Pollskeheenarinky Cave

County Tipperary

Pollskeheenarinky Cave is one of three fantastic caves found in South Tipperary, close to the Cork border. The most famous of these caves, Mitchelstown Cave is Ireland’s oldest show cave while the other, Old Desmond, is a short but impressive sized cave with many beautiful formations. ‘Rinky itself, feels much more like a complicated sporting cave and is, essentially, a series of large abandoned chambers connected by a number of muddy crawls.

The cave is approximately one kilometre in length but requires quite a bit of time to see it all in one trip. I thought I had managed to do this on my last trip but found out later that there are a number of additional chambers beyond Quinlan’s Hall which were not on the old survey in my possession. Not a bad excuse for a return trip, if one was needed.

I first visited ‘Rinky and Old Desmond caves with DIT Caving Club in 2014 and again in 2017 with Breifne Caving Club. On both trips we took in ‘Rinky and Old Desmond over the course of a weekend. As much as I like Old Desmond, this cave stands in my mind as one of Ireland’s most impressive caves and is a personal favourite.

Similar to neighbouring Old Desmond, access is via a rope or laddered down-climb, but in the case of ‘Rinky, the entrance is far less impressive, consisting of a tedious passage via what must be Ireland’s most impressively aggressive bramble patch! After the pitch and more tedious crawling, the cave opens up to give a taste of what is to come – a large decorated chamber with some impressive phreatic tubes.

The Egg Chamber

Soon a relatively tough, wet and muddy crawl and junction leads left and right. On my first trip there we took the left turn first and, just as the misery of the crawl was about to dishearten us, we came to Pyramid Chamber. What can I say about this place? It is surely one of the island’s most incredible natural locations. The steep walls angled at 45 degrees to one another make a distinctive pyramid shape, displaying a beautiful quality of blue limestone and white calcite. Right in the centre of the floor sits the ‘Altar’, a large boulder long since fallen from the roof and adding to the drama and beauty of the chamber.

The Pyramid Chamber

There is a feeling of isolation yet haughtiness from this beautiful chamber. Being here feels like you have been satisfied and could happily return home, but the cave keeps on giving. Just beyond, the Egg Chamber is very finely decorated with calcite straws and stals. If this were not enough, a slight crawl opens up into the ‘Castle Gardens’ chamber. There is almost too much for the senses here – a large chamber with pristine cracked-mud formations (so called the ‘Giant’s Causeway’), a high roof with a boulder collapse; while the walls are plastered in fine formations.

The Castle Gardens

It comes to an end here and one must back-track to the misery of the mud crawls. (It is possible to venture via some difficult passage to the western part of the cave from Pyramid Chamber but with such a large and mixed group it was decided to return via the mud crawls). From the junction, travelling west, one eventually reaches Quinlan’s Hall, named after the family on whose land the cave is located and who have played a part in the cave’s exploration and subsequent protection.

One of the many low muddy crawl passages needed to be negotiated to reach the big chambers

This large chamber consists of the distinctive angled walls found almost entirely throughout this cave, as well as in Old Desmond. A chamber off the south-side, while smaller, is just as impressive for the remarkable blue colouration of its limestone. I was worried taking the photo, below, that the blue tint of the rock would not be obvious in the photo. However, it came out well and is accurately represented.

Distinctive blue limestone found near Quinlan’s Hall

Quinlan’s Hall is in itself an impressive space and I was glad to get here for the second time in what would be my first caving trip post-COVID-19 lock-down. I was on an outing with the newly fledged Cork Speleological Group who have had an active interest in this cave. Members were involved in taping-off areas of conservation in some of the more delicate areas of the cave, including Quinlan’s Hall.

The impressive Quinlan’s Hall

On this outing, in July 2020, we pushed into the furthest of explored regions in the west of the cave. After Quinlan’s Hall, the cave follows a series of somewhat torturous sloped crawls into Diamond Chamber. This a chamber of large volume but, it is so full of collapsed debris from the roof, that it appears much smaller in reality than it does on survey. The central part of the chamber features an enormous chunk of roof material that has fallen as a single piece so that one can see the void which it previously occupied. Beyond this the cave closes down slowly, after a series of extremely muddy and tight passages. I returned from this trip with so much mud coating everything I brought into the the cave that it took almost two weeks before I could face the task of washing my caving gear!

The Diamond Chamber

NOTE: Access to Pollskeheenarinky Cave is strictly by permission of the landowner. The entrance had previously been back-filled. Please respect this in order to keep the cave open.

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