Pol an Ionain

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Pol an Ionain
Entrance to Doolin Cave.jpg
Entrance to Pol an Ionain
Location Doolin, Clare, Ireland
Length c. 600m
Discovery 1952
Geology Limestone
Entrances 1
Access Show cave
Translation Ivy Cliff Cave
Pronunciation [Powl on Un-awn]

Pol an Ionain (or Poll-an-Ionain) is a limestone cave near Doolin in County Clare, Ireland, on the western edge of The Burren. The name is the anglicised version of the Irish name Poll an Eidhneáin, which is said to translate into "Ivy Cliff Cave".[1] The cave attracted some controversy due to its development and marketing as a show cave in the early 21st century.[1] [2]

The Great Stalactite[edit]

The cave's most notable feature is the Great Stalactite.[3] This is one of the world's longest known free-hanging stalactites, reported to be 7.3 m (24 ft) in length.[4] This figure is a matter of some confusion, however, as it is also variously described as being 11 m, 6.2 m and 6.54 m.[5] It is the longest known free-hanging stalactite in Western Europe, the three largest in the world being located in two caves in Mexico,[6] and one in Jeita Grotto, Lebanon.[5]


The cave was discovered in 1952 by J. M. Dickenson and Brian Varley of Craven Pothole Club, an English caving club based in the Yorkshire Dales.[1] The cave quickly became a classic caving trip for visiting cavers. Entry was arduous, requiring a long, difficult crawl.

In 1990, the land on which the cave is located was purchased by John and Helen Browne.[3] The couple immediately embarked on an effort to develop the cave as a show cave. This provoked a reaction from the Speleological Union of Ireland who feared the 30-metre (98 ft) shaft that would have to be blasted to access the cave would damage the stalactite. They also objected to the fact that the caving trip would be lost to cavers and that the cave was a short artificial trip with only one feature. After an extended period of court proceedings, financing and development, the cave was opened to the public as a show cave in 2006, subject to the conditions of not having a visitor centre on site and restricting visitor numbers. No blasting was allowed to construct the entrance shaft. The developers instead used as system whereby a hole was drilled and an air expander placed in the hole to break the rock. Visitors to the cave must be taken from Doolin village by bus to the site where there are no surface installations.

In 2009 the cave owners made a planning application (their fifth in almost twenty years) to build a visitor center on site citing the limitations of having to transport people to the site by bus. Some 12,000 people visit the cave every year, well below the number required to break even.[7] As of 2014, a visitors' centre and cafe serves the site.

The development of Pol an Ionain has been criticised for being environmentally damaging and for being devoid of any features beside the Great Stalactite.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b c "Poll an Ionain". Doolin, County Clare, Ireland. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  2. ^ Duckeck, Jochen. "Doolin Cave – Pol an Ionain". Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  3. ^ a b "The Great Stalactite". Doolin Cave. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  4. ^ "The Burren: Caves in the Burren". Clare County Library. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  5. ^ a b Duckeck, Jochen. "Caves With The Longest Stalactite". Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  6. ^ Bunnell, Dave. "The World's Largest Cave Formations". Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  7. ^ a b "Doolin cave dispute surfaces again". The Irish Times. 3 Mar 2009. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  8. ^ Deegan, Gordon (2 Feb 1999). "Plans to develop cave get go-ahead". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 53°02′31″N 9°20′42″W / 53.04194°N 9.34500°W / 53.04194; -9.34500