‘Pollnagollum’ is undoubtedly the most commonly used name given to caves in Ireland. Most counties that possess a cave posses a ‘Pollnagollum’. It derives from the Irish ‘poll na gColm’, essentially meaning ‘pigeon hole’. Fermanagh has multiple caves by this name but the best and most obvious is ‘Pollnagollum of the boats’ on the Marlbank, named after the fun that can be had traversing its lakes by inflatable boat.
Pollnagollum is a classic Fermanagh Marlbank cave. Situated on the Owenbrean, it is a river cave of about one kilometer in length. It connects the massive sink of Pollasumera, high on Cuilcagh mountain, to Skreen Hill III in Marble Arch. While it’s easy caving with little squeezing or climbing, the cold water and series of deep lakes make it somewhat sporting!
I have been to this cave many times and always enjoy a return visit. The fact that there are numerous stretches of wet passage that needs to be swum, means it is an extra challenge to photograph. This is not just because it requires all camera gear to be waterproofed but also due to the extra moisture in the air which reflects light, causes haze and will even occasionally cause flash equipment to cease working.
Every time I swim the first lake, with my camera gear locked away inside its waterproof box, I always get the uncomfortable feeling that maybe I didn’t tighten down the latches properly. Or that, perhaps, I haven’t attached the bags to my belt properly and that when I get across I will realise all my gear has been washed downstream!
Despite my many photos of this cave, I have much work to do here. The cave, a classic and regularly visited one, is photographic throughout its entire length. I was distracted by the task of photographing it, however, on hearing of a short extension of upper chambers recently found in the cave.
The extension is reached only by rope and is a short length of passage that partially follows the first lake, many meters above it, but soon closes down. Despite this, the cave here is fantastically decorated with many fine ‘bacon’-like cacite curtains, small gours, cave pearls and an enormous variety of stalagmites, stalactites and, moonmilk and flowstone. The calcite is exceptionally pure and white.
The extension was originally pushed with the intention of finding a connection to the system in which Pollnagollum is located. The cave runs North-South and has a known hydrological connection to Pollasumera to the north and Marble Arch to the south. The latter, at 11.5km length, is the second longest cave system in Ireland.