Aran Islands - Ireland

A Speleo/Sail Exploration - Summer 2000

The three islands of Inisheer, Inishmaan and Inishmore comprise the Aran Islands broaching the entrance to Galway Bay. Lying off the coast of County Clare where the limestone of The Burren provides a unique habitat for fauna and wildlife and significant caves. The water from the Burren caves discharges into surface rivers, springs, sea caves and upwellings in the sea bottom.

The limestone protrudes as the Aran Islands and there are a number of known cave sites. None of these are long nor deep but they have not been fully explored, mapped, recorded and evaluated. Remnants of old fossil caves exist, such as Piper's Cave on Inisheer. Only seven sites are recorded in ' Caves of County Clare', all small. There are probably other sites. No real attempt has been made to discover the full extent of cave systems and to scientifically put together a picture of the geomorphology of the islands. It may be that there are sea caves similar to those found off the coast of Clare, the Doolin Point Green Holes.

Further exploration will also be carried out along the Co. Clare coast (from Hags Head to Kinvara) to seek sea caves and resurgences.There will be possibilities for general caving on The Burren.


To investigate all known sites of caves and karst features.
To seek new caves.
To scientifically gather information surrounding the caves, such as flora and fauna,
geology, hydrology.
To consider local uses, tales and legends relating to the caves.
To describe, map, photograph, record and evaluate all sites.
To publish the findings.


As these are island and coastal sites the exploration base will be a boat with motorised inflatable tender. The boat will be in the area for about six weeks (with an additional two weeks for the sail to and from Ireland) over the summer months; late June, July and August. All information will be kept on board and the boat will also provide live-aboard facilities for a total of six people. In addition camping, B&B and hostel accommodation is expected to be used to suit needs and itinerary on the islands and in Clare.

Participants can join for as long or as short a time as they wish. We shall require some particular expertise and skills. Primarily people interested in the flora and fauna of cave sites and those able to scuba dive and those with some sailing experience, especially for the sails to and from Ireland. The divers will investigate resurgences under the sea and sea caves. It is not likely that land based caves with siphons will be found on the islands. The exploration will work closely with the Speleological Union of Ireland and the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society, especially with regard to following their format and notation for recording information.
The first few weeks will be spent on the Aran Islands and then the coast of Co. Clare will be investigated. As in all exploration local knowledge is vital and we shall spend time just rambling and talking, perhaps over a pint or two!


Travel to and from Ireland will be at the participants own arrangements and cost. Those on the outward or return voyages on the boat will contribute towards the expenses as stated below. Accommodation costs on land will also be the responsibility of the participants but suitable and hopefully low cost common facilities will be sought, depending on numbers.There are camp sites and hostels's on the islands; these latter will be relatively expensive in the high season. Final arrangements will be made when numbers of participants are known together with their preferences. Whilst living and sleeping on board ( which includes the voyages) a contribution of £8 per day will be required (based on hostel prices). This will also cover a contribution to the costs of survey instruments, ropes, ladders etc. A small charge will be made if the boat is used as a 'ferry' or for day trips by people not living on board. This is to cover the boats running expenses and maintenance. A shared budget will be set up for on-board main meals.

For further information contact: Ian Ellis Chandler


Feel that long Atlantic spray
and seek respite in the passages
within the walled karst
on the resolute Aran Islands.

Ian Chandler