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Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, Ireland

Updated on June 5, 2014
Lough Oughter, County Cavan
Lough Oughter, County Cavan

Location

The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark stretches from the northern shores of Lower Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland down to the lowlands of Lough Oughter in CountyCavan.

It is the first cross-border geopark in the world sharing a border with County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland which runs along the top of the Cuilcagh Mountains.

History

The Geopark, managed by Fermanagh District Council, was one of the first in Europe to achieve this status in 2001, and then in 2004 it was designated by UNESCO as a Global Geopark and extended in 2008 to take in part of County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland. It is also noted for being the smallest geopark in Europe.

It is home to various archaeological, historical, geological, natural and cultural sites covering recorded human occupation since the last ice age about 8,000 years ago.

Landscape

The area which consists of 34 sites includes the Cuilcagh Mountain Park, the Forests of Ballintempo, Tullychurry, Lough (Lake) Navar, Belmore, the Cliffs of Magho, Knockmore Cliffs and Conagher.

On the northern side of the Cuilcagh Mountains the rivers Aghinrawn, Sruh Croppa, and Owenbrean flow underground when they reach the limestone outcrop combining to form the Cladagh River and then emerging at the natural rock bridge known as Marble Arch the centre point of the geopark known as the Marble Arch Caves.

The age of the Marble Arch Caves is unknown but date back at least 350,000 years.

BelmoreMountain which is 401 metres (1,316 feet) high marks a range of hills which run from the mountain to the Cliffs of Magho overlooking the western end of Lower Lough Erne.

There are many fine examples of boulders and large rocks, usually of sandstone, which have been carried by glacial ice and scattered around the area.

Within the geopark there are several National Nature Reserves including Correl Glen, Hanging Rock, Killykeegan and Cladagh Glen.

MAIN AREAS OF INTEREST

Ballyconnell Canal Walk

Near to Ballyconnell in County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland the canal walk, which is about five kilometres (3.1 miles) long, runs alongside the Shannon-Erne Waterway constructed to connect the rivers Erne and Shannon. As the walk progresses it enters Annagh Woods which is a home to many species of wildlife such as red squirrels and fallow deer.

Shannon-Erne Waterway. Source: tuesdaynightclub
Shannon-Erne Waterway. Source: tuesdaynightclub

Burren Forest

Located near the town of Blacklion in County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland Burren Forest has marked forest path walks which pass megalithic tombs and provide excellent views of Cuilcagh Mountain, Lough McNean and Lough Allen.

Burren Forest
Burren Forest

Cuilcagh Mountain Park

The Cuilcagh Mountain is the highest point in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland 665m (2182 feet) and is easily identified with its distinctive table-top profile.

A major part of the park is at Aghatirouke in the Florencecourt Forest conservation area which, due to its exceptional range of plants, insects and wildlife, has been identified by the RSPB as one of the most important biodiversity sites in Northern Ireland.

Part of the blanket bog (thick layers of peat) on Cuilcagh Mountain is protected by the European Union’s Habitats Directive as a Special Area of Conservation.

Hill walking on the Cuilcagh Mountain (along the Legnabrocky Trail) and jeep safaris up the mountain are popular activities.

Cuilcagh Mountain. Source: Mfermanagh WMC
Cuilcagh Mountain. Source: Mfermanagh WMC

Devenish Island

Devenish is a small island in Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

There is a Monastic Site founded in the 6th century on the island as well as ruins from other time periods, the earliest being Saint Molaise House (a small church) and the round tower both being from the 12th century.

Other historic buildings are the lower church also from the 12th century and Saint Mary’s Augustinian Priory from the 15th century which consists of a church, tower and small cloister and has an unusual carved stone cross in its graveyard.

There is a seasonal ferry services which sails from Trory Point north of Enniskillen.

Devenish Island. Source: Jule Berlin WMC
Devenish Island. Source: Jule Berlin WMC

Enniskillen Castle

Located beside Loch Erne in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland the castle is nearly 600 years old.

It has been used, variously, as the home of the chieftains of the area, a garrison fort and later as a military barracks.

The site is now the home to two museums which have displays on the natural history, archaeology and rural lifestyle of the surrounding area.

