Doolin Cave Environment Impact

We adhere to and promote the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. These are:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Be considerate of others.
  3. Respect farm animals and wildlife.
  4. Travel and camp on durable ground.
  5. Leave what you find.
  6. Dispose of waste properly.
  7. Minimise the effects of fire.

Enviromental impact management plan

In the development of our buisness from the very begining we have to identify the impacts to the Cave. We have had an Enviomental Impact study done on the cave in 2004 when we applied for planning permission to open the cave as a show cave. Also when we applied for planning permission to build the visitor centre in 2009 we followed the guidelines that the Enviomental Impact study had outlined. The building comprises a café, exhibition area and craft-shop including ticket office and ancillary services to make a total area of circa 185sqm.

The architects’ brief was to provide a bespoke visitors’ reception building for Doolin Cave that would be sympathetic to the existing underground complex and over-ground landscape.

To create an indoor-outdoor space, with maybe one or more sides open to the weather, that would move people, with special emphasis in sustainable design, eco-friendly materials and would be low / neutral carbon emission. Finally, to produce a design that would be ‘reclaimed’ by the natural surroundings over time.

With the majestic Ivy Cliff as its guardian, the design approach aimed at generating a contemporary building that would blend in and disappear within the existing hills below.

Internally, as the cave itself, the space would be ‘shaped by the water’ and all materials introduced would be kept in the natural state where possible to appreciate their ‘honesty’, their sculptural qualities.

Externally, the use of local stone for the walls was proposed to emulate the ivy cliffs’, complemented by a green roof as a continuation of the existing hills.

The transparency of the glazed café seating area would also integrate with the existing landscape, allowing the visitor to enjoy the surrounding views to the cliff, Ballinalacken Castle and the hills.

The selection of materials specified reflects and integrates with the characteristics of the site and its surroundings.

The area of the green roof follows and slightly exceeds that of the footprint of the new building, with the objective of replacing the ecology that the development stands on.

In this same fashion, all external ancillary spaces have generally been executed with soft permeable landscaping, as a way of minimising the disruption to the existing environment (e.g.: gravel / permeable flagstones).

The green roof, at the same time as providing shelter and insulation for the premises, also absorbs the rainwater reducing the storm water runoff and creates a natural habitat for local wildlife.

This roof contributes to the reduction of heat loss and energy consumption in winter conditions, reduces cooling loads and provides sound insulation.

The interstices of the external stonewall also contribute to generate a favourable surface for the development of local species such as the ivy on the neighbouring cliffs.

Internally, the materials were kept in their most natural way possible.

With the exception of the services areas (kitchen and WCs, for hygienic reasons), the finishes were kept to a minimum, having been considered both from an economical and a sustainable point of view.

A concrete wall with exposed limestone aggregate reminiscent of the natural walls of the cave, forms the main exhibition area and directs the eye and the flow of the public towards the external entrance of the cave at the back of the building, while walking you through the history of the discovery of the stalactite through explanatory graphic panels.

A smooth sealed concrete floor for all the main areas unifies all of these into a sequence of fluent spaces interacting with each other. It also provides an effective response to its use with a hard and durable surface (public will transit these areas with the same shoe ware they have used to access the damp floor of the cave below). The WCs have been tiled for hygienic purposes and dual flush appliances contribute to the sustainability element of the overall building brief.

The internal lighting has been specified and designed to provide an energy efficient system for all areas within the Visitor Centre. This has been achieved by a combination of energy efficient fittings and by zoning the lighting controls to manage the lighting levels required dependant on the season, time of day, and the area of the building. A Condition of the Planning Permission is that no external lighting is to be provided for the Visitor Centre.

The building and the environment:

The reception building at Doolin Cave sits on a 7 acre site. In order to minimise the impact of the building on the rural landscape approx. 300 native trees in three groves have been planted in order to screen the building from the road.

The groves contain ash, oak, mountain ash, beech and alder. They have also constructed earthen berms or banks to screen the car park from the road and the building. These banks are planted with native shrubs like willow, hazel, whitethorn and other species native to the area.

Further landscaping is planned for this winter, e.g. old species of climbing and rambling roses and ivies to be trained up the stonework on the building, plants on the grass roof to cascade down the walls and an area to the front of the building planted with daffodils and some specimen trees in a natural lawn.

