County Leitrim

Descending into Polticoghlan

This unusually named cave, sometimes called Pulthy Clogher, is located off the southern flank of Sliabh an Iarainn in South Leitrim. For a cave of such dramatic proportions it is found in an area of considerable isolation from other karst and cave features. Nonetheless, despite being generally forgotten about, it is well worth a visit.

Cavers watch the last to descend

While the cave’s most notable feature is it’s massive main chamber, the descent from the surface is quite spectacular. After a 10 meter drop into a large open rift, still illuminated by daylight, there follows a number of shorter descents. These are magnificent giant steps dropping down into the massive cavern. It is only on the final pitch where the enormity of the main chamber opens up to view. Descending from here, the chamber greets the caver with a good soaking from the inlet waterfall.

Polticoghlan appears to be little known and it is rarely visited by cavers, due to its relative isolation from other cave regions. Despite this, the cave played an important role in local legend and folklore, with the celebration of Lughnasa being observed here in 1959. Coleman notes that local people collected bilberries and gathered at the entrance to throw stones down into the depths below (Coleman, 1965). Cavers today might well avoid caving in the area during during Lughnasa!

Having being bolted in recent years, the cave has received a little more attention. I visited the cave in the summer of 2015 with members of the Irish Expedition to Papua New Guinea team. This group, comprised mainly of Irish cavers, previously visited PNG in 2011 and returned again in December 2015 to explore and map virgin caves. I did not go to PNG, but I tagged along to Polticoghlan to take part in their preparatory survey skills workshop. In retrospect of the expedition’s results, I would argue that Polticoghlan does not appear all that dissimilar to some of the caves explored found on expedition, albeit perhaps somewhat more diminutive that those in PNG!


Coleman, J.C., 1965 Caves of Ireland. Anvil Books: Tralee.

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