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Entries about burren

Rain Squared

BY MURIEL with a small addition by Ben

all seasons in one day 11 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

5000 Year Old Tomb in The Burren

5000 Year Old Tomb in The Burren

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.

A Holy Well on the Edge of the Burren

A Holy Well on the Edge of the Burren

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.

Hiking on the Edge of The Burren

Hiking on the Edge of The Burren

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.

Posted by KZFamily 16:11 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland burren Comments (3)

Ripping Views and Ripping Wind

BY MURIEL

sunny 15 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

We rose today still somewhat bemused at our accommodations but thankful we had a quiet night’s sleep despite being situated right on Kinvara’s Main Street. The main goal today was to see the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s premier natural attractions. After our visit there, Hannah cheekily said “You have to blog on THAT, Mom; good luck! It’s going to be tough doing justice to what we saw today.” With that gauntlet thrown down, I begin my blog with some trepidation.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

As Abby is still nursing a bit of the flu, Ben, Hannah and I set off in rare sunshine, which was to remain with us for the rest of the day. It buoyed our spirits and increased our anticipation of what we might be able to see in Ireland on a clear day. Reaching the cliffs took only thirty minutes; the parking lot was fuller than what we have experienced in Ireland; however, we expected quite a few people considering the popularity of the cliffs. Every week, the site chooses an Irish name popular in the County Clare and families with this name get free admittance. This week was 'Collins' week; I tried in vain to convince them 'Koning' was just a derivative of 'Collins.' The Irish have built a large visitors centre there to educate people on the cliff formation and to provide some visuals of the area. It is nicely done but what makes this centre unique is that it has been built all underground so as not to spoil the sense of the place. There are some windows peeking out from under the grass mounds to allow light into the building but it is quite remarkable in its preservation of the site as a natural spot.
The cliffs are a series of green-grassed promontories that drop straight down to the ocean 200 metres below. The walk along the cliff traverses 8 kilometers. While we did not go the whole way, we did spend almost two hours walking along the cliffs, trying to get various perspectives, both from the north and south vantage points. I loved the melding of the colours offered by the vistas: the bright green of the fields, the charcoal of the vertical slate drops and the blue of the ocean below.

From the cliffs, we could see the Aran Islands and beyond that, just a bit too far for the natural eye, lay Newfoundland. As it is home to a large colony of various seabirds, we were hoping for a sight of a puffin or two but all we saw were large flocks of gulls and terns enjoying the wind action off the cliffs.

Cliffs of Moher: Tourists gazing over the edge

Cliffs of Moher: Tourists gazing over the edge

And speaking of wind, it was something else. If the views didn’t take your breath away, the wind did. The 45 kph wind challenged many of us on the walk and I was glad for the large slate barriers along much of the path. At different points, there were either no barriers or people elected to cross over them anyway, despite the many warnings. We saw more than a few tourists lie down and put their head over the edge to see the ocean waves far below. One young man even sat on the edge, dangling his legs; I guess he felt he had to prove his masculinity. I just shook my head, wishing they would advertise how many visitors die here each year. There was actually a memorial to the people who have lost their lives here, whether due to accident or otherwise. We saw several signs advertising the Samaritan helpline, in an effort to address those planning a jump from the cliffs. Knowing I wouldn’t have to worry about my cautious family members being cliff side, I knew I could relax. But, just when my guard was down, I saw Hannah lying down (albeit in a safer spot than others) and spitting over the edge! When questioned about this behaviour, she explained she did it for Abby, who had asked her to duplicate a desire of one of the characters in Eoin Colfer's The Wishlist (see below). What kids won’t think up to give their parents heart attacks.

The Burren

The Burren

We took a longer route back, taking something called The Burren Way, a collection of back roads crossing the Burren. At a distance, it is suggestive of a moonscape, its landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks, mostly limestone. However, up close, one must be able to see the various arctic, alpine and Mediterranean plants that it supports due to its unusual environment. It became a very fun ride, as Ben flew over the narrow curved roads in our rental car. (In the past, he’s explained that it must seem more out of control to the passenger than it really is.) This time, he justified the speed by saying he wanted to get through the area before meeting oncoming cars with whom he’d need to share the very cramped roadway. Hannah fell asleep in the back seat, her antidote to car sickness, and I watched the beautiful and eerily barren landscape fly by.
Supper today was lamb stew but this time, it is full of the previous mentioned hangers-on like carrots, cabbage and leeks. We don’t need to be purists every day. And thus endeth my blog entry. If I didn’t do justice to the cliffs, please see the pictures as they apparently speak a thousand words. Sadly, I expect they don’t make the bar either.

From The Wish List

To have lived a life to the full
A man must have broken every rule,
Slept in a ditch,
Married a witch,
To have lived his life to the full.
To appreciate life as much as you can,
You must kiss the sweetheart of another man,
Spit right over,
The Cliffs of Moher
To appreciate life as much as you can...

Posted by KZFamily 05:59 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland burren cliffs_of_moher Comments (3)

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