Day Thirteen – The Burren
Martina, the B and B proprietor is pleasant, but not very talkative. Hospitality seems to be more necessity than passion. However, the coffee was great and the full Irish breakfast was good.
The objective today is The Burren. It is a remarkable area that is completely covered with rock. It is maybe a ten mile by ten mile area. We
decided to take another walking tour. A young man named John Connelly conducts expensive but highly recommended tours of the mountain side that has been in his family for 250 years. John has the infectious personality and sense of humor for which the Irish are famous. Ignore the price and take the tour.
In a casual, conversational style, John tours you up the mountainside at a fairly good pace. He explains that the stone fences that run straight over the mountain are ” famine walls”. The English gentry had the poor Irish build these walls to keep them occupied and provided a penny a day or a bit of food. John thinks it was to prevent them from developing infrastructure and organization to resist the landlords.
We had read that The Burren has a wealth flora and fauna, but looking up at the rocks it is hard to imagine until you walk there. It has so much grass growing between the rocks that they put the cattle on the mountain tops in the winter after letting the grass grow all summer. Remember, it almost never gets below freezing.
There is also a wealth of archeology on the mountain side. Watch towers of Celtic chieftans, burial rock piles, holy wells and more. John is a gracious host as well as a tour guide. He brings an Irish invention called a Kelly Kettle and quickly boils water with a fire under the kettle and serves coffee and tea on the mountain side !! It was an enjoyable 2 1/2 hour tour. In chatting with John, I was shocked to learn that he holds down a 40 hour job on the afternoon shift in Galway plus does one long plus one or two short tours a day, every day at least in the summer months. Kind of a bummer. Oh yeah, and he and his father still manage 50 cows that they breed for beef. They receive subsidies from the European Union to keep the small farms alive.
Back in Doolin, Aaron the vegetarian rebelled against another night of pub food and we stopped a tiny Italian restaurant right next to the pub. He and I both got Aubergine Parmagiana after Linda informed us that Aubergines were eggplant. It was actually very good, but did not come with any pasta. This place also took casual European service to a new level. A couple times, I could swear the owner/waiter slipped next door for a Guiness. After we finally coaxed the check out of him, we left money on the table and walked out. If not we might still be there.
We made up for no pasta that by getting dessert at the pub. We are back at McGanns pub for a second night. The atmosphere was good. We stayed later tonight and found out things to pick up later. There was a little five year old English girl visiting with her Mom. This little girl was learning Irish dance and loved to be center of attention. Soon a couple of young adults were dancing “River Dance” style. Apparently the guy was somewhat famous in Ireland. Lots of fun, famous or not.