While we often promote Kilkenny Castle, St Canice’s and the multitude of pubs and bars in Kilkenny, we don’t shout enough about the natural beauty that also surrounds us. If you want a truly unique adventure in Kilkenny, book a trip to explore the natural wonder that Dunmore Cave. Just 20-minutes by car from the Hoban Hotel, Dunmore Cave is a gateway to magic, history and the wonder of nature along Irelands Ancient East.
The cave consists of a series of chambers formed over millions of years from natural limestone, creating some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish cave. History and geology combine in Dunmore Caves to help you enjoy the perfect travel experience. Descending the steep steps into the cave, it’s not hard to tell why it was once known as the darkest place in Ireland. There is a stark drop in temperature and once your eyes adjust to the atmospheric lighting, you’ll see the impressive calcite sculpture, stalactites and stalagmites.
The cave has been known to man for many centuries, having been first mentioned in the 9th century Irish Triads. More interestingly however is the record of Viking activity confirmed by archaeological finds, such as skeletons of women and children from 928AD. The Annals of the Four Masters (books that chronicle Irish History) spoke about a Viking massacre in the same century, in which the cruel Vikings killed a thousand local people who had sought refuge in the cave. 40+ skeletons were found in subsequent searches helping archaeologists to learn more about the way of life in the 9th-century.
As well as the natural beauty and the tragic massacre, treasure was also found in the caves up until 1999. Coins which may have belonged to the very Vikings who wreaked havoc were discovered as well as a hoard of metal artefacts and Viking valuables like silver ingots and buttons. It is speculated that the cave was used as a hiding place for treasure many years after the Vikings, but we have no idea who left it there or why they didn’t return to claim it!
There are many fables told about the caves and they have evolved over time, as most folk tales do. As well as providing much-needed shelter for our earliest ancestors, caves were also considered to be entranceways to magical realms. It is said that as soon as visitors leave the cave, magical folk called Faeries appear and keep the cave clean, sweeping stones away from a particular spot inside so they can continue dancing. Another tale is that of Aithbel, an Irish warrior woman who supposedly fought and killed a cat-like monster called Luchtigen, the “Lord of the Mice”.
Once you step into the darkened cave, it’s as if you are stepping into an ancient world which we know very little about. Access to the cave is by guided tour only and it is quite dangerous to enter alone. Tours not only take you inside the cave, but you can also access the exhibitions and displays in the Visitor Centre. The staff are knowledgeable and always happy to indulge any questions or comments you may think of. The cave is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible but there are disabled access toilets and a café on site.
Transport from Hoban Hotel:
Unfortunately, as the cave is in a rural location, there is no public transport going to or from the site but you can drive to the cave from the Hoban Hotel in Kilkenny in less than 20-minutes. We can also arrange a taxi for you if you don’t have access to a car. Our staff are always happy to give you exact directions upon request.
If you’re looking for a Kilkenny hotel that is perfectly located for exploring both Dunmore Caves and Kilkenny City, Hoban Hotel has it all. We offer luxurious rooms, a newly renovated bar and restaurant and excellent value special offers if you book directly. Call our friendly reservations team today to make your booking.
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