This is a small entry on what is certainly the shortest length cave on my website. However, I think it deserves a little attention as it was only recently ‘rediscovered’ by cavers, having being assumed lost to the caving community. Tryan is only twenty to thirty meters in total length and consists of a series of small passages running into a sheer cliff face in the Florencecourt area of Fermanagh. One of the caves features a large and particularly impressive entrance.
The caves were first noted by Reverend William Henry, a rector in Florencecourt, County Fermanagh1, 2. Henry was a fascinating character who, in the 1730s, took a great interest in recording the area’s natural history. Alone, he wandered into many caves, including Marble Arch and Pollasumera but he did not confine himself solely to the big and dramatic caves, instead looking into every crack and hole he could find. This curiosity took him into many miserable, wet, tight and very minor caves. A true speleologist in an era long before speleology existed!
Reverend Henry was the first to record Tryan Cave in 1739, referring to its “form like a cast Gothic arch”2. He noted the commanding view across the landscape of the Marlbank. In recent times, a small number of cavers were aware of the existence of Tryan Cave but it had never been located since first mentioned, three hundred years prior. It is quite surprising that such a cave could ‘go missing’ while possessing one of the county’s biggest and most distinctive entrances!
In 2016, local cavers Al Kennedy and Magda Kluj, on a casual stroll, spotted a dramatic cave entrance high above their path. This was Tryan Cave, recently stripped of its veil of protective forestry! Al, Jock Read and myself returned a little time later to take a look. It was surely a beautiful entrance in a beautiful location, even if the cave length and potential did not amount to much. The entrance itself is certainly very ‘Gothic’ in style, even if it is a natural work and, in this respect, it is somewhat reminicent of the similarly ‘Gothic’ entrance of Pollasumera.
Another set of caves to which it has some physical similarities are the Caves of Kesh in County Sligo. For, while the latter is more extensive, they are both cliff-entrance caves located on a small precarious lip of land. Both have commanding views, from height, over an area of serene green fields and pastures. And similarly the view from Tryan cave is over a landscape which abounds in archaeological monuments, particularly of the pre-historic ages. There are a number of stone circles, standing stones, megalithic tombs and cairns below3.
Small but pretty and very easy to access, it is good to see Tryan Cave returned to the knowledge-base of the modern caving community. It highlights the importance of not just documenting new caves but of documenting the history of caving which, as Tryan proves, still has a few hidden gems to reveal.
The text of this article, concerning William Henry and the history of Tryan Cave, was based wholly upon the work of Kennedy and Barry, referenced below.
1Kennedy, A., 2016, Another much greater: the laborious marches of William Henry, and the rediscovery of Tryan Cave, Irish Speleology, 22, 46-48.
2Barry, P., 2016, A more ordinary curiosity: cave investigations in Ireland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Irish Speleology, 22, 20-36.
3Welsh, H., 2006, Survey of Earthwork, Florence Court Demesne, County Fermanagh. Survey report No. 21, Ulster Archaeological Society, p. 13.