A number of events take place at the castle throughout the year especially on the subject of living history in medieval times.

Enniskillen Castle. Source: Marian McCaffery WMC
Enniskillen Castle. Source: Marian McCaffery WMC

Lough Navar Forest

The forest is located in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland near to the town of Derrygonnelly and comprises of over 2,600 hectares of mainly coniferous trees.

It rises to the top of the Magho Cliffs to a height of 304 metres (997 feet) affording views over Lower Lough Erne, the Blue Stack, Donegal bay and the Sperrin Mountains.

A seven mile long drive has been created for visitors to make the most of what the area has to offer with viewpoints, picnic areas and short walks provided.

The Correl Glen Nature Trail which runs through part of the Largalinny National Nature Reserve starts near the forest entrance. This reserve contains rare plants and almost all of the native Irish species of butterfly.

Lough Navar. Source: cavan.ie
Lough Navar. Source: cavan.ie

Marble Arch Caves

The Marble Arch Caves are located near the village of Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland and is part of the Marble Arch Nature Reserve in the ancient woodland of Cladagh Glen.

The caves, which were first recorded as being explored in 1895, were opened to the public in 1985 and feature a mixture of rivers, waterfalls, passageways and high chambers featuring limestone and sandstone geology.

Guided tours, running from March to October, allow visitors to explore the caves, first by a short boat journey along the Cladagh River and then on foot through many of the caves passageways and chambers.

Marble Arch Caves. Source: Neil Rickards WMC
Marble Arch Caves. Source: Neil Rickards WMC

Monea Castle

Monea Castle, built in the 17th century, is situated east of the village of Monea, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland about six miles northwest of Enniskillen.

Although now a ruined hulk it is still impressive with its twin drummed towers and corner turrets standing on a rocky buff towering above the surrounding area.

It can be accessed at all times and admission is free.

Monea Castle. Source: Jody McIntyre WMC
Monea Castle. Source: Jody McIntyre WMC

Shannon Pot

The Shannon Pot is a pool near the Cuilcagh Mountain and is located close to Derrylahan, County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland on the Blacklion to Glangevlin Road.

Considered to be the source of the River Shannon this is a natural circular feature about 16 metres (52 feet) in diameter, surrounded by woodland and historically associated with mystical and mythological tales.

One story tells of Sionnan the daughter of Lodan coming to the Shannon Pot looking for the Salmon of Wisdom. The Salmon was angered when it saw her and caused the pool to overflow and drown Sionnan and thus the River Shannon was created.

The site has parking and a large picnic area from where a short walk takes you to the Pot.

Shannon Pot. Source: Gerard Lovett
Shannon Pot. Source: Gerard Lovett

Tully Castle

This 17th century ruined castle is near the village of Blaney, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland at Tully Point on Blaney Bay on the southern shore of Lower Lough Erne.

There is a recreated 17th century style garden and a farmhouse visitor’s centre on the site.

Opening times are seasonal but admission is free.

There are warnings about parts of the castle being unsafe and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult when at the castle.

Tully Castle
Tully Castle

Tullydermot Falls

The falls, actually a series of waterfalls and rapids, are located on the southern slopes of the Cuilcagh Mountains about 6km (4 miles) from the village of Swanlinbar in County Cavan, the Republic of Ireland.

Access to the falls is via a trail (suitable for wheelchairs and buggies) leading from the information station at the parking area.

The Tullydermot viewpoint overlooks Slieve Rushen and has good views of the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain.

Tullydermot Falls
Tullydermot Falls

Turbet Island

The island which is accessed over a footbridge on the River Erne is situated on the northwest side of the town of Belturbet, County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland.

Originally a major fortification in the Norman period it is unique in that it still has its Motte and Bailey. A motte being a steep sided mound of earth with a flat top and a bailey an attached enclosed area which contained houses and other buildings.

There are signed walking trails which take you round the island.

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@ 2013 Brian McKechnie (aka WorldEarth)

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    • jabelufiroz profile image

      Firoz 3 years ago from India

      Nice travel guide. Voted up.

    • World Earth profile image
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      Brian 3 years ago from Ayrshire, Scotland

      Thank you.. you're very kind

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