Monday, August 07, 2006

Burren and Cliffs

This is peak holiday time here in Ireland and this weekend being Bank Holiday things are very crowded and full. So I decided to take a day tour to see some of the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Barratt Tours offer a half day tour that leaves from Limerick at noon. Well, sort of half-day: it doesn't get back to town until 7pm so it is a fairly full day!

The trip started at Bunratty where there was time for lunch and shopping. Personally I could have skipped this bit. I ate my sandwiches and apple ( and ok yes some chocolate!) and had no intention of adding to my backpack weight at this stage by shopping. (My last day in Dublin, or Paris, or Singapore will be soon enough for any of that!)

We then picked up some more people in Ennis which looked like an attractive town and headed off on the road for the Cliffs of Moher. It had been raining to start the day but had finished by 2pm so we were treated to some excellent views along the way, including some of Galway Bay. The roads definitely got crowded near the Cliffs as was to be expected. An advantage of being on a bus was that it seemed much quicker to get in/out of the bus part of the parking area.

But the Cliffs of Moher I think are over-rated. Over 700,000 people apparently visit them each year: the power of mass tourism and reputation. I have seen higher cliffs, and the south coast of Australia has plenty. But what I hated was the "freak out" factor I had while there. There were zillions of people and only a couple of poor men who had the job of trying to police the barriers, being argued with by stroppy foreigners. A lot of people were jumping over the barriers and going very very close to the edge to get their photographs. Risking their lives for a picture. I was reminded of the German guy at Punakaiki who managed to kill himself trying to get a photo the day after the Cave Creek tragedy and the poor rescuers had to retrieve his body. I hated the sight of all these people close to the edges.

We left the cliffs though for my favourite part of the day. The weather had cleared but with the cloud still around there wasn't too much glare and the views were wonderful. We could see out to Connemara and even across to the mountains on the Ring of Kerry, as well as the Dingle Peninsula. They were blue and far away, but their outlines were clear.

Then we came into the Burren landscapes. I am sure we only had a taste of the immensity of them, but without a car it is not so easy to reach them. The Burren is basically an area of limestone that has been uplifted. The sides of a whole valley had the topsoil layers all removed by the scraping of glaciers in the last ice age. It looked dramatic. We had a great view from a viewpoint before winding our way down Corkscrew Hill. We travelled on to see the neolithic tomb monument at Poulnabrone. This was our only brief time actually walking on some of the Burren rocks so I made the most of it. I doubt I will be back for a bigger walk, though with my flexi-planning you never know!

So, that was the day. Tomorrow I catch the bus right through Galway to Westport in Co Mayo. I will be leaving the area of my Riordan and Malone ancestors to get closer to the land of my Burke ancestors.

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