If you want a unique adventure, the Marble Arch Caves in Northern Ireland are a must-visit destination. The caves were formed millions of years ago and were only discovered in the 19th century. Today, tourists worldwide come to explore the cave system and marvel at its unique geological features while also experiencing the local flora and fauna. In this article, we will take a closer look at the history of the Marble Arch Caves, how to prepare for your visit, the cave tour experience, and other attractions in the area.
Marble Arch Cave Guide
Here are some helpful 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. Tour guides lead a visit which 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.
The Types of Cave at Marble Arch
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 The Marble Arch 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 Brief History of the Marble Arch Caves
Before you visit the Marble Arch Caves, it’s worth discovering a little about their history. The caves were formed over 300 million years ago when a shallow sea covered the area. Over time, the limestone foundation of the area was eroded by rainwater and streams, causing the Marble Arch Caves to form.
Formation and Discovery
The Marble Arch Cave was first discovered in the 19th century by a local mill owner, who stumbled upon the system while diverting water. The caves quickly became a popular destination for tourists, and in the 1980s, a visitor centre was built to accommodate the growing number of visitors.
It’s fascinating to think about how the caves were formed over such an extended period of time. The slow processes of erosion and geological activity that created the caves are a testament to the power of nature. As you explore the caves, please take a moment to appreciate the incredible forces that shaped them.
The Significance of the Caves in Local Culture
The Marble Arch Caves form are an important part of local culture, and for generations have inspired poets, musicians, and artists. The local community has recognized the area’s importance and has worked to conserve and protect it.
One of the most striking things about the delicate Cave formations is the way that they evoke a sense of mystery and wonder. It’s easy to imagine ancient myths and legends being inspired by the caves’ otherworldly beauty. As you explore the caves, think about the ways that they have inspired local artists and writers over the years.
It’s also worth noting that the Caves have played an important role in local history. During the Troubles, the caves were used as a hiding place by the IRA. Today, visitors can learn about this fascinating chapter of history at the visitor center or a guided cave tour.
Overall, the geopark are a fascinating destination that offer a glimpse into the natural and cultural history of the area. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or an artist seeking inspiration, the caves are sure to leave a lasting impression.
How To Get To The Caves
Located in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and can be reached by both car and public transport. Here’s how to get there:
- From Belfast: Take the M1 west towards Dungannon, then take the A4 west towards Enniskillen. Follow signs.
- From Dublin: Take the M1 north towards Belfast, then take the A4 west towards Enniskillen. Follow signs
- From Enniskillen: Take the A4 west towards Sligo, then turn onto the B46 towards Florencecourt. Follow signs.
There is a large car park located at the visitor center, and parking is free for visitors.
By Public Transport:
- From Belfast: Take the Translink Goldline Express 261 bus from Belfast Europa Bus Station to Enniskillen, then take the Ulsterbus 261 bus from Enniskillen to Florencecourt. From Florencecourt, it is just a short journey to the visitor centre.
- From Dublin: Take the Bus Éireann Expressway 30 bus from Dublin Busáras Station to Enniskillen, then take the Ulsterbus 261 bus from Enniskillen to Florencecourt. From Florencecourt, it is a short walk.
The Translink Goldline Express and Bus Éireann Expressway buses run daily, and the Ulsterbus 261 runs several times a day. Visitors can check the Translink and Bus Éireann websites for up-to-date timetables and ticket prices.
Overall, getting to here is straightforward by car or public transport, and visitors are sure to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the area.
Preparing for Your Visit
Are you planning a trip to the Marble Arch Caves? Here are some tips to help you prepare for your visit.
Best Time to Visit
The Marble Arch Caves are a must-see attraction that is open year-round. However, the best time to visit is between April and September. During these months, the weather is milder, and the surrounding flora and fauna are in full bloom. You’ll have the opportunity to see the beautiful landscape in all its glory and experience the cave’s natural beauty.
During the peak season, it’s essential to book your tour in advance to avoid disappointment.
What to Wear and Bring
When visiting the Marble Arch Caves, it’s essential to wear comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for walking and caving. You’ll be walking on uneven surfaces, so comfortable shoes with good grip are a must. You may want to bring a waterproof jacket and a change of clothes in case you get wet. The cave temperature is constant at 10-12 degrees Celsius, so bringing a warm layer is recommended.
Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the breathtaking views of the cave system. You’ll want to remember this experience for years to come.
Safety Precautions and Guidelines
It’s important to note that the Marble Arch Caves are a natural cave system and, as such, have inherent risks. Visitors must take a guided tour to ensure that they are aware of the cave’s risks and adequately prepared. The tour guides are knowledgeable and experienced and will ensure a safe and enjoyable guided cave tour experience.
The visitor centre staff will provide you with all the safety equipment required for the tour, including a hard hat and lamp. It’s essential to follow the safety guidelines provided by the staff to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
Remember to stay with your group and follow the guide’s instructions at all times. Don’t touch any of the cave formations, as they are fragile and can be easily damaged.
By following these safety precautions, guidelines and along the carefully constructed paths enable you to have a safe and enjoyable experience exploring the Marble Arch Caves.
The Cave Tour Experience
If you’re looking for an adventure that will take you deep into the Earth’s crust, then the Marble Arch Caves are just what you need. This fascinating cave system is located in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and is a must-visit for anyone interested in geology, history, or just a bit of excitement.
The Guided Tour
When you arrive at the Marble Arch Caves, you’ll be greeted by an experienced guide who will take you on a journey through the underground wonderland. The tour will take you through the caves and highlight significant geological features, such as underground rivers, waterfalls, and stalactites and stalagmites.
