The Marble Arch Caves are a series of natural limestone caves located near the village of Florence Court in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The caves are named after the nearby Marble Arch, a natural limestone arch at the upstream end of Cladagh Glen Cladagh under which the river flows. [3]

The caves are formed from three rivers that drain off the northern slopes of the mountain Cuilcagh, which combines underground to form Cladagh. On the surface, the river emerges from the largest karst resurgence in Ireland, and one of the largest in the UK. [4] At the 11.5 km (7.1 mi) Marble Arch Caves form the longest known cave system in Northern Ireland, [1] and Karst considered among the finest in the British Isles. [5]

The history of exploration

18-19th century

Marble Arch, Cladagh River boom and three large dolines on the plateau above the end of Cladagh Glen were all known long before the underground exploration began; in fact, the arch was a popular tourist attraction in the 19th century. [6] As early as the 1730s, Reverend William Henry described these features, as well as the diversion of Owenbrean, Aghinrawn and Sruh Croppa rivers which he guessed to be feeders of the system . [7]

Without venturing far into the cave, Henry descended to the base of one of the dolines above the resurgence:

The arc of my head was 20 feet high, continued with a small landing for 100 yards to other large pit, the light that I could observe the river flowing gently along …

– Rev. William Henry, a natural history of the church in Killesher (1732) [7]

The stream passes at the base of each hook hole first explored by Édouard-Alfred Martel and Dublin kind Lyster Jameson 1895. [8] With the help of a canvas boat and light ochmagnesium torches to light, Martel and Jameson 300 meters (1,000 ft) passages [ 9] , including the intersection where the three rivers (the Owenbrean and the combined Aghinrawn and Sruh Croppa) meet.[nb 1] [3] they drew a map of the discoveries and drawings depicting the expedition, noting upstream conclusion by boat in the Grand Gallery and on foot in the pool house. [9] today, this road to the pool department is included in the walking part of the show cave. [6]

Martel and Jameson also investigated Cradle Hole, a very large area hook hole 400 meters ( 1 / four mi) south-south-west of Marble Arch. A cave entrance in the northeast corner-Lower Cradle-examined and reached an underground river and passages with the same proportions as the Marble Arch Cave. [9]


1907, English cavers from Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club began exploration in the area, and without access to a boat they decided to wade the part of the underground river as far as The Junction, then reaches the extent of Martel and Jameson’s explorations. [11] Strengthened by the experience , and good opportunities to further discoveries, Yorkshire Ramblers back in Easter 1908, a group of cavers descended a pit close to the big dolines on the plateau and discovered the big Boulder house. After a couple of hours to explore, they realized that they had found a new way into the pool area beyond the deep water of the original input. [3]

During the 1908 explorations, Yorkshire Ramblers conducted tests to determine the hydrological linkages between caves. They performed a dye tracing experiments with fluorescein, establishing a direct water connection from Aghinrawn River descend on Monastir cut through the upper Cradle Hole Cave (located on the south side of the Cradle Hole), to Cladagh Glen boost. [3] While surveying lower Cradle Hole Cave, sent a caver a floating candle downstream along the river, until it flowed under a low ceiling out of sight at the end of the famous passage. On the plot surveyed passage on a map along the Marble Arch Cave, it was evident that only 9 meters (30 feet) separated at the end of this passage from the upstream end of the Grand Gallery, and it was assumed that a connection between the two might be forged. [3] [12]


No further exploration was done until Easter 1935 when another group from Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club made its way from England. [13] In wet conditions, cavers reintroduced pool chamber via the entrance there in 1908, and after some investigation found a high level scanning passage leaving the chamber.The passage ended high in the wall in the New department, a cave of considerable size, which continued upstream of the river found. Exploration stopped here because the water was too deep to cross. [13]

The club returned to New Department in 1936 to investigate and map the ongoing Skreen Hill crossing, named after the hill on the surface above.After 370 meters (1,200 ft) Walking passage, the cavers stopped at a deep sea.[14] This part of the deep water is where the path of the current show cave ends. [6] When club members back again in 1938, they brought enuppblåsbar inflatable boat, so that they can go on the lake, only to discover that the way was blocked by the sump 1, only 40 meters (132 feet) from the beach. [15]

