Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Kilfenora and “The Burren”

Our stay in Doolin was too short but time ran out and we had to move on toward our next to last stop in Ireland… So, as Willie Nelson’s song goes, we were “On the Road Again…”

This was definitely one of those spots along the road where you didn’t want to encounter another vehicle…especially a truck!  That big red building is the Kilfenora Hostel.  Appropriately enough it’s located in the village of Kilfenora in County Clare.  In this instance, we weren’t being led down tiny country roads by the GPS unit, it was all my doing!

Laurie took this photo of this beautiful flowering bush!  It helped offset a rainy dreary day…

Kilfenora (Irish Gaelic: Cill Fhionnurach, meaning “Church of the Fertile Hillside” or “Church of the White Brow” is one of the oldest settlements in County Clare.  According to tradition, the ecclesial presence at Kilfenora began with Saint Eachanan who founded a church here in the 6th century.  That church lasted for quite a while but it was burnt down by Murchad O’Brien in 1055.

FYI… Murchad mac Briain was the son and heir of Brian Boru, a high king of Ireland.  Apparently Murchad was a fearsome fighter who reputedly carried 2 swords into battle!

The village of Kilfenora is very small with a population of approximately 210…but it is up from a low of 100 not that many years ago.  The area around the village supports another 200 people or so. 

The Burren Display Centre in Kilfenora was opened in 1975 in a former school building.  This interpretive center displays information about the botany and wildlife of “The Burren”.  In addition, there is an audio visual theater, a craft shop and a tea room.   Website:

The Burren Display Centre is located right next to the historic Kilfenora Cathedral.  The existing structure dates to between 1189 and 1200.  The chancel was roofed with an oak ceiling until the end of the 1700s.  It is roofless today and the cathedral is in partial ruins.  The nave or central part of the cathedral, reconstructed ca. 1850, does have a roof and it’s used for worship by the Church of Ireland.

This effigy is of a bishop wearing mass vestments.  His crozier is of a unique form, with 4 knots and crook of Irish design.  This sculpted effigy probably dates back to the late 1200s or early 1300s.

The cathedral’s transept was fitted with a glass roof in 2005 in order to protect the remains of the three high crosses that have been moved there.  Tradition maintains that there were once seven of these crosses… FYI, a transept is defined as one of the two parts forming the arms of the cross shape of a church.

This is the Doorty Cross, one of the three crosses protected under the glass covered transept.  The shaft of the cross was formerly used as a tombstone on the 18th century Doorty family tomb.  The top of the cross had lain in the floor of the chancel of the church for centuries but in 1955 it was reunited with the shaft.  The Doorty Cross dates back to the 1100s…

This much simpler cross is called the ‘North’ Cross.  It has survived the centuries relatively intact.  This cross lacks the ringed head but it’s closely related to them through the distinctive abstract ringed ornamental etchings. 

This is another view of the interior of the cathedral.  As with so many historical sites in Ireland, the Kilfenora Cathedral is wide open for visitors to explore with no attendants or security that I could see…

For a complete history and a lot of detail regarding the construction of this cathedral, go to

Shortly after leaving Kilfenora we passed this large ruin.  This is Leamaneh Castle, a ruined castle on the border of the region known as the Burren in County Clare.  It consists of a tower house built ca. 1480 – 1490 by one of the last of the High Kings or Ireland and a direct descendant of Brian Boru as well as a manor house from ca. 1648.   One of this castle’s most famous residents was Maire ni Mahon (MacMahon).  She is one of the most famous women in Irish folklore, who, due to her flaming red hair, was commonly known as Maire Rua (“Red Mary)

These ruins sit on private property and are not accessible to the public.  The structure include both the tower house with its arrow slits and the four walls of the manor house… To learn more about this castle and its history, go to

The weather didn’t improve as we neared the rocky area referred to as ‘The Burren’.   

This attractive building with its splashes of red is Cassidy’s Public House and Restaurant.  The Cassidy family has owned and operated a pub and grocery business in the village of Carron since before 1830.

In 1956, they moved into this location, a former Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks that later served as an Irish Garda (police) barracks.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop because it wasn’t time for lunch yet and we had quite a way to go before we reached our final destination.  Check it out at  

…and then we were in “The Burren”.  The Burren (Irish Gaelic: Boireann, meaning “great rock”) is dominated by a glaciated karst landscape.  It covers roughly 97 square miles.  The Burren has an unusually temperate climate for western Ireland.  It also has an average of about 60 inches or rain each year.  This means that The Burren has one of the longest growing seasons in Ireland or Britain.