As you make your way through the winding tunnels, your guide will tell you all about the history of the caves and the surrounding area. You’ll learn about the ancient limestone formations that make up the caves and how they were formed over millions of years.
Highlights of the Cave System
Some of the highlights of the cave system include a boat trip through the Lower Cave, taking you past stunning underground waterfalls and rivers. This is a truly unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
You will also see the magnificent Great Stalactite, which is Europe’s longest free-hanging formation of its kind. This incredible natural wonder is over 20 feet long and is a sight to behold.
But the Marble Arch Caves have more to offer than just these two highlights. As you explore the caves, you’ll discover hidden gems around every corner. From underground lakes to secret passageways, there’s always something new to discover.
Unique Geological Features
The Marble Arch Caves are home to unique geological features that are fascinating to explore. The caves offer a glimpse into the geological history of the area, as well as insight into the formation of limestone caves.
Visitors will see underground stalagmites and stalactites, calcite, and unique underground rivers. These features are not only beautiful to look at, but they also provide valuable information about the Earth’s history and how it has changed over time.
So if you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure that will take you deep into the heart of the Earth, then the Marble Arch Caves are the perfect destination. With its stunning natural beauty and fascinating geological features, this cave system is sure to leave you in awe.
Flora and Fauna of the Marble Arch Caves
The Marble Arch Caves are truly a wonder of nature. The stunning beauty of the caves is matched only by the richness of the surrounding flora and fauna. The area is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
The Marble Arch Caves are home to a variety of cave-dwelling species. These creatures have adapted to the unique environment of the caves and are an integral part of the delicate ecosystem. Bats are one of the most common species found in the caves. These fascinating creatures use echolocation to navigate through the dark, twisting passages of the cave system. Blind shrimp are another species that call the caves home. These tiny creatures are completely blind and have evolved to thrive in the total darkness of the caves. Several types of spiders can also be found in the caves. These arachnids have adapted to life in the caves by developing unique hunting strategies and web-building techniques.
It’s crucial to follow the guidelines set out during your guided tour to ensure that these unique creatures are not disturbed. Your guide will provide you with all the information you need to explore the caves without harming the delicate ecosystem.
Surrounding Forest and Wildlife
The Marble Arch Caves are surrounded by a lush, verdant forest that is home to a wide variety of wildlife. The area is a haven for birdwatchers, with several species of birds calling the forest home. The elusive kingfisher can often be seen darting along the river that runs through the forest. Red squirrels are another common sight in the area. These adorable creatures are a protected species and are a delight to watch as they scamper through the trees.
If you’re lucky, you may even spot an otter while on your guided tour. These playful creatures are excellent swimmers and can often be seen frolicking in the river. The surrounding forest is also home to several walking trails that allow visitors to explore the local flora and fauna. Your guide will be able to point out interesting plants and animals along the way, making your visit to the Marble Arch Caves a truly unforgettable experience.
Other Attractions in the Area
Cuilcagh Mountain Park
Cuilcagh Mountain Park is located near the Marble Arch Caves and offers visitors the opportunity to hike to the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain. The park is home to a variety of flora and fauna, and from the summit, visitors can see stunning views of the surrounding area.
Florence Court House and Gardens
Florence Court House and Gardens are a national trust property located near the Marble Arch Caves. The house and gardens are open to the public and offer visitors the opportunity to explore the rich history of the area. The gardens are home to several plant species, and the house is open for tours, giving visitors an insight into the lives of the family who lived there.
The Cladagh Glen Walk
For those who enjoy hiking, the Cladagh Glen Walk is a must-do while visiting the Marble Arch Caves. The trail takes you through a stunning area of local forest and offers several viewing platforms that allow you to take in the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Places To Stay Near The Marble Arch Caves
There are several accommodation options nearby that visitors can choose from to stay while visiting the caves. Here are some of the best places to stay:
- Marble Arch Caves Geopark: The Marble Arch Caves Geopark offers a range of accommodation options, including self-catering cottages and glamping pods, located within the geopark itself. This is an excellent option for those who want to stay close to the caves and experience the area’s natural beauty.
- Lough Erne Resort: This luxury resort is just a short drive from the Marble Arch Caves and offers spacious rooms, suites, an on-site spa, and two championship golf courses. The resort is set on the banks of Lough Erne, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
- Belmore Court & Motel: This modern hotel is located in the nearby town of Enniskillen and offers comfortable rooms and suites, free Wi-Fi, and a continental breakfast. The hotel is just a short drive from the Marble Arch Caves, making it a convenient option for visitors.
- Mahon’s Hotel: This traditional Irish hotel in Irvinestown offers comfortable rooms, an on-site restaurant and bar, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel is located just a short drive from the Marble Arch Caves and offers visitors a convenient and affordable option.
Overall, there are several accommodation options available for visitors to the Marble Arch Caves, ranging from luxury resorts to budget-friendly hotels and self-catering cottages. Visitors are sure to find a comfortable and welcoming place to stay while exploring this beautiful area of Northern Ireland.
Exploring the Marble Arch Caves is an unforgettable adventure that offers visitors the chance to experience unique geological features, witness cave-dwelling species, and explore breathtaking flora and fauna. By following the guidelines set out during the guided tour and taking appropriate safety precautions, visitors can enjoy this unique natural wonder safely. The surrounding area also offers several other attractions, such as hiking and historic house tours, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in natural beauty and history.