We have identified some of the impacts that both impact the cave and the visitor centre

1.1. Use of Energy


Lampenflora is the result of spores being brought into the cave on peoples’ shoes and clothes. The spores then react to UV light and high temperatures, this leads to moss growing in the cave. In order to avoid the growth of lampen flora particularly on the Great Stalactite,we use cold lighting in the underground chambers and lights are only switched on when tours are actually in the chambers Part of our cave tour informs visitors about the measures that we have put in place to protect ther Cave and stalactite. Visitor numbers are limited to 20 per tour and anually to 55,000 in order to negate any adverse impacts. Energy use in the visitor centre is mainly electrical in the operation of lighting and kitchen equipment. As regards the internal lighting it has been specified and designed to provide an energy efficient system for all areas within the Visitor Centre. This has been achieved by a combination of energy efficient fittings and by zoning the lighting controls to manage the lighting levels required dependant on the season, time of day, and the area of the building. Although kitchen equipment, by its very nature uses energy, we try to minimise this as much as possible,but in order to comply with hygiene rules we have to consume a certain amount of energy. We have a carbon offsetting programme where we have planted 400 native trees such as ash, oak, alder and shrubs such as whitethorn, blackthorn, hazel, wild cerry and dog-rose which generate oxygen and reduce our Carbon footprint

1.2. Creation of Waste

One of the threats to the cave environment is rubbish brought into the cave by visitors. Any foreign matter deposited in caves takes a lot longer to disintegrate underground than it would overground. Food deposits particularly, cause fungal growth which destroys the pristine environment and lingers indefinitely Waste generated by the operation of cafe, shop, etc comes mainly from packaging from deleveries to the cafe and the shop and food stuffs from the kitchen. As we operate a ‘reduce, re-use and recycle ‘ policy we continually try to improve on ways of doing this. We bulk buy in order to reduce packaging and have an arrangement with some of our suppliers to take back packaging on delivery.

1.3. Use of Water

The presence of water in the cave has always been vital. It cut out the passages ways and caverans hundreds of thousands of years ago. It also created the great stalactite drop by drop. Keeping this in mind there can never be a chance that the ground water may become compromised. We follow very strict guidelines set out by our Enviromental Impact study and by our geogoloist Prof John Gunn. Before the visitor centre was built extensive ground water tests were carried out, such as dye tracing. We had to make sure that by building the visitor centre so close to the Cave system that there would be no adverse effects . From the results of these tests we were advised to use the a specialised sewage system. Also for oil and grease traps to be put under the car park. We could not use tarmacadam in the car park. All waste water had to be desposed of through drains.

1.4. Use of detergents/disinfectants.

As stated above we have to take extra precautions about what gets into the ground water. We are mindfull that we can not use harmfull chemicals. However some cleaning agents must be used in the cleaning of the visitor centre. We must be in complience with the HSE and HASSP. Disinfectants must be used in the cleaning of the kitchen and toilets.

1.5. Impact on wildlife/biodiversity.

Before we started the excavation of the cave we had a study of the cave system by Dr. Niamh Roche BSc, Ph.D., Prepared in December 2000 Her findings were “Since no bats are known to hibernate in Pol-an-Ionain, and none have been encountered in the cave to date, the proposed development cannot impact on the local bat population.”

We try not disturb the land around the cave

  1. 1. Use of energy:

(i) Impact Managment Plan

We have used concrete and a grass roof in the construction of the building becaus these materials retain heat which cuts down on enrgy usse.

We use LED lighting in the cave and in the Visitor Centre as much as possible and our ambition is that we will have replaced all lighting used in the operation, both overground and underground, with LED lighting by the end of 2013.

Our policy is to turn off all lights in all areas except when they  are in use. This is in order to reduce energy consumption as well as keeping the cave temperature from rising above 11 degrees Celsius .

We use stairs instead of a lift to reduce energy use.

We don’t use central heating in the building for all of of the high season and don’t need to use it most of the year except on the odd occasion when the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius.

We use natural gas for cooking and heating which is cleaner and more efficient then electricity.

