On and Below the Burren

Today was the last of my bus tours out of Galway, down to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. It was another really nice day, weather-wise, though there was a little bit of rain at our last photo stop. I’d been to the Cliffs before, and to the Burren, but the weather was much better this time.

The last tour I’d been on was from a different company1, so the stops were a little different. I was a little said that we didn’t get to the Poulnabrone Dolmen, this time, but instead we did get to see the Aillwee Cave.

The Aillwee Cave is on the side of Aillwee Mountain, and it’s got a pretty good view of the Burren. How gorgeous is that sky?
Inside the cave, it was very dark. Yeah, I know, that’s the way it goes with caves, but this one was less lavishly lit than any other cave I’ve been in. While it was very cool, I got nervous about my footing at some points. Anyway, here’s a shot of some stalactites, stalagmites, and a full column way at the back that looks orange in this picture.

After Aillwee Cave, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which was the main stop of the day.

The Cliffs of Moher are about 200m above the sea. They were used as the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride.
Waaaaaayyy down at the end of the Cliffs is Hag’s Head, an outcropping that has a small tower (called Moher Tower). It was too far to walk in the time we had there.

I also completed one of my vacation objectives here: I found a nice ring at a little jewellery shop dug into the side of the hills.

Lunch was in Doolin, and it was nice to go back there, where I had had such a good stay last time. We came in from an unfamiliar direction, so it took me a little thinking to orient myself, but it was cool to realize I recognized where I was, and where McGann’s was from there.

We stopped along the coast road on the way back to Galway at the Blackhead Lighthouse, which was right in the midst of a lot of the interesting rock formations of the Burren.

This is the sort of landscape that makes the Burren the Burren. Weathered limestone with lots of plants growing in the gaps between the slabs.
It being spring, there are a fair number of wildflowers cropping up.

Last photo stop was at Dunguaire Castle. Apparently, I’ve been pronouncing it wrong since I read about it. I was calling it “Dun-gwayr,” but apparently it’s “Doon-gory.”

Still very picturesque. They were getting ready for one of the medieval feasts they hold there, so we couldn’t really go in to look at the inside.

And then it was back to Galway.

Tomorrow, I’ve got a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city of Galway. That’ll make it easy to get around to places like the cathedral. Depending on how things go, I also want to get some more pictures of Shop Street, the main street through the medieval section of the city, and get to the museum across the street.

But now, doing a little laundry, and relaxing.

  1. One that doesn’t seem to exist, anymore. []

The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher

My last night in Galway. Also, the end of my second week of vacation.

Today I was on a tour through the Burren and to the Cliffs of Moher, with the Galway Tour Company. I cannot say enough good things about the tour company. Yesterday, Mike took me into Connemara, and today Gary took me into the Burren. Both drivers acted as guides, and were fun, funny, knowledgable, and friendly. Both days, we stopped at little, out-of-the-way spots that seemed almost like local secrets, as well as hitting the big tourist areas. These drivers went above and beyond to make sure we all had a good time, and they seem to be indicative of the type of people working for Galway Tour Company.

In short, if you want a tour in this area, these are the people you need to talk to. They’re awesome. So, thanks, Gary and Mike!

The Burren is a rocky, mountainous expanse. Now, I said the same thing about Connemara and the Ring of Kerry, but burren means rocky place┬áin Irish, and it’s something of an understatement.

This is the kind of terrain you get in the Burren. Worn, eroded limestone with small patches of soil and greenery threaded through it.
The road twists through the area. This bit is between a small cliff on one side, and fields leading down to larger cliffs above Galway Bay.
The rock pushes through the soil all over the place here. It makes the coastline a little treacherous, but very scenic.
And, of course, the dry stone fences are everywhere – even here.
One of our stops heading into the Burren was Castle Dunguaire. There are castles and tower houses all over the area – they are so frequent that most tours only stop at one, otherwise you’d never get anywhere.
There are also a lot of swans around. These were in the water by Dunguaire Castle.
We also stopped at an earthen ring fort. The walls were about four feet high, and used to be about two feet higher. The interior was maybe a hundred feet across.
In the middle of the ring fort is a whitethorn tree – another Fairy Tree, complete with the offering cloths tied to the branches.
Ring forts were always built on hills, giving a commanding view of the surrounding area. The trees have grown up over the years, but you can still see a goodly distance over the walls.
This is the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a prehistoric burial site. It’s also one of the most photographed sites in the Burren, so I figured I’d add my efforts to the mix. Also, it’s very cool.
Here’s another view of the dolmen. Up until just a few years ago, visitors were allowed to walk right up to the dolmen, but an act of vandalism resulted in the site being roped off, and a guard posted 24/7. Still, you can get pretty close.
There’s an old, half-collapsed cathedral in Kilfenora. They’ve restored part of it, and put a glass roof over another part, where they’ve placed some old celtic crosses and markers.
We stopped for lunch in the little village of Doolin, a centre for traditional music in Ireland.
And the centre for traditional music in Doolin is Gus O’Connor’s Pub, where we had lunch. There was no live session at the time, but there were some very good recordings playing.
Cliffs of Moher was next. The visitor centre is dug right into the hillside, which I thought was kind of cool.
The trail leads about 8 km from O’Brien’s Tower to Hag’s Head. We started closer to O’Brien’s Tower, so that’s the way I went.
Here’s a shot looking south towards Hag’s Head. It’s hard to appreciate the scale of the cliffs in the pictures – keep in mind that these were used as the model for the Cliffs of Insanity in The Princess Bride.
Here’s a shot looking north from O’Brien’s Tower.
This is a shot of the length of the cliffs from the top of O’Brien’s Tower
Here’s a shot of O’Brien’s Tower, since I’ve been talking about. It was completely restored in the 1970s.
And, just because some of my friends have asked for this, and Garry was amenable, here’s a picture of me standing on the edge of Galway Bay. See? I really AM in Ireland.

So, that was today. Tomorrow, I get on the bus for about six hours, heading to Derry/Londonderry. I’ve got about one week left in Ireland, and I mean to make the most of it.