Ireland Recap Day 3: The Burren and Cliffs of Moher

The next morning, after a very good night of sleeping prompted by our long day out on Inis Mor, we had our traditional Irish breakfast and loaded up the van for a drive out on The Burren. The Burren is an expanse of land located in County Clare which varies widely in terrain and appearance. From a wind washed wasteland of limestone to lush and rich pastures and forests, there are many sites and attractions to fill a day.

Driving in Ireland is getting easier every time we go out. At this point, I am getting more comfortable recognizing roadsigns and navigating the narrow roads. I even announce to my patient passengers that I even feel comfortable to start using my rear view mirrors. The weather for the drive was definitely overcast, but the rain held off, so we were all happy with that.

Our first stop for the day was Saint Brigid's Well outside of Liscannor. The well, one of many dedicated to Saint Brigid (and perhaps the goddess Brigid even before that) in Ireland, draws many people who leave offering and tokens in hope of blessings and cures. A old grave yard is located just behind it and a monument to Cornelius O'Brien is located right beside it. The tall gray column of the monument is a good landmark for locating the well.

The next stop on our whirlwind tour was the Cliffs of Moher. A very beautiful natural site which was popularized as the "Cliffs of Insanity" in the movie The Princess Bride. The Cliffs tower 650 feet above the Atlantic Ocean and is a popular stop for many tour buses. When reading up on things to do and see in this region on the country, the Cliffs were popular for thrill seekers who could crawl out to the edge and look over. I think this policy has changed recently as the Cliffs are becoming more commercialized. Barriers now prevent anyone from getting too close to the edge and injuring themselves (either accidentally or intentionally, the Cliffs are apparently a popular spot to off yourself as someone had done just weeks before). Despite the commercialization of this natural area, the Cliffs are still a breathtaking spot to to take in the scenery and listen to the sounds of the ocean, seagulls, and puffins.

Feeling a bit hungry, we stopped for lunch at the Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna. The tavern had some of the best pub food we had on the trip. We learned what a Bap was (a open faced sandwich, usually hot, on a toasted bun), and the walls were decorated with an eclectic mixture of postcards and old product advertisements. Jen and I want to send them a postcard from Delta, OH. Perhaps they might hand it up and we can see it then next time we are there.

Continuing on, we headed down N-67 towards Newtown Castle. The 16th century castle is now the location of the Burren College of Art but is still open to the public. The narrow winding staircase leads to different floors with various art exhibits. The Castle is located less then a kilometer from the R-480 intersection that leads to the Ailwee Caves.

The Ailwee Caves are a series of tunnels into the limestone terrain of the Burren and feature many natural formations like stalactites and other calcium formations. Definitely worth a look if you are in the area, they do have some very pretty formations. I would not say they are the best caverns I have seen (I still prefer the Ohio Caverns), it was a nice diversion and we were able to pick up some very nice gourmet cheese at a dairy shop located on the site (yes, I know, I don't know what gourmet cheese has to do with caverns, but this is Ireland so I don't question).

We wrapped up the day with a drive down R-480 back through Corrofin where we proceeded on to Ennis. The R-480 is a winding narrow road (what are the chances of that in Ireland) that carves through the more desolate section of the Burren. While beautiful in a wasteland-esq style, I could not imagine trying to live in that region. While we passed many ruins of churches and old castles, we wanted to see the Poulnabrone Dolman which was unfortunately closed to access while they were constructing a parking lot. I guess it is a very poplar site and the narrow roads of the R-480 do not allow for you to just stop and see many of the sites without creating a minor traffic jam or accident.

Once back in Ennis, we had American style pizza for dinner (I know, kind of lame, but we wanted something cheap and it came recommended). That night we all went down to the pub for a few pints and dessert. The live music was exceptional and it was a great end to a wonderful day of sightseeing.

Pictures of the sites and scenes can be found here

Day 4 Preview: The Ennis Friary

As a bonus, there are two panoramic shots that I could not get my CMS to recognize and load, so here are some manual links...they are slightly large:

The Lush Burren as seen from the Ailwee caves (1.4MB)
The Rocky Burren as seen from the Ailwee caves (3.4MB)
N67 outside of Lisdoonvarna (2.8MB)