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Post Info TOPIC: County Clare: A Fairy Ring on the Burren (Chapter 3)


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County Clare: A Fairy Ring on the Burren (Chapter 3)


COUNTY CLARE:
A FAIRY RING ON THE BURREN AND THE SOULFUL CLIFFS OF MOHER
(Chapter 3 of Melissa5 Trip Report, July 2006)

We love the mystery and music of County Clare, and the majesty of the Cliffs of Moher. We discovered our own fairy ring on the Burren.

We spent 3 comfty nights at the Drumcreehy House on the coast road outside Ballyvaughan, County Clare. We did miss being able to walk into town (like we did in Dingle.) But Ballyvaughan is centrally located between the sites we planned to drive to.

County Clare awed us with these treasured experiences:

--The stark beauty and mystery of the Burren

-- The towering Cliffs of Moher

--The Dunguaire Castle medieval banquet in nearby Kinvara (County Galway)

--Trad music in pubs and set dancing

--Getting stuck in a cow-jam (instead of a traffic jam)

More details on those very memorable moments follow.


THE BURREN:

Walking on the Burren is like discovering a new planet. Flowers and grasses growing in such a cracked, barren place seem like tiny miracles.

We parked and climbed up a small embankent above the road to find our very own private, silent Burren. Far below was the silent sea, too far away to hear.

We explored one of the "Giant's Footballs" which lie where they have been tossed by giants along the miles of bleak limestone planet. They are great boulders which have been there so long flowers are growing on them.

I found a mysterious ring meticulously built long ago stone by stone. I stood in the middle of this rocky circle and found myself traveling back in time, in a fairy ring. In this protected circle, grasses and flowers flourished, and hidden fairies worked magic.

We loved the mystery of wondering who built this circle, and why. Hubby the biologist says the rocks are marked with age and look like they have been there a long time, and look like they have been meticulously placed, deliberately constructed for a purpose, therefore not just a prank by youngsters.

Celtic people lived on the Burren long ago, and have left various ruins, some of them more famous. In another spot you can see the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient tomb on the Burren, which is well-marked, but the Dolmen is so surrounded by tourists and tour buses that all the magic was gone.

We preferred our own private miles of the Burren, and I am sure that the shy fairies had all taken refuge in our "fairy ring".

From my journal:
"The Burren in July: walk out on the rocky limestone planet. The sea lies gleaming below. Giant's footballs lie scattered about, flowers growing in their crevices. In all the cracks of the planet, small plants and red, yellow, pink and purple flowers find root. Grasses spring up here and there. If you stand in the middle of a fairy ring you travel back in time...an ancient legend according to Melissa5."

You won't see all these wonders from your car. Park and get out and walk away from the other tourists to your own private Burren.

While biologist hubby was hunting for tiny orchids, I was hunting for fairies and mysteries. My young adult daughters were fascinated by the Burren.

Where is Nanny, my beloved Irish grandmother, the storyteller? Did she once walk here with her brothers? Did she meet fairies?


THE CLIFFS OF MOHER:

The Cliffs of Moher get 17,000 visitors a year, according to the sign there!

Upon arriving we were greeted by the ugly sight of a new visitor's center being constructed, ripping a hole in the hillside... a giant ugly crane, a lot of concrete stairs and a wall between you and the sea. This turned me off. But don't despair! THERE IS MAGIC AHEAD.

All visitors must walk up a hill and then follow along a wall to your left. (Until the construction is completed.) At the beginning of the wall there was an employee who instructs visitors to stay on the path. It seems to be his job to keep people from climbing the wall and trying to get over to the tower, which was once accessible. This is the only employee along the whole Cliffs of Moher walk. If you walk far enough, beyond most of the crowd, beyond the end of the wall, it is majestic. However I advise against taking small children beyond the wall...unless you have one that can fly!


We spent an hour and a half on the Cliffs of Moher between 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm in July. Lighter crowds at this time. If you walk 30 to 45 minutes past the visitor's center along the Cliffs, you can sit with the lucky few who find peace.

The towering cliffs are majestic. Ospreys fly below you, and far below the ocean sprays against the sheer cliff. Gorgeous. Dizzying height. It is a warm day with gentle breezes in July.