English parliamentarian Edmund Lodlow stated that “Burren is a country where there isn’t enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him…and yet their cattle are very fat, for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.”

We weren’t here just for the sights of The Burren.  I had it in my mind that the ladies would be interested in a perfumery.  Of course, who would expect to find a perfumery virtually in the middle of nowhere!

After traveling some true back roads, we suddenly came upon the Burren Perfumery with its greenery and attractive little buildings.  It’s really a pretty little complex… This family operation is all about nature and their environment.  About 40% of their annual electricity needs are generated from solar power.

Of course, Bill and I aren’t into perfume so we escaped to the rose covered Tea Rooms.  Despite the fact that The Burren Perfumery is at the edge of no-where, it was very busy.

How’s this for a nice selection of cakes, scones and pies!  FYI, it’s all organic too although that’s not something that Bill and me were concerned about.  The ladies eventually joined us and we indulged in a selection of coffee, tea and baked goods.  The Tea Rooms also offer homemade soups, freshly baked bread, a selection of local cheeses and salads made from organic vegetables provided by local suppliers.

I did slip into the Burren Perfumer’s Shop which is located in a separate building.  Since I get a bit nauseated from the smell of candle shops and deodorizing air conditioning products, I didn’t stay long.  Is that scent aversion a guy thing or is it just me? 

The shop was busy!  In addition to fragrances, the Burren Perfumery offers, body lotions, soaps, creams of every sort, balms, essential oils, candles and herbal teas.  The good news for those that like to shop is that you can buy all of these items on line!  Just go to  But…just getting there was half the fun!

One last look at The Burren on a rainy day… Here are some facts about it:
  •  Over 70% of Ireland’s species of flowers are found here.  Due to its unusual environment, the region supports artic, Mediterranean and alpine plants side by side.
  • 23 of the 28 types of orchids found in Ireland grow in The Burren.
  • The deep clefts in the limestone in The Barren support about 24 types of ferns. 
  • 28 of the 30 species of butterflies and moths found in Ireland can be found in The Burren.
  •  The Burren is one of the main breeding grounds in Ireland for the Pine Marten.
  •  Other animals living in The Burren include badgers, foxes and stoats.  Feral goats also roam the area.
  • All 7 species of bats in Ireland can be found in The Burren.
  • There are about 70 megalithic tombs in the Burren area.  The most numerous variety, the Neolithic/early Bronze Age wedge tomb, primarily date from between 2500 and 2000 B.C.

That’s all for now.  In my next post about our trip to Ireland, we arrive in the Village of Cong.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, March 19, 2018

Doolin Ireland and Gus O’Connor’s Pub

As evening approached in the village of Doolin, it was time for dinner and a bit of entertainment!

This is Gus O’Connor’s Pub, one of the better known or famous pubs in Doolin.  I had selected it for our evening meal and for a chance to listen to some authentic Irish music.  Our hostess at the Daly House Bed and Breakfast had applauded my choice…

The stone structure at the right is where the bar and music magic happens but the one-story white building at the left is a big dining room that is connected to the pub portion of the establishment. 

It was a week night at the end of September but Gus O’Connor’s Pub was packed!  The good news was that finding a table on the dining room side of the operation wasn’t too difficult when we arrived at a relatively early hour.

How long has Gus O’Connor’s Pub been around?  Well, the fact is that it was established way back in 1832.  At one point it also sold groceries… As they say, “The craic happens here since 1832”.  FYI…Craic is an Irish term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation.

Later…after our dinner…it was a different story.  We found one small table in a corner…then we got lucky, capturing a table near the center of the action!

…but back to the food!  Bill started out with a special, a beautiful half dozen Oysters fresh from the Atlantic Ocean…

Bonnie more than matched Bill’s oyster appetizer with this huge and luscious bowl of Doolin Mussels. (13.50E/$16.20 US) Bill snagged a few of these mussels too...

Laurie ordered this attractive entrée of Tiger Prawns in a garlic cream sauce with rice on the side. (21.95E/$26.35 US) They were a bit pricy but they were delicious!

