Caves are naturally formed underground holes, passageways or cavities in the Earth’s crust. They are a unique and very special part of our natural environment – they are fragile environments, easily disturbed and affected by human activities. The Marble Arch Caves offers a unique and fascinating trip into the spectacular world of caves, in a safe and environmentally sustainable setting. We are recognised as a role model for ecological tourism and education provision.
The Marble Arch Caves have been carved and sculpted out of limestone. The limestone was formed when Fermanagh was covered by a warm tropical ocean 330 million years ago and is made up of organic debris, such as the remains of shells or coral reefs, cemented together with the mineral calcite. Limestone can be dissolved by the corrosive action of rainwater. Rain water seeps through the soil and percolates down through cracks and joints in the limestone, slowly dissolving the rock. As the cracks and joints grow larger, small streams bringing sand, soil and grit debris, find their way into the openings and, by abrasive action, to mechanically wear away the limestone adding to the cave development process. Three rivers flowing off the sandstone slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain now sink into these enlarged cracks in the limestone and have helped to form the large underground network of passages that criss-cross through the mountain.
In 1895 French Speleologist Eduoard Martel and a naturalist called Lister Jameson first explored Marble Arch caves. They had a small collapsible canvas boat along with paddles to transport them along the river. Lighting was supplied by candles and magnesium flares.
Martel and Jameson only got so far in the cave when they met a solid wall of rock and had to turn back. It was in 1935 when the Yorkshire Ramblers came to the Marble Arch Caves that the rest of what we now have as the showcaves were explored.
It was actually Martels idea to turn the Marble Arch Caves into showcaves in a book he wrote in 1897. It was in the 1970s that Fermanagh District Council started to look at this idea seriously and here we are today, with a unique attraction in Northern Ireland.
Watch out on your tour of Marble Arch Caves for a whole range of formations with unique and unusual names, including
The porridge Pot