Saturday, February 21, 2015

County Clare: The Burren and Ennis

I realized that this would be the last chance I had to explore the Galway open-air market that takes place every Saturday morning. So despite the rain, I bundled up and headed in the general direction. I knew by now that when the Irish say, “starts at 8:00,” what they really mean is that people start thinking about it at 8:00, maybe leave their house and then get there when they get there and set up. Because I still had a fairly full day ahead of me, I left the hotel about 8:00.

Mullagh More Mountain 
A few stalls were set up. I had been to enough of these open-air markets that from the little I could see, I knew what it was going to offer. Oddly, enough, what I really wanted was some fresh carrots—small enough that they could be easily transported and eaten without a lot of prep. I found exactly what I needed, small to medium size carrots with the tops already chopped off. Happy with my purchase, I headed to the car rental place to start my weekend adventure.

Road to the Burren National Park
Today, I decided to head toward the Burren, a 116-square-mile area south of Galway, with plans to end up in Ennis for the night. Fodor explains that Burren is the “Anglicization of the Irish word bhoireann (a rocky place).

"Stretching in all directions, as far as the eye can see, are vast, irregular slabs of fissured limestone, known as karst, with deep cracks between them.” It definitely was very unusual. And I found it quite beautiful.

Hiking Trail in Burren National Park
Part of the area is set aside as a national park—my destination—with a handful of trails. Since I have still been having some sciatic nerve issues, I decided to see how I could do on the moderate 1.5 kilometer trail. I do fine. Though I could have gone another kilometer, that was a good trial run for hiking later in the trip.
When a trail meets a stone fence . . .

I saw two other cars along the road and one other automobile in the car park, so it wasn’t very crowded. In fact, I saw only one other person on my trail. After my hike, I ate the sandwich I made from the breakfast buffet that morning and one of my carrots from the market. It made me happy.
Ruins of Leamanagh Manor

Having jotted down a few sights I had read about or seen on my map, I had a very loose timetable.

First stop was Leamanagh, the ruins of a fifteenth-century tower and seventeenth-century manor house. There was nothing there except the ruins, so nothing to read and no real access to even walk around.

So having snapped a photo, I drove to Kilfenora to see some more ruins, this time of a cathedral.
It was a bit more accessible, but also did not offer any information for visitors. The adjoining cemetery was much more modern than the building itself, with grave sites from as late as the early twenty-first century.
Kilfenora Cathedral

Kilfenora High Cross

Kilfenora Cathedral Modern Cemetery
From there I drove to the Caherconnell Stone Fort, only to find out that the ancient site is closed for the winter.

Carron Church
And on my way back, I passed the Carron Chapel, another ruin just out in the middle of a field. I had been sure that the Dysert O’Dea Archaeological Center was open in the winter, but when I got there, it obviously was not. So, feeling like my afternoon excursions had completely washed out, I headed to Ennis, hoping the B&B owners would not mind if I were early—and feeling like I could use a nap.

Ennis City Center
Ferfus River runs through Ennis
As it turned out, the owners of the Knocklyon B&B were very happy that I arrived early, because they had a christening to attend. The nap felt good, and I was able to catch up on my blog entries, so the afternoon was not completely shot after all.

I had chosen Ennis because it was billed as one of the two best places in the country for “trad” Irish music. Since Nancy and I are planning to visit the other place after she arrives, I thought I’d try this one out on my own.

Great Hall of the Rowan Tree restaurant
Ennis itself is an old medieval town with very narrow streets, but still active and vibrant. I am glad that I had given myself some extra time to wander around the village. The B&B hostess had recommended a few places for dinner, including the Rowan Tree. Since I liked the name and the fact that it was on the river that runs through town, that’s where I went. The main hall of the restaurant had been part of an old manor house, so it had a bit of character.
Duck breast, potatoes and steamed vegetables 

I took my time with dinner because the music at Cruise’s Pub was not scheduled to start until 8:30 pm. I got there a little early and sat comfortably by the fire, finishing the issue of Time magazine I had started in the restaurant. The pub was not crowded, and the only people I really noticed were a quartet sitting near me. Only one of them was talking, and he was speaking French in a very animated way. He was not French, but he had a fairly good command of the language. I supposed the others were French speakers, but I never got to hear them say anything.

Musicians at Cruise's Pub
About 8:30, he stopped talking and pulled out a guitar. I had not expected him to be one of the musicians for the evening. He was joined by a transverse flute player, and a third fellow on the concertina. They were all in their twenties, and while they weren’t outstanding, they weren’t bad, and it was nice to see the tradition continuing in capable hands. About 9:15 I was ready to call it a night—even though I was reluctant to leave my cozy spot by the fire.

No comments:

Post a Comment