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A shadowy maze of echoey caverns and creepy tunnels

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Boat Trip
Moses Walk
Stalagtites & Stalagmites
After the rain falls onto County Fermanagh's Cuilcagh Mountain, it flows down the slopes and crashes into the limestone rock at its base. Over hundreds of thousands of years, the water chiselled out a dent, which became a hole, then a tunnel. Eventually this became both the longest cave network in Northern Ireland, and one of the most fascinating underground labyrinths in the world.

Marble Arch Cave Walkway.
Photo Shadowgate
Despite their long history, the caverns were first explored relatively recently, in 1895. Over the next century or so, new discoveries were made on a regular basis. There are all sorts of narrow passages, underwater tunnels and giant chambers. In 1985, a small section was opened to the public with the name "Marble Arch Caves".

Stalactites inside Marble Arch Caves.
Photo Shadowgate
The 75-minute tour starts with a voyage along the Cladagh River, a waterway flowing exclusively underground. The craft itself is a strange construction; flat, old and a little unnerving. The sights it transports you to are weirder still. Menacing stalactites cling to the ceiling opposite stalagmites looming up from the floor, resembling a giant set of jaws.

Exploring by Boat.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
The trained guide explains all the formations, and how they came to be. The most dramatic is the "Moses Walk", which surrounds you with water on both sides like the prophet Moses' famous journey through the Red Sea. Other locations have similar intriguing names, like "Porridge Pot" and "Guardian Angel". Despite the winding passages and occasional steep slopes, the cave tour is suitable for most fitness levels. Just remember to bring reasonable walking shoes and a warm jacket, because it's significantly cooler down there than it is outside. Bear in mind that the tour is often not possible during heavy rain.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
After you emerge back at the surface, you can either refuel at the restaurant, or find out more information on the caves and their history. The exhibition area includes both an audio visual theatre, with its interesting videos, and a souvenir shop, which sells various keepsakes of your journey into the depths of the planet.

Did You Know?

The following saying helps you remember which goes up and which goes down: Stalactites must hold on "tight" to the roof, whereas Stalagmites "might" one day touch the roof Or perhaps you prefer this simple version: tites come down!
Even after exploring the Marble Arch caves for over an hour, you've still only seen a very small fraction of the entire network. The current estimated length is around 7 miles, most of which has been seen by very few human beings. It's a dangerous place, but experienced cavers make regular trips down into the darkness.
The UNESCO organisation, recognising Marble Arch for its sheer size and variety, have awarded it "Global Geopark" status. This goes some way to ensuring the safety and protection of the caves. Who knows, maybe one day we'll be able to discover all of their dark, underground secrets.
Visitor Information
Marble Arch Caves are open daily, March to September, 10am to 4.30pm. Entry costs around £10 for adults, £6 children. Marlbank, Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, BT92 1EW. Tel: 028 6634 8855

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