Aillwee Caves with a Toddler
While we were on our holiday in Co. Clare recently, we visited the Aillwee Caves with Little Man. All my years growing up in the county next door to Clare, and to my shame I’d never been to the Aillwee Caves before, so I thought it was about time I changed that. I wasn’t sure if Little Man would enjoy it, however. After all, it’s hard to know how exciting a toddler will find a cave! To be honest, he wasn’t too keen until we mentioned that bears used to live there.
When we arrived, we were told that a tour guide would take us through the cave. We were offered the option to go with a large group of German tourists, which was departing immediately, or wait 20 minutes and go with a smaller group of 4-5 people. We chose the smaller group, and took the opportunity to have a nice coffee and snack in the tearoom while we waited. There was also a gift shop to wander around.
The tour guide was a young guy, and we were joined on the tour by an older couple and a single man. The older couple seemed to be bickering a little bit (“Here let me help you.” “No, I can manage it. Look after yourself would you…” and so on!) so perhaps that set the mood for our group. For the tour, the guide took us through the cave, on a walking tour that takes about 30 minutes. There are six designated stop points on the tour. At each point, the guide gave us his talk on the history of the cave, and explained what we were looking at.
Now we may have overhyped the “bears in a cave” aspect for Little Man, because at the end of the guide’s first speech, when he asked if there were any questions, Little Man replied in a loud stage whisper “Where are the bears?” We had a little giggle, and the tour moved on.
You can guess what happened at the end of the next talk. Once again, a little louder this time, “Where are the bears?” To my shock, the guide turned to him and said bluntly, “They’re dead!” Perhaps I was being oversensitive, but I thought he seemed a bit miffed at the toddler questions, and I didn’t think that was a very nice way to respond. I guess it worked though. Little Man didn’t ask him about the bears again after that. It soured the visit a little for me.
The rest of the tour went well. There are some nice touches to it – lighting effects to highlight the key features of the cave. The waterfall is spectacular all lit up.
Considering the cave tickets start at a reasonable €5, I thought it was a worthwhile attraction for a visit.
Birds of Prey
Also at the same location is the Birds of Prey centre. We had purchased a joint ticket that allowed us entry to both the cave and the Birds of Prey centre. The centre houses a collection of birds, including eagles, hawks, and owls. We quite enjoyed our walk around here, though it didn’t take very long. Our ticket also entitled us to attend a flight display, but the display coincided with nap time, so we had to give it a miss.
The staff at the Birds of Prey centre cheered us up though. The woman working in the shop asked Little Man if he made sure to be quiet in the cave so that he didn’t wake the bears. 🙂
Between the two attractions, we passed a lovely morning, and by the time we were done, the weather had dried up again. Perfect!