Aillwee Caves and the Burren
I n the heart of the Burren, lies one of the oldest caves in Irel and. This cave was formed by the glacial melt waters of an early ice age. The erosive power of the waters carved out an subterrainian river deep underneath Aillwee mountain. This river has subsided since the last ice age, leaving behind one of Ireland's most stunning caves.
The cave was discovered by Jack McGann, a local herdsman, in 1940. One day, Jacko was looking after his sheep at the foot of Aillwee Mountain with his dog. The dog gave chase to a rabbit, following it up the mountain and into a small opening in the rocks. Jacko explored this opening with nothing but a candle to guide his way, finding his way right as far as the Great Cascade.
In 1975, the land surrounding the cave was sold to two local families interested in opening the cave to the public. December saw the entrance tunneled lowered a little to make access easier and rails, lighting, cabling and pathways were laid as far as the Cascade. This section now remains visually much as it appeared to Jacko and the first explorers.
In 1991, it was decided to join the final stop on the tour, the highway to the entrance of the cave via an alternate route to create a circular tour. Marine Blast Company together with Nick Barnes undertook the massive task of drilling and blasting through 255 meters of solid limestone.
The cave was left alone for 33 years after this. In 1973, Jacko talked to group of cavers and told them of his find. The group, from Bristol University, under the leadership of Dr. Tratman, explored the caves as far as was possible. A massive fall of boulders sealed the passage beyond the Cascade chamber.
The rock pile from the passageway between the Cascade and Midsummer's Cavern was excavated in 1977, revealing a further 350 meters of cave. This was opened to the public after continuing the lighting and path system.