A perfect weekend in June, 18-20C and sunny, may have clouded my judgment, but I rate this road trip to the Burren as “worth the journey”.
The journey started in Oranmore and generally proceeded towards Doolin with a detour to see Aillwee Caves (yellow hill caves) and the Poulnaborne Dolmen (hole of the quern stones). The mid-way point was at a B&B in Doolin. The way home started with a visit to the Cliffs of Moher followed by an exploration of the backroads of the Burren and a visit to Caherconnell Stone Fort (yes it is only 1 km away from the Poulnaborne Dolmen).
Here is the map:
View Road Trip #3 - Burren Region in a larger map
We started out about mid-day from Oranmore to the Aillwee Caves, a good example of the caves of the Burren. The tour was about ½ hour and is not too bad for those who can control their claustrophobia. I’ve experienced better tourist cave visits, but this was just the right distance from Oranmore and had a store selling Burren Gold at the end of the tour…a good excuse for a picnic of great cheese and crackers. The same location also has a birds-of-prey exhibit that we did not see, but I’ve heard is highly rated.
Flow Stone in Aillwee Cave
We then headed to the Poulnaborne Dolmen that is a great example of an almost intact portal tomb from around the Neolithic period. These tombs apparently held multiple bodies and were the center of the ceremonial life for that period and later. Check out wikipedia for more info.
The trip to Doolin and to our Bed & Breakfast was another 45 minutes. We had great accommodations along the Aillwee river, close to our favorite restaurant in Ireland, about 2 minutes from several pubs and about a 10 minute walk from the pub famous for it’s Trad music, Gus O’Connor’s Pub in downtown Doolin.
We stayed at O’Connors B&B, a very clean, comfortable and updated B&B along the Aillwee River. At breakfast, my scrambled eggs with smoked salmon were great, and Carol’s traditional Irish breakfast….was a traditional Irish breakfast. We had fresh fruit and the coffee was good. The view out the back was a green field, and at the end of the building was the river. The back featured a very comfortable patio where one could enjoy a beer or a Bulmer’s either brought from home, or bought at the “off license” down the street. I would rate this B&B a 4 out of 5.
Cullinan’s Restaurant and Guest House has special meaning to us. We ate at this restaurant twelve years ago almost to the day, on our first trip to Ireland and it has many memories for us. For this dinner, Carol had the house salad and I had a crab salad … excellent (or brilliant if you want to sound more Irish). I had the duck entrée. It was definitely Brilliant. It was cooked medium (as the waitress warned) … just the way I like it. If you like yours “cooked”, then be sure to order it medium-well (or well). Carol had the fillet of sole with a nice sauce. The sides were fresh and great: potatoes au gratin, broccoli, boiled potatoes. We had a bottle of very good Prosecco to accompany the dinner. For dessert we split a rhubarb crumble topped with vanilla ice cream. I don’t usually order beef in a “seafood” restaurant, and on top of that, I don’t usually order beef in Irish restaurants, but after I saw some of the steaks that came out of the kitchen, I might be tempted to order a steak when we return. The total bill was just under € 110 for two so I would rate this €€€€ (out of 5) and ✔✔✔✔✔ (out of 5) for the food and service.
Dinner - Brilliant!
The music in Ireland can be quite varied. Everything from Euro pop, to country music (think Conway Twitty or Eddie Albert), to Trad (or traditional) music. Trad music can also be quite varied and varies from Irish folk music (similar to US/Canadian folk music) to Irish reel and many variations in between. The Irish reels are quite intricate and quite alike unless one is paying attention … something I tend not to do in a pub. I more enjoy the Trad sessions with vocals. The Saturday night that we visited Gus O’Connors Pub, the Trad music was mostly Irish reels. We enjoyed the music, but we much more enjoyed the Craic with the other couples sitting near us at the bar.
Early Session Performers and Singers
Late Session Musicians
On the way home, we visited the Cliffs of Moher and visitor center. The entry fee is €6 each. The cliffs are definitely “worth the trip”, you have not visited the “west of Ireland”, if you have not visited the Cliffs of Moher. The visitor center is relatively new and has some displays and a coffee shop/tea room.
The Cliffs of Moher
On the day we visited the cliffs, the weather was beautiful, slight breeze, sun, 60+ degrees F … the harpists were playing near the cliff … the birds were tweeting … just relax and soak up the view… take some time to enjoy the scenery and the scene at the cliffs.
The view from the visitor center coffee shop is excellent but also a little disjointed. A nice cup of coffee, a great view, and … and the piped in music with “a week in the brown LA haze…” playing in the background.
Caherconnell Fort was our last stop on the way back to Ornamore. This is not a fort in a the traditional sense of the word, but a walled extended family farming complex. This was the predominant farm building structure of the 5th and 10th centuries and was built with drystone construction (stones with no mortar). The fort tour was worth a detour and cost € 6 each.
Caherconnell Fort - Drystone Construction
If visiting the Burren, save a few Euro by buying a Burren 4 ticket. Pick up a Burren 4 ticket pamphlet ahead of time, probably at a nearby B&B or visitor center, and bring it with you and present it at the 1st visitor location. The Burren 4 ticket costs €18 each and can save you €17 at the four included locations. For the eighteen euro, one gets into Aillwee Caves, The Burren Centre (we did not visit), Caherconnell Fort, and the Cliffs of Moher visitor center (also parking at the Cliffs of Moher).
Scenic View of the Burren
The trip to the Burren was another great weekend and another glimpse at the varied geography and culture of Ireland ... and well worth the trip.
See You in the Pub!
Jet Lag Jack