The Cliffs of Moher are among the highlights of our trip to Ireland for the whole family. My older artistic daughter, 20, said she coud sit there contentedly forever.
We returned to the visitor's center just in time to use the toilets before they closed at 8:00 pm (in July.) Whew! We noticed some folks had brought a picnic dinner to enjoy along the Cliffs around 8:00 pm when there are fewer visitors.

I wish I had known in advance how much the construction is ruining the atmosphere of the start of the Cliffs of Moher walk. Then I wouldn't have felt such initial disappointment. I am including these details to reassure you that if you keep walking BEYOND all that construction, you will find the peace and beauty you are seeking. We did.


DUNGUAIRE CASTLE MEDIEVAL BANQUET

What fun! The girls and I thought the medieval banquet was fantastic. Hubby was a good sport.

Each of us was greeted with a cup of mead for "my lady" and "my lord" by a lovely Irish "cailin" in a medieval gown. We loved being lords and ladies. In a castle room we waited with other guests for the festivities to begin. The mead lossened everyone's tongue and we met guests from Ireland, England, and New Jersey. After 2 glasses of mead and a glass of wine, I was feeling quite merry! My daughters and I brought home mead as a souveneir. Michele, do you have a recipe for mead to share with us?!

Three talented young Irish singers/actors/actresses entertained us with stories, poems, songs, and comical skits about Irish writers, saints, and sinners. These were talented and friendly young folks with a delightful sense of humor.

Food was decent for a banquet serving 50-55 people. We enjoyed chicken with mushroom sauce, potatoes, vegies, potato-leek soup, apple pie, wine, juice, coffee, tea. Dunguaire banquet in the castle is very atmospheric and more intimate than the larger group which Bunratty castle holds (that is what I hear. I never tried the Bunratty banquet.) My daughters and I highly recommend this fun experience!

Come early and take a short walk behind the Dunguaire castle...it's a lovely area.


STUCK IN A COW-JAM

To our udder delight we were stuck in a cow-jam on our second full day in County Clare! It was one of the highlights of our trip.

It is so startling to be transported in just 10 hours from America to Ireland, that I kept wondering for days when I would really KNOW FOR SURE I was in Ireland. I knew for sure I was in Ireland when I was sitting in a car surrounded by gigantic milk cows bigger than our car!

We came to a stop on a narrow road behind some cars. We left a big space between us and the car in front of us. Into this space lumbered the herd of gigantic near-sighted milk cows. They headed straight for our car, and we wondered if we would be trampled by them...it was like we were in a Jurasic Park movie.

The plump and gentle ladies headed straight for our car and then lumbered past on either side of our car. Their faces, nose and mouth, were all wet and dripping with cow slobber, and as they brushed past our car, they actually rocked the car. Curious about us, they were about to poke their wet faces in our car. The girls and I squeeled and closed our windows. Hubby was snapping photos.

I'm not a farm girl, and we have never been so close to such giant cows...they grow them big in Ireland!

The cow-jam was one of the unique highlights of our trip. The farmer herding these cows said "sorry about that." We said, "That's okay, It was fun!"

MUSIC AT GREENE'S PUB, BALLYVAUGHAN

We arrived at Greene's Pub in Ballyvaughan on a Wednesday night at 9:15 pm and claimed a table. This is a small pub with a come-right-in "local" feel. It is known for good trad and folk music on Wednesday nights.

The small room filled up with friendly folks anticipating a fun night. This was a music-loving group, with a local Irish woman standing close to the 3 musicians and shushing the crowd during the quiet vocals. Great music here! Three players facing each other. Sometimes they spoke Gaelic to each other.

Two of the 3 musicians were also great singers. I was thrilled with the excellent Irish music here. The small room fillled up completely with standing people. We were lucky to have seats.

The small size and shape of the room invited conversation between folks when the musicians took breaks. We chatted with music-lovers from Ireland, England, and San Francisco. One of my favorite pub nights in Ireland.

Greene's Pub in Ballyvaughan has music year-round on Wednesday nights at 10 pm according to the web-site I consulted. It is run by Geraldine Greene. See http://www.irishmusicbars.com/clare/greenesbar.asp No food, just great craic, music, and beer.

Many thanks to whoever directed me to consult that great web-site for Irish music bars. Mark D, was that you? We found the best music at the pubs on this web-site.


VAUGHAN'S BAR, KILFENORA

We headed to the Barn at Vaughan's Bar on thursday night for set dancing. Cover charge of 4 euros. This has been in the Vaughan family for over 200 years I hear. That a lotta beer!

