Leaving the daylight behind and descending the steep steps down the grassy bank into Dunmore Cave, you feel the temperature drop.
People going into the cave.
People going into the cave.
The 9th-century Irish Triads said this was one of the three darkest places in Ireland, and today it is like stepping over the threshold into another world as natural wonders, Viking history and myths spring from the shadows.
Inside the Dunmore Cave.
Inside the Dunmore Cave.
The scene has been set for you up above in the visitor centre, with video, displays and archaeological finds.
But now, immersed in these atmospherically lit chambers formed over millions of years, your eyes are fully opened to the impressive beauty of nature’s calcite sculptures, stalagmites and stalactites.
Viking warriors
Viking warriors
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.
Viking Treasures
Silver Viking coins
Left: Viking Treasures. Right: Silver coins.
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?
The stairs out of the cave
The stairs out of the cave
Climbing back up the steps into the daylight, it is tempting to imagine faeries appearing once you have left, to dance on the faerie floor they keep swept clean in the cave. Or so legend says.
The stunning countryside near the cave
The stunning countryside near the cave
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.
Share

Visit Dunmore Cave

Castlecomer Road, Ballyfoyle, Kilkenny