We have zoned the lighting so we only use lights in areas that are use at any particular areas.

We have installed large windows in the cafe to avail of natural light.

Some of our visitors to Doolin Cave arrive on foot as it is situated on the route of the Burren Way

(ii) Reporting to management by guides and staff:

Staff do hourly checks in the cave and report to duty manager

Shop and cafe staff make regular checks on use of lights and other energy sources

(iii) Action Programme:

In order to cut down on lighting, we have found that we do not need to use all light fittings in the shop and since we have repaced all bulbs with low energy LEDs, we only need to use half of all the lights.

The duty manager takes appropriate action when any faults, etc are reported by guides and staff.

Windows ar cleaned regularly in order to optimise the amount of natural light in the building.

We give 20% discount to people who hire bicycles in Doolin.

The  car park is surfaced with gravel and sand and is not tarmacadamed.

We encourage small coach tours to the cave (10-12 people per tour). They also recieve a 20% discount to encourage group transport.

  1. 2. Creation of waste:

(i) Impact Managment Plan

Our plan is to cut down on waste in all the areas identified. We do this by returning packaging to our suppliers upon delivery. We dont use plastic bags for shopping for cafe, instead we use recyclable bags. We try to buy in bulk to cut down on packaging. We encourage our visitors not to bring any food, etc in to the cave and to take all waste with them. We have signs in the building and on the stairs to remind people of this. We have a policy of asking if our customers require a bag with their purchases to cut down on packaging. We have a compost bin for compostible waste, we recycle plastic and paper and cans. We try to re-use jars, etc., as much as possible and also hand towels for cleaning

(ii) Reporting to management by guides and staff:

All staff are trained in recycling and take it upon themselves to cut down on waste.

(iii) Action Programme:

We have an arrangement with our suppliers, e.g., Pallas and Plassey Foods that they take back packaging. We bulk buy as many of the produccts we use as possible taking storage space into account to cut down carbon emmissions from delivery vans and personal transport. To cut down on packaging in the cafe, we use bowls of sugar and small pots of jam instead of pre-packed products. Waste coffee grounds are used as slug repellants and compost is used as fertiliser. In the shop we use newspaper for wrapping instead of bubble-wrap, we have cut out the use jof plastic bags and use paper bags instead and encourage customers not to use bags except where necessary.

We re-use jars for jams and chutneys.

Most of the food on the menu is home-made which cuts down on energy-inefficient prepared foods.

We have a recycle bin from ‘Rural Refuse’ for plastic, paper and cans which we seperate.

We have replaced toilet-roll holders to Lotus Toilet tissue, it can only be taken one sheet at a time which cuts down on the amount of toilet paper used.. This toilet paper dissolves within 5 minuts in water which makes it easier to decompose.

  1. 3. Use of water:

(i) Impact Management Plan:

We are always consious of the importance of keeping ground water as clean and unpolluted as possible so as not to comprimise the quality of the water in the cave and to the stalactite.

Our toilets are double flushing to minimise water usage. Our sewage system is Bord na Mona Puraflo which is a bio-filtration system which effectively treats sewage to a vey high level. We collect rainwater from the gargoyles on the grass roof of the building. We don’t have a urinal in the mens’ toilets to minimise water wastage.

(ii) Reporting to management by guides and staff:

We get an annual report from Bord na Mona on the sewage system which is also checked by John    Browne.

Taps are checked in the toilets every hour to ensure that they are not left running.

(iii) Action Programme:

Water usage is kept to a minimum in the cafe by using washing basins and running of taps is discouraged.

We use collected rain water for plants and animals on the Eco-trail and to clean around the outside of the building.

  1. 4. Use of detergents/disinfectants

(i) Impact Management Plan:

We are very conscious of the adverse effects of any chemicals on the cave system and keep their use to a minimum.

We are fully aware of the damaging effects of detergents and disinfectants on the environment and try to eliminate their use in the building or replace them with eco-frindly or natural products.

(ii) Reporting by guides and staff to management:

We encourage guides and staff to work with us to identify any areas where the use of detergents and disinfectants can be eliminated.

