Top 10 Secret Tunnels And Underground Passageways In Ireland

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Not all tunnels are created equal, especially in Ireland, where robbers, explorers, and the elite of society used them to avoid being seen.

Many underground passages were only legends before they were excavated in the last century. Others were completely unknown and revealed secrets that confuse archaeologists and explorers alike.

Which tunnel would you most like to explore?

10. When You Gotta Go

Photo credit: archiseek.com

In 1985 a gang of bank robbers decided to dig a tunnel to the Allied Irish Bank in Dublin in Dame Street. But when they looked for air, they found themselves in a ladies’ room instead.

The looters began their underground escapade outside Dublin Castle, which was right next to the city’s main police communications centre. They started on the Thursday before Easter and finished the tunnel on Easter Monday.

The gang built a 23 metre long tunnel to the sea wall. When they accidentally entered the toilet, they set off an alarm that warned the police of their whereabouts during this long Easter holiday weekend.

After all the trouble, the perpetrators were forced to flee without loot. But even if they had succeeded, it would not have been so lucrative. The vault was reportedly only holding approximately $147,000. Nevertheless, a bank spokesman did not believe that the suspects, the thieving ones, could have pierced the strong room where the money was kept.[1]

9. Staircase Tunnel Discovered In Cork After 230 Years

Photo credit: corkbeo.ie

Although Spike Island in Cork Harbour was once used as a prison and defensive structure, it is now a popular tourist attraction. Originally a seventh century monastic settlement, the island may have been used as a smuggling port in the 1600s.

The first artillery fortifications were built there in 1779 as a result of the American War of Independence. The island was also a port for Great Britain to deliver goods to its armed forces in North America and the West Indies. In 1790 the first permanent fortress on Spike Island was built by the Irish Board of Ordnance.

In August 2020 a tunnel was found after a wall was removed that had blocked the underground passage for decades. The tunnel, which runs under the walls of the fort, is known as the “Sally Port”.

A Sally port is a small exit or entrance. It is usually protected by a wall or door that must be bypassed to gain access and that protects against enemy fire from a great distance. After the door to the tunnel was opened, employees found a spiral staircase that seemed to float like something out of the Harry Potter stories.

The rediscovered tunnel on Spike Island leads from the inner fort to the moat. A second fort was built on the island in the early 1800s. So it is likely that the tunnel was blocked off because it was made redundant by the newer construction.[2]

8. Frescati Stream Blackrock, Dublin

Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons

A tunnel ran under the grounds of the Frescati House where the family of the Provost of Trinity College lived in 1739. The passage was built by a later owner – Emily FitzGerald, Duchess of Leinster – to bring seawater to the estate. However, the tunnel is now sealed off. Indeed, the exact location of the structure remains a mystery.

In the 20th century, the Frescati house was demolished and the estate was converted into a shopping center. But the Frescati Stream (also known as the priory stream) remains under the shopping center’s car park. From there the stream passes visibly past an apartment complex, ducks under the main street, and finally emerges in Blackrock Park.

In earlier times, the course of the stream may have been used by denizens to escape the raids of the Dublin Castle crown militia.[3]

7. The Goggins Hill Tunnel County Cork

Photo credit: luckoftheiris.com

Since its closure in 1961, Goggins Hill (also “Gogginshill”) Tunnel is Ireland’s longest abandoned tunnel at 828 metres. Once used as a railway passage, it was excavated by 300 men under the village of Ballinhassig in the years 1850-51.

The area is now overgrown and spooky and looks very much like a tunnel into the underworld. It has three ventilation shafts. Some sections have been cut away from the original rock, while others are lined with bricks to prevent break-ins.

For all would-be explorers reading this, be warned that the tunnel is on private property and permission to explore should be sought from the current owner. Violators are not welcome. But with permission, visitors are allowed entry.[4]

6. The Ballymore Tunnel, County Kildare, And Casino Marino, Dublin

Photo credit: irishtimes.com

In 1852 the Ards estate was occupied by Lady Isabella Tasca Stewart-Bam, a wealthy and pious woman. She commissioned the construction of the Ballymore tunnel so that she could go to church without being seen by the nearby farmers.

