The Marble Arch Caves together with Giants Causeway are the premier geological places of interest in Northern Ireland. They are also one of Europe’s foremost show caves. A visit to the western part of Northern Ireland will be incomplete without a visit to the caves.
Here are some useful cave facts. The caves are located in county Fermanagh near the village of Florencecourt 12 miles (18 km) from Enniskillen. They are 2.8 miles long (4.5 km) and were first explored in 1895 by Eduard-Alfred Martel, the famous French speleologist. Only a portion of the cave is open to the public and part of it is covered by water. A visit is led by tour guides and lasts about 75 minutes. It begins with a boat ride and then continues on foot on well set out walkways in a well lit environment. Good walking shoes are recommended. The caves are closed from October to the end of March and may also close after heavy rain so it is advisable to call in advance and book your visit. For opening times and entrance costs visit the official website.
Since 2008 the cave complex known as the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark has become the first international geopark. This came about when in co-operation with County Cavan Council, the area of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark expanded across the border into County Cavan which shares a similar geological and historical environment.
There is ample car parking facilities, a café and toilet facilities.
How many cave types are there? Caves can be classified in different ways. One way is to classify them according to the time they were formed. Primary Caves are caves which formed at the same time as the rock that surrounds them. Secondary Caves form at a later time than the rock formations they are in, typically through the interaction of forces of nature.
How Are Caves Formed?
So then, how are caves formed? Another way to classify caves is on how caves are made. Here we can divide them into several types. Solution Caves that are formed through the interaction of water and rock typically limestone or dolomite. These are by far the most common secondary caves and the largest type of cave. The Marble Arch caves are Solution Caves.
Then there are Volcanic or Lava caves. They are formed in lava by the movements of bedrock.
Talus Caves (also know as Boulder) are created when large rockfalls on mountain slopes create large caverns underneath.
Sea Caves are formed by the erosion of water on rocky coast lands. Sometimes earth movements mean that Sea Caves are pushed above sea level. Other times Solution Caves flood with sea water and the erosion process is continued by the sea water. Most Sea Caves are up to 60 meters long though there are a few examples of much bigger caves.
Glacier Caves are formed when glacier ice melts. As it flows through the surrounding ice it creates large caverns. Glacier Caves are different from Ice Caves which are caves filled with ice but set in stone.
Aeolian Caves are by the erosion created by wind borne elements. These form mainly in sandstone sediments. For more information on caves and cave types click here.
A Day Trip
Now that you know about the Marble Arch Caves and about caves in general, make sure you visit. And why not combine it with a picnic in Florence Court, a lovely estate managed by the National Trust and less than 5 miles away and make it a lovely day trip?