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Marble Arch Caves – A Magical Underground Tour – Fermanagh

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?

 

 

Practical tips

At the time of writing, you must book online in advance as the number of people on any tour is limited, and tours run with half hourly start times.

Note that there are 154 steps to enter/exit the cave system, and steps within the cave. However, the visitor center and café allows one to learn about the caves while keeping warm and fed if you are unable to make it into the caves.

Remember to bring comfortable shoes and a waterproof jacket to avoid from a chilly surprise of the odd water droplet making its way down your back!

Carparking is free to visitors.

Pricing

correct as at 4 August 2021

  • Adult £10.00
  • Child £5.00 (5-18 years), free under 4 years.
  • Family Ticket £25.00 (2 adults and 2 Children)
  • Family Ticket £28.00 (2 adults and 3 Children)
  • Senior Concession (60+) £7.50
  • Student Concession £7.50

Children 4 years and younger are free but do require a ticket. Those 16 and under are required to be accompanied by an adult.

Opening times

Caves open at 10.00am from mid/late March to September. The last tour of the day is at 4.30pm (5.00pm in July/ August). You must arrive half an hour before your tour starts to register.

Visit the Marble Arch Caves Website to learn more and book your tickets in advance up until midnight the day before your planned visit. If you have any questions you can email mac@fermanaghomagh.com or call +44(0) 28  66321815. We found the staff very helpful when we made enquiries about booking our tickets.

Comments, suggestions or questions? Please use the comments below or email us.

You might also be interested in…

The tour itself takes about an hour, but there is plenty to explore in the surrounding area.

We went off to tackle Cuilcagh, the Stairway to Heaven, which is also in  the Geopark, offering fantastic panoramic views across bogs, farmland and rugged Irish countryside. At 8km long, it takes roughly 2-3 hours to complete. Read more about it here: https://walkni.com/walks/cuilcagh- boardwalk-trail/

The centre also offers other activities such as a ‘Hidden Worlds of Cladagh Glen’ guided walk. Please check the website.

Authors: Ryan Harling, Katie McGregor

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