Britain 09 - Day 2
Some overnight rain and a grey morning, but the cloud was lifting so we headed off south across the top of The Burren towards Lisdoonvarva, heading for the Cliffs of Moher. Our plan was to visit the cliffs then head in a large circle across the top of the Burren to visit the notable sites at Caherconnell and Poulnabrone.
Our first stop was a few km south of Ballyvaughan where the road climbs steeply up the aptly named Corkscrew Hill. Here you get good views down the valley across Ballyvaughan and across Galway Bay. From here the narrow, winding and incredibly rough road heads into Lisdoonvarna, the market town in the centre of the Burren. This town has also invented itself as the "Matchmaking Capital" and all of September is devoted to this ancient custom (see the official website). The town was full of campervans, many of them up on blocks for the whole month to provide suitable venues for the "matchmaking". The barmaid at the Hylands Burren warned us that the average age of attendees was, in her opinion, around 65, so we kept driving....to the Cliffs of Moher.
Here the road climbs steeply through a series of switchback bends, giving good views down the valley and across to the top of the Burren.
The Cliffs of Moher
We approached the Cliffs of Moher from the south, with heavy overcast skies and threats of rain - not a good omen. But once we had parked in the spacious carpark across the road, and walked up to the visitor Centre buried in the hillsise, the skies had lightened considerable. The Cliffs, although not the highest in Ireland (The cliffs of Slieve League are higher - see Day 13) they are easily accessible by the thousands of tourists who visit each day.
There are the usual tourist traps of hawkers and overpriced souvenier shops, but all seemed in keeping with the environment. The grand staircase that leads up to O'Brien's Castle has been well thought out to allow space for many visitors. The stairs, flagstones and retaining walls are all made from natural stone slabs, full of Silurian and Devonian trace fossils and ripples. The leading edges of the steps are marble full of crinoids.
The Cliffs can be difficult to photograph. We visited in mid-morning, when the sun was behind the cliffs, and with a heavy overcast sky. The afternoon light would have been more favourable, shining on the cliffs. On this visit, I was not too concerned as we planned to visit the cliffs again the next afternoon, this time by boat. But the weather had a different plan for us.
The place is full of warning signs: here is a selection. Their meanings are obvious, but it is a nice touch to find the phone number for Samaritans at the top of the highest point.....
We drove through Kilfenora, stopping at Vaughan's Bar for a good Sunday lunch. We noted the petrol station run by Pat and daughter, and stopped for the Moroney family name over the old house.
Caherconnell is a Stone-age ring fort, built out of slabs of limestone. It is remarkable for its
antiquity and its state of preservation. Although not much to see on
the ground apart from the
outer wall, it is well work a visit for the wall alone.
The ancient tomb structure of Poulnabrone is the symbol of The Burren. It is a simple structure made up of six stone slabs, sitting on an open limestone pavement.The design is found throughout the district, but this site is well preserved, and easy to access. It surprised me how close to the road and to productive farmland the site is. The surrounding limestone pavement is also a good example of the disected landform with its clints and grykes full of strange flora.
But to many people it is just another 5-minute break on the bus tour. While we were there, taking a few minutes to examine the dislay boards, and look over the tomb, there was a sudden influx of tourists. They rushed off the bus, swarmed over the site, took lots of photos (mostly of themselves rather than the tomb) and in less than 10 minutes they were gone. We continued on, absorbing the history, then drove the short distance back to Ballyvaughan and a well-deserved Guinness.
Fine dining at An Fulacht Fia
Sunday evening, so we decided to visit the local seafood restaurant. It is a few minutes drive around the coast road, and comes with very good online reviews. We had not booked, which may have been a mistake, as on arrival we were informed that there was a large party coming in, and the chef had decided to offer only a set menu. But not to worry, we had only spoken a few words when the maitre'd greeted us as long lost family - like us he was a New Zealander! So in a few moments we had a table by the window and a glass of fine wine in our hands. And the set menu was atttractive - salmon or lamb shanks, by request of the large party. We highly recommend this restaurant. Not the cheapest in the area, but one of the best we experienced in all of Ireland (and the British Isles if it comes to that!). See more of the restaurant on their website [Well... you could see more, once, but like a lot of places in Ireland they went broke during the Global Financial Crisis and have closed down..
Last updated: 16/06/2017