Limestone and caves are found in the east part of County Cork; here the rocks have been folded into a series of pronounced east – west ridges and valleys. The ridges are formed of older sandstones with small pockets of limestone resting in the valley floors. This means that the caves are not very deep or extensive. Cloyne cave is the longest in this area being over 2km long but in the form of a complex maze.
Many caves in the area have been discovered through quarrying operations. The most famous of these was discovered in 1933 in Carrigtwohill while a more recent discovery was made in the 1980′s and deemed the ‘New’ Carrigtwohill cave.
North of Mallow, the limestone extends into a large trough, reaching as far as the Ballyhoura and Galtee Mountains. Mammoth cave is the most significant cave in this area, it was extensively excavated during the nineteenth century and is named after the bones of woolly mammoths that were found in the cave. Further east (but actually in Co. Tipperary) the Mitchelstown series of caves can be found with the ‘New Mitchelstown Cave’ presently being Ireland’s oldest showcave.
‘The Caves of Co. Cork’ by Tony Oldham (1981) is still available though hard to find! It is very comprehensive and well worth the effort. A more recent guide to the caves of county Cork has been produced by SUI and is available on-line to SUI members on the “Members only” page (available soon).