The caves of County Sligo, while not particularly numerous nor generally very long, have a wide range of diversity. Well known sites such as Diarmuid and Grainne’s Cave and the caves of Kesh are developed in deep bedded limestone and contain enigmatic entrances which dominate the landscape. With Sligo being a county rich in folklore and heritage it is not surprising that such caves have something of an iconic status.
The caves of Geevagh are nothing like this. The Geevagh karst is a small surface area of 25 square kilometres in East Sligo. Despite its size an isolation, it contains a full range of classic karst features such as sinks and springs, dry valleys, shake holes and potholes. These are all located just within the limestone bedrock at the shale-limestone boundary of the southern slopes of Carrane Hill (Thorn, 1987).
In this respect Geevagh shares speleological similarities to the caves of East Cuilcagh, Co. Fermanagh. However, in Geevagh the caves are yet more cherty; they are darker, loose and entirely devoid of any calcite ornamentation. Though they do not contain contain dramatic shafts like those found in East Cuilcagh (such as Pollnatagha or Peter Bryant’s Bullock Hole), the Geevagh karst has two of the deepest six caves on the entire island! (Barry, 2010).
Carrowmore Caverns or “the horrors of Carrowmore”, as described by its ﬁrst explorers in the
1950s (Powell, 1958), is the most impressive of the half dozen or so caves in Geevagh. At 142m it is the deepest of the Geevagh caves, while also holding position as the 3rd deepest cave in Ireland (Barry, 2010).
At ground surface the caves invites with two entrances: a vertical descent via Pollnagollum pothole or a horizontal passage via two impressively large chambers at Seighmairbaun. The pothole is currently full of domestic rubbish and it is very sad to see a unique natural environment, which Sligo is blessed to have, treated with such disrespect. Where the two entrances meet the cave gradually descends a great depth via tight crawls and a series of enormous vertical steps. There are a few places where rope is needed, but generally descent is by careful down-climbing on chert-rich limestone ledges.
Despite some unpleasantries, Carrowmore is truly a great sporting cave. The final horizontal passage to the sump has an unusual feel and it is not dissimilar in proﬁle to that of many mine adits. At the terminal sump (which is effectively the local area’s water table level) one really does feel a long way from home. That depth, and its record as Ireland’s third deepest natural place, makes itself be known upon the ascent to the surface, resulting in well-strained legs!
Barry, P., 2010. The longest and deepest caves in Ireland. Irish Speleology, 19, 6-7.
Powell, R., 1958, Irish discoveries. Journal of the Craven Pothole Club, 2, 4, 218-9.
Thorn, R., 1987. The Geevagh Karst. 1987. Irish Speleology 4, 1.