Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Burren: The Walk Before the Hike

Visiting the Burren, Co. Clare was perhaps the most ambitious part of our trip.  Ireland has a decent public transportation system (beats the doors off this country's, not that it would take much) but now we were leaving the settled areas and heading someplace that is known for its barren, rocky solitude.  It's a national park with hikes threading throughout its 300km, so we wanted a town that would get us closest to the greatest number of options.
We settled on Corofin, then booked two nights in a nearby B&B.  The guidebooks are all clear that a car is the easiest way to get around in the west of Ireland, but this is where we first learned how much they're written with that assumption in mind.  It turned out that the 'nearby' B&B was actually in the next town over.  Our landlady warned us that the house was actually about two miles from Corofin, but Mary and I decided that was an acceptable distance to walk. 
 Of course if you're used to driving a particular road, you estimate distances a bit differently than if you had walked it.  We never did figure out how long the trip actually was, but two miles was probably low-balling it a bit, and of course  that was measuring from the edge of town.  Corofin is hardly a metropolis, but it still took us a little while to get from the bus stop to the city limits, when we could start the actual count.  

We got directions to the B&B from the local grocery, but since there was only one road, it was just a question of asking 'do we go right or left?'  It was a beautiful country road, but that also meant there were long stretches of time without any signs of any kind, and my imagination occasionally got away from me.  What if the grocer meant HER left, not OUR left?  Walking for two (we think it may have been closer to four) miles with unwieldy luggage is a whole lot less fun if it turns out to have been in ENTIRELY the wrong direction. 
Eventually we did see signs for the town of Kilnaboy.  We also saw at least three different spellings of that name on maps and signs, which is pretty typical for Anglicized versions of Irish names.  When we ran into some workmen  we asked for confirmation that we were on the right track.  In true country fashion they didn't recognize the name of the B&B itself, but fortunately Mary remembered the family name, and that did the trick.  Not too much farther down the road, one of them pulled up in his truck and offered us a lift to the place, politely refusing our offer to buy him a drink ('ah, you're all right').  

We ended up getting to know that stretch of road very well.  All the restaurants, pubs and grocery stores are in Corofin, so except for our hearty breakfasts, meals required a trip into town.  We ended up walking between Corofin and Kilnaboy five, maybe six times. Often the trip was part of a longer hike out onto the Burren proper, so my count is a little vague.  
One of nice things about walks is the way they will seem completely different from one day to the next.  Even just changing direction, or the side of the road will reveal new sights.  These photos are culled from the various times we walked this stretch of road.  Soon I'll post photos from the 'proper' hikes.


Java said...

The sense of the ancient is amazing. We don't get that much around here. Your photos are beautiful.

Patrick said...

Java, oh, wait until I really start showing the rocks. A 'sense of the ancient' is a very good way to put it. Even without all the megalithic structures one finds, the rock just is so OLD. My mom especially appreciates that.