The UNESCO recognised Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is host to the Marble Arch showcaves which include fascinating natural underground rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers. For the feature spotter, there is an ample supply of stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, cave curtains, rimstone pools, flowstones, fossils and an assortment of other cave formations, some dating from a time when Northern Ireland was submerged in a tropical ocean. The caves are well lit (without using the coloured lights often used in caves nowadays to artificially enhance features) and accessed along purpose built viewing walkways. UNESCO describes the Marble Arch Caves as among Europe’s finest showcaves.
The caves are named after the nearby Marble Arch, a natural limestone arch at the upstream end of Cladagh Glen under which the Cladagh River flows. See my separate review for walks in the Geopark area – The Real Marble Arch.
The cave system can only be visited via a guided tour. If our guide is any indication of the others then they are lively and informative, getting across a raft of geological and cave information in an interesting an non-scientific manner.
Many of the cave features have been given names including the Moses Walk, the Porridge Pot and the Guardian Angel. Some of these require a pretty large amount of lateral thinking and seeing to seem appropriate though. The Moses Walk is one of the few man-made structures in the caves and allows you to ‘walk’ through an underground lake.
Tours last for around 75 minutes and are suitable for people of average fitness. You have to cope with 150 steps and a distance of around 1.5kms. Do wear comfortable walking shoes with a grip (paths are wet but not flooded) and wear a warm sweater as its permanently chilly in the caves.
Typically the tour starts with a short boat ride though this was not operating on my most recent visit due to the low level of water in the river (a small discount was given on the entry fee as a result – a thoughtful touch).
The caves have good parking, a souvenir shop, a restaurant/cafe (which is ok – though if you are making a day of this and nearby Florence Court House I recommend eating at the latter), an exhibition area (small but certainly worth a look while waiting for your tour to start or afterwards) and an audio-visual theatre. All of these are in the Visitors Centre.
While the showcave here wasn’t opened until 1985, the cave system has been known about for a long time and in fact tourists are known to have first visited the caves in the late 19th century. I recall a school trip to the caves in the early 1980s.
Opening times (2015)
Mid-March – June 10am – 4.30pm
July – August 10am – 5.00pm
September – Mid Oct 10am – 4.30pm
Mid Oct – Mid March – CLOSED
Note: Closing time is the time that the last tour commences. Shop, etc closes about 90 minutes after this time.
All tours are subject to prevailing weather conditions – Call ahead if it has been raining to ensure that tours are running.
Entrance fees (2015):
Adult – GBP 8.75
Under 18 – GBP 5.75
Student/OAP GBP 5.95 (ID necessary)
Address: Marlbank, Florencecourt
Directions: 18kms west of Enniskillen and well signposted from the town having got yourself onto the Sligo Road.
Phone: (0) 28 6634 8855
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Enniskillen. I suggest you continue with my next entry – The Marble Arch and Cladagh River Walk– or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – “Fare thee well Enniskillen, ………..”