Unforgettable Ireland : Clare (Part 1)

County Clare

County Clare is located on Ireland’s west coast, south to county Galway and north to county Limerick. Home to one of Ireland’s two international airports, Shannon International Airport, celebrated Cliff of Moher and Burren, Bunratty Castle and Village, it is our first stop.

We flew USAirways from home to Philadelphia and arrived Shannon airport about 9ish in the morning of Jun 14th. After a quick check in to Lakeside Country House in Ennis, we spent first day visiting Cliff of Moher and the Burren. On the second day, we had some down time in Ennis then visited Bunratty before leaving Clare County.

Shannon to Ennis

Ennis is about 15 miles (25kms) from Shannon. It took us around 25 minutes by car.

Flying into Shannon

Flying into Shannon


Our flight was right on schedule and we flew into Shannon Airport sometime after 9am local time. Once descended enough, I could see the patches of green fields, houses that were few and far in between, rolling hills and then River Shannon could be seen in the distance. It was a welcoming sight. Gradually, the green dwindled and bevies of low, grey buildings emerged, we were right above the city of Shannon.

N18

N18


From Shannon airport, N18 northbound is the way to get to Ennis. Traffic on that Sunday was light and fields open.

A big herd of cows on a roadside pasture

A big herd of cows on a roadside pasture


A blue sky over placid animals grazing on green fields was often sighted on the way.
An Ennis road: narrow with thick, dense hedges on both sides

An Ennis road: narrow with thick, dense hedges on both sides


About 25 minutes since leaving Shannon Airport, we got off N18 at a roundabout, as directed by Garmin. After a couple more roundabouts and some normally sized streets flanked by houses on both sides, we continued onto this road. The hedges were tall and thick we had no clue what might be on the other side of the road. We became more acquainted during out trip with roads like this and sometimes much narrower ones. A few minutes following through the hedges, the road opened up and more and more houses appeared on both sides of the street. We quickly realized that the houses were not labeled by numbers but names. Luckily we spotted the sign for Lakeside Country House before long.

Lakeside Country House

Lakeside Country House (Barntick, Clarecastle, Ennis) is located on the southern outskirt of the town, 5 minutes away by car to town center. Situated by a lake, it’s got a refreshing view over the lake to a large house and an Abbey ruin from 13th century on the green hillside.

Joan and George Quinn are the owners of the B&B house and the attached farm. Joan was the one who received us when we arrived and served us breakfast the next morning. But we did not get to meet George. We arrived few hours earlier than the 2pm check in time but Joan already had our room ready and graciously let us in.

Long drive way from the street to the house

Long drive way from the street to the house

Our room is simple but nice and sufficient

Our room is simple but nice and sufficient


A couple of individually wrapped biscuit waiting in the room were very welcoming. The bathroom is small but we didn’t mind and managed it fine.
We got a room with enchanting view of the lake

We got a room with enchanting view of the lake

Sitting room with wall to wall windows takes in the wonderful view of the lake and its surrounding

Sitting room with wall to wall windows takes in the wonderful view of the lake and its surrounding

Traditional Irish Breakfast

Traditional Irish Breakfast


That was our breakfast on the morning of 2nd day in Ireland (Jun 15th). I had my own pot of hot tea, so glad Joan has green tea, and my husband had coffee. Everything tasted good, 1 fried egg, two sausage, 2 bacons, half a tomato, brown bread (healthy and tasty) and toasts with butter and juice, water, milk, yogurt, apples and bananas were available on the buffet table.

Joan had a full house for the night we were there but we got up late and missed the other guests. After breakfast, we got to chat with Joan a little before we checked out. We found out they had moved from “just down the road” to this house ten years ago.

Garden on back of the house

Garden on back of the house


Before leaving, we signed the guest book and walked around the pretty garden at the back of the house. The Abbey ruin is right across the lake.

Cliff of Moher

Cliff of Moher is located west of Liscannor and south of Doolin, about 25miles (40kms) from Ennis. Through N85, N67 then R478, it takes about 40 minutes.

After a quick check in to Lakeside Country House, we headed out for the main activities planned for the first day, to see Cliff of Moher and Burren. Cloud started to gather quickly just as we were leaving Lakeside Country House. It rained on and off and was gray and dim while we were on the road. The road was not broad but did have two lanes, one on each direction. For the most part it was railed on both sides by low bushes/shrubs, which allowed us views of surrounding area. We passed by a few houses and a few pubs/restaurants right off the road. We drove through a town or two but mostly farm lands/pastures with houses far and between. The otherwise lively green fields appeared subdued under the cloudy sky. It nonetheless shimmered with an aura of resilience and boyancy. Now and then a gentle hill stood out in the background. Now and then the ruin of a castle in old, grey stone rose amidst a field of vegetation like a displaced, lonely giant. As we drew near the Cliff of Moher, sun started to break through clouds that had been thick and dense just minutes ago.

The parking lot is on the opposite side of the road and the visitor center, including a museum, a café and shops, is built into the hill like a cavern on the same side of the cliff.

Cliff of Moher is no doubt an imposing sight. A mighty rocky wall towering over the Atlantic Ocean, it stretches as long as 5miles (8km) between Doolin and the northwestern tip of Licannor Bay, zigzagging almost like a W, and gradually ascending from Doolin, it reaches its maximum height of 700 feet (213 meters) just north of O’Brien Tower. The cliff’s vastness and sheer drop into the splashing ocean is awe-inspiring.

A large section in the middle is open to the public, where there is a paved walkway protected by fences set some distance off the edge. On the northern end there is a cattle farm. It is separated by a wire fence but it did not stop some dare devils from trespassing. The land on the southern end falls in a private property, where there is no fencing and a narrow dirt path lays only few feet away from the edge. But many, ignoring the sign warning about trespassing, crossed the low wall set at the beginning of this path and ventured on. We, not paying close attention and simply following the other visitors, did just the same. We stopped at Great Sea Stack but some continued further and few even made it to Hag’s Head at the very end.

