43 Marlbank Rd, Enniskillen BT92 1EW (12.5 miles from Enniskillin town centre). Well sign posted.
Note: With Covid safety in mind, the centre currently only offers a 60-minute guided walking tour of the caves rather than the pre-Covid boat and walking tour. However, as you will learn, even the shortened tour is worth taking.
What to expect
Winding subterranean chambers, wonderful rock features and a friendly guide to help you retrace the steps of the cave’s first explorers; these are just a few things that you can expect to find at The Marble Arch Caves.
With many websites describing it as one of “Europe’s finest show caves” and being the main feature of the surrounding UNESCO Global Geopark, there’s plenty of credit to be had for this slice of adventure hidden beneath the rolling hills of Fermanagh.
Since its opening in 1998, over one million people have taken the tour (required to enter the caves), with 93% of visitors rating it as either ‘excellent’ (69%) or ‘very good’ (24%) on Tripadvisor. We’ve been on a fair share of cave tours around the world and we have to agree, Marble Arch Caves right here in Fermanagh, really are quite special.
“Wow! One of the best cave tours I’ve ever done. The presentation is natural without too much light and no music echoing through the dark quiet spaces. Out tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. The geopark as a whole offered a very informative and varied experience of the natural surroundings.”
– Vy Thiamalon, Swansea, UK – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Profile/thiamalan
Hover to show arrows to move backwards and forwards through photos
While we have seen stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, curtains and flowstones in other caves, these features in the Marble Arch Caves somehow seem more magical; perhaps it is the lighting or the way the delicate stalactites reflect in the water as you walk the 1.5km-long gallery. There is one spot that you get an illusion of an underground forest of stalactites which really is stunning. You’ll also get to admire rock patterns formed by the eddies and swirls of water, and the different channels created by the water as it has worked its way through the rocks deep beneath the Fermanagh hills.
Another plus of the tour is the story of the caves’ discovery, starting with an initial exploration by French cave expert Édouard-Alfred Martel and Dublin naturalist Lyster Jameson in 1895. Limited by their 19th century equipment they only made it 300 metres (1,000 feet) into the caves. It was later in 1908 that the Yorkshire ramblers began a new series of explorations and discoveries, revealing more chambers and caverns under the hills. Over the following century additional discoveries were made giving us around 11.5km of linked caves in this remarkable cave system today. As the guide points out the narrow tunnels that these brave (crazy?) explorers crawled through, I could only shudder with a mix of admiration and horror at their passion.
Despite the early discoveries, the caves were only made safe for visitors with a massive project in the 1980s, bringing concrete for paths and electricity way underground. The tour only takes you on a small section of the entire system, but it really is a tour worth taking.
Fun Fact: Did you know the caves are named after the Marble Arches which spans the river above ground and can be spotted just a short walk from the visitor centre?
Authors: Ryan Harling, Katie McGregor