Cave of the Yellow Men
Alternate name :-
R07404 x 99591
507382 x 699632
From the Church above Doolin head north four hundred metres, at the house on the left, almost opposite the Aran View Hotel, turn left into a small boreen, (lane). Follow this for one kilometre; park here, avoid obstructing any gates as they are used regularly. Walk toward the Ocean keeping slightly right to locate the diggers path. Head directly downhill, keeping the ruinous dry stone wall to within twenty metres to your right. After two hundred metres the path descends a briar filled, muddy gulley and meanders through ascending the other side. Continue across the limestone pavement descending the terraces for a further two hundred metres, where, looking north, an obvious dry river valley is seen. Cross the wall, replacing any dislodged stones, to intercept the old water course. The entrance to Poulnafearbui is at the top of the valley: "Radgers", a dig, is in the terrace on the right. Fraggle Rock is almost due west and some two hundred metres distant and some twenty metres lower in altitude.
The entrance opens into a cavity, the way on in the floor means wriggling over a jammed boulder and then enters a narrow rift. After three metres a sharp right angle bend is negotiated to pursue the sand floored rift. After another three metres the size increases to a hands and knees crawl to where it encounters the streamway. To the right the stream descends a boulder slope in a rift where at the bottom the passage turns left into flat out bedding. A boulder, (February 2016), presently obstructs progress. This area is thought very close to "Radgers". Upstream from the junction a low streamway with silty floor is followed to where another silted passage emerges from the left. Ahead a narrow rift ascends a short slope into a well decorated passage which turns right and enters the beginning of the boulder choke. Following the stream another junction is soon met within a few metres and ahead the passage closes down. To the left the passage ascends through a narrow gap between large unstable boulders above, which, on the left, the decorated passage enters. Ahead an excavated crawl passes beneath some very large, loose, boulders. This crawl may be negotiated for four metres to where the explorer is halted in front of a small pool. Directly above a shaft once ascended to the surface and among the loose boulders within the shaft a particularly large pointy, elongated boulder is balanced upon a small pebble, the size of an egg, which in turn rests upon another boulder set into the floor. The area around said boulder offers room for collapse in any direction, each one a bad idea for the explorer laying beneath. Tantalsingly just beyond this engineering conundrum an opening can be seen from where darkness beckons from beyond.
Be advised the boulder choke is considered VERY UNSTABLE even though a limited amount of shoring has been fitted the real stability of the choke remains questionable so it has therefore been left to settle before another attempt is made to pass it. Sudden collapse is a very real possibility. The significant rainfall events of 2013, 2014, 2015, which created such nationwide devastation produced no visible change or effects to the choke at all. Do Not Venture into the choke, you have been warned!
1588; September: following the Battle of Gravelines the surviving ships of the Spanish Armada were directed to return to Spain via the east coast of Britain, the northern capes of Scotland and out into the Atlantic to maintain a safe distance from the coast of Ireland. Chart detail, nor extant practises, allowed contemporary navigators to offer an accurate position for their vessel, or indeed an idea how far the province of Connaught protruded out into the Atlantic, hence some vessels foundered off Counties Donegal, Mayo and Sligo. Violent weather conditions continued to assail the surviving vessels who fought to find safe anchorage against a lee shore. Miraculously the "Zuniga", a mile west of Liscannor, survived these privations to eventually reach home. The remaining ships, many of which had suffered damage, becoming desperately low on food and water, sought aid from communities along the coast. Where entreaties for supplies were rebuffed crews were reduced to raiding ashore to steal supplies. Not all ships managed to resupply, resulting in some vessels being scuppered to avoid them and their contents, becoming a prize. Crew and officers were then detained in captivity. At a time when captured nobility were normally exchanged for money, land or other hostages, all were summarily hanged on Friday the 23rd September 1588 by the Gaelic Lord Boetius Clancy, High Sheriff of Clare; pursuant to the order below signed by William Fitzwilliam, the Lord Deputy. This in no way excuses the ruthless barbarity with which the order was carried out locally.
