So now that I?ve told you my recent experience, I?ll give you a brief outline of what you can expect when you visit the Marble Arch Caves. Waterfalls, Rock Formations, great big still lakes and a moment of pitch blackness! As the tour guide explains how the pointed rocks are formed by the water dripping downwards over hundreds of years, you marvel at the glistening of the walls. This is in fact calcite (How smart am I!) . The boat tour is marvellous. It takes place at the bottom level, and the kids gasp and cheer as they are steered around. I wish I could tell more, and when I get my full-length tour again I?ll update my review. I know that the boat trip was the best part of the tour the first time I was there, so it was the part I really wanted to do again! But of
course, as this is the bottom level of the tour, it is also the most likely to get cancelled during heavy rainfall. Cave Opening Hours and Seasons ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Obviously the caves are quite dangerous in the wintertime and do not open to the public, but they do open from late March until September. During Peak Season they are open from 10- 4:30. You will find the tour guides are very pleasant and informative. The typical tour lasts just over an hour, but as you?ve read from my experience it would be worth telephoning to make sure that the caves are passable. It would be a shame to drive a long way to find out that you can only stick your head in the door! My advice would be to bring a jumper with you. Even on the hottest summers day, the caves are bitterly cold. Waterproofs might be a good idea as well. Believe me, I intend to go again, it is such a lovely area, and there are many pretty walks that you can take, through Florencecourt or the Claddagh glen and certainly it is worth the scenic drive alone.