White Fathers’ Caves are a series of three short active steam caves, totalling a distance of no more than 400 meters. The caves are exceptionally pretty with the third cave, the longest and containing the deepest water, being almost entirely decorated throughout its length.
This is an active cave, with a constant flow of water, which sees that the calcite formations are particularly clean and there is none of the mud nor grit festooning the decoration, as is often seen in well traversed fossil caves. White Fathers is also a protected area for Daubenton’s bats, which roost in small crevices in the ceiling and hunt along the river surface at dusk.
This was the first cave where I started to take photos. Although access is easy and the cave is spacious, trying to set up a camera on a tripod inside a fast flowing stream is an interesting challenge. On top of that there is a high amount of air moisture and it is impossible to keep the camera and lens dry and clean. To make matters worse, cave photography is a relatively slow process and models and flash-holders get cold very quickly when standing in an underground river for long periods of time!
After a few trips I eventually stopped taking photos here, having had a few near misses when my camera and tripod tried to go for a swim. I moved to other and drier caves, such as Boho cave, and started to develop a more efficient photographic method.
However I always liked this pretty cave and perhaps due to the difficulty in photographing it and the fact that it is wholly unrepresented by photographers, I have come back to the idea of photographing it in its entirety.
White Fathers’ is very different in feel to any of the caves nearby and while it is often seen as a easy short trip, it is a rarity in caving to get so much for so little effort. Upon exit of the final cave, when one climbs back up to the surface, it should be noted that most of the trip has occurred beneath a small prison compound. This is a Loughan House, a low priority prison and original home, until the 1970s, for the Capuchin Order of Franciscans, known locally as the White Fathers, namesakes of the cave.
NOTE: The third cave sumps at the end after heavy rain and it Is necessary before entering to check the exit point otherwise you may become trapped inside.