During the expedition in 1935 another group of cavers explored Cradle Lower Hole Cave. To reach the downstream end of the cave, they discovered that the water level was now low enough to see a series of low arches above the water surface. By anchoring a floating light halfway through the passage, leaving the cave and returns to the end of the Grand Gallery of Marble Arch Cave, cavers confirmed that the passages were connected; Then two of the party swam by making the first through-trip between Marble Arch Cave and Lower Cradle Hole Cave. [13]


In the mid-1960s, some progress had been made in cave diving, by which method the spelunkers had extended their explorations of the caves beyond the marshes that normally would have stopped progress. In December 1966 diver Dave Cobley and Mike Boon made preparations to dive sump 1 in Skreen Hill passage. Before the dive, however, they examined a small dry passage that leads out on the left bank of the lake, to find the way blocked by the unstable boulders in the ceiling. The cavers out of the blocks to reveal a way that led through a dry road to the far side of the sump 1. [16] The new 200-meter (660-foot) section of the river crossing by elected Skreen Hill 2, and more 800 meters ( 1 / 2 mi) inlet channel named Legnabrocky Way.Ett remarkable feature of Legnabrocky Way is the Giant Hall, a large chamber 60 meters long, 30 meters high and 15 meters wide (200 × 98 × 49 ft). [6] Despite that only carries a small stream is Legnabrocky Way majority of the passage of Marble Arch Cave. [17]

Upstream continuation of the river in Skreen Hill 2 was found to be short blocked by sump 3, so in March 1967 a group of divers returned to try to further exploration. William Frakes and John Ogden was the first to successfully pass 25 meters (82 feet) Sump achieving Skreen Hill 3, 640 meters (2,100 ft) of the “grand current passage” ends in block collapse. [16] [17]In the following months a comprehensive survey was made of all the Marble Arch Caves, including the newly discovered parts. During this time, surveyors learned of the deaths in Frakes, Ogden and Colin Vickers other divers in the original team in Moss Dale Caverns accident. In tribute, has a number of functions cave Skreen Hill 3 named for the three cavers. [16]


Three deaths occurred in January 1995 when members of a party of ten drowned after being swept away by the fast flowing water in low airspace portion of the passage between the Lower Cradle Hole and Grand Gallery. [18]


In 2009 and 2010 diving connections were made to the nearby cave systems by Artur Kozłowski, first-Prod’s Pot – Cascades Rising doubling the total length of the system 4.5-9 km (2.8 to 5.6 mi), [19] -and then to the newly formed Monastir Sink – Upper Cradle system [20] . expand Marble Arch system to 11.5 km (7.1 mi) [21] . discovery makes this the longest cave in Northern Ireland [1]

Hydrology and development

Marble Arch Cave system formed mainly by three rivers that drain off Marlbank area on the north side of the mountain Cuilcagh. From west to east, these tributaries are Sruh Croppa, the Aghinrawn (or Monastir) ochOwenbrean. [Nb 1] [6]

Prod pot – Cascades Ascending part of the system (connected to the Marble Arch Caves 2009) [19] has a complex hydrology that include drainage from at least five small basin on the eastern Marlbank (Gortmaconnell Pot, Little Gortmaconnell Pot, Smokey Mountain Sink and two unnamed basin Brookfield has been traced to dye Cascades); parts of Owenbrean River upstream head drop on Pollasumera; and especially Goat Pot, Pot Aghatirourke, Pigeon Pots and Badger Pot East Cuilcagh, nearly three kilometers (1.9 mi) to the east. [22] Of these goat Pot and Aghatirourke Pot also has been traced to Tullyhona Rising (1.5 kilometers (0.93 mi) east-southeast of the Cascades Rising); Dove Pots, Badger Pot and Aghatirourke Pot flow also Gortalughany Rising (an overflow rises at East Cuilcagh); and Badger Pot and Pigeon Pots also stream the Shannon Pot on the far western slopes Cuilcagh. [23]

Visa grotta

A part of the cave passage and walkway in Showcave.

