I couldn’t have asked for a better day spent in The Burren of County Clare. We had sun-soaked skies, calm oceans, green hills and particularly craggy rocks. A day spent on cliff faces, in caves, and at portal tombs is a day well spent.
We started our morning as has become our routine: late. We sleep in, have a relaxing breakfast. Jon books our hotel for the next town while I plan the in-betweens using local advice from our Guest House owners and our handy Lonely Planet Ireland, which is starting to look very worn out and loved. I’ve also gotten into the habit of writing these blog posts the following morning when I’m not so exhausted from the day’s trek.
We set off counter-clockwise around Burren National Park, stopping at romantic photo opportunities: mostly the ruins of old parishes covered in vines or castles with square courtyards. We spent time wandering the amazing slabs of rock that make up the beach at the base of Leprechaun Head. Ireland is now solidified in my mind as a place of geological magnificence!
Eventually we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. I was disappointed at the number of people, but I shall try and not be disengenuous. I knew beforehand that this is a very popular tourist location because the cliffs are marvelous. It is just that traveling by car around the northern parts of the island with a decently small number of other tourists led me to take that for granted as the norm. Southern Ireland is a much more populated area for tourists and, while I like blazing trails and seeing things few people do, there are reasons certain places attract tourists: they are phenomenal places! My motto for the next few days will be “follow the crowds, because it will be something good”.
The Cliffs of Moher are great! Even with all the other people. I took far to many photos as if one could ever be so much greater than another from a similar angle to warrant so many, but it was fun! Had I the time, I would have dragged Jon out onto a boat and toured the large caves in the cliff-face.
Our next stop was at the Doolin Cave a few kilometers north of the cliffs. Already, we are back to seeing those sites that the bulk of tourists skip, and to their fault! Doolin Cave is home to the longest stalactite in the entire Northern Hemisphere (7.3 m)! It is incredible! You go pretty deep into the cave, but the path has been widened and is fairly well lit. Still, if you get claustrophobic easily you may reconsider this one. We wore hard-hats all the way in because the ceiling is low and craggy. Otherwise there would have been twenty cracked skulls.
We drove north-east for our daily archaeological dose: Poulnabrone Dolmen. P.D. is a neolithic portal grave. It is a short, easy walk and worthy of adoration! It is hard to say what my favorite feature of the day is, because they were all so amazing. However, because I am an anthropologist/archaeologist (although currently pregnant and unemployed), I have to go with Poulnabrone Dolmen. Neolithic structures trump everything!
As a cherry-on-top ending to the day, I found the perfect gift for my mother: a map including the three main Irish family names we are descendant from. Apparently they all come from the same regions. The O’Halloran family in north-east County Clare on the banks of Lough Derg, the Murphy family in north-east County Kerry, and the O’Leary family in north-western County Cork. Very much in the Irish mountains, hill-lands, and lake-lands. Unless you have a map in front of you, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Basically, they are all really close together and just happen to be where a few different county lines meet. Just for you, mom!