BY MURIEL with a small addition by Ben
18.04.2013 - 18.04.2013 11 °C
It seems we just can’t get enough of that Irish karst area, the Burren. We had planned to head to Connemara National Park but rechecked our distances to find it was almost a 2 hour drive away. That did not seem too fun to anyone so we decided to find a nice walk in the vicinity. Abby wanted to be taking just short jaunts so she stayed home on her own, venturing out twice to see the environs of Kinvara. Hannah, Ben and I struck out in the car seeking Burren Walk #7, which promised to take across some karst and through an old Celtic farm. Providing we could locate the trailhead, that is. The GPS insisted on taking us on a circuitous route which ended up being twice as long the way there as it was the way back for some reason. (GPSs: can’t live with them; can’t live without them.)
The bonus, however, was that we stumbled upon a site I had been wanting to see but could not locate on any map, the Poulnabrone Dolmen. This structure is a portal tomb dating back to the fourth century BC and appears in many pictures of County Clare. ‘They,’ the experts in this sort of thing, surmise that the Neolithic peoples used it as a burial chamber for the bones of their ancestors and other relatives. As we were walking around it, Ben said something about it looking like rain and said we better make a beeline for the car. Within seconds of this statement, the heavens opened and the pelting rain began. In the few seconds it took us to run the 200 meter dash, we got thoroughly drenched. Now being cold, wet and hungry (but not undone!), we continued to look for the original trailhead. It eluded us a while longer as the directions in the brochure weren’t exactly correct. Knowing we had to deal with the ‘cold, wet and hungry’ equation rather quickly, we feasted on our sandwiches and waited for the rain to abate. Presently, the sun came out, as it is wont to do if you wait for a few minutes in Ireland.
Hannah is suffering from car sickness this trip; we don’t know what’s causing it but I’m wondering if it is her dad’s new pattern of erratic driving – he so wants to fit in here. We felt a walk might do her some good but after 20 minutes, she turned back to the car. We went on for a ways and found a ‘holy well,’ one of hundreds strewn about Ireland. They are places of religious devotion where believers come to pray and leave simple offerings. This one was very simple: it had a small stream nearby sourced by some underground springs and was covered with several moss-covered trees. While some holy wells are decorated with statues, flowers and candles, we saw a few medals, some rosaries and an amulet hung in the trees. At some of the wells, rags, handkerchiefs or clothes are tied to the trees above the well; the idea is that as the rag rots away so does the illness. We saw this in evidence at this well but at the time, we didn’t know what the small pieces of cloth and shoelaces meant. Many of the wells are famous for their claims to heal certain diseases; there are wells for toothaches, eye diseases, mental illness, etc. Hmmm, wonder if there’s one for back pain?
After the well, Ben and I split up, he to venture onto the karst stones; and me, to proceed onwards towards the Celtic farm spoken of before. We each had a good few minutes’ walk to explore on our own and then met back on the joint path to return to the car. Up to this point, we had been blessed with fairly civil weather (the gale force wind doesn’t count anymore), which had sufficiently dried our clothes. Then, Ben noticed the dark clouds moving in again. Knowing now that he has an eerily correct sense of the weather, we rifled through our backpacks for our rain pants and donned them. As I was pulling up my hood, the hail and rain started. We were glad to have packed those pants all this way just to be able to use them today. However, it didn’t stop us from accepting a ride offered to us by two kindly Irish folk. Never refuse hospitality when out in the Irish countryside.
Ben here, making a late night addition to this post.
Tonight we had a magical evening at Keogh's pub. We wanted to experience an authentic small town Irish pub and since we head for Dublin tomorrow this was our last opportunity. We ended up with a wonderful table beside a roaring fire and had a meal to die for (not your run of the mill pub grub). Muriel and I had leg of lamb and the kids had seafood pasta. We had some lovely appetizers and delicious desserts. A modern Irish favorite is banoffee pie (banana and toffee pie topped with banana cream) and we can taste why. The friendly service and warm atmosphere provided the perfect venue for a long chin wag. Before we knew it three hours had passed. It is heartwarming that after five months of travelling together we still enjoy each other's company.
Muriel and I dropped off the kids at home and returned to the pub for another pint of Guiness as there was live music starting at 10 pm (no minors after a certain hour in the pub). It was a wonderful display of Irish culture. There were two accordians, a penny whistle and a keyboard to start. Later an Irish drum was added and the spoons were played. Every once in a while there was a call for a song and someone seated in the pub would sing a ballad. A French tourist joined in playing his harmonica and adding a song of his own. An hour and a half flew by in no time. We would of loved to stay longer but tomorrow is a travel day to Dublin and there is more to experience. For us it seems to be all feast and no famine.