The great May staycation.

If you follow my Instagram account (@wildatlanticshauna) you’ll know that I’ve spent the last few days staycationing in Connemara and Mayo. My friend is over from England and I wanted to show her all that Ireland has to offer. I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday. The weather was great, there weren’t too many people around and everything that we did was free! 

I’ll outline the general route in this post and then choose my favourite sites and accommodation in the following posts. We set off from Ballyvaughan and headed to Galway only stopping in Standun’s in Spiddal. On to the craft village there followed by a drive towards Maam and Maam Cross. By this stage, we needed a walk so stopped in Leenaun to appreciate Killary fjord. A quick stop in Kylemore to see the abbey which was a bit of a let down. We ended up in Letterfrack for the night and stayed in the Old Monestary Hostel, my favourite hostel. 

Friday took us up Diamond Hill and then on to Clifden to take in the sky road. We stayed in Westport that evening which is a deceptively nice town with a lot to offer. 

We planned to meet a few of our friends from Korea on Saturday so we stopped quickly in Foxford Woolen Mills before heading to Ballycastle. This was my favourite point on the trip because it was so beautiful and untouched and generally under appreciated. 

Sunday we made our way back home to Roscrea before I dropped Michelle off in Shannon and headed back to Clare. 

Here are a few pictres from the trip….

More to come in the following posts! 

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Burren National Park.

Today was perhaps the PERFECT day to get out and enjoy the sunshine in the Burren. Shamefully, I haven’t been to the National Park in a few years so I headed out today. 

To get to the National Park, you take the turn off in Kilnaboy and drive for 4km approximately until you see the entrance. In quiet times like today it was fine to take my car but in the summer it’s probably a better idea to get the shuttle bus from Corofin. 

There are a few choices of trail depending on the time you have and fitness ability. 

The scenery is amazing as are the flowers and plants. 

The trails are well signposted and today it was relatively quiet. I met just two other people out walking. 

The park is worth a visit if you’re looking to get outdoors and really explore all the Burren has to offer. 

(Feel free to drop me a line if you’re thinking of heading here and I’ll give you better direction!)

Doolin to Cliffs of Moher-coastal walk

My last attempt at the Cliffs coastal walk wasn’t particularly successful. When my friend Sarah told me she wanted an activity based reunion, I figured we’d give it another go.

I had learned my lesson and started in Doolin. We had great intentions of walking from Doolin to the cliffs and on to Liscannor, a mere 16km. After a few minutes, with both of us avid photographers, it became apparent that even 8km to the Cliffs was going to take a LONG time.

We were lucky that there were nearly any other people out walking and enjoyed the nicest walk with the most spectacular views. 

Once we got closer to the Cliffs of Moher, the crowds are massive but the best of the walk was before that so we didn’t mind.

Luckily, there is a shuttle bus in operation and for 6 euro we got a lift back to Doolin. I would LOVE to do the 8km from the Cliffs to Liscannor as the views are supposed to be astounding so hopefully I can do that next time. 

I’d recommend that you ask a local for the road to the start of the walk as it’s not brilliantly signposted. Once you’re on the path, you’re set. 

Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk

I wanted to make use of the sunshine last week so I decided to head to the Cliffs and do the coastal walk. It all started off so well.  I took the coast road from Ballyvaughan and the weather made the place look so good.

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Eventually, I made it to the Cliffs.  The cost of the car park for a student is just 4 euro.  I arrived at about midday so there weren’t too many in the car park.  The coastal walk is only 8km so I headed off with my phone, water, a few walking snacks and great intentions.   I’ve never developed such an aversion to people as I did on the coastal walk.  They are everywhere. I mean literally I couldn’t escape them.  I had to line up to take my photos as every one and their friends were taking photos also.  I thought that when I was over the “official” Cliffs of Moher part, it would all quieten down and be grand.  No such luck.  It was possibly the least enjoyable experience I’ve had in Co. Clare. i turned around after about 3km because I was getting so annoyed.  Not to worry, next time, I’ll start on the other side and end at the Cliffs.  I took some pictures that you can see below.

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Driving around the Burren…

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I had a lovely post written on my day driving around the Burren but just as I posted it, everything disappeared.  Here’s a brief description of how I spent it.  I started off in Ballyvaughan and drove in the direction of Fanore.  My plan was to just stop whenever I saw other people stopping.

Just a few kilometres out, there were a tonne of cars stopped on the side and that was how I discovered Murrooughtoohy.  This is the point that you can see Connemara, Galway Bay, Aran Islands and Black Head.  It’s very beautiful and you can walk and climb across the Limestone pavements.

