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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. He 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, a 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 scary moment 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 Center, must be booked in advance). There are also a couple of craft shops on site, where among other things, you can buy Aillwee’s own brand of cheese. Tip: Buy tickets online for substantial discounts.