One of the most lauded areas of Ireland’s west coast, The Burren is one of the country’s national parks and three quarters of Ireland’s species of flowers are found here. This ancient landscape was formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks and it has underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.
But it’s historical significance is even more impressive than it’s archeological. Many of Ireland’s ancient civilizations called this region home. There are more than 90 megalithic tombs in the area, portal dolmens, a Celtic high cross, and a number of ring forts.
So this was on our list of must-see’s while in County Clare.
Because my Achilles heel is car sickness when I’m on super winding roads (read: roads you find in Europe), my trusting husband let me drive. I never had a problem with this until I moved to Italy where no road is a straight one and they’re usually clogged with vehicles that haven’t met their admission standards in three decades:
Once I got into the drivers seat, my nausea subsided – despite getting honked at within the first 30 seconds when I swung too wide and ended up going into the oncoming lane. So weird driving on the left side! (#sharetheroad).
We came across an 18th century manor that now houses a hotel and restaurant (Gregan’s Castle Hotel). It was built along the hillside and had stunning views of the landscape and North Atlantic. For all you L.O.T.R. nerds out there (who I realize can go straight off the acronym), J.R.R. Tolkien stayed there when he was writing the series and the influence of which allegedly came out in his writing.
C.S. Lewis also stayed in the hotel but (full disclosure) we were just looking for a place to use the bathroom. As you can imagine, it was a gorgeous lobby and we were very tempted to have tea by the 200-year-old fire place. However, there was much to see and the helpful young woman at the reception suggested we drive along the coastal road then stop in at the in a Wild Honey Inn for dinner. The drive was beautiful.
On our left was the rugged Burren landscape and to our right was the opposing North Atlantic and the Aran Islands. These three barrier islands are built out in succession from the mainland and the only way to get to them is by helicopter or a ferry, which departs from the town of Doolin. These are the home of the famous Aran sweaters, which are hand woven from wool. They initially were made on those islands, but the craft has hopped over to the mainland.
Dinner at the Inn was fabulous. We sat by the fire and enjoyed a red deer pot pie and a soufflé with goat cheese, arugula, wild mushrooms, and a delicate drops of beetroot puree dotting the rim of the white plate. For dessert, we had a pot of tea and sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce and clotted cream. That was phenomenal; I think salted caramel is my new favorite flavor.
The last leg of the drive home was like something out of Sleepy Hallow. The winding roads were just barely wide enough for one car, let alone two. I would have given anything for a tape measure to capture what we’re talking about but just imagine a bike path…with either stone walls or hedgerows on each side. Not exactly room to skootch over when a car comes. With no streetlamps, the only way to tell if we were in the center of the road was the strip of green grass busting through the asphalt in the center of the lane.
I kept waiting for Ichabod Crane to come riding up. If only there were cattails blowing in the wind…