In the same way, a tunnel was built at the Casino Marino in Dublin so that servants could travel between the main house and the garden without spoiling the view. In the 18th century the casino was a pleasure house for James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont. The house had eight tunnels leading from it.

It’s possible the Earl of Charlemont wanted the tunnels to run down to the sea. But when he ran out of money and died before that happened, their purpose will remain a mystery. [5]

In 2016, secret tunnels discovered under the grounds surrounding Casino Marino were opened to the public. These passages were used by Irish soldiers and revolutionary politician Michael Collins and others to test submachine guns during the Irish War of Independence in the early 1900s.

5. 1,000-Year-Old Souterrain Discovered In County Cork

Photo credit: Ancient Origins

In 2015, workers discovered an underground passageway in the Caha Mountains in County Cork that had been dug through solid rock about 1,000 years ago. This passage is known as the “basement”, which comes from the French word sous-terrain, meaning “underground passage”.

Archaeologists believe that the idea of a basement was brought to Ireland from Gaul in the late Iron Age. Souterrains are associated with settlements and are usually found near ring forts.

The workers discovered the tunnel when digging a tourist road in Bonane. The Caha Mountains in Cork aroused little archaeological interest until then, although they are known to have traces of Neolithic settlements.[6]

4. Sinkhole In Dublin Reveals Brothel Tunnel For Politicians

Photo credit: independent.ie

In 2015 a sinkhole opened in one of Dublin’s main streets. Dame Street leads towards Trinity College Dublin and up to Christ Church Cathedral. The 1.8 metre deep hole plunged into an old cellar under the street.

According to historian Gerry Cooley, Irish politicians in the 19th century are said to have snuck through a tunnel to gain access to brothels. This cellar maybe a piece of that tunnel. It was probably used until the Irish Parliament House building became the Bank of Ireland in College Green under the Act of Union in 1800.[7]

3. Underground Jail Cells County Meath

Photo credit: rte.ie

A secondary school in Trim, County Meath, was renovated when prison cells were excavated in underground tunnels. The cells were found intact after a wall was pulled down under the school.

The school had been built near the old Trim Gaol (prison), which was demolished in the 1950s. Originally, the industrial school was established to prevent poor children from going to the workhouses by educating them in a trade instead.

Some strange deaths are linked to the site. In 1912, a teacher in the schoolyard was nibbled by boys with sticks and brushes. Forty years later two men died in a fall when the prison was destroyed. The men were putting explosives on the third floor to demolish the building when a wall fell on them and they fell into the basement.[8]

2. River Poddle Dublin

Photo credit: independent.ie

The River Poddle flows under Dublin Castle through the city center and towards Wellington Quay where it joins the River Liffey. There are passages to the Poddle which are accessible by opening manhole covers and dropping into the water.

This is exactly what two men decided in 2012. They were caught on CCTV outside Dublin Castle wearing waterproof clothing and gloves. The U Aqua unit Garda (Irish police) was looking for the two men. But they could not be found, although their voices were heard when the manhole cover was lifted.

Gardai thought the men might be Urban explorers scouting the tunnels, but others wondered if they were looking for treasure. The waterways run near the Assay Office, which holds gold and silver, and the Poddle Tunnel also runs under the Central Bank on Dame Street. According to this letter, no one has identified the two men who were caught on camera in 2012.[9]

1. The Streets Under Limerick

Photo credit: limerickpost.ie

In the early 20th century, Limerick’s above-ground streets were renamed after the founding of the Irish Free State. However, beneath each renamed street is a canal with its original English name. If you walk down O’Connell Street, for example, you will find yourself directly above George es Street (named after King George III). [10]

Supposedly it was once possible to walk from one side of Limerick to the other completely underground. However, many of the underground tunnels were concreted, and only a few of them are now in place.

Many holes in the tunnel ceilings show where coal was delivered to bunkers beneath the surface roads. At that time the tunnels were connected to the sewerage system and rainwater was drained off. They must have been quite uncomfortable to go in.

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