Dunmore Caves

Dearc Fhearna

Useful Information

The entrance of Dunmore Cave from the surface. You see the path at the wall of the doline. (© Mathias J. Duckeck)
Location: 11 km north of Kilkenny on the Castlecomer Road. Follow N78 for 10 km, then turn right at the sign. Signposted.
Open: MAR to mid-JUN daily 9:30-17.
Mid-JUN to mid-SEP daily 9:30-18:30.
Mid-SEP to OCT daily 9:30-17.
Last admission 1 h before closing.
NOV to FEB Wed-Sun, Bank Holidays 10-17, last admission 15.
Fee: Adults EUR 4, Children EUR 2, Students EUR 2, Seniors EUR 3, Family EUR 10.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 3, Children EUR 2.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=400 m, VR=45 m.
Guided tours: D=60 min.
Photography: Not allowed.
Accessibility: No, long entrance staircase.
Bibliography: George Berkeley (1706): Description of the Cave of Dunmore. In Alexander Campbell Fraser, Works of George Berkeley IV. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901. pp. 73-84.
J. C. Coleman (1965): The Caves of Ireland. Tralee, Co. Kerry: Anvil Press. pp. 14-16.
Arthur Wynne Foot (1878): An account of a visit to the cave of Dunmore, Co. Kilkenny, with some remarks on human remains found therein, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 4 (Dublin) I: 65-94.
R. Lloyd Praeger (1918): Derc-Ferna: The Cave of Dunmore. Irish Naturalists' Journal 27: 148-158.
P. (1832): Cave of Dunmore (Kilkenny). Dublin Penny Journal 1 (10): 73-74.
Address: Dunmore Caves, Castlecomer Rd., Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny, Tel: +353-56-7767726, Fax: +353-56-7767302. E-mail: contact
Debbie Burke, Visitor Services, +353-1-6476593. 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.


928 a viking massacre happens in the cave, as an old chronicle tells.
1944 becomes National Monument.
1967 formation of a Development Committee for the cave.
1973 the bones of 44 people where found in the cave.
1996 more human bones discovered.
APR-2000 closed for an archaeological dig after a guide found some coins, probably dating back to the massacre of 928.
2003 reopened.


The entrance of Dunmore Cave from the bottom of the slope. (© Mathias J. Duckeck)

Dunmore Cave is described in folklore as the mouth of a huge beast, with ten thousand teeth above his head and as many under his feet. The huge, imposing entrance, has been known for centuries, but it is only comparatively recently that it has been fully explored. Until the seventeenth century caves were regarded with dread and awe as being entrances to Hell. From the eighteenth century onwards a number of visitors, including scientists and historians, have written about the cave. Research on geological and historical aspects of the cave has been pursued making it one of the best documented cave sites in Europe.

Dunmore cave is, since 1940, in the care of the Commissioners of Public Works as a National Monument because of its historic interest. In 1967 a Development Committee for the cave was formed, mainly through the enthusiasm of J. C. Coleman. A visitor centre and site museum were built and the cave surroundings were landscaped. Stairs and walkways and an extensive lighting system were installed inside.

Remains found at Dunmore include coins and human bones. An old chronicle tells about a tragedy around AD 928, when more than 1000 people were seeking refuge underground from marauding vikings. In 1973 the bones of 44 people, mostly women, children and elderly folk, where found in the cave. In 1996 more human bones were discovered in another part of the cave. It was a female and a new born child or foetus. It is not clear if they are related to the 44 others.

Soon after, in 2000, a tour guide who cleaned the cave around the tour path, found a viking treasure of coins and woven silver buttons. This treasure was so astonishing, it was even mentioned in a docu called The Ultimate Ten Amazing Treasures of The Learning Channel in the U.S.. Immediatley the cave was closed for archaeological work. This time was used for general reconstruction of the show cave. The Visitor Centre was expanded and after the dig and the renovation the cave was reopened.

Some calcite formations. (© Mathias J. Duckeck)

Dunmore Cave is located on the Castlecomer plateau, overlooking the Dinin River Valley. In this area a small and isolated limestone outcrop exists. Therefore Dunmore Cave is the only cave of significance known in southeast Ireland.

The entrance is 12 m wide and 6 m high, lying at the bottom of a 20 m deep pit, a so called KarstDoline where the roof of the cave collapsed many years ago. Most of the cave is horizontal and has two different levels. Many chambers in the cave are the product of roof collapse along lines of weakness in the rock.

The largest dripstone pillar of the cave, the so called Market Cross, is over 5 m high and 1.3 m across. There is little to suggest that here, according to legend, Luchtigen - the monster Lord of the Mice - was slaughtered. The calcite deposits in this chamber, called the Town Hall, are very pure as indicated by their whiteness.

The area near the entrance shows an interesting zonation of vegetation due to the great changes in environment. On the way down the common flowering plants of the area are gradually replaced by ferns, then by liverworts and then by green algae on the rocks. Within the entrance itself only a few algae and fungi are present. The interior of the cave is virtually devoid of plant life. Since man visits the cave a white fungus has sprung up in several places, obtaining its nourishment from spots of candle grease.

At one time the cave supported a large bat colony, but nowadays bats are only to be found in the remoter recesses of the cave. In some parts of the cave bat skeletons encrusted with calcite flowstone have been found.

Dunmore Caves Gallery