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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I only got to this part of the cave on the second trip here. It had been a long day and the rather large group had become whittled down to just three people. The last of us decided we had better leave and made for a quick retreat. There remains a chamber or two and a number of minor passages that I did not get to look into, easily forgettable in most caves, but in the case of ‘Rinky I will have to return, as it is truly as special cave for me.
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.