Ireland 1999 (Part 3)
We left Ennis early. Go figure! Our destination? The Cliffs of Mohr. The weather is holding up and it was mostly clear and just a bit cold. We get to the Cliffs early before the center is even open. We climb up to the cliff rail, but neither of us feel up to crawling to the ledge. The hills are a dark green and the sheer cliff face is a variety of grays as it plunges into the deep blue waters. There is supposed to be a trail that runs along the cliffs that goes into town that I’m sure would have beenawesome, but we unfortunately didn’t have the time. After we leave the Cliffs, we head the Burren. Now we have seen rocks before, or atleast we so we thought. The Burren is a huge area in northwest County Clare that is this big limestone plateau. Carved from the glaciers and eroded by the elements, the Burren was a fascinating landscape of rock, rock, and more rock. Little tuffs of grass wouldgrow in some pockets, while miniature lakes would like in some other pockets. Supposedly in the summer wild flowersgrow out of the little “grykes” or crevices that dot the hills. As we drove along the coast, we got out to walk a couple of times. Along the coast, the weather has riddled the stone with holes and crevices, it was kind of like walking on a deep black coral reef. We climbed up to the top of aplateau and were just amazed by the huge expanse of rock and the total lack of trees or even shrubs. It was spectacular.
We left the coast going inland into the Burren looking for the Poulnebrone Dolmen, a portal tomb dating back to 2500-2000 BC. As drive across the country side, we finally find it and discover it’s on private property. As we are about to trespass, someone comes up and lets us know that it’s okay to go look at it. As we approach it, we both decide that the picture in the book really doesn’t do it justice. In thebook, it looks huge, and it’s not. I mean it is still amazing that someone so long ago built this, but we aren’t talking the pyramids here. As we wander around the site, we find a whole field of miniature portal tombs. These tombs look more like rock sculptures, or just rocks piled on top of each other. And not even big rocks. For some reason, we both thought of “This is Spinal Tap” and the little dwarfs running around the 3 foot Stonehenge set. Just too funny. Actually, Colleen thinks that once a year the locals get hammered (okay, probably every Saturday) and then set these rocks up to fool us tourists. It was just a bit too weird. We then drove south a bit to look at the Leamaneagh Castle. But it was also on private property with a nice little electric fence around it. You’d think the guide book would mention that! We headed back north and stopped in Kinvarra for lunch. After lunch we stopped at Dunguaire Castle, a small castle that sits on a promontory that juts out into the bay and is still used for “medieval banquets” at night. We pushed on to Galway and arrived around 230. After finding a B&B, we talked around the town a bit. For dinner we found a Mexican restaurant and kicked back from margaritas. After all of the pub food we had eaten, we were craving something else and Mexican hit the spot. We still hit the pubs later to get our daily pint or three.
Another early get up (and Colleen was so not loving that!) and we’re off to Clifden and the Connemara region of Ireland. The weather is still holding up and under partly cloudy skies we drove through huge bogs and wetlands as we headed to the coast. It seemed everymile there was another lake. Since it was earlymorning and there was no wind, the lakes were very still and reflected images like a mirror. Seeing the mountains and the cloudy sky reflected so clearly in the lakes was amazing. We made it to Clifden and drove the Sky Road. This windy road looped the peninsula and had great views of ClifdenBayand the rugged coastline. Afterwards, we drove up into the Connemara National Park. Westopped at the visitor center and learned about the interesting history and ecology of the area. Afterwards, Colleen and I hiked one of the short trails in the park. It wasn’t bad at all, but it did provide some great views once we got to the top of the hill. Afterwards, we drove to Kylemore Abbey. This former Benedictine Abbey is a huge Gothic manor sitting on the edge of a lake and now houses an international boarding school for girls. It was pretty, but I’d imaging that in winter, in the dark, it probably seems like a prison to the students there. We got back I the car and started the trek to Clanmacnoise, a medieval monastery on the banks of the River Shannon that is one of the major religious sites in Ireland. There were three very large Celtic crosses housed in the museum for protection. Engraved on the stone crosses were scenes from the Bible, it was very impressive. Like a lot of the other major religious sites, Clonmacnoise had been raided by the Vikings, Anglo- normans, and the English, but the ruins were fascinating. Thankfully we were there off season so there were no tour buses and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We pressed on from Clonmacnoise and made it all the way to Slane, just outside of Newgrange.