Situated close to Castleisland in Co. Kerry, Ireland, Crag Cave is one of the more spectacular of Ireland's show caves. Originally accessible only to divers, a man-made entrance was installed between 1987 and 1989 making it possible for most people to enter.
The existence of caves in the area was first suggested by a waterworks supervisor by the name of David Keane. Hydrologist and Professor John Gunn arrived with a team of students who found and mapped a small cave system, now known as Lower Crag Cave. Gunn supposed that the cave system went further and invited cave diver Martin Farr to explore a water-filled pool.
Farr's dive was short - but challenging. He travelled through an eight meter U-tube, four meters down then four back up and emerged in Crag Cave proper, at the location now aptly known as Diver's Delight. His diving disturbed sediment in the sump, and he had to feel his way through - visibility being reduced to zero.
The new discovery added a further 3500 meters of cave to the 300 meters already mapped by Gunn and his students.
The caves were developed during the 1980s, with the addition of a shaft and stairway, as well as walkways, barriers and lighting. This made access easy from the visitor center on the ground above the cave system. Tours covering the first 400 meters of the cave are offered, led by trained guides.
The first feature of note is at the start of the tour. It is possible to see the pool from which Farr emerged when he became the first living creature to enter the cave.
Another notable feature is The Candlestick. This shows an example of the rate of growth of stalagmites. It is in three quite obvious sections - the middle being thin and the top and bottom sections thick. The middle section developed during a time of relative drought which finished approximately 5000 years ago - so the top thick section represents 5000 years' growth.
The Crystal Gallery contains calcite straws. These are hollow stalagtites, which break off under their own weight when a piece of grit blocks the end and it fills with water. The floor under the gallery is littered with the broken remains of many of these straws.
While not worth making a huge detour for, the cave is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area. You only
need to allow an hour or two to wait for a tour, see the
cave and visit the gift shop and café.