The story of how this deep cave system came to be discovered starts with a curious dog. In 1944, a local farmer followed his dog into a small crevice in the hillside. The man was astonished to find that it opened into a huge cavern with 1,000m (3,280 ft.) of passages running straight into the heart of a mountain. The publicity-shy farmer kept it to himself for decades before eventually spreading the word. Professional cave explorers later uncovered its magnificent bridged chasms, deep caverns, frozen waterfall, and hollows created by hibernating brown bears (which have been extinct in Ireland for 10,000 years). Guided tours are excellent here, usually led by geology students from area universities. Enjoy the spookiness when they turn out the lights for a minute so you can experience the depth of the darkness inside. Tours last approximately 30 minutes and are conducted continuously. On the same site, the Burren Birds of Prey Centre is a working aviary designed to mimic the natural habitat of the buzzards, falcons, eagles, and owls that live there. For €70 per person you can take a private “Hawk Walk,” where a handler shows you the birds up close, and teaches you how to handle a hawk for yourself. It culminates in a guided forest walk, where you learn how to release the bird and call it back. (Tickets for the Hawk Walk, which include admission to the cave and the Birds of Prey Centre, must be booked at least 2 days in advance.) A couple of on-site craft shops sell Aillwee’s own brand of cheese, among other things. Tip: Buy tickets online for substantial discounts.
County Clare› Attraction
Off R480, near Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare
Our Rating Hours Daily July–Aug 10am–6:30pm, Mar–June and Sept–Oct 10am–5:30pm, Nov–Feb 10am–5pm (no flying displays Nov–Dec). Times are first and last tours Phone 065/707-7036 Prices Admission to caves: €12 adults; €5.50 children; €35 families. Birds of Prey Centre: €12 adults; €8 children; €29families. Combined ticket: €18 adults; €10 children; €50 families Web site Aillwee Cave
MapOff R480, near Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare County Clare
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.