Off I went again and just before Fanore a few more cars had stopped to take picture of the beautiful scenery so I did also.  If the weather had been nicer, I would have stopped at Fanore beach but it was really dull so I didn’t.  I drove on enjoying the view until I reached Doolin and there I stopped into the Irish craft shop.  It was a nice spot and you can pick up some nice Irish gifts.  Doolin was packed and the buses were everywhere so I stayed going and was almost going to stop at the Cliffs. Then I saw the amount of cars and decided against it.  I stopped at the Rock Shop instead.  I had heard the most glowing review about it last weekend so I stopped in.  To say that they have a lot of stock is an understatement.  You could potentially spend the entire day just browsing around.  I didn’t eat anything there but I do hear that the soup is the business.

Continuing on I drove through Lahinch, Ennistymon and stopped to see the high crosses in Kilfenora.  The Kilfenora timeline is there also and free of charge and while I wasn’t patient enough to read it all, it seems really interesting.  Lisdoonvarna was the last stop on my journey and I got some great shots on Corkscrew Hill before I finally returned home.

Wild Atlantic Lodge- Ballyvaughan

There’s a few things I’ve noticed since I moved back down to the Burren. One is that everything starts with “Wild Atlantic……”Wild Atlantic Way, Wild Atlantic Walking tours, Wild Atlantic tours and the list goes on and on  and most recently it’s been the Wild Atlantic Lodge in Ballyvaughan.  Back in my day it was called Logues. What was wrong with Logues? Nothing, it just didn’t have the ring to it that Wild Atlantic Lodge has, or as someone pointed out WAL.

Now that that rant is over, I did decide to dine there the other night when doing an interview for my research.  As it turns out, they got a lovely new dining room and when I say lovely, I mean it’s lovely.  Totally different to the bar side of the venue but super new and it still has that clean new look about it.  A big shout out here to Jamie and the staff who are legends.

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This picture does the food no justice.  It was actually delicious.  

The menu has LOADS of choice but I chose the lasagne since I hadn’t had it in so long. It didn’t come like lasagne normally does, it came out looking better, like someone had put a lot of time and effort into making it from scratch.  I scraped the plate and then started in to the salad that came with it. Deceptively delicious is what it was.  We tried to figure out the dressing but couldn’t, my best guess was some kind or orange dressing but whatever it was, it was brilliant.  I skipped dessert in favour of tea and the damage for 2 main meals, a drink and the tea was only about 30 euro so pretty good.

It is a popular place so my advice is to go there early if you want to eat.  I’ll be like a bad smell there during the summer turning up whenever I don’t feel like cooking at home!

Michael Cusack Centre- a must for GAA fans

I visited the Michael Cusack centre by complete accident. I was actually on my way to the Burren Centre in Kilfenora when I saw the sign and figured it was closer than Kilfenora.  My uncle had been going on about how great the centre was a few weeks ago so I figured I’d go down and see it.

The centre is tucked away down a little road between Ballyvaughan and Kilfenora.  Thankfully it’s well signposted.  The only distinguishing feature from the road are the flags flying outside.  For a place that’s in the middle of nowhere, it has a beautiful centre. The building is looks very new and blends into the surroundings.  A short walk down the path is a thatched cottage, home of Michael Cusack.

Entry for a student was about 4 euro so a trip here won’t break the bank.  The man at reception was chatty and friendly and explained the whole thing to me.  I was happy to walk around the education room and read the displays which are in English and Irish, bonus points for that.  I usually get really bored walking from one display to another but these were super interesting.  They take you through his early life, education, early career, motivation behind founding the GAA, trouble when he did found it and his later life.  I was slightly traumatized when I realised how terribly his life ended.

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Displays of the life and times of Michael Cusack.

Just a few minutes after I had started reading, another worker, Seamus, came in and we started to chat about the impact that Michael Cusack had on modern Ireland.  The fact that GAA clubs are not exclusively located in Ireland are a testimony to the legacy that he left behind.  Seamus  was so enthusiastic about the topic and knew loads of little facts and points on the life of Michael Cusack.

The walk from the indoor display to the cottage is short but pretty.  A row of trees line the path down and it was explained that they were planted for the anniversary a few years ago.

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The Tipperary Tree .

And then the most beautiful little cottage appeared.  This cottage houses a three part audio visual on the early life, education and finally the meeting in Hayes Hotel in Thurles.  The house is decorated with appropriate pieces of furniture and the videos run in sequence while you move from one room to another.

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The cottage that Michael Cusack grew up in.

