Ballyvaughan is a village in the north western corner of the Burren. It is situated on the south shores of Galway Bay and lots of tourists pass here on their way to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher. We made a short stop at a pub in Ballyvaughan so that people who wanted could use the bathroom. We were also encouraged to buy something to drink, or a snack, in the pub. The bus driver said it was okay to bring back coffee on the bus as long as the cup had a lid on it.
Our next stop was at Ballyalban Earthen Ring Fort, a circular structure with earth banks. Those earthen rings were often topped by a wooden palisade in old times. Sometimes they are referred to as Fairy forts. We only got around 5 minutes here, just enough time to take a walk around the circle.
Kilfenora is a small village with the ruins of a very small cathedral from the 12th century. Already in the 6th century a monastery was founded on the place where the ruined cathedral stands. Once Kilfenora was an important place for pilgrims, but now it is known for its high crosses.
There are three high crosses in the church yard, protected under roof. One of them is the Doorty Cross which is 800 years old. We got around 10 minutes to visit this place, but we were not told that in a nearby field, about 100 metres away, there is another high cross.
In the chancel there are two medieval tombs with carved figures on top. In one of them an unknown bishop is buried and in the other one a nobleman or cleric.
In the village of New Quay in the north Burren is a very scenic and easy loop walk along the shore that begins right from the door of Linnane's Lobster Bar. The entire walk is about 3 miles and though it is along the road, there is little passing traffic. On a fine day the scenery is striking and there will be moments where you look around and say "this is Ireland".
It's also a nice way to either work off or earn a pint and some seafood at Linnane's :)
Ask details about the walk from one of the staff in Linnanes, or at the local tourism office.
If you are exploring the Burren and like to shop for things that are indigenous to an area, then it's worth stepping a little out your way to visit the Burren Perfumery. The perfumery is a bit hidden in the heart of that rocky expanse. Here they create unique fragrances that are inspired by the sights and smells of Ireland. The subtle fragrances evoke feelings for nature and the seasons. They make men's fragrances as well as women's which can make a nice gift for that special someone ;)
There is a short film you can watch about the Burren and the perfumery.
After our stop at the Cliffs of Moher, we continued on through the area of County Clare known as the Burren. The "forty shades of green" immortialized by Johnny Cash vanished and was replaced by a landscape that seemed almost lunar in composition. The name Burren comes from the Irish word bhoireann which means rocky place and it's a fitting name as the surrounding landscape is made almost entirely of limestone rocks. What is surprising though are all of the wildflowers that somehow find something to grow in, many of them quite rare.
We didn't stop here long, maybe 10 minutes or so off the bus, but The Burren is quite large and we got to see quite a bit of it as we made our way to Galway.
The Burren is a beautiful and rugged plateau of exposed limestone that makes up much of north west County Clare. A drive a long the scenic coast will take you to such wonders as the Cliffs of Moher and Poulnabrone Dolmen. Inland you can find the natural marvel that is Mullaghmore. There are many nice villages clinging to the limestone landscape and the entire region is peppered with castles and other more ancient attractions that beg exploration. While admiring the awesome landscape, it is easy to over look details such as the many unique species of plants and flowers that have somehow managed to adapt to this harsh environment. Hiking and walking in the Burren are a great way to experience how desolate this place can be. There are plenty of great spots for picnics.
The Burren makes a great primary destination if you plan to explore Ireland's west coast.
Mullaghmore stands out among an unearthly landscape. This mountainous formation really is the heart of the Burren, and I wonder how many people miss it on their travels. Not only is it an evocative picture of how this land was formed from the sea, it is also a paradise for hikers and botanists. There are several walks and hikes in the area. Some are easy nature walks, some are rugged jaunts up to the summit. The views from the summit are deeply stirring and sweep across the vast rocky expanse of the Burren.
The hike we took to the summit was roughy 1 hour and fifty minutes, round trip. While the trails are well marked, I recommend stopping in at the heritage center in Corofin for information on the area. If you are hiking to the summit, dress as would for hiking any other mountain (rain gear, etc) and be sure to wear sturdy boots with good ankle support.
Mullaghmore should be a high priority for people wishing to experience the ultimate beauty of the Burren.
If you want to set up bases for touring the West of Ireland with all the comforts of home (or better) take a look at 'Rent an Irish Cottage'
They have locations all alongthe western seaboard.