Édouard-Alfred Martel first postulated to Marble Arch Cave would make a worthy show cave after first examining the system in 1895. [9] But it was not until 1982 that finally began the work of creating a new underground tourist attraction. [24] The development includes:

  • Building concrete and metal walkways with railings throughout the show cave, [25]
  • Installation of electric lighting, [25]
  • A new tunnel between the pool area and the New Chamber provides walking access to Skreen Hill passages;
  • An access shaft and staircase in Skreen Hill passage from one of the large surface dolines on the plateau;
  • A short section of road walls dug in the floor of the cave, under a low ceiling of ‘Moses Walk’ is so called because the river continues to shoulder height either side of the road, [8]
  • A visitor center, parking lot and access road on the surface. [25]

Covers a small part of the system, the Marble Arch Caves show cave was opened to the public May 29, 1985. [24] Visitors traveling through the first part of the caves by boat on underground Cladagh River, before you go through the rest of the chambers. [26]

Between 1985 and 2008 show cave attracted about 1 million visitors from 100 countries around the world. [27] Annual capacity visitors (during the period that the cave is open from March to September) is 94,060. [25]

European / Global Geopark status

Main article: Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

In 2001, the caves and the nearby Cuilcagh Mountain Park joined to become a European Geopark under the name of the Marble Arch Caves European Geopark, the first park in the UK to be recognized by the European Geoparks Network (EGN). [26] The distribution was partly due to the presence the caves themselves, and even the rare blanket bog which covers a large area of the mountains. Under an agreement between EGN and UNESCOgeovetenskaper division in 2004, [28] the park was part of the Global Network of National Geoparks (GGN) system and was named the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. In 2008 the park boundaries were extended over the border into parts of County Cavan in Ireland, making it the first international Geopark in the world. [29]

Questions conservation

The cutting of the turf has led to damage in the area. Extensive drainage in parts of the bog has damaged the bog’s ability to retain water, resulting in floods and unusually high water levels in caves downstream. [31] This has hampered tourism in the past, especially in 1989, when the effects of such damage affects the cave water levels were first apparent. [31] As a safety precaution, peat cutting has been banned in the wider Geopark. In addition, more than 1,200 small dams have been introduced over the moors to slow the water flow and stimulate the growth of new bog. [32]

Another problem is that the human impact can cause the limestone damaged or eroded. In a particular case in 1984, a group of vandals broke into the show cave before it opened to the public, and threw stones at some of calcite formations around the entrance. Many small stalactites have withdrawn to their bases, while the tip of the largest stalactite cave in the show (over 2 meters [6.6 feet] in length) [30] was carved. This tip fell on a sandbank on the cave floor, where it picked up the next day by a worker. It is then sent to the Ulster Museum in Belfast where a calcite resin specially produced and then used to hold back the tip of its original position. [33]

See also

  • Cuilcagh Mountain Park
  • Cladagh Glen Nature Reserve
  • List of caves in the UK
  • Category: Caves of Northern Ireland


  1. ^ Jump up to: ab Ordnance Survey maps of the area mistakenly label the rivers west-east as “Sruh Croppa”, “Owenbrean or Monastir” and leave the easternmost river nameless. Early reports of cave exploration at Cuilcagh Mountain use the naming convention, while recent publications use the right local names Sruh Croppa, Aghinrawn (or Monastir) and Owenbrean. [6] [10]


