A Day in the Burren

IMG_2904We had some flexibility with our schedule in Co. Galway and Co. Clare and decided to determine our days based on the weather.

After our day exploring the Aran Islands we spent the night in Galway so I initially thought we would stay and see the city before heading to our Great House– Mount Vernon— in Flaggy Shore for the next couple of days.

We woke up to sunshine and decided to forgo the day in Galway for a day in the Burren. It ended up being a perfect decision because as the day wore on the weather turned, and the next day was full of rain. We were able to sneak in our drive at just the right time!

We started by driving from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher. It’s a staple– you had to visit– and Brian had never been.

I was nervous about the experience and didn’t know what to expect. When I was there in 2005, there was no visitor center, no parking, no fenced off areas. We literally walked out, then got down on our hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the cliffs. From there we would look over the vast drop into the ocean–sometimes even bravely holding our cameras out and snapping a few quick photos before scrambling back to safety.

It’s very different now, and while they attempted to build the information center into the earth to preserve the overall feel of the place, there’s no hiding the line of shops selling snacks and tourist items as you walk up to the Cliffs. There is also significant fencing so you can no longer access the areas my friends and I explored. I know all of these changed were made so they could bring in revenue to keep the area in one piece given the huge surge in visitors and keep said visitors safe from toppling over the cliff’s edge, but it was a little sad for me. Brian didn’t get to experience it quite like I did. I tried not to dwell on that during our visit.

We arrived in the late morning so the sun was already high in the sky, which didn’t make for very good pictures to the south, but we still captured a few good photos. We were also among the visitors who sneaked around the fencing to explore along the coast north and south of the official park area.

Despite being off-season, there were quite a few visitors. Somehow we managed to keep everyone else out of our pictures!

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After the Cliffs we drove up to Doolin for lunch. There was a place known for it’s French pastries that I wanted to try, but we couldn’t find it anywhere! We finally popped in the tourism office to ask, and very sadly the proprietress had passed away and shop had closed.

I was sorry for the news, but we ended up frequenting Gus O’Connor’s Pub a few steps away. It was lovely– there was a cafeteria style set-up in the one room so we grabbed some seafood chowder and a cobbler and enjoyed our beers back in the pub along with our food.

Following our lunch we drove through Kilfenora to see the Seven High Crosses. Although only six are now there, with only three still in tact, the ones that survived were amazing! We walked through the cemetery into the remains of the church to view the Doorty Cross and then walked out into the neighboring field to get a good view of the West Cross.

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The sky was clouding over so we drove on to the heart of the Burren to Poulnabrone Tomb while it was still light enough to enjoy our stop. There were quite a few others parked and walking around the area as we made our way to the tomb, taking time to enjoy the incredible rock formations of the Burren. There were some informational displays about how the rock was formed and the official names for the various designs of the rock, which were interesting.

Our final stop was the Aillwee Cave on our way back to Mount Vernon. We made it on the last tour of the caves, and while the exhibit and whole experience was a little overdone and probably more for families with kids, it was still neat hearing how the cave was discovered and climbing along through the various rooms and tunnels.

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We were starving as we drove back to Mount Vernon but had only booked dinner there for our second night. Our fingers were crossed we could find something open and serving substantial food along the way.

We lucked out in finding Linnane’s Bar— absolutely incredible! Go now! The wind had picked up and the rain was beginning to set in in as we grabbed seats along the window overlooking Galway Bay. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, the pub area was filled with locals and our servers were lovely.

I ordered crab cakes and Brian asked where they sourced their lobster. The server pointed out the back window to the Bay so he was obliged to order the local dish! Shortly thereafter we saw a poor lady running out from the kitchen to the lobster pots– we felt bad she had to run out in the rain for his dinner, but it hardly gets more fresh than that! Our dinner was delicious, and I think it might have been Brian’s favorite meal of the trip!

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After dinner we made it to Mount Vernon and thankfully Mark, our host was ready for us.

There was only one other couple staying and they had already gone to bed, so we put our things in our room (incredible en suite that overlooked Galway Bay) and headed down to the library for an after dinner drink in front of the fireplace.

It was incredible– all cozy curled up on the couch, enjoying a drink with my best friend, watching the fire crackle. An absolutely lovely day in the Burren!

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