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: http://www.theburrencentre.ie/.
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…
To learn more about the Doorty Cross, just go to http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/archaeology/kilfenora_stone_crosses/doorty_cross.htm.
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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilfenora_Cathedral.
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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leamaneh_Castle.
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 http://www.cassidyspub.com/index.htm.
…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 https://burrenperfumery.com/. 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