Leaving the daylight behind and descending the steep steps down the grassy bank into Dunmore Cave, you feel the temperature drop.
Alongside the story of such curious rock formations, your guide also reveals the dark tale recorded by the historic Annals of the Four Masters: how, in 928 AD, Vikings massacred a thousand local people who had sought refuge at the cave. It is a chilling episode backed up by modern archaeological discoveries of skeletons, mainly of women and children.
But treasures have been found here too: coins that may have belonged to those very Vikings who wreaked havoc, and also a hoard – only spotted in 1999, glinting in a guide’s torchlight – that suggests the cave later became a hiding-place for Viking valuables including silver ingots and buttons. Who stashed them? Why didn’t they return for them?
Sitting in the tea room on a summer’s day, re-warming your hands around a drink and looking out on lovely countryside, you sense that even in the darkest places there is magic and light.