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devil duck

From Aran to Ennis

We had breakfast at the B&B in Kilronan, talked to the very friendly horse next door (there are a lot of horse-drawn taxis on the island), and set off by bicycle to see the Black Fort, another stone fortification (reportedly not as large, but nearly as impressive, as Dun Aonghasa). Different guidebooks offered different opinions on how long it takes to get there, and we had a noon ferry to catch, so we weren't sure we would get there. As it turned out, our bicycling muscles were so sore from the previous day's exertions that we didn't even get to the trailhead, but came back to the village, returned our rental bikes, and bought some sweaters (to be delivered in two weeks or so) before checking out and walking to the ferry terminal.

The boat ride was considerably rockier than the trip to Innishmore the previous morning, but we got to Rossaveel without incident. It was raining. Got back in the car and drove past Galway to Dunghaoire Castle, a 16th-century tower house renovated in the 20th century and now hosting a nightly "medieval banquet" involving potato-leek soup, chicken supreme, and other dishes with no obvious connection to the middle ages; entertainment is a mix of 17th-20th-century Irish poetry and music. We passed on the banquet and drove west into the Burren.

The Burren, in northern County Clare, makes most of the bare, rocky, windswept ridges in Ireland look lush by comparison. The hilltops are almost completely grey limestone, with only the occasional vein of grass. According to the guidebooks, the resulting ecosystem is the most varied in Ireland, if not Europe, with Arctic and Mediterranean flowers growing side by side, but (between the time of day, the rain, and exhaustion) we didn't get far enough into the countryside to see this up close. The valleys are somewhat greener, largely due to human intervention -- according to a TV documentary we saw, most of the Burren was rock until people quarried it, piled it into walls and houses and cairns and whatever, and persuaded grass to grow in the few inches of soil remaining. (I had been wondering why there are SO MANY stone walls separating tiny little sheep pastures. It turns out it's not that there are that many farmers, each fiercely defensive of his flock, although that may be true at times too; they needed someplace to put all the rock, and the walls provide shelter from the wind for grass and cattle. One old-timer on the documentary described walking the land with his father and picking up any stone that had fallen from the walls: "that stone eats as much as a donkey." He also listed at least a dozen different kinds of shaped stones, each serving a different role in the complex construction of a proper stone wall.)

We drove on through Doolin and Lisdoonvarna to the famous Cliffs of Moher. It was intermittently rainy and foggy, and we weren't sure we'd be able to see any of the much-vaunted scenery, but we had enough of a break for a few minutes' worth of dramatic views before the rain and fog returned and we drove on to Ennis, our scheduled stop for the night.

Comments

It all sounds wonderful and reminds me a bit of Scotland. I assume the tooth problem was taken care of?
Yes, similar to Scotland in a number of ways (including the large proportion of sheep to people).

The tooth problem got a temporary fix in Dublin; I have an appointment to see my regular dentist tomorrow to deal with it properly.