About Kiltannon Caves

The Toomeens of Tulla comprise 10 caves spanning a 500m long section of the Kiltannon River from which the Hell River flows into the Parish of Clooney/Quin. The caves are separated from each other by surface collapses which leave 30% of the course of the river above ground. Two stream oxbow lakes and a complex of dry oxbows and side passages add to the overall length of the system.

The Toomeens were far more popular in the early part of the 20th century and in previous centuries than they are today. They were the best known of the Clare caves, even more so than the Aillwee Caves thanks to publicity received in various travel books and from visiting cavers. In J. Lloyd’s “A Short Tour In the County Of Clare” (1780), the author praises their uniqueness and compares them to be as good as other natural sites in Italy and Switzerland.

The Tomeens are located in the limestone lowlands of east Clare, some 14 km east of Ennis and 2.8 km north-west of Tulla

The caves form part of the boundary between the lownlands of Kiltanon and Milltown. The Tomeens were far more popular in the early part of this century and in previous centuries than they arc today. They were the best known of the Clare caves and possibly the most famous caves in all Ireland. J. Lloyd, in his book A Short Tour in the County Clare 1780 (1986) gives them such lavish praise that he bids the'"Literati and Curious, alter taking the Continental Tour of Europe. (to) View and touch upon the truely Subterraneous and really Un-artificial Curiosities of the To-mines."

The rich and influential Molony family, who owned Kiltanon House, received many visitors to the Tomeens and in the last century are said to have held music concerts at the caves. Such social gatherings have passed into folklore and Kiltanon House has become a ruin. The picnickers who used to cycle from Limerick now go elsewhere by car.

The Victorian geologist Kinahan also gave exaggerated praise to the Tomeens but their "unforgettable magnificence' was put brusquely into perspective by the great French caver E.A. Martel, who visited the area as part of his subterranean campaign of 1895. Martel includes two very fine sketches of the Tomeens in his book Irelande et cavernes anglaises (1897) and berates the Baddeley Guide for its failure to mention the splendid Kiltanon estate. His opinion of the caves was less flattering, comparing them unfavourably with those of his homeland.

Most modern cavers would agree with Martel that the Tomeens arc pleasant but quite modest caves, the pleasure of a visit owing more to the peacefulness and beauty of the natural surroundings than to the sporting aspect of the caves.

Lloyd (1986) 360 commented on the abundant wildlife that frequented the estate and it is still possible today to see otters.

Sourced from The Tomeens of Tulla, Co Clare, Ireland by C.A. SELF
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