Places to visit in Europe

Crag Cave

To understand the origin and growth of Crag Cave one must go back about 400 million years in geological time to when the earth was moving and forming all sorts of shapes and textures, and carboniferous limestone, essential for the formation of caves, was being laid down in the seabed.

During one of the most notable earth movements, 270 million years ago, much of this rock was lifted to the surface. At the same time many fissures and lines of weakness were formed making the rock permeable. When water passes underground through these fissures it eventually deepens and widens its bed, and a maze of caves is formed in the sub-surface. At the end of the last ice age, melt water from the glaciers filled many of the rivers, raising the sea level and separating Ireland from the rest of Europe. Deposits of water containing calcium seeped through the limestone rock of the ceiling forming stalactites, stalagmites and pillars, or "flowstone" formations.

Crag Cave is one of the ten longest cave systems in Ireland. Over 4 kilometres of it have been mapped, and it is described by speleologists as a cave of exceptional interest, quality and beauty. This may be due to the late discovery and exploration of the cave in the 1980's which safeguarded it from destruction by Man and conserved its natural beauty. Every effort has been made to conserve the indigenous beauty of the cave. A 1½ kilometre section of the cave has been made accessible to the public who can visit chambers and passages whose names have been taken from the Tolkien classic, "Lord of the Rings", and one of the locally-inspired, great love stories of Irish mythology, "The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne. Special lighting and sound effects have been used to create a unique visual and aural landscape.

The discovery of Crag Cave is dealt with in the teacher’s notes and student worksheets. Teachers will receive a special booklet and worksheets which can be used during and after their visit to the cave. Tours of the cave are under the supervision of guides, with a maximum of 30 students per visit at intervals of 10 minutes. Topics which can be discussed in advance in the classroom include glacial deposits, drainage systems, the formation of cave systems, research into past climates, speleology, minerals and karst landscapes. Other areas of interest are Aillwee Cave (see page ..) and The Burren (see page ...), both formed by the movement of the earth during the last Ice Age.

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