The Beautiful Barren Burren
What in the world is the Burren? I’d read an article about it on my flight, but it looked pretty rugged and stark so I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Turns out it’s a magical place (a description I use a lot in Ireland). The Burren is a region in County Clare, and means “great rock.” It covers about 250 square kilometers, and the criss-crossing cracks in the limestone are called “grikes.”
I headed first to the nearby seaside town of Doolin. The sun was shining, an unusual state of the sky, which made a trip to the shore even more enticing. Doolan is an adorable little town with the usual brightly colored shops and pubs. I popped into O’Conner’s for lunch and ordered their seafood chowder, rich and creamy, served with brown bread and butter, and poked around in a few of the shops (there are only a half a dozen). My favorite, of course, was the tiny used bookstore.
Then I headed down to the pier, for what I thought was a 10 minute visit for a photo of the ferries, until I discovered a whole other world – strips of limestone rock, pocked with holes holding puddles and daisies. These long striations go on for miles and miles. You can climb on them and though rugged, with hiking boots they weren’t hard to navigate.
Past the stone fence, I climbed on rocks studded with white and yellow daisies, along a deep ultramarine sea, under a cerulean sky filled with billowing white clouds. I was entranced. I hiked a bit, plunked down, and then didn’t move for an hour, watching the sea splash against the rocks in a cut-out in the cliffs, and contemplated life.
A man walked by, whistling, which reminded me of my grandfather who used to whistle. It was a happy sound and I looked up as he passed. He peeled off his clothes down to a speedo and donned a bathing cap. Was he really going to swim in those frigid roiling waters? He did. “Likely a bit cold,” another man commented passing by. I agreed, as I sat bundled up in my fleece and rain jacket.
After climbing over big boulders, I ended up on a ledge, high above the water, which would normally make my knees wobble, but for some reason I felt okay, maybe because there was sun and no wind, or because the rocks were rough and flat, so I felt fairly stable in my boots. The swimmer appeared, far below, out in the water, taking huge strokes as he navigated without apparent effort through the sea.
Big gray clouds moved in, motivating me to get up and climb my way back to the parking lot, past signs warning of things not to do, and I reached my car just as the first drops hit.
Taking the scenic route along the shore, I saw lots more of the starkly beautiful Burren. Rain and sun took turns, and I stopped for another walk, not quite sure why walking on rocks was so much fun, almost kind of spiritual. The road wound along the coast, and I stopped to pet some ponies in a perfect pasture with a million dollar view, and fed one my apple.
The area is known for it’s music, so after hours of fresh air and exercise, I spent a bit of the evening back in Doolin, listening to the weaving of accordion, flute and fiddle, sipping an Irish beer, a fitting end to a day on the barren Burren.