Chambers at Large in County Roscommon, Ireland.

Updated: Jan 24

In 2003 The Arigna Mining Experience opened its doors to the public and I was one of the first people to visit the coal mine, which closed down in the 1990s. I decided to return having visited Glengowla Mine in County Galway (check out that blog too please) and Arigna Mine is just as interesting. I was fortunate to be shown around by a gentleman who had worked there for twenty-five years prior to its closure, therefore gleaning first hand (and first class) information.

View of Roscommon from the Arigna Mountains

The views from the top of the mountain over the valley are stunning, contrasting starkly with the pitch blackness of the mine, especially when the lights were turned out.

Black coal seam, seen through the wooden props put up to prevent stones falling.

Mining is dangerous, dirty work and I admire the men who spent their day digging out the coal in cramped conditions. Lying on the sides, using tools they had to purchase themselves the coal was shovelled into hutches, rectangular wagons holding seven tons of coal, which were then pushed to the surface.

Small shovel used to extract the coal from the seams.

Life was made a little easier with the arrival of electricity to the area. Electric drills were used to loosen the coal, but it still needed to be shovelled out by hand, and wooden props put up to prevent rock fall. Despite modernisation mining was still arduous and perilous.

Electrification made moving the hutches easier, but many, filled with 7 tons of coal, were pushed by hand.

The mountain is filled with tunnels from where coal was extracted but the tour takes visitors down wide, well-lit, tarmacked tunnels for easy access. It is cold and damp, with water running down the walls in places, but in one spot the lights were turned out to show the conditions in which the miners worked. Dark doesn’t describe the pitch blackness and to add to the authenticity the noise of a pseudo explosion echoed around the walls.

The Arigna Mining Experience is certainly worth a visit in County Roscommon but I urge visitors, before leaving the area, to take a quick look at the nearby village of Keadue, which has won the Tidy Towns competition in Ireland twice and a traditional music festival is held each year in memory of harpist, Turlough O’Carolan.

Kilronan Castle Hotel which contrasts starkly with the mine in Arigna.

Just outside Keadue village is Kilronan Castle Hotel, where, whilst quaffing a glass of Chardonnay, I couldn’t help but consider the disparity between the lives of the coal miners and the lives of those who lived in the opulent manor house. It certainly gave me food for thought for thought. How lucky am to be able to visit all these interesting places?

Beautiful grounds of the Kilronan Estate

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