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Cong Caves

The Cong area is largely underlain by carboniferous limestone. The district exhibits some of the most remarkable and intriguing karstic features in Ireland, despite the fact that to date no major cave system has been discovered. The waters of Lough Mask flow into Lough Corrib through a series of underground rivers and streams. Cong's situation on the Lough Mask-Lough Corrib isthmus reveals why there are so many caves in the surrounding area. The caves were formed when the water from the rivers and streams penetrated the ground through swallow holes and dissolved the limestone beneath. There are also a number of souterrains - man made caves - in the area.
Dozens of caves are known and accessible, but the number of still undiscovered caves can only be guessed at. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the approximately 3 mile wide isthmus between Loughs Mask and Corrib is formed from chalk and secondly, the loughs lie at different sea levels. The sub terranean water-courses, from the Mask have gnawed at and eroded the underground rock that they pass through on their way down to Lough Corrib.
By means of tests involving special pigments which are added to the water and which can not be filtered out by the layers of rock, geologists have proved that it takes 48 hours for the water to seep through from the Lough Mask to Lough Corrib.

Stalactites and stalagmites can be found throughout these natural caves. Stalactites are formed when drops of water seep through the roof of the cave and evaporate to leave tiny particles of calcite(calcium carbonate). These particles build up over thousands of years to form stalactites where an icicle-shaped appendages hanging over head. If these drops of water fall to the floor of the cave and evaporate there, stalagmites are formed. When a stalactite and a stalagmite join together they form a pillar.
There are many local legends associated with the caves. Fairies, leprechauns and banshees are believed to live in these underground chambers. Legend has it that the De Dannann people transformed themselves into fairies, and retreated to this underground world.

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