Myths and Legends of Dunmore Cave

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  • Moments in Kilkenny History

Human Bones

Dunmore Cave is steeped in both history and mythology. One of the most interesting aspects of its history is the large collection of human bones found deep in the cave over hundreds of years.

A recent study on these bones found that they comprised the remains of a total of forty-four people, nineteen female adults and twenty-five children. Experts believe that they were a large group of women and children who hid in the caves to avoid a Viking attack.

This story is included in the Annals of the Four Masters, which were written in the ninth century. The Annals mention a Viking attack in the year 928 on a small village near Dunmore Cave. More than 1,000 people escaped to the caves, but the Vikings found them and lit fires at the entrance to drive them out. The men were taken as slaves, but the women and children were left in the cave to perish.

The Red Coats get lost

Another local tale describes how a group of English red coats followed some local rebels into the cave but never returned. Some time later, the sound of their fifes and drums were heard coming from underneath Kilkenny castle, about three miles away.


In 1999, a large hoard of silver and bronze items were found in a remote part of Dunmore Cave. They dated back to 970AD and included silver ingots and buttons, which would have been worth a fortune in the ninth century.

It is believed that the person who left them there never came back to retrieve them, and may have been killed in battle. They went on display in the National Museum in 2000 and attracted world attention.