Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Burren Region, Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher

On my first trip to Ireland, I knew exactly what I wanted to see; the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren.  So on my first full day in County Clare, I set out to discover this region of contrasts - from green, pastoral countryside to the limestone terrain of The Burren to the blue waters of Galway Bay crashing against the coast on its journey to the Atlantic.  Over time the frigid waters of the ocean carved the stunning walls of the eight kilometer long Cliffs of Moher.

Leamenagh Castle

We passed by the ruins of Leamenagh Castle on our way to The Burren. This was once the home of Conor and Maire Rua O'Brien of the mighty O'Brien clan. Lord Conor died after he was mortally wounded by Cromwell's army in 1651. It is said that his wife Maire refused his dead body until she realized he was still breathing and she cared for him till the next day when he passed away.  Fiery Mary Rua (the redhead) feared the loss of her castle so she offered to marry a willing Cromwellian soldier in order to keep her estates for her children.

Caherconnell Stone Ringfort

Radiocarbon dating of materials dug from this ringfort suggests that this was built around 900 AD to 1000 AD.  The walls are 12 feet thick and 6 to 14 feet high and the external diameter is 140-145 feet. I noticed gaps between the stones of the fort wall while walking around it. These open spaces allow wind or air to pass through and prevent the wall from falling apart. Large ringforts such as this one could accommodate as many as 25 people and may have had more than one house and an animal pen. Ringforts were built for defensive or security purposes.



In the heart of the Burren is the ancient burial site of Poulnabrone or Poll na Brón which means "hole of sorrows"  and dates back to between 3800 to 3200 BC. Two portal stones support a capstone about 1.8 meters high.  It stands dramatically alone in a field of limestone. 

Poulnabrone dolmen

The Burren is not barren. On the contrary, a spectrum of colorful flowers thrive in these hills like the yellow Ladies Bedstraw and the magenta Bloody Crainsbill. I particulary noticed the beautiful ferns along the side of the road.

Ballyreen overlooking Galway Bay

In Ballyreen, the limestone landscape spills down the slopes to Galway Bay. In the distance are the Aran Islands, clearly visible on this sunny afternoon. There are ferries that sail from Doolin (a few minutes to the south) to the Aran Islands several times a day.

View of the coast from Ballyreen

For more information about the tour to the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, check out http://www.4tours.biz/. I thought they gave a comprehensive tour of the region and more.

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Images by Charie

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