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Aran Inspired

The Marble Arch Caves

The Marble Arch Cave complex at the village of Florencecourt in County Fermanagh and have a magical atmosphere, reminiscent of Stephen Speilberg's movie The Goonies. The underground Claddagh River runs through the cave's winding passages, encountering lofty chambers with huge stalagmites and stalactites, and a glorious waterfall. Visitors can take the "wet entrance" to the cave via a guided boat tour, which lasts for 10 minutes, before disembarking at the Grand Gallery, where they can explore the caves on foot. The entire tour takes around 75 minutes.

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Dunmore Cave

This unique and interesting series of caverns in the limestone hills near Kilkenny City was designated as a national monument in 1940, but has been known to man since at least the 9th century and formed over a period of perhaps millions of years. It stands on Castlecomer plateau above the Dinin River Valley and contains some of the largest and most widely recognized calcite formations in all of Europe and certainly in all of Ireland.

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Tollymore Forest Park

The first state forest to be granted Forest Park status in Northern Ireland, Tollymore Forest Park celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005. This attractive park features the whimsical designs of Thomas Wright (1711-1786). It contains caves, bridges, and grottoes, some natural and some man made. The Gothic gate near the entrance was part of the original estate owned by Lord Clanbrassil. The forest is full of traditional growth as well as exotic surprises such as the monkey-puzzle tree, huge redwoods and unusual pines. White Star Lines, builder of the Titanic, regularly used oak wood from Tollymore to erect their ocean liners. The arboretum at Tollymore features the oldest tree in any Irish arboretum, the Clanabrassilian, dating back to around 1750.

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Mitchelstown Cave

Located just east of Mitchelstown, this multi-cavern natural wonder is considered one of the most dramatic in all of Europe. It features stalactites and stalagmites, huge drip stone formations, and many fine columns, including a famous 30-foot high formation known as the Tower of Babel. A guided tour winds its way through two caverns, called House of Lords and House of Commons, for a distance of nearly a half-mile. The columns, stalactites and stalagmites are created when limestone dissolved in rainwater accumulates inside the caves when the water evaporates. The process takes more than a thousand years to result in a complete formation.

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The Burren

The Burren is a vast, other-worldly landscape in County Clare, created in the ice age by karstic limestone rock. An area of about 100 square miles (160 sq km), The Burren is located in the north-west corner of county Clare. Bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, with Galway Bay to the northwest, the Burren gets its name from the Gaelic word Boireann, meaning rocky place. Formed by glacial action, this wilderness of sparse soil is at times flat and sloping, at others broken by hillsides of limestone. These are in turn separated by imposing cliffs, containing tranquil valleys, peacefully meandering streams, and beautiful beaches. Visitors typically take a drive or bus through this region after visiting the nearby Cliffs of Moher, stopping off in Lisdoonvarna -- the main (albeit small) town in the Burren -- before heading north to Galway city.

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