 

I didn’t expect to enjoy this attraction because I’m not all that interested in GAA but when I got there, I found myself becoming enthralled in the life of the man who founded the GAA.  Everything is so well presented that it’s hard for me to fault anything about my experience there.  Big shout out to the staff that were there on the day.  They seemed to have all the time in the world to speak with me and we had a great conversation about anything and everything.  Would I go back? Absolutely. And I think that every GAA team should consider going to this to see and appreciate the man from Carron.  You cam find out more by logging on to their website http://michaelcusack.ie/

My visit to Caherconnell Stone Fort

I’ve worked near Caherconnell for a while but shamefully I’ve never actually visited. I had heard that there were sheepdog demonstrations at Caherconnell so I decided that today was the day that I would go and see what they were all about.  Obviously, they don’t just do them on demand so you have to check the website for the times. You can access that here

I arrived in plenty of time so first was the visit out to the fort.  A joint student ticket costs about 8.20 so good value for what you get.  Prices are all on their website.  The man at the reception desk was really informative, explaining the self guided tour and going through the booklet you receive.  First, there is a 20 minute video that explains about the Burren, the forts in the area and the significance of Caherconnell as well as an animation of how life might have been like in the fort.

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Through the stones of the wall around the fort. 

From there you continue to the fort and each stop is marked with an explanation in the booklet.  Because it’s a self guided tour, it is as entertaining and interesting as you make it yourself. I thought it was fascinating and it seems like there are archaeological digs continuing there so I look forward to hearing about any findings.

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Some of the flowers around the fort.

I headed back inside for a bite to eat before the sheepdog demonstrations.  The menu was so good, I felt really pressurized to make the right choice, so many delicious dishes, so little time. In the end, I went for a toasted wrap.  It was a little on the untoasted side but the cafe is so cute and the staff are all pottering around doing little jobs that I didn’t really care that it was a little cold.

Eventually, the sheepdog demonstration happened. I really only visited for the sheepdogs and they did not disappoint! First, the farmer, John, introduced the dogs and the job they do and it was so lovely to see how well he knew their personalities.  He was so knowledgeable about the subject that it was a pleasure to hear him speak.

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The farmer with a pup that they are training.  

Then the dogs went out and he showed us how they work by voice and by whistle.  Those dogs have mad skills, super handy with the sheep and mad for action.

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The dogs in action. 

He worked the dogs several times before getting them to work together and separate the herd. Finally, we learned a bit about the type of sheep used in the Burren and the reasons for the different colours on them and so on. The demonstration took about 40 minutes or so.

I cannot recommend this place enough. I must have spent well over 2 hours here between exploring the fort, eating and checking out the sheepdog demo.  The staff are my kind of staff, well presented, working away at different jobs, polite and informative.  The attraction is so simple but effective.  If you want to find out more, including where they are located, you can check out their website here.

My trip to Burren Perfumery

It has been about 7 years since I went to Burren Perfumery so I headed out that direction on Friday.  I must say that I don’t remember it being as remote as it is. I was driving along the road and never have I been so grateful to see another car behind me.  It is literally tucked away in the middle of nowhere outside the village of Carron.  The perfumery is very well signposted so just stay going and you’ll find it.

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The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how peaceful it is.  It is so calm and quiet and no one seems to be in any rush. They immediately got 5 stars for the cleanliness of the area.  There is not one piece of litter anywhere and the bathrooms are beautiful.  I headed into the main building and there is a great video on the plants in the Burren and the materials they use in their products.  The staff were all really friendly and the shop is so well presented that you do want to buy something. Every product comes with a tester and an explanation that is quite thorough and the staff seem to want to help you out.

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When I was finished there, I headed out to the herb garden and again it was so well presented.

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People were walking around, discussing the plants and taking their time. There is also a workshop of some sort and a tea room.  The tea rooms seemed to be quite popular with everyone choosing to enjoy their refreshments outside in the sunshine.

I cannot recommend the perfumery enough.  It makes a great trip for an hour or two if you’re in the area. It does all the small things right and I’ll definitely be back there when I run out of moisturizer. You can find out more about them by checking out their website here.

 

 

 

 

Dunguaire Castle & Kinvara Farmers market

It was my first day off since I moved down to Kinvara so I thought I’d stay local on my first adventure. First stop was Dunguaire Castle, just outside Kinvara.  They have a car park and there always seems to be people around the castle so I expected something amazing.

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I didn’t go into the castle because the door that led inside was firmly closed and no one else was venturing in either. So instead, I walked the short path around the castle.  And there it was, the deciding factor, litter. I HATE litter in tourist attractions. It spells laziness and there were so many cigarette butts, coffee cups, pieces of paper and so on littering the path.  It doesn’t kill anyone to do a litter pick once a day and keep the place clean.  After that there wasn’t much else to do there so I just strolled down to the farmers market.

The farmers market is like a farmers festival in Kinvara! It takes place on Fridays from 10am and it’s the happiest market I’ve ever been to.

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There were singers and a small number of stalls but the market had everything from cheese to chutney to hand cream.  And the atmosphere was so relaxed, people were just sitting down, chillaxing.  I definitely would recommend a visit to Kinvara on a Friday to catch the market but Dunguaire castle, while it makes a nice photo is simply not worth the visit.

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