You’ll never see better. A better stalactite, that is.
Oh yes, if bigger is better, then I’m happy to bet that you’ll never see better than the magnificent stalactite in Ireland’s Doolin Cave. It’s the 3rd largest in the world, and given that the 2 others are in Lebanon & Brazil (not open to the public,) chances are that for many of us, the Burren’s Doolin Cave is The One To See.
Stalactite in a Class of its Own
It is spectacular, especially as it hangs alone in its regal glory, not surrounded by minions that might distract from its impact. This, though, makes it difficult to photograph to give a sense of its 23ft/7.3metre length, as there is nothing nearby to show the stalactite’s scale. Yet when you see it in real life you’ll find it easy to imagine the awe felt by the stalactite’s discoverers:
Description by Varley and Dickenson of their first view of the Great Stalactite:
“Scrambling over boulders, we stood speechless in a large chamber, of ample width, length and impressive height. As our lamps circled this great hall we picked out a gigantic stalactite, certainly over 30 feet in length, the only formation in the chamber and set proudly in the very centre. It is really majestic and poised like the veritable sword of Damocles.
With our headlamps inadequately flood-lighting this huge formation we tiptoed-believe it nor not! – to the bottom of the chamber, not daring to speak lest the vibration of the first voices ever to sound in this hall since the beginning of Time should cause it to shatter.” (quote via doolincave.ie)
A Wild Cave
Another very special aspect of Doolin Cave is that it is as close to a ‘wild’ cave as us non-cavers will likely get. You have to don a hard hat due to low passages, and though the cave is safe, it is not brightly lit nor totally filled with boardwalks that remove you from the reality of the stone, mud and water beneath your feet. I loved it!
You’ll descend 80 feet into the very first chamber, and this is done by stairs- 120 of them. Luckily for people like me who have back or other issues, there’s a landing with a seat every 10 steps in case you need a wee breather 🙂 Of course, I was too proud to rest on the way back up and was out of breath with my sciatic pinging at me for my stubbornness. But, ah well, for me the wild cave was worth it!
Doolin Cave has a visitor centre with a small shop & cafe and as well as a farmland nature trail. I went to the cave by special arrangement in November when they are closed, so I’ve no review for those features. I did manage to feed my mug habit – I bought a rustic mug made with the Doolin Cave glacial clay from Doolin Cave Pottery! I also like the ethos of Doolin Cave; they’re very active in eco-tourism & have won Gold standard.
The interesting guided cave tour takes just under an hour, and it is prudent to wear sturdy shoes and bring a light jacket. Strollers cannot be brought into the cave, and babies & small children must be carried.
Jan 6th – Mid Feb: By appointment only
July 1st – September 30th: 10am – 5pm Tours every half an hour
October: 11am – 4pm weekdays and 10am to 5pm weekends.
Winter : Christmas: Dec 27th – Jan 6th 10am – 4pm daily.
You will save 20% on the prices below if you book online.
(2 adults & 3 children)
Getting To Doolin Cave:
The cave is around 5 minutes’ drive from Doolin Village, and 15 mins from the Cliffs of Moher. Driving from Limerick City takes just over an hour, so it is a brilliant side trip if you are visiting for the City of Culture 2014. I did just that, and the balance of city & country was perfect.
Other travel times:
Shannon Airport: 45 min Galway: 1 hr Cork: 3 hrs 3.5 hrs: Dublin. If you aren’t driving, the best idea may be to email or ring them to see about current bus connections.Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 353 (0)65 707 5761
I was a guest at Doolin Cave, but this didn’t affect my opinion.