(iii) Action programme:

All areas where detergents or disinfectants have been identified and researc was carried out on alternative eco-friendly product, e.g., toilet cleaner, washing-up liquids, multi-surface cleaners, disinfectants and hand-soaps

Window-cleaner products have been replaced by water and vinegar and newspaper. Baking soda is used instaed of commercial oven-cleaner

For deep-cleaning, we use a steam-cleaner instead of harmful chemicals .

For laundry, we use EcoGenie laundry ball and use a 30 Degree Cycle.

Impact on wildlife/biodiversity

(i) Impact Management Plan:

We are conscious of the possible impacts of any activities relating to the operation of Doolin Cave on the wildlife and biodiversity of the area. This applies to energy  and water usage, cutting down on chemical usage and control of the creation of waste. We try to offset any unavoidabe impacts by planting trees, shrubs, etc.

We actively encourage birdlife by growning fruit bushes and providing bird-feeders. We plant shrubs to attract butterflies and bees.

(ii) Reporting to management:

Guides and staff are encouraged to be aware of any changes they notice in the wild-life of the area.

(iii) Action Programme:

We have planted 300 native trees since we built the visitor centre and will continue with this by planting stands of mountain ash, silver birch, hazel etc., at various points in the eco-trail.

We have planted indigenous shrubs to create hedgerows for animals, birds, etc.

We have planted native wild-flower meadows to encourage local species of birds and insects to populate the area. We will create ‘bug-hotels’ so children can identify differnts species of insects.

Annual Review:

This policy will be reviewed on an annual basis in order to:

  • To monitor effects and outcomes
  • To improve in particular ares
  • To iniatiate change where necessary
  • We evaluat the monetary effects in order to provide finance to improve standards

Plan: Solar panels, water tanks to capture rain water and ground water. Heat pump, wind turbine. Monitor the availabilty of more energy efficint lighting for the cave etc


  • “Unique Stalactite and Tour; Well Worth It! This was an unexpected highlight of our stay in Doolin. We went to the cave more out of curiosity than anything else but ended up feeling like it was one of the highlights of our stay in County Clare. The introductory panels in the visitor’s center provided us with good background information that set us up well for the tour. Our tour guide was excellent from start to finish”

    eaglelake20 – NewYork

    – June, 2022

  • “Doolin Cave, just another Cave.. No! This Cave is exceptional, It’s the first time I’ve been awe struck and really felt like an explorer. I’ve been down many caves, but this one is the only one that touched my heart and caused me to have great respect for life and our living planet. The separation between the noisy commercial rat race and the serene peaceful heartbeat of the earth is very tangible. It certainly makes me believe in the Creator of Life.. please don’t miss the opportunity, make the opportunity it’s life lasting .”

    John O’ Regan – Google Review

    – June, 2023

  • “Fabulous experience, very interesting and informative tour. The cave is terrific and well maintained. The nature walk is beautiful. The coffee shop serves lovely coffee and scrumptious cakes. All the staff in the complex were very pleasant, helpful and efficient”

    Michael Macken – Google Review

    – May, 2023

  • “A fantastic experience. The tour takes place every hour and is carried out very professionally, personably and with a lot of humor. The descent is quite easy, but you should be prepared for numerous slightly wet and slippery steps. It is also very fresh in the cave. Therefore, dress sufficiently thickly and wear sturdy shoes. But the descent and the tour itself are breathtaking and absolutely worth the effort!”

    Philip A. – Google Review

    – June, 2023

  • “Spectacular! Cian our guide did a SUPER job. This is absolutely SPECTACULAR. I hadn’t read much about the caves so when we turned the corner and saw this amazing view – the stalactite, we were awe struck. Top spot in Clare for sure. Coffee n toastie at the coffee shop was yummy and the young ladies on duty were efficient professional and very friendly GOOD JOB!”

    Rita C – Dublin

    – June, 2023

  • “Wow, what can I say.. I’ll keep it brief. This was an absolute hidden gem in the Burren, and the highlight of our stay! Seeing the stalactite in all its glory was amazing. We believe it’s the largest in Europe, and quite staggering to find it in the tiny village of Doolin. The tour guide (apologies, forgot your name) was very informative and friendly. The tour itself was brilliant, and such a unique experience that we will never forget”


    – September, 2022

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