Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is a painfully beautiful 2,500km stretch of coastline along the country’s western face. Majestic cliffs with multi-colored rock strata resembling the finest layered cake stand nonchalantly along the route with names like Downpatrick Head and the Cliffs of Moher. There are all sorts of things to do and see along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, from wildlife hikes, walking through (or getting stuck) in the Derrigmlagh bog to water adventure sports along the many beaches.
While you’ll see all sorts of advertisements for these landmarks along the route, you might have to do a little digging to uncover one of your favorite activities– caving in Ireland. It’s time to don your Indiana Jones fedora and travel differently by exploring the Emerald Isle underground.
What is Caving? The Wild Atlantic Way Ireland
Caving is also known as spelunking (in the USA) or potholing (in the UK and Ireland). When you go caving, you may be doing a combination of walking, wading through rivers, swimming, crawling through passageways, and adapting to all of the different ways your body can get from one point to another. Caving is about the journey through.
You’ll see ancient formations that have never been exposed to the light of day and will likely be in total darkness, except for the headlamp you entered with. It’s a real treat for your senses, especially for the tactile components. Your hands are great navigation tools to maintain your balance and propel yourself forward, and something you’ll need to get a sense of how the cave system is changing around you.
If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to squeeze through passageways to explore the nooks and crannies inside of a cave.
What should I know before I go caving the Wild Atlantic Way?
Caving differs from traditional outdoor adventure sports because it combines elements of cave science, the spirit of exploration, knowledge of mapping, and the opportunity for unique photography. There are cave systems all over the world to explore, which makes it an interesting activity that everyone enjoys seeking out whenever traveling! The favorite parts about caving are spotting the stalactites (they hang from the ceilings) and stalagmites (they rise from the floor).
Another important point to remember is that you should be prepared to pack in and out all of your waste. You can bet your buttons there won’t be a cleaning crew coming in there after you, so please do not leave any trash behind. That said, there won’t be any restrooms either. Before any caving experience, be sure you use the bathroom beforehand and even consider limiting your water intake so you can avoid doing business inside of the cave. Just like many other natural settings, these caves were formed in prehistoric times and can’t just be repaired if they’re damaged. It’s our duty to treat these places with respect
What kind of animals might I encounter inside a cave?
Every cave is a mini ecosystem of its own and has different inhabitants living in it. Some caves have only a few animals that call them home, while others may have a lot more activity. In the caves, you might encounter the occasional spider, some bats, harmless insects, and glow worms. Other caves may have salamanders, snails, shrimp, and crickets. Of course, some cave entrances might also be occupied by other shelter-seeking creatures, such as raccoons, bears, and foxes. If you’re going with a caving adventure company, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be in a dangerous situation with any of these mammals.
What should I wear when I go caving the Wild Atlantic Way?
When going caving, it is important to dress appropriately to ensure your safety and comfort during the exploration. It is recommended to wear comfortable and durable clothing suitable for physical activity, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, to protect your skin from scratches and bruises. Loose or baggy clothing should be avoided, as it can get caught on rocks or other obstacles.
Additionally, sturdy closed-toe shoes with good traction, such as hiking boots or sneakers, should be worn to protect your feet. Head protection is also essential, so wearing a hard hat with a headlamp attached will provide hands-free illumination and protect your head from bumps and falling debris. Gloves are also recommended to protect your hands from sharp rocks and rough surfaces.
Depending on the cave, you may encounter water, so waterproof clothing or a wetsuit may be necessary, along with neoprene socks and rubber boots to keep your feet dry and warm. Always keep in mind that caves can be dangerous environments, so it is essential to be prepared with appropriate clothing and gear.
Ireland is undeniably beautiful inside and out. There’s nothing quite like exploring these cave systems that have been carefully hidden beneath the ground for hundreds of years. The sound of a single drop of water inside a cave is magnified as the noise of the outside world melts away. The rocks feel cool to the touch, and you can’t help but wonder what these sage minerals would say if they could speak. In these moments, it’s just you and the earth. If you’ve gone caving before or plan on going soon, we want to hear all about it in the comments below.