We watched local Irish folks set-dancing. The barn had 2 rooms; one with adults and beer, and the other with families with children. The 2 rooms were connected.

Met a couple from Holland and introduced myself to one of the dancers, a spry Irishman in his 70's who loves to dance. So much energy! This is a real community event.

Dancers in the adult room were mostly between ages 30 - 70, with one teen girl with gorgeous long red hair and a few dancers in their 20's.

In the family room were the children who will carry on this tradition. At one point an Irish lady was instructing and encouraging the children. It was cute watching the kids dance!

Set dancing is like a very lively square dance with an interesting move where 3 or 4 dancers look like they are hugging. A good cure for lonliness!


DINNER AT BRUACH NA HAILLE IN DOOLIN

Bruach na haille next door to McGann's pub in Doolin has a decent dinner for 16 euros, main entree plus potatoes and vegies. No wait for a table at 8:00 pm when we arrived after visiting the nearby Cliffs of Moher. Other places in Doolin had a wait. We didn't want to miss the barn dance in Kilfenora!

LUNCH AT MONK'S PUB, BALLYVAUGHAN

On a hot day in July, a nice light lunch is the crab open-faced sanewich with salad on Irish brown bread for 10 euros at Monk's Pub.


LODGING: DRUMCREEHY HOUSE, BALLYVAUGHAN

We spent our 3 nights in County Clare at the comfortable Drumcreehy House on the main coastal road outside Ballyvaughan, County Clare. The advantage is that it was well-located between all the places we had planned as day-trips. The disadvantage is you cannot walk into town, like we could in Dingle.

This lovely guesthouse is efficiently run by a very busy young couple who are also raising a family and I much admire their energy! I appreciate Bernadette's helpful e-mails as she helped me in selecting the best room for my hubby and I.

Their cute little daughter served us imaginary tea upon our arrival.

The best part of their breakfast is the excellent cold buffet, which includes various cheeses, fruits, jams, cereals, muffins, pastries, salmon, cold cuts, and even liver pate. You can also order hot breakfast and it is all included in the price of your room. At Drumcreehy we all preferred their outstanding cold breakfast buffet. We also enjoyed ordering a boiled egg or porridge.

Hubby and I stayed in the charming fuschia room with a garden view. The bed was a king-sized bed made with 2 mattresses sheeted together. The bed was average in comfort. It was a very quiet room and we slept well. Drumcreehy house has good prices and is a good value.


LEFT OUR HEARTS IN COUNTY CLARE

County Clare was gorgeous, unique, and mysterious Three nights was just the right amount of time for us. I would happily return to County Clare. My older daughter left her heart on the Cliffs of Moher.

-- Edited by Melissa5 at 14:15, 2006-07-26

-- Edited by Melissa5 at 14:35, 2006-07-26

-- Edited by Melissa5 at 12:40, 2006-07-27

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Melissa, I love your writing style! I feel like I was tagging along with you.


I've been so sorry to hear the reports about the new visitor's center at the Cliffs of Moher. Glad I got to visit once without all that fuss--and the additional expense...


You can find lots of mead recipes online. I'm a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a big sort of "club" that studies and recreates various aspects of the Middle Ages. There are lots of folks who make mead and they're happy to share their recipes. One of my best friends in the group makes a "quick and dirty" type of mead...she refers to the "vintage" as "last Tuesday was a very good year."


Thanks for mentioning the banquet at Dunguaire. We may try that one on the next visit. Just please, tell me that they *didn't* sing "Danny Boy" for you. My niece stepped on my foot at the Bunratty banquet to keep me from fussing out loud at that one. (My issues: it's *not* medieval, for starters, and it's not even all that Irish! I know they do it for the American tourists, but not *all* of us expect to hear it, honest!) I did enjoy the banquet at Bunratty, but it felt "crowded" to me. I also fussed over the lack of spoons, which they did indeed have and use throughout the Middle Ages. After not allowing us to use spoons for our soup, they brought spoons out with the dessert--ice cream, which was *not* known in the Middle Ages. I have to take a deep breath when I go to that sort of place and remind myself that most of them are trying to recreate "Camelot," not the authentic Middle Ages. Which is okay, after all.



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Willie, thanks for "tagging along" with me.