"We authorise you to make inquiry by all good means, both by oath and otherwise, to take all the hulls of ships, stores, treasures, etc. into your hands and to apprehend and execute all Spaniards found there of what quality so ever. Torture may be used in prosecuting this inquiry".
Their remains were buried in a mass grave it has been suggested within the cemetery at Killilagh Church, Roadford, though one interpretation of records suggests their remains were cast into a "pothole", near their place of execution, Cnocán an Chrochaire, (Hill of the Hanging), (Spellissy 1988, 18). This unassuming grassy mound is situated to the left of the farm track leading to the St. Catherines entrance of Doolin River Cave. Over the following weeks corpses washed ashore at Poulcraveen, known since as Bones Bay, (Curtin 1983), were respectfully gathered and buried by locals in an adjacent field. Nearby, overlooking the ocean, set in isolation upon the broad limestone pavement, a prominent glacial erratic known as "the Stone of the Yellow Ship" is regularly utilized as a navigation aid by modern mariners.
The cave name was assigned to recognize the events confronting the Armada and the protracted struggle to survive both tempest and foe: with a subtle reference to the explorers yellow oversuits.
1974: Easter, PC ascended a narrowing dry valley from where it once discharged into the sea to its summit noting the cave potential of the area.
2011. ML (L.A.D.S.), and PC went to dig the site known as “Radgers”, dug sporadically by CC and PC.
Before the digging gear was even unpacked, looking around the site, ML pulled aside a thorn bush revealing a very small opening. On the first day the cavity was emptied of spoil exposing a small hole in the floor. This was pursued becoming a "U" bend opening into a narrow rift almost filled with sand. Three metres from the alcove the rift turned a sharp right hand corner. Digging beyond was confined so the floor at the corner was dug down a metre with the spoil more easily sent to surface in the skid. This meant the spoil from the tight section ahead could be simply scrapped back the short distance backfilling the prepared hole. By the time the hole was filled ML had excavated a route to a pretty section of passage where the sound of a stream constantly beckoned. Within ten metres a stream way, running left to right, was entered. Downstream the passage dropped down boulders into a very low section which required a boulder to be removed. Upstream the low streamway was followed to a junction. Left it was blocked with silt whilst ahead a small rift ascended to a decorated passage that curved to the right. Back at the main junction the low streamway lead through a pool to another junction. The left lead back to the pretty bedding and ahead a low crawl continued beneath big unstable boulders holding up progress but is the source of the stream. After two sessions of digging using "cheating sticks" the floor of the crawl beneath the boulders was lowered to allow access. Penetration of the crawl was cautiously achieved by a snake like progress carefully guided by relating regular instructions for PC to adjust his body position to avoid contact with the surrounding surfaces. Ahead, the pool, which we previously assumed the stream source was just a puddle. To the right and above a shaft ascends toward the surface partially choked with boulders. The largest boulder perched upon a small stone the size of a pigeon's egg. The other side of this dodgy area, some three metres distant, a small clean washed opening continues. Before entry is attempted the area needs careful stabilizing. Preparations to shore the beginning of the crawl area commenced, attention being directed to supporting the largest boulder, estimated in excess of five tonnes. The area was left to settle; occasional visits are made to check its status.
2013, 1st August: following significant rainfall a torrent emanating from Radgers was seen to cascade down the normally dry valley to sink among the elevated storm beach debris. A subsequent trip into Poulnafearbui revealed no obvious flood effect to the streamway or boulder choke. Meanwhile, this flood scoured out eleven metres of choked passage in Fraggle Rock and the debris strewn along the passage causing disruption to a number of digging sessions.
Pat C Cronin.
Spellissy S. Clare Association Year Book, 1988, Ed Corry MJ.
Curtin Gus. Ballynahown, (deceased) personal communication 1983.
Let's 'ave a Drink Speleo's
PC in the streamway. Note old stream level indicated by stal margin
Entrance rift looking towards the streamway
1st August 2013 after very heavy rain over two days. Water issuing from Radgers down the normally dry valley
PC removing debris from the entrance dig
Formations at the second Junction
CC & PC surveying in the streamway