We viewed the cliff on land from the top of the cliff. Some cruise from the ocean. Not sure if aerial view is available or not but I bet they all yield spectacular views.

Cliff of Moher(Looking to the south from midpoint, you get the longest stretch seen from land)

Cliff of Moher(Looking to the south from midpoint, you get the longest stretch seen from land)


That little dot in the middle is actually a man, who climbed over the fence, ignored a guard who blew a whistle at him and walked very close to the edge of the cliff. He caused some fright before stopping.

O’Brien’s Tower on top of the cliff, north from midpoint, was built in 1835

O’Brien’s Tower on top of the cliff, north from midpoint, was built in 1835

Inisheer of Aran Islands and its light house could be seen in the distance

Inisheer of Aran Islands and its light house could be seen in the distance


Inisheer is one of the three Aran Islands west of Cliff of Moher and closest.
Lisconnor Bay from the cliff

Lisconnor Bay from the cliff

Hovering around the rocks were a great number of sea gulls

Hovering around the rocks were a great number of sea gulls

Hags Head sits on the southern end of the cliff

Hags Head sits on the southern end of the cliff

Looking to the northern stretch of the cliff from O’Brient Tower

Looking to the northern stretch of the cliff from O’Brient Tower

The Great Sea Stack

The Great Sea Stack

The Burren

The Burren is a distinctive, Karstic area in the northwestern corner of County Clare, bounded on the north by Galway Bay, west by Atlantic Ocean, south by villages of Doolin and Kilfenora and east by village of Carron. The villages of Bealaclugga, Ballyvaughan, Fanore, Craggagh and Lisdoonvarna are also part of the Burren. The Burren Way and Green Way are two highly recommended hiking trails. We however opted for a drive through via R478, R479, R477, R480 and R476.

Burren on the Ocean

From Cliff of Moher, we made our way to R478, R479 then R477, which is a coastal road into the Burren. Not long after we were on R477, I noticed the environ changing. To the left Atlantic Ocean glistened, to the right a vast rocky wall emerged, in between, the tar-paved road we were driving on was cutting through a sweeping area covered by hoary-grey stones in various sizes and shapes. A few minutes later, we joined the other cars parked on the side of the road.

We were in the Burren on its western edge, a wondrous world of incredible limestone formation separated from the ocean by amazing rocky costal line and backed on the east by a stony mountain.

Burren on the edge of Atlantic Ocean

Burren on the edge of Atlantic Ocean


Like other natural wonders, nature uses the same weapons to create the Burren: water, weather and time. “The last glaciations in the Burren happened 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. The ice moved into the area from the north east. This moving glacier stripped off the surface soil, and in doing so, started the development of the classic pavement. Since then, water and weathering achieved and continue to erode the rock into the dissected pattern of clints and grykes, that we see today.”
Dramatic coast line

Dramatic coast line

Darkened segment

Darkened segment

Water surged so high at this spot that it almost splashed on me

Water surged so high at this spot that it almost splashed on me

These grykes made a triangle clint

These grykes made a triangle clint

I wondered how many years it was in the making of this hole

I wondered how many years it was in the making of this hole

Water and acid are eroding and turning the colors of this piece

Water and acid are eroding and turning the colors of this piece

Big gap in a ramdom shape

Big gap in a ramdom shape

Amazing Flora on the Burren

Amazing Flora on the Burren


The Burrent is not only a geological wonder but also a botanical one. Off its thin soil, Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine flora sustains and enriches the landscape a thousand folds.
Pavement of clints and grykes stopped at the stony bound

Pavement of clints and grykes stopped at the stony bound

Fanore Beach

A few minutes back on R477, Fanore Beach emerged on the ocean side. We turned left to pay a short visit. It is a colorful sandy beach with a nice view of Galway Bay. It was a Sunday in Jun but wasn’t exactly warm enough to me for water activities but some were in the water.

Fanore Beach

Fanore Beach

Grassy sand dune

Grassy sand dune

A little girl running after her dog on the colorful beach

A little girl running after her dog on the colorful beach

This stony land on the other side of the road makes an extraordinary backdrop for the beach

This stony land on the other side of the road makes an extraordinary backdrop for the beach

Blackhead

Blackhead is the farthest north point of R477

Blackhead is the farthest north point of R477

A goat field

A goat field

There is a nice view of Galway Bay at Black Head

There is a nice view of Galway Bay at Black Head

Heart of the Burren

A short drive took us from Blackhead to the village of Ballyvaughan, where we turned south to R480 and traveled through the heart of the Burren. Limestone pavement continues through Burren’s inland. But here in this part of the country, scenery had taken a shift, alternating between extraordinary limestone pavement and lush and green fields.

When we reached Dolman at Poulnabrone (on the left side of the road) at about 6:30pm, it was clouded and gray again. Adjacent to the bleak stony land that surrounds the Ancient Dolman lies a vibrant verdant pasture where cows calmly grazing or lolling. The contrast couldn’t be more dramatic and interesting. One moment it seemed real and the next elusively surreal.

A church in Ballyvaughan

A church in Ballyvaughan

Stony fields abound

Stony fields abound

Dolman at Poulnabrone (Eastern end)

Dolman at Poulnabrone (Eastern end)


The Burren is a magical place, besides the geological and botanical wonders, it is also an important archeological site. Among the many sites, Dolman at Poulnabrone is a prehistoric megalithic tomb form 4th millennium BC.
Dolman at Poulnabrone (Western end)

Dolman at Poulnabrone (Western end)

Pasture right by the Dolman

Pasture right by the Dolman

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