Cave Hill

Binn Uamha - Cave Hill - Cavehill - Beann Mhadagáin - Ben Madigan

Useful Information

Location: In the city of Belfast. OS ref 325811 sheet 15. Parking at Castle, Zoo, Hazelwood, Carrs Glen and Wallace Estate.
Open: Park: all year daily 7:30-dawn.
Caves: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaRock Mine
Light: none, bring torch
Dimension: Cave 1: L=6.4 m, W=6.5 m, H=3 m.
Cave 2: L=3 m, W=2.1 m, H=1.8 m.
Cave 3: L=13 m, W=6.5 m.
Guided tours:
Address: Cave Hill, Antrim Road/Innisfayle Park junction, Belfast, BT15, Tel: +44-28-9077-6925, Mobile: +44-7920-187643. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



Binn Uamha (Cave Hill), also known as Cavehill or Beann Mhadagáin (Ben Madigan), is located in the city of Belfast. It is a park with interesting archaeological and natural features. The feature, which justifies its appearance on, are caves with remains of Neolithic man. The most impressive cave is located near Devil's Punchbowl and offers a great view across Belfast. The caves are not closed but difficult to access, as the entrances are located in a steep cliff.

This hill is composed of basaltic rocks, it was formed by cooling lava from a volcanic eruption. There are three caves in the face of the hill, the lower two are the smaller ones, the uppermost cave is twice as big but rather inaccessible. The ascent is rather steep and dangerous. Actually there are caves in basaltic rocks, called lava tubes, but they are fragile and easily destroyed. The basalt here is far too old to still show such natural caves. This caves are man made, either to quarry the basaltic rocks, or - as legend has it - to mine iron ore. Below the 65 Million years old Tertiary basalt lies Ulster White Limestone which is Cretaceous (145Ma) and was mined in Victorian times on the southern flanks of the hill. This limestone is underlayn by the Waterloo Mudstone Formation, water resistant rocks from the Lias some 200 million years old.

All together there are five caves. Only the lowest cave is easily accessible. There is a trail which, while steep and narrow, allows rather easy access to the cave. We recommend appropriate clothes, sturdy shoes and so forth. The caves are rather shallow, so there is no need to bring a torch, although you might want to do so.

While the caves are not natural, there is often the word about Neolithic findings. It is pretty unlikelikely the caves existed during neolithic times. Actually the whole hill has a long and interesting history and there are numerous archaeological remains starting from the Neolithic, but mostly from Celtic times. So actually the Neolithic remains were not found inside the cave. We do not know the exact age of the cave, but they have existed and were already abandoned during Victorian times.

During Victorian times a visit to the caves was very popular. J. Doyle descibes such an event in 1854. In 2009 the Cave Hill Country Park received a Green Flag, an award scheme started in 1996, which recognises the best green places in Great Britain. On Saturday 25-JUL-2009 the Victorian visits were revived by constructing a temporary staircase which allows easy access to the main cave for one single day. There was Victorian music and the Belfast Hills Partnership donned Victorian costumes.

Additional sights are MacArt's Fort with its panoramic view of Mournes and Slieve Gullion. United Irishmen planned rebellion on this hilltop in 1798.