Your club that studies and re-creates the Middle Ages sounds very cool. Is Mead hard to make?

Since you are an "expert" on the middle ages, perhaps you will find Dunguaire touristy as well, but I chose it because a group of 55 people is more intimate than a group of 200 people! Also I am interested in the Irish poets and writers, and the content of the show seemed interesting to me. Plus I never got to eat inside of a castle before, even if the food wasn't medieval at all!

I don't recall them singing Danny Boy...they seemed more like Irish folk songs to me.



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Melissa, I'm really enjoying your report. Its fun to read others reactions to the places I have just been.

I totally agree about the new visitors center at the Cliffs, it was atrocious.I guess when it is finished it won't look like such an eyesore, but yuck. we took a picture of it, and I was thinking of posting it here, but then I decided not to ruin the atmosphere of your report. I was also disappointed that we couldn't go up the other side of the cliff walk, where the observation tower is. But still, its a stunning place.

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China Cat, I'm enjoying your report as well, and I love your humorous description of the street plans that were laid out by wandering sheep and cows!

EEk! Let's NOT have a photo of the ugly Cliffs of Moher construction right here...I like to print out my trip reports as a souveneir to remember my trip, and that's one site I don't care to remember too graphically! But you could start a new post, and post it there...you can call it "Don't Look At This", and everyone will be sure to click on that post! Thanks for preserving the peaceful part of the Cliffs of Moher atmosphere, which I truly had to walk a long ways to find!!!

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Hello All,


Thought I would share a quick story with you.


A co-worker had just returned from a 2 week trip to Ireland, and was sharing his experience of touring the Cliff's of Moher. After enjoying his story, I started to walk away,stopped  and I yelled back " How did you like the construction of the visitor's center ?"  Boy, the look on his face was priceless! 


He just muttered  "How in the world did you know about that ?" I just smiled, and said " I have my ways! "  He was pretty impressed that I had known about that. We had serveral other conversations about his trip.  One was about the advice he was given about not being able to use is debit card in Ireland.


I just told him he should have talked to me earlier. LOL !


Cheers!
Mark D.


 


 



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Melissa,


So far you are enjoying every part of Ireland. How will you ever decide where to go on your next trip? You will want to visit some of the same places (like the Cliffs of Moher to see the new visitor's center) and some new ones like the Rock of Cashel.


I think that sign must have been wrong at the cliffs. The website says that about one million people visit it every year.


My recipe for mead: Open bottle, pour into wine glass, sip till gone and you start feeling mellow. Enjoy!


Michele



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Mark D., I'm sure glad I talked to you before we went to Ireland! I think it was you who sent me to a great web-site for Irish music pubs. I printed out the ones I wanted to go too, and it really made the trip terrific. (We also tried wandering down the streets and popping into random pubs, but sure enough, the music was always best in the places I had printed out from the Irish pubs web-site. Thanks!

One thing that was fascinating is that each pub has a distinct personality and "atmosphere", and we found that some suited us better than others. We liked the ones where people were music-lovers and actually listened to the music . Also fun were the ones small enough where it was easy to talk to people when the music wasn't playing. When you are literally bumping elbows with people, you gotta chat! It's great. I'm glad they haven't modernized all of Ireland.

I have been to many places around the world, though not as many as some. Some places you feel like you're glad you went but once is enough. I will never get tired of going back to Ireland! Of course since my Irish grandmother was from there, I felt a little bit like I was coming home. Uh-oh...now I'm getting home-sick!

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MIchele, you know me well! Of course I'm going to the Rock of Cashel on my next trip, and you knew from the beginning that there will be a second trip!

I did like everywhere that we went. The only thing I would have changed is that I would have liked a more lolly-gagging pace. If I had to plan it again I would have skipped the Giant's Causeway portion, and NOT because it wasn't amazing...everything was amazing...just because sometimes we felt a bit stressed and rushed, and we could have used more time in some places.

I am learning more with each trip that I plan. Whatever is the suggested time to visit a site, we have to double that! We like to poke into every corner. Hubby looks for flora/fauna hidden nearby...my artistic daughter looks at the fine details...I like to snatch a quiet moment to write in a small journal that I carry with me for on-the-spot descriptions. When my journal isn't full by the end of the trip, I feel like it went too fast! (My Irish journal definitely wasn't full, but my heart is full!)