Killorglan would be a good base for Killarney, Gap of Dunloe, Dingle Penninsula (my favorite), Ring of Kerry, Bantry and West Cork. There is an awful lot to see and do in this area. Add Garnish Island in Glengarrif in Co Cork to your itinerary. The drive between Killarney and Glengarrif is beautiful.
Ballyvaughan and Corofin in Clare have spacious thatched cottages. Corofin looks out over the lake. We spent our honeymoon in the cottages in Corofin and loved it. Both of these are great spots for touring the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Ennis, Clonmacnoise and the Shannon, Galway and Doolin for the Aran Island ferry. You could also tour Connemara from here with a little stretch. Try to spend an evening in Doolin for a traditional Irish music 'Seisuin' in the local pubs. Bunratty Folk Village and Castle outside Limerick is a 'living museum' but is actually very well done and well worth a half day visit.
The cottages are so pretty and comfortable you may not want to just stay there and kick back, go to the local for a pint or sit outside on a chair and look out at the view.
B&B are great if you are doing a series of one or two night stays. They vary quite a bit in price and amenities but they are all to a high standard and generally you get what you pay for. Try
for a finder for all types of accomodation.
This 16th century tower house is in a gorgeous spot on the northern coast of the Burren, looking out at Galway Bay. The ocean side of the structure has lost it's wall and is overgrown with grass, but the castle is overall well preserved. Next to the castle is an old well which once provided the castle inhabitants with water.
Its just a bit off the road, down a narrow track. A very good stop if you are passing near by.
After breakfast, we packed up and headed south through the Burren (limestone mountains). We were headed to see the Poulnabrone Dolman (another prehistoric passage tomb) but we got lost (again) and missed the turn. By the time I figured out we were lost, neither of us wanted to go back. So, we saw the castle of Dysert O'Dea instead. It was a dark dank castle, more than a ruin. Again our son looked for toilets.
This area of Ireland is often given as being second only to the Giant's Causeway in a listing of the natural sights of Ireland to see. I have to admit that in certain ways I prefer the mountains of Wicklow to the views here, but that may just be a bit of childhood nostalgia at work.
The Burren consists of a rocky landscape, basically large areas of limestone 'pavement'. This really is the green, green land of rolling hills, dry stone walls and abandoned houses, churches and watchtowers that typify many people's idealised views of Ireland.
Various sights along the way include neolithic tombs such as the Poulnabrone Dolmen (A Tomb Portal Stone) a good stop off site for those pics of the lunar pavement.
The rocky nature of this area does make this rural landscape that bit more interesting than your average country drive!
In Kilfenora, close to the cemetery you may visit an interesting museum : The Burren Centre. There you see exhibits about the special flora and fauna of the Burren and get a good idea, what the Burren looks like underneath the surface.
Maybe it is best to start to explore the museum in the "Burren-Centre" first, before you enter the landscape of the Burren, so you have an idea already about the special and most interesting facts of that unique geological formation.
Something that you will realize, when walking over the rocks of the Burren is the special sound that it makes, when you hit the stones by your shoes, maybe you even find a hammer or other tool in your car...
Of course it is forbidden to take any stones home, BUT knocking on the rocks is not at all forbidden !!
Kilfenora is my favorite place in the Burren for an interesting church-ruin and the very special Celtic Cross on my picture: the Doorty Cross, showing a bishop and 2 other people. Kilfenora has also quite a funny status inside the catholic church, because that small parish is at the same time an episcopate and their bishop is the pope - don't ask me, how this works, it is just a heritage of the 12th century that was never changed since...
On my other pictures about the church in Kilfenora you may see some of the very few great works of art that are still left over after the church had been destroyed several times.
At the small cemetery around the old cathedral-ruins there were once 7 high-crosses - see another one on my 5th picture !
You may enter the cemetery freely and without restrictions during the day !
The "Burren" is a unique landscape, covered by vulcanic rocks, that seem to be artificially cut into giant cubes of different sizes, and inside the many gaps between these rocks you will find a big variety of tropical, subtropical, alpine and mediterranean plants and flowers.
NO-where else in the whole world you may find these plants growing togeather in a natural environment !
It is the combination of the grey rocks and the colorfull flowers that make the special atmosphere of the "Burren
Once in the Burren I was lucky to be able to watch a professional photographer taking pics of 2 vintage-cars there for the official Mercedes-calender.