The Biggest Rock Garden in Europe

Trip Start Jul 16, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Flag of Ireland  , County Clare,
Monday, July 25, 2011

We got up at 7:45 and had breakfast. We both had French toast.  After breakfast we headed to The Burren National Park.  We drove to Kilnaboy and made a right on 1112 which took us into the National Park at Mullach Moor.  We stopped at a roadside exhibit to learn more about the hikes and chose the blue trail a 5.5 k hike to the top of the highest mountain, about 6oo meters high.  We turned on Green Road and parked along the road where all the hikes started.  The first part of the hike was on relatively level  limestone pavement dotted with little patches of green and the most awesome array of wildflowers I have ever seen.  I took as many pictures of flowers as I did of the scenery.  The pavement took us to a Turlough, a small lake.  Erin saw a frog that jumped away before I got a glimpse.  We could see our destination from the very beginning.  As we crossed the barren-looking landscape, we marveled at the variety of the flowers, fossils and critters we saw. 

When we passed through a stone fence the terrain got rockier and started to slope upwards.  The going got a lot slower and I was grateful to have my hiking poles to aid in balance and pushing myself up the terrain.  There were places that would have been hard to know where the trail went except that there were standing stones and glacial erratic with trail markers on them.  When we got up to the first bench we could see the way ahead down into a little valley and then steeply up the next bench of the mountain.  There were places where I had to fore go  the poles and pull myself up by my hands.  Erin would hold the poles and advise me where to place my feet while I climbed.  Then she would hand me my poles and follow.  It took us over two hours to get to the top not because of the climb but because the views were so spectacular and the flowers so abundant.  When we got to the cairn of rocks at the top we sat on the lee side away from the wind and had our lunch, trail mix and biscuits and water of course.  The views were 360 degrees of breathtaking barren beauty.  We both loved the Burren.

On the way down we dropped down quickly, went around the back of the mountain and had a relatively easy time.  The view of the rounded stacked-pancake mountain to our east was wonderful.  We saw a Great Tit, a pretty bird, in one of the few trees on the back side of the mountain.  We saw colorful caterpillars on ragwort flowers.  It was much faster on the way back as we had taken most of the photos we wanted on the way out there.  By the time we reached the car both of us had seen enough of rocks and our feet were screaming for a break.  It was a relief to get back into the car and drive. 

We headed north for Kinvarra and Dunguaire (done-goo-rah) Castle where we attended a medieval banquet.  On the way we had to pull over for a herd of cows coming down the road.  There must have been about fifty of them with the farmer at the back herding them.  We should have guessed from all the dry cow pies on the road.  When we arrived three chickens greeted us in the parking lot, well-trained to beg for food.  We walked to the castle and took pictures as we walked around it.  Out on the bay beside the castle we saw swans and other birds; herons, gulls and cormorants.  At 5:15 we were admitted to the castle for the banquet.  When we walked in to the gathering space, they gave us mead, honeyed wine, to drink.  We were greeted by a butler and a maid who served the wine.  They called us 'my lady' and the men were called ‘my lord.’  A harpist in medieval costume as well, was playing the harp.  When we first came in I didn’t see her and I thought it was piped in music.  The butler and the maid made speeches to acquaint us with the protocol for the evening and give us some of the history of the caste.  When the banquet was prepared we went up to the spiral stair case to the banquet hall which had a head table where the Lord and Lady sat.  A couple had actually paid more to be the Lord and Lady for the night.  The room was decorated with heraldic shields and a stage.  We ate a four course meal of salad, potato leek soup pureed and drunk from the bowl as there were no spoon back then, chicken with mushroom sauce, roast potatoes, carrots and green beans, and for dessert apple pie with whipped cream.  There were pitchers of red and white wine, water and juice.  Before and in between each course we were entertained by the butler and the maid who sang Irish folk songs, told stories, and recited poetry by Irish poets like Yeats.  While we ate they became our waiter and waitress doing double duty.  It was a very enjoyable evening.  I drove back to Doolin as I had had less to drink than Erin.  The drunk driving law here is strict.  If you’ve had two beers, you are considered legally drunk.

When we got back it was time to go out for drinks and music.  We went to McGann’s and there was a guitarist, banjo player and fiddler who also sang.  They were okay but not great.  So we went to McDermot’s and the band there was outstanding.  There was a pipe player, a banjo and a guitar.  The place was packed and our tired feet soon got tired of standing.  But we lucked out and got a seat right up front near the band.  A woman who was sitting at the next table got up and did Irish dancing to their music and she was really good.  After the first break, two more musicians joined them, another pipe and the Bohdrahn (drum).  They really sounded great and I bought their CD, Foolin’ in Doolin.

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Bridget on

The photos are fabulous. You sound as if you are having a great time enjoying the scenery, wildlife, music and dancing.

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