Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey Center – A Review

One of the best-known attractions in The Burren is The Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey Center. If you are like many people, you may be wondering, is the center a good stop along the Wild Atlantic Way? I hope this complete review – including all the positives and the negatives will help you decide.

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A white owl on a tree branch in bird of prey center in Aillwee Cave.

What to Wear to the Aillwee Caves

During your visit to the Aillwee Caves, you’ll be spending a lot of time inside the caves, as well as outside, possibly in the rain. The caves are temperate but chilly. I recommend layers including a sweatshirt and a rain jacket for everyone in the family. In addition, non-slippery shoes are important – the cave walkway is slippery. Hiking sneakers are a great choice. For the Birds of Prey show, I also recommend a rain jacket and layers. A hat is great to have as well, and gloves because you’ll be sitting and may get cold. Finally, if anyone traveling with you is mobility impaired, walking sticks are very helpful for the cave walk.

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An owl during a bird of prey demonstration in the burren.

Hotels Near The Aillwee Caves and Birds of Prey Center

Ailwee Caves are situated near the town of Ballyvaughan. This pretty, classic Irish town is a great base to explore the Burren and the shore. The best accommodations near the Ailwee Caves and Birds of Prey Center are:

Also Read: Renting A Car In Ireland – A Complete Guide.

The Cave Walk in Aillwee Caves

The walk through the caves starts in the lobby, where your group will meet the guide. Keep in mind, that it is not possible to tour the caves on your own. If you get here early, you are in luck! The first group of the day is the smallest and goes out at 10.30 am.

Altogether, you and about 30 other people set out into the Aillwee caves. The tours are well organized, and although the groups are large, the tour does not feel rushed. If you are interested in science, history, and geology you are in for a treat. The guides are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and can answer virtually any question. The caves are of course dark, but you can use flash photography and will have plenty of opportunities for pictures.

On the whole, the entire experience takes about 45 minutes. During this time you’ll have a chance to view the skeleton of the famous Aillwee Caves bear. In addition, you’ll walk by several waterfalls, stalactites, stalagmites, and a rushing river. The tour is a delight, and I can enthusiastically recommend this experience.

The Aillwee Cave interior.
The Aillwee Caves walk can be slippery – but lots of fun.

The Birds of Prey Center

Next, is the Bird so of Prey Center. I’ll be very honest – I am not a huge fan of seeing birds in cages, no matter how big and well maintained. However, I felt reassured when I spoke one of the caretakers. All the birds on display were born in captivity, and either purchased or rescued from breeders. None of these birds could survive living in the wild. Some were even taken from very bad conditions and treated for multiple illnesses. So I felt confident that the center is doing good work. In addition, by Irish law, no bird born in the wild can ever be displayed. Therefore, it makes sense that all the rescue work goes on behind the scenes.

And the Burren Birds of Prey center does plenty of rescue work! The center is involved with rescuing local hawks and managing local endangered species. In addition, the center participates in international efforts on raptor conservations and a portion of your ticket price goes towards this great cause.

Overall I thought the birds of Prey Center was just ok. I was happy to contribute to the cause but did not spend a lot of time here.

A bird of prey in Aillwee Cave.

The Birds of Prey Show

I must confess, I was completely enthralled by the Birds of Prey show. Now that was awesome! Perhaps one of my favorite experiences in Ireland, the Birds of Prey Show is a must.

Falconry is an ancient art (by some accounts more than 5,000 years old). During the show, the trainers issue commands and the birds demonstrate their impressive skills. Of course, no real hunting takes place. It is lovely to see how closely the birds and the trainers are bonded. The mutual respect and admiration between the animal and the human are obvious in every move. Additionally, the birds fly totally free. They can leave if they want to, but I am told that hasn’t happened in 15 years. The bond to their trainer and the ready supply of food means the falcons chose to stay at the center.

It is an amazing experience watching these beautiful hawks soar just inches above your head. In addition, volunteers in the audience have a chance to interact with the birds and hold them. Altogether, I loved the experience. If you have kids (or are a kid at heart) the Birds of Prey Show at Ailwee Caves is a must.

A colorful eagle during a demonstration in Aillwee Cave

Aillwee Cave Hawk Walk

Although I did not get to participate in this experience, I did want to give you a bit of background information. During this adventure, you will stroll through the nearby forest accompanied by a hawk (and their trainer). During the 45 minutes, the hawk demonstrates their stunning speed and skills as they fly through the forest and soar into the sky. The Ailweee Cave Hawk Walk is similar but much more personal to the Birds of Prey show. The cost is 95 Eu per person, and you need to reserve the experience at least a few days in advance. You can do so by calling the center directly at 065-7077036.

The woods near the burren Birds of Prey Center
A walking path in the woods next to Aillwee Cave

Restaurant and Aillwee Cave Farmshop

Chances are, you are spending a lot of times in Aillwee Caves and chances are pretty good that at some point you’ll get hungry. The restaurant (which is located next to the entrance to the caves) is pleasant and serves good sandwiches and coffee. Nothing extraordinary but certainly good quality and filling.

On the other hand, I really loved visiting the Aillwee Cave Farmshop. Here, you can find plenty of homegrown Irish foods. These include a delicious selection of Burren Gold Cheese, fudge, and local honey. Here too, you’ll find a ton of samples (and who doesn’t love samples). Another interesting feature is that right behind the glass window a cheesemaker prepares more cheese in huge vats. This is a lot of fun to watch. The Ailwee Cave Farmshop is an ideal stop for anybody who loves good food or great cheese. If you are buying honey, olive oil or wine, check out these packs specially designed to protect your purchase.

The cheese display in Aillwee Cave Farmshop

Aillwee Cave Tour Times

Ailwee Caves are open from 10 am to 6.30 in July and August, and 10 am to 6 or 5.30 the rest of the year. The tours take place every half an hour in the summer, with the first tour going out at 10.30 in the morning. The tours go out every hour in the winter.

In the summer, the Birds of Prey displays take place at 12, 2 and 4 pm. Your ticket grants entry to unlimited displays during that day. So if you wanted to go to two shows, you could do so by coming in at 12, then touring the cave and then coming back at 2 for the next show. The shows throughout the day are always different, with different birds.

In the winter, you can catch the displays in the Burren Birds of Prey center at 12 pm and 3 pm.

A bird partially obstructed by leaves in the burren birds of prey center.

Other Things to do in Galway Ireland

In addition to the Burren Birds of Prey Center and Aillwee Caves, there is plenty more to do in and near the Galway. I discuss many of my favorites in my article “The Burren – Wild Atlantic Way and Beyond.” Here are just a few highlights:

Other Sea Caves of Ireland

Deep under the Buren, lays a complex network of caves. To date, only a few have been discovered – the rest lay in wait. The Ailwee Caves is only one cave of this enormous network. Another famous cave you can explore in the Burren is the Doolin Cave.

Smaller than the Ailwee cave, this is the home of the Great Stalactite. This incredible work of nature is 73 meters long – and the longest Stalactite in Europe. It is amazing to think about the fact that the stalactite formed over thousands of years, originating with one single drop of water.

The Conclusion

In conclusion, I have to say, I really enjoyed my visit to the Aillwee Caves and Birds of Prey Center. I know that in all likelihood, your time in Ireland, like mine, is limited. However, of all the things you can do in the Burren, this one is one of my favorites. I would encourage you to take the time to visit the Aillwee Caves and the Birds of Prey Center.

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