Where am I going on our next Ireland trip? I already have a pretty good idea but could use some advice! (Ummm...you don't mind advising for a trip that may not be until 2008??! It's hubby's turn to pick the destination next summer.) In which order would you suggest I arrange these destinations and what is the one place you would add for hubby who loved the wild undeveloped portions of Ireland best...he was fascinated with Connemara, which we merely drove through and he loved the Burren.

Ireland 2008 :

Fly into Dublin

DUBLIN OR MALAHIDE: 2 nights

CONNEMARA: 3 nights

DONEGAL OR where?: 3 nights Someplace wild and with some nature for hubby, someplace like in Westport where I might actually hear a woman say to me, "You're American? I haven't met anybody from America here for a while!" Yes, this actually happened to me in Westport in a chocolate shop!

ROCK OF CASHEL: 3 nights (MICHELE, is there enough to do nearby the Rock to warrant a 3-night stay? Perhaps a day-trip?

SOMEPLACE REALLY COOL: 3 nights (This could be a new place or a return visit to the Belfast area where my grandmother lived...)

B&B near Dublin airport: 1 night

Well there you go, I have Ireland 2008 almost planned, but we have no idea where we are going for family vacation in September 2007!!!!!!!

Michele, I just love your web-site. Thanks for a great time, before, during, and after the trip!

-- Edited by Melissa5 at 13:36, 2006-07-28

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Melissa,


Just a thought for your next trip. Have you thought of staying in self-catering places for a week at a time? This might be just your speed and style. In the off-season self-catering can be available for mid-week and weekend rentals.


As for wild places: Co. Donegal, Achill Island, Connemara, Beara Peninsula, parts of west Cork, Belmullet Peninsula (bet you won't see tourists there).


Michele



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Michele, thanks for the list of wild places to dream about. Belmullet peninsula is so wild I haven't even heard of that one!

I like the idea of settling into one fascinating place for a whole week. But self-catering usually means nobody cooks you breakfast? I like being spoiled on vacation since I do the cooking at home.

Also breakfast, being the only meal that was already included in the room prices, was the one time of day when hubby never complained about prices all through the meal! He has a thrifty gene which we have traced all the way back to the last potato in County Mayo during the famine years, which we're pretty sure his great-grandmother had to share with 20 relations... (He really does have a great-grandmother who emigrated from County Mayo.)



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Melissa,


You're right; at self-catering places you make your own breakfast. Looks like staying put in some nice B&Bs or guesthouses might suit you better. Belmullet Peninsula is in Co. Mayo.


I like being spoiled on vacation too!


Michele



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Michele, home for a week now and I still miss my Irish breakfasts! I have tried going out to breakfast in San Diego to console myself, but it's not the same, no home-made Irish brown bread and no Irish accents.

When the weather is cooler in the fall I look forward to baking that Irish brown bread recipe you passed on.

-- Edited by Melissa5 at 17:27, 2006-08-01

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Melissa

Normally I don't recommend the "pub in box" places, but The Field in the Gaslamp is almost fully Irish staffed and the real surprise is they have the best Irish pub food of all the Irsih restaurants I've been to (and I travel over 50%)

Milo

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Irrover, do you mean the Gaslamp district downtown in San Diego?? I have never tried it, but if that's where it is, I'm going to try it, maybe this weekend. Thanks for the tip! I think a friend has mentioned that place but that was before we went to Ireland and didn't know what we would miss!

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Melissa


Yes, in the Gaslamp on 5th, across from Mooses about 4 blocks up from Harbor Blvd. I really like their Seafood Boxty.  They also have the Irish breakfasts and stuff.   


Enjoy!



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Irrover: woo-hoo! Irish breakfast again! The Field sounds great, a little bit of Ireland in San Diego. Thanks.

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Melissa,

Yes, The Field downtown has really good Irish food. Go during the week days as the weekends can be rather crowded. That's the place I told you about before you left for Ireland. Maybe next time you'll listen to me! Maybe we can meet up there and you can show me your photos???

There's another place with great Irish food, too, Giblin's In Carlsbad. You won't find better boxty unless you make it yourself!

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Wendy, for sure let's compare Irish photos at The Field and Giblin's! Before I went to Ireland, I didn't know I would be feelin' so Irish when I returned...now I'm glad there is a piece of Ireland for me to discover in San Diego! Thanks for all your help before the trip.

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