Caves moving with the seasons

OUR weather may be more unpredictable than it’s ever been, but the team at Fermanagh’s top tourist attraction are adapting to the changing times.

As reported in last week’s Herald, this year’s summer washout has been impacting many local businesses, including the extremely weather-sensitive Marble Arch Caves, with the rain resulting in the closure of its show cave on a number of days last month.

However, having worked so closely with nature for decades, the team at the caves, part of the Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark, have been one step ahead of the weather, organising a range of activities and events for locals and tourists alike to enjoy rain, hail or shine.


From it’s virtual reality experiences, to nature walks, history talks, and much more, the downpours can even help add to the attraction at times, such as with its ‘Rain, Rivers, and Resurgence’ event last week.

The effort has been paying off, with the visitors continuing to flock to the caves, and this month National Geographic magazine naming the caves’ underground yoga class as one of its top ten things to do in Ireland.

Speaking to the Herald, Michelle Shannon, development officer at the caves, said on the days the caves were able to open fully they were booked to capacity, with some visitors even having to re-book for other days.

Visitors were also treated to a spectacle, thanks to the weather.

“The tour we have now is so dramatic,” said Ms Shannon, speaking after one of our many recent rainy days.

“You have three rivers flowing through the show cave. Visitors have come and said they’ve done the boat trip, they’ve done the full tour, but they’ve never seen the cave like this before. It really comes alive with the water.

“We are selling it as an advantage to come down and see that.”
However, while the caves have been coping, there is a more serious side to the situation.


We may not be getting the extreme heat seen on the continent, but with June one of our hottest and driest on record, followed by what was officially the wettest July in history here, climate change is beginning to hit home.

Ms Shannon, who has worked at the caves for 18 years, has noticed the changes.

Pointing out the caves are now opened all year around, she said, “The weather is changing, up in Cuilcagh and in the area here, in relation to the number of rainfall days we get per year.

“It’s changed in relation to the seasons, more so. I see that our summer is coming slightly earlier.

“If we get a really good April, May, June, we’re more inclined to get a wetter summer. Then we’ll have a really dry November and December. It stretches out across the year.”

The impact of the heatwaves on mainland Europe is also being seen in visitor numbers, Ms Shannon added, with Fermanagh now seeing an influx in what could essentially be seen as climate change tourists.

“There are a serious amount of people coming over here who where they live they are stuck in a heatwave, and they can’t cope with it,2 she said.

“They’re coming over here to get a break. They are actually more than happy to get outside in the rain and enjoy it, because they haven’t seen it at home.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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