Doolin Cave is the most recently opened show cave in Ireland. Doolin Cave has been awarded the highest possible gold star accolade for its ecoogical management. The cave was previously known as Pol-an-Ionain but was renamed after the nearest town when it became a show cave.

It is located two kilometers from Doolin and four kilometers from Lisdoonvarna. The cave is home to 'The Great Stalactite' which is a world-class Natural Wonder. It is fast becoming one of the most important eco-tourist attractions in Ireland. Measuring 7.3 metres (23 feet) in length, it is recognised as being the longest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. 

The tour starts at the new Visitor Centre. The natural cave is reached by going down an 80 foot shaft and through the tunnel. From here visitors use hard hats as most of the cave is not artificially lit and the passage is kept as natural as possible. This includes the careful development of cave passages and the careful reduction of artificial light and heat production. It even avoided the destruction of fragile cave sediments which are of great scientific value. Doolin Cave has been awarded the highest accolade, Gold Star, for its work in Eco-Tourism.

From the moment you descend over 80ft into the first tunnel, with your guide, you will enter a world carved by water. Donning your hardhat you will follow the rough-hewn route of the early explorers who first discovered the cave in 1952. When you enter the stunning, cathedral-like dome that houses the huge stalactite, you will be briefly plunged into a world of primitive darkness. Then, from this darkness you will be awed as the subtly-lit mighty stalactite appears before you. You stand looking at one of natures great works that is a breath taking work-in-progress. It has been a work in progress for millenia and will probably continue to be so til the end of time. Far below this Masterpiece of Nature a magical stream carries the water that carved the primeval world around you to the hills outside.


Doolin locals John and Helen Browne started planning to develop the cave and build a visitor centre with interpretative facilities, a restaurant, a treatment plant, and space for 70 cars in 1991. It took almost 20 years to make this a reality, as the plans to develop the cave for tourism were controversial. Their application was rejected several times until it was modified and eventually became an example of a new generation of show caves which works to minimize the impact of cave visits. This includes careful development of trails and light, reduction of light and heat production and careful monitoring of the cave. It even avoided the destruction of fragile cave sediments which are of great scientific value.

Cave Conservation

They are very committed to the conservation of the cave to ensure that there are no negative impacts resulting from providing access to the public. It is central to their strategy that the operation of Doolin Cave adheres to the concept of sustainable development. This has been defined as being development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable tourism aims to meet the needs and aspirations of the host area and its people, tourists and operators alike, in a way which respects all interest and those who will follow on. As mentioned above, Doolin Cave has been awarded the highest accolade, Gold Star, for its work in Eco-Tourism


During the development of the cave, they made sure that they did not interfere with the growth or stability of the stalactite. No explosives were used in construction. The cave passages were enlarged by hand using a technique known as "Plug and Feather" in order not to damage the stalactite. The operation of Doolin Cave is geared to protect the cave system for future generations by monitoring and managing any changes that may occur in the cave environment. Two of the main negative impacts experienced by show caves universally are a rise in temperature and a decrease in humidity. Changes in temperature and humidity have to be kept at a minimum to avoid damage to the cave system or the great stalactite. Professor Gunn of Limestone Research and Consultancy carries out a detailed monitoring programme on the temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and radon using data loggers.

The number of visitors to the cave is limited for environmental reasons. There is an upper limit of 55,000 annually. Visitors numbers are restricted to 20- 25 per tour. The picture above shows some early visitors . . . they are the 1952 exploration team.


The Brownes try to preserve the quality of the ground water. The Great Stalactite depends on clean water to grow and they endeavour to ensure that no contaminants enter the ground water. They have installed grease traps in the car park as a precautionary measure so that any oil leaks from vehicles cannot seep into the ground.

Lighting in the Cave

Another negative impact on the climate of show caves is the introduction of lighting. They are very aware of the sensitivity of the cave system and the dangers to the great stalactite. They use cold lighting in the main chamber. Cold lighting is used to prevent lampenflora in the cave. Lampenflora is the result of spores being brought into the cave on peoples' shoes and clothes. The spores then react to UV light and high temperatures, this leads to moss growing in the cave. Cold LED lights are used so that the temperature in the cave does not rise and the light is not too bright. Also the lights are always switched off in the chambers when tours are not in progress. You can visit their web site at

"Not wanting to do the typical "bus tour" of Ireland, and not wanting to drive on the left, I booked a tour with Ireland West Tours. We hiked to remote churches, visited little known Tower houses/castles...all things that our amazing guide, Paul, was able to recommend. This was worth every single penny."

Marsha, Minnesota, USA


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Satisfying the customer 

Over the years we have had several compliments on our drivers from many of our satisfied customers. Click on the link to "Tripadvisor" below to read, in full, the reviews of some of our many happy customers.

"We got recommended to contact Jim to take us to all the beautiful places this region has to offer. Well, that was the best piece of advice we could have gotten. He not only will drive you around, but also will teach, explain, comment and inform you about many, many different issues."

Alfrdo G., The Hague, Netherlands


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