Doolin Cave

Pol-an-Ionain - Poallan Ionain - Pol and Ionain

Useful Information

Location: Craggycoraddon West, Doolin. Near Lisdoonvarna.
Tours start at Brauch Na Haille Restaurant, Doolin Village.
Open: APR to NOV daily 9-17.
Fee: Adults EUR 15, Children EUR 8, Family EUR 50.
10% on-line booking discount.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: L=100 m, D=30 min.
Bibliography: Graham Mullan ed. (2003): Caves Of County Clare And South Galway, 259 pp, 92 figs, includes colour photos and surveys.
This is the third and latest in a series of caving guide to this area. See page 108-109 for a description of Pol-an-Ionain (Doolin Cave).
Address: Doolin Cave, Doolin, County Clare, Tel: +353-65-707-5761. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1952 cave and Great Stalactite discovered by Brian Varley and Mike Dickinson.
1991 first attempt by the Brownes, to develop the cave.
FEB-1992 explored by Nigel Barnes.
2006 opened to the public.
2010 Visitor Center at the cave opened to the public.


Doolin Cave is the most recently opened show cave in Ireland. The cave was previously known as Pol-an-Ionain but was renamed when it became a show cave, after the nearest town. It is located two kilometers from Doolin and four kilometers from Lisdoonvarna, on the western edge of the RegionBurren karst plateau.

The tour starts at the new Visitor Center. The first stop is the natural entrance of the cave, a stream sink at the base of a cliff face. The visitors are equipped with helmets and headlamps at the artificial entrance. Down the shaft and through the tunnel the natural cave is reached. From here visitors use their headlamps, as most of the cave is not electrically lighted. The Main Chamber is entered in darkness, only with the light provided by the headlamps. Then the guide turns on the light for the Great Stalactite. Obviously this has two benefits, on one side it reduces the impact of the show cave on the cave environment, especially concerning lampenflora. On the other side it is a pretty impressive effect for the visitors. The tour also shows the Second Chamber and then returns to the Main Chamber at a lower level offering a different view of the stalactite. From here the tour returns on the same trail back to the surface.

The principal feature of the cave is an enormous solitary stalactite called Great Stalactite. Hanging from the roof of the Main Chamber it is 6.54 m long [Wright 1989], and its tip is 3.1 m from the cave floor. It is very impressive as it hangs alone and is very close to the viewing platforms. The stalactite is not a solid form but is made up of a series of curtain-like sheets of calcite.

The Great Stalactite was once listed by the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest stalactite in the world, probably because of a wrong measuring, its length was once stated to be 11 m. The cave management is so proud of this extraordinary speleothem, they tell on their website until today [2010] it was 7.3 meters long, and call it "...the longest stalactite in the Northern hemisphere". See ExplainCaves With The Longest Stalactite. for more info.

The cavers originally reached the Main Chamber through what was described in Tratman (1969, p. 151) as a 150 m long "horrible knee-wrecking crawl". To by-pass this crawl and make the cave accessible for visitors, a 25 m deep vertical shaft was sunk from the surface and a horizontal adit was driven from the base to intersect the cave at a point known as the Halfway House. As the cave is a river cave, the trail follows the river at several points on elevated walkways. The Main Chamber and Second Chamber contain extensive sediment deposits of great scientific interest and are the subject of ongoing research.

John and Helen Browne of Roadford, Doolin were planning to develop the cave and build a visitor centre with interpretative facilities, a restaurant, a treatment plant, and space for 70 cars in 1991. It took almost 20 years to make this reality, as the plans to develop the cave for tourism were controversial. Their permission was rejected several times until it was modified and became an example of a new generation of show caves, which tries to minimize the impact of the cave visits to the cave. This includes careful development of trails and light, reduction of light and heat production and careful monitoring of the cave. It even avoided the destruction of fragile cave sediments which are of great scientific value.

Many thanks to John Gunn for providig valuable info on the develoment and monitoring of the cave.