  1. ^ Jump up to: abc “N Ireland – Longest caves”. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  2. Jump up ^ “Access”. Speleological Union of Ireland. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  3. ^ Hoppa upp till:a b c d e. Brodrick, Harold (1909) “The Florence Court Caves: Co Fermanagh” . Yorkshire Ramblers ‘Club Journal. Leeds Yorkshire Ramblers ‘Club . 3 (9): 49-65 . Hämtad 24 juli 2012 .
  4. ^ Jump up to: ab “Marlbank-Cuilcagh Mountain Region, Marble Arch Karst – full report.” Earth Science Conservation Review. Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  5. Jump up ^ Williams, P. W. (1970). “Limestone morphology in Ireland”.In Stephens, N.; Glassock, RE Irish geographical studies .Queens University of Belfast. pp. 105-124. Geomorphological knowledge of Marble Arch Upland and indeed all other upland karst in this part of Ireland is extremely poor which is surprising since Karst is among the finest in the British Isles. [4]
  6. ^ Jump up to: abcdef Jones, Gareth Ll.; Burns, Poppy; Fogg, Tim; Kelly, John (1997). The caves in Fermanagh and Cavan (2nd ed.). Lough Nilly Press.pp. 79-84. ISBN 0-9531602-0-3.
  7. ^ Jump up to: ab Henry, Rev. William ‘(7 Jan 1732) A. “A Natural History of the church in Killesher by Rev’d William Henry, principal of it.” Armagh Public Library Manuscripts MS GI14. Quoted in Barrie, Peter (October 2014). “These infernal labyrinths: William Henry 1730s accounts Fermanagh caves”. Irish Speleology. Speleological Union of Ireland. 21 .ISSN 0332-4907.
  8. ^ Jump up to: ab “Welcome to the Marble Arch Caves European Geopark” (PDF). Fermanagh District Council. Hämtas2010-04-21.
  9. ^ Jump up to: abcd Martel, É.-A. . (1897) “British Caves and Caving”. The geographic Journal. X (5) :. 500-511 doi: 10.2307 / 1774383. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  10. Jump up ^ “Marlbank-Cuilcagh Mountain Region, Marble Arch Karst – Summary”. Earth Science Conservation Review. Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  11. Jump up ^ Brodrick, Harold (1908). “Some caves and pot-holes in County Fermanagh.” Yorkshire Ramblers ‘Club Journal .Leeds Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club. 2 (8): 291-305. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  12. Hoppa upp^Brodrick, Harold (1909). “The Marble Arch Caves, County Fermanagh: main stream [ sic ] serien” . Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy . Royal Irish Academy . 27 (B): 183-192 . Hämtad 29 juli 2012 .
  13. ^ Jump up to: abc . Gowing, GS (1936) “The Underground course of Monastir River”. Yorkshire Ramblers ‘Club Journal .Leeds: Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club. 6 (22): 320-328. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  14. Jump up ^ Gowing, GS (1938). “Ireland reconsidered: caves in the north and south.” Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club Journal. Leeds: Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club. 7 (23): 43-51. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  15. Hoppa upp^Roberts, EE (1947). “Den Ennis Gondoliers” . Yorkshire Ramblers ‘Club Journal . Leeds: Yorkshire Ramblers ‘Club . 7 (24): 144-152 . Hämtad 24 juli 2012 .
  16. ^ Jump up to: abc Holgate, Hugh (December 1967). “Some recent discoveries in the Marble Arch Caves”. The Irish Caver: Irish Caving Club Newsletter. 2 : 3-11.
  17. ^ Jump up to: ab “Marble Arch Karst, Marble Arch Cave”. Earth Science Conservation Review. National Museums Northern Ireland .Hämtad 21 December 2012.
  18. Jump up ^ “Summary of incidents in 1995” (PDF) British Cave Rescue Council. Hämtasoch 31 August 2014.
  19. ^ Jump up to: ab Report of the connection between Marble Arch and Prod’s Pot / cascades systems in 2009. Hell & High Water
  20. Jump up ^ Monastir Sink – Upper Cradle connection in 2010. Hell & High Water
  21. Jump up ^ Report of the connection between Marble Arch and Upper Cradle of 2010. Hell & High Water
  22. Hoppa upp^ “Marlbank-Cuilcagh Mountain Region, Prod s Pot – Cascades Rising Area” . Geovetenskap Conservation Review . Nordirland miljöbyrån . Hämtad 22 december 2012 .
  23. Jump up ^ Jones et al. , 1997, p. 60-61
  24. ^ Jump up to: ab . Dane, Lily (13 May 2010) “25 years on, caves still a cultural mecca for tourists and students’ impartiality. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  25. ^ Jump up to: abcd “sustainability”. BBC Online. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  26. ^ Jump up to: ab “Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark – IRELAND”.European Geoparks Network. Taken 21 december2012.
  27. Jump up ^ a program to expand the Marble Arch Caves European Geopark on an international basis in Cavan in Ireland (PDF) (Report).Fermanagh District Council, Cavan County Council. 2008. A.3. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  28. Jump up ^ “The organization – Introduction”. European Geoparks Network. Pulled 01/23/2009.
  29. Jump up ^ “Geopark News: The Worlds First International Geopark”.Fermanagh District Council. In 2008. Hämtad2009 / 01 / 22nd
  30. ^ Jump up to: ab Fermanagh Lakelands tourism. Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. YouTube. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  31. ^ Jump up to: ab “Peat / peat-cutting.” Northern Ireland Environment Agency. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  32. Jump up ^ “Cave Formation: Restoration of Cuilcagh Mountain Park” BBC Online. Taken 20 december2012.
  33. Jump up ^ “Marble Arch Caves Stal repairs”. Caves and caving. British Cave Research Association (36).