I decided on the Beef and Guinness Stew for my dinner. (13.95E/$16, 75 US) It looked good and it was very satisfying and tasty.  That gravy was good enough to drink! 

Bill ordered lamb with mashed potatoes.  It isn’t on the current menu so I don’t know what it cost, but I do know that Bill enjoyed his dinner!  It sure looked good to me…and it had been my second choice after that Guinness stew.

Both couples followed up their dinners with a dessert…with Bonnie and Bill sharing this ice cream sundae selection...actually a trio of ice cream flavors. (4.50E/$5.40 US)

Laurie and I shared Gus O’Connor’s homemade Apple Crumble. (5.50E/$6.60 US) It was a nice way to finish our meal…

After dinner we began working our way into the bar or pub side of Gus O’Connor’s in order to gain a vantage point for the entertainment.   This amateur group was playing early in the evening…

Doolin is world famous as a center for listening to quality traditional music and Gus O’Connor’s Pub is considered by many as the center of that musical universe.   Some say that Doolin’ music culture is the equivalent of what jazz is to New Orleans…

At the request of the crowd, this older Irish gentleman stood up at one point and sang an old Irish ballad to an appreciative audience. 
We were glad Gus O’Connor’s was within easy walking distance from our bed and breakfast.  After a few pints of Smithwick’s (4.50E/$5.40 US) or a local lager (4.80E/$5.75), driving wouldn’t have been a good idea!

Another local sang and used an old time squeeze box or accordion to entertain the patrons.  Most of these ‘amateur’ musicians didn’t even put up a tip jar…they were just doing it for fun and the crowd’s appreciation.

I noticed this wall of patches.  When I looked closely, I discovered that these are police uniform patches from around the world!  From North America, I noted patches from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia Canada.  The USA was represented by hundreds of patches including New York City, San Diego County California, Lake County Montana, the Iowa Highway Patrol, Miami Beach Florida and the town of Washington Missouri.  Bill found it especially  interesting since he’s a retired police officer from Missouri…

We had great seats when the professional musicians took over the entertainment at about 9 p.m.  The music started flowing and it didn’t let up except for a short break for the group…

FYI…The Micho Russell Festival Weekend is held in Doolin each year after the last Friday in February.  Micho Russell was an Irish musician and author who was well known for his expertise in whistle performance and in playing the flute.  In addition, he was a collector of traditional music and Irish folklore. 

At one point we had 2 accordion players in the group…

As a side note, while I was waiting my turn at the bar for more beer, I found myself in a conversation with a woman from the USA who worked for one my primary security vendors when I was still running the loss prevention/asset protection operation at Montgomery Ward.  We had a chance to catch up on a lot of folks that we knew in common.  Small world!

Then the lady with the red hair was invited to join the gathering and she played the spoons… Everyone had a great time!

Other well-known Pubs or Bars in Doolin with regular performances of traditional Irish music include: Fitzpatrick’s or Fitz’s, founded in 2006 (; McDermott’s, founded in 1867 (, and; McGann’s, founded in 1976 (

We all had a great time at Gus O’Connor’s Pub.  The food and beer were great, the people were friendly and the music was a lot of fun!  To learn more about Gus O’Connor’s Pub, its history and its menu, just go to 

The next morning was overcast, windy and the skies were spitting rain.  Nevertheless, with my penchant for the water and boats, I had to drive down to Doolin’s docks to check things out…

It’s all about passenger ferry boats and the tourist trade at this little harbor.  The boat in the foreground is named “The Happy Hooker” and she belongs to Aran Doolin Ferries, Ltd.  The large boat at the left of the photo is the “Doolin Express” and she belongs to Bill O’Brien’s Doolin Ferry Company.  I was unable to identify the 3rd boat in the mist, fog and rain…

The Happy Hooker is just one of four boats operated by Aran Doolin Ferries, Ltd.  This company offers several tours in addition to service out to the Aran Island.  Website:

The “Doolin Express” is the largest passenger ferry operating out of Doolin Harbor.  She can accommodate 190 passengers and the Doolin Ferry Company claims to be Doolin’s original ferry company.  Website:   

It was a bit bleak at Doolin’s pier on this day…but I did notice that despite the weather, the ferry services were open for business.  Even the snack shack at the right of the photo was open for business!  As for ourselves, it was time to move on to our next destination…

To see many beautiful photos of Doolin and the surrounding area, go to

FYI…Doolin Ireland is the main setting for the 2007 PlayStation 3 game entitled “Folklore”.  According to the game’s storyline, the world of the dead is a realm that can only be accessed from one place in the world, the sea-side village of Doolin.

