We got a ride yesterday morning to avoid some of the road walking at the beginning of the hike. But it caused a bit of confusion for us later in the hike today because of where we where being dropped off. We were a bit lost and had to get directions from Hillwalk. It all worked out in the end because we enjoyed seeing the cave that I will tell you about later.
We began our day at Doolin Cave and waited for them to open. When we walked down the path, we noticed that there was a goat on the roof of the building. They actually have a greens on the roof to feed the goats.
Anyway, Doolan Cave is home to the Great Stalactite. At 7.3 metres (23feet) it is the longest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. The Great Stalactite, suspended from the ceiling like a chandelier, is truly astounding. It is hard to believe that it was formed from a single drop of water over thousands of years.
The cave was discovered in the 1952 by Brian Varley and Mike Dickenson, two members of the Craven pot-holing club who were over from the UK to chart the caves of the Burren. They came across Doolin Cave or Pól an Ionáin (as it is known in the Irish language) by accident on a Whit Sunday morning. They noticed a stream disappearing under the edge of a cliff in the glacial valley where the cave is located and decided that would follow it. They undertook a knee-wrecking crawl and to their amazement they discovered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world hidden a quarter of a mile under-ground.
These two young men had just discovered the longest free hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. It is an astounding 23 feet (7.3m) long and weighs an estimated 10 tons. The Man who owned the land of the time refused to have the site set up for people to see the cave. He passed the land on to his son who also refused to have anything done to give access to the cave. In the 1990s the land was bought by John and Helen Browne, Doolin locals who decided to open this magnificent wonder to the eyes of the world. It took many lawsuits and even went to the Irish Supreme Court. The Browne family opened the cave to the public in 2006, they are the guardians of the Great Stalactite ensuring that it is protected and looked after for the next generation.
There were no explosives used during the construction of Doolin cave. The cave passages were enlarged by hand using a technique known as ‘Plug and Feather’ in order not to damage the Great Stalactite. They are taking many measures to make sure that the stalactite is protected and the environment around us also protected.
We took a tour down into the cave. It is an amazing site. It grows very, very, very slowly and hasn’t grown much since the time of the Pharaohs.
This is where we entered the cave.
I hope you can see how small the opening is where Brian and Mike had to crawl. They crawl down their bellies along the underground spring for what I think was hundreds of meters.
I lost count of the number of stairs we have to walk down in order to see the stalactite. Here is a photo of it.
It actually grows longer from the bottom.
These stalactites won’t get any bigger because their base is too small and the will just break.
But the base of the big one is very strong.
We were lucky because there was a pool of water down the bottom and we can actually see a reflection of the stalactite in the water. That is not always possible.
The guide took a picture of me with it. So of course I have to post that.
After we left the cave, we went to see a castle that we could see from the road. We learned that it was called O’Brien’s castle. It is from the 12th century. It is reported to be hunted. The young woman who worked at the cave told us that she and her friends have gone there on Halloween. She told us that everybody’s cell phone quit that night as soon as they entered the castle. They were all broken.
We walked up to the castle and discovered that there was a white stallion standing by the castle. It was hard to get a photograph because we were way below the castle.
We learned that there also used to be a goat at the castle, but it died. The horse seems to like when visitors come. Mary and I think they want to get another goat.
We left the castle made the turn that we thought we were supposed to make on the road. They gave us a view from the other side of the castle.
I think the stones we see next to the castle may be gravestones.
The stallion had come around to the other side of the castle.
This is where we made a mistake and our walk. We weren’t supposed to even get near the castle. Our walk started someplace before the cave. So, that is why we were lost. But the benefit was that we got to see the castle and the white stallion.
After we walked for a while and discovered that we had no idea where we were, we phoned Hillwalk (The company that planned our hikes). It took about three phone calls before we finally figured out where we had to walk. So the kilometers that we took off by getting the ride in the morning with just added back on by are going the wrong way.
I thought this sign was in Galic, but found out that it is in German.
Finally when we had found our way, we were walking along the path in the Galway Bay in view.
I liked this door.
I enjoyed walking when we were walking on the path.
And I still love the walls.
It’s hard to believe how strong they are.
Another purple flower.
The horses come up to greet us.
When we got close to Dolin, we could see the Aran Islands across the bay.
And the mountains of the Connemara.
Our last stretch into town was on pavement again. Her directions said it was 2 km, but it was actually much more than that – at least twice that far. My feet were really tired. The first place we saw when we got to town was O’Donohue’s Pub so we immediately stopped for dinner.
Then off to our bed-and-breakfast to get my boots off and rest my feet. Just like on the Camino I can’t believe how tired I can get. You would think after walking for so many days I would be able to do 12 miles with ease.
I stayed up late last night doing the post from the day before. Sunsets here are really late. It is usually light until at least 10:30 . But last night I actually got to see one since I stayed up so late. Sunset over the Comemara.