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The Burren
Treasures of Ireland:
The Burren
(Dispatch #14)

Story and photos by Tom Weber


ith the majestic Cliffs of Moher now in our man Eugene's rear-view mirror and more of the Emerald Isle's Wild Atlantic Way to explore, the intrepid "band of merry media," 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample its Treasures of Ireland journey, double-check their marital status as we pass through Lisdoonvarna, a small spa town in Co. Clare.

Big Mike

"Every year in September Lisdoonvarna comes alive," Big Mike, our tour director/concierge/ storyteller, explains, "when it hosts one of the largest matchmaking festivals in Europe." He adds, "Upwards of 60,000 romantic singles are in hot pursuit of each other to find Mr. or Ms. Right with the assistance of Willie Daly, Lisdoon's third-generation matchmaker."

Turns out, weddings are not performed on the spot as the female party of these couplings has up to 364 days to refuse the "merchandise" before the arrangement is legally binding and vows are exchanged. Talk about a prenup!

the road down Corkscrew Hill

Quicker than you can say, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," Eugene, aka The Quiet Man, shifts the Insight motor coach into low gear and, tightly buckled into our business class-legroom seats, we negotiate a dizzying descent down Corkscrew Hill – a section of the N67 that's sometimes used for sanctioned car rallies and cycling races – and into more of Mother Nature's Irish handiwork: The Burren.

the Burren

Meaning "stoney place" in Gaelic, the Burren is like no other on the Emerald Isle. There are no bogs and very few natural pastures. Instead, there are huge slabs of limestone called "clints" with vertical fissures in them called "grikes."

During the spring and summer, the Burren gets a dash of color as wild flowers and grasses break free from their wintery confinement between a [limestone] rock and a hard place.

a massive dolmen at The Burren

Bleak though the place may appear, man has settled here since the Stone Age. Evidence of his existence is found in the numerous massive dolmens, wedge tombs and "cahers," the stone, fort-like farming homesteads from long, long ago.

Burren landscape near Black Head

On a wet and windy day the Burren is remarkably similar to a moonscape, especially down here along the coast near Black Head where we gather around Big Mike for a primer on the "stones to take you home" that dot this monochromatic landscape.

more views of landscape near Black Head

"According to ancient Celtic tradition," Mike begins, "warriors would carry with them a stone from their birthplace and place it on the ground prior to going into battle." He continues, "If they perished, the stone would allow their soul to return to its birthplace." Big Mike, ever the storyteller, concludes, "The stacking of small stones symbolizes a gateway for the soul to travel to the afterlife, transported on the backs of swans."

Monk's Seafood Pub & Restaurant at Ballyvaughan

In honor of those fearless Celtic warriors, and to some degree our thirst and hunger, we come to a full stop in Ballyvaughan, a tiny, picturesque harbor village on the south shores of Galway Bay at the northwest corner of the Burren, and head inside to the welcomed warmth of Monk's Seafood Pub & Restaurant.

oysters, chowder and Irish coffee at Monk's

Owned and operated by the Gill family, Monk's is "holier than thou" when it comes to preparing fresh fish and oysters straight out of the cold, clear waters of the bay, along with its superb homemade chowder and one of the absolute best Irish coffees to ever grace the planet. Don't believe me? Then you be the judge and have a virtual nibble and sip of some of our lunch fare.

Insight Vacations brochure

For complete information on Insight's 100+ premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, including the Treasures of Ireland itinerary, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Galway Bay

Bing Crosby crooned about her bay and last year Travel + Leisure proclaimed her the "Friendliest City in the World." And, as soon as Insight settles the bill, we'll wind our way around more of Galway Bay and pay a visit to Galway City.

Related Articles:
The Cliffs of Moher; Remembering the Great Famine; Along the Banks of the River Shannon; The Dingle Peninsula; Grazing on The 19th Green; The Ring of Kerry

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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