That’s it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, March 16, 2018

Doolin - County Clare and Our Bed and Breakfast

After visiting the Cliffs of Moher it was a short drive to our destination for the evening…the Village of Doolin in County Clare.

This castle overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the edge of the Doolin really caught our eye.  Doonagore Castle is a tower house with a walled enclosure that was built sometime in the 1500s.  In 1570 it was owned by Sir Donald (or Donnell) O’Brien.  Today it has been refurbished and it serves as a private residence….

In September of 1588, only 430 years before we visited Doolin, a ship from the Spanish Armada was wrecked just below the castle.  The High Sheriff of County Clare caught 170 survivors and hanged them all, either at the castle or at nearby Iron Age earthworks called Cnocan an Crochaire.  There could be a few ghosts still ‘hanging’ around the castle…

This is a view of Doolin from near the Castle.  As you can see, the Village is scattered over the countryside.  There is a harbor area, Fisher Street (village center), Fitz’s Cross with a hostel, campsite, 2 new hotels and a pub and Roadford with 2 more pubs, 4 restaurants, 2 hostels and a number of bed and breakfast operations.

This is the Daly House, our Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in Doolin.  It’s obviously not some ancient structure…but it was one of the most charming and well operated places where we stayed during our entire trip to both Scotland and Ireland! 

The gardens at Daly House were as well maintained and colorful as possible at the end of September… 

The bathrooms and guest rooms were immaculate and well equipped.

The views from the window in our room weren’t all bad either!  These ruins are the remnants of another tower castle…but unlike nearby Doonagore Castle, no one has saved this one as it has deteriorated.

…another view from our room.  Beautiful countryside accented by colorful homes! 

This is one of the breakfast dining areas in a glassed in atrium at Daly House.  Not too shabby!

This was our little dining nook, perfect for the 4 of us!  We had a nice view of the gardens…

This is one of the sitting rooms at Daly House.  Bill is in the foreground and our hostess, Susan Daly, is at the center. 

We had a nice conversation with Susan.  Laurie and Bonnie asked a lot of questions and we learned a lot about Doolin as well as our hostess and her bed and breakfast.

Time for breakfast!  This was the buffet set up with fruit, yogurt, etc.

In this photo I took a close-up of one end of the buffet just to show the tremendous attention to detail that Susan puts into everything she does!

Scones, bread, muffins, crackers, olives and a nice selection of cheeses on another side table…again all nicely presented.

For her breakfast, Bonnie selected Susan’s Special, top quality oatmeal with brown sugar, fruit and cream.

Bill selected the Feta Cheese and Tomato Omelet. 

Laurie enjoyed this artfully presented breakfast with scrambled cheese eggs, bacon and toast.

I went for something that I’d almost never find on a menu back in the USA.  I had this luscious plate of toast with Burren smoked salmon over scrambled eggs.  As with everything else at Daly House, the attention to detail and presentation for our breakfast was just outstanding…

We would highly recommend the Daly House for anyone visiting Doolin or the surrounding area!  It’s hard to beat excellence!  FYI, check out the Daly House on TripAdvisor.  With an amazing 1,353 reviews (only 6 guest rooms) 95% gave this bed and breakfast an excellent review.  Another 3% gave it a very good appraisal… That’s 98% amazing under any rating system!  Check this bed and breakfast out on their website.  It can be found at  

Back to the late afternoon of the day before we had breakfast at the Daly House Bed and Breakfast… The Daly House is located just a short walk  from the center of Doolin with it’s famous pubs…all of them featuring traditional Irish music.  

Along the way we passed another example of the stonework that continues to impress me…and this was just a shed built into the stone wall!

Then we passed this old extended stone home with attached outbuildings…

Down on the main street (R479) of Doolin, we came across another lovely looking bed and breakfast.  We preferred the super quiet location with the amazing views up the hill from the center of town.  Learn about the Parc Lodge at

…One more photo.  Laurie took this picture of cows grazing along the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Doolin.  This is the way that we envisioned the west coast of Ireland!

That’s about it for this post.  In the next one, we’ll have dinner and be well entertained at a famous local pub…and take one final look around the area.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave