All posts by admin

The Burren

The Burren

The Burren, or the Rocky Place reveals a lot in its name.  The Burren is made up of limestone, a porous young rock substance formed at the bottom of the sea. Over time due to the plates of the planets movement (Plate tectonics), this limestone has risen from the sea bed to form much of the Irish landscape. Here, however the limestone is bare, barren exposed stone, making this place quiet unique. The plateaus of limestone were exposed to glaciers, several ice ages, over the millions of years of its formation. As these glaciers melted, this melted water moved above the rock and below the ice to erode intricate patterns, many of which have geological classifications. It is these patterns in the stone that make ‘the Burren’ so unusual, often described as a moody place due to how the light reflects on the grey stone. Thus you will find a dry, arid, moonlike landscape of limestone.

Burren, Cliffs of Moher tour

Looking closer, you will find a wide variety of Burren flora, representing more than 75 per cent of the biodiversity in Ireland in just less than a per cent of the country. The Burren is home to 1,100 species of plants out of the 1,400 in Ireland. It is the only place in Europe where Mediterranean and Arctic Alpine plants grow together in perfect harmony. Rare flowers include Lady’s Tresses, Bee Orchids, Fly Orchids, Irish Orchids, Pyramidal Orchids, Lesser Butterfly Orchids, and Fragrant Orchids. This makes it a treasure chest for botanists to visit, especially come spring time. The secret of the diversity of this area comes from its glacial artic history and its temperate climate.

Flowers, The Burren

The Burren is Ireland’s most important cave area. This strange hundred square mile limestone “desert”, where only one river reaches the sea by an over ground course, has more active stream caves than any other part of Ireland. Over 35 miles of cave passages have actually been surveyed; this area is also full of large caves that can be explored with its accompanying stalactites and stalagmites.

Ailwee Cave

Keep an eye out for the feral Burren Goat that roams the hills of this area. These goats get culled frequently as they can be seen as a threat to the biodiversity of the area. There is about 1,000 of these goats roaming the upper-Burren area.

Feral goats the Burren

Other mammals living in this environment would include the Pygmy Shrew, a little ratlike mammal that is only 5 grams in weight and would fit in a matchbox. Among the seven species of bats inhabiting this part, is the lesser known Horseshoe Bat, which is endangered in an international context.

stone wall with cow The burren

As we drive through the Burren you will notice the dry stone walls that mark boundaries all the way to the tops of the hills. Dry stone walls are typical of the west of Ireland. They range in size and style and have been maintained for centuries under a variety of state and community initiatives. Some walls are said to be as old as the Neolithic; these are found in Connemara in a particular site called the Ceide Fields. While others, are from the Iron Age where clans/tribes built their forts on the top of hills, excellent views above, of the sea and the surrounding area. More commonly the stone walls of this area date from 2 distinct times; Resettlement and Famine. The resettlement of Gaelic families was common place during the 16th and 17th centuries, where families who rebelled against English settlers lost their lands on the east to them and were sent to these harsh areas of the island as a punishment.  During particular times of hardship like the Famine of 1847, poor houses were set up. These houses were extremely difficult places to survive; disease was rife, hunger, malnourishment and unhygienic conditions were the norm. The Workhouse was an extension of the Poor-house; people had to work for food. One of the key types of work was restoring and building these dry stone walls which are a symbol of our turbulent past.

To visit the Burren book our Cliffs of Moher tour today

Everything you want to know about the Cliffs of Moher in one place!

The Cliffs Of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher rise to 240 metres at the highest point and has a range of 8 km along the Atlantic Ocean. Situated on the Western seaboard of County Clare, you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as the 12 Pins in Connemara on a clear day. It is believed that the Cliffs were formed about 320 million years ago during the Upper- carboniferous period when this area was situated at the mouth of a large river. The River Delta would have flowed bringing mud and sand eventually dumping on this area and forming the rock layers we see today.

When observing the cliffs, you will notice the different strata of solid red sand stone alternated by soft conglomerate rock. The conglomerate rock consists mostly of hardened sand, silt and mud.

Rock Formation Cliffs of Moher

This geological character makes the Cliffs of Moher an ideal nesting site for birds. The sea cliffs are home to Ireland’s largest nesting colony with 20 species including 9 species of breeding seabirds and up to 30,000 breeding pairs and hence has been declared a protected area under the EU Birds Directive of 1979.

birds at the cliffs

 

In the early Springtime, you may observe the elusive Atlantic puffin (the clown of the sea) nesting on Goat Island down below. These seabirds only come to land to nest from late March to early July each year, as they live on the open ocean for the rest of their time. Looking much like a clown or more like the clumsier cousin of a penguin, these colourful birds are very well adapted for underwater fishing. Amazingly they can hold their breath for up to one minute and can catch an average of 10 fish per trip going as deep as 60 metres. Feeding  their chicks, puffin also have the ability to hold several (sometimes over a dozen) small fish at a time, crossways in their bill, rather than regurgitating swallowed fish, making for a perfect photo opportunity.

puffin feeding

What you would certainly see or probably hear first upon arrival to the Cliffs are the Guillemots and Razorbills seen on the flat sandstone levels on the bottom of An Branan Mor sea stacks.

 

If you are lucky, you might see the pair of Peregrine Falcons nesting beneath O’Brien’s Tower. These are the fastest hunting birds in the world, swooping down at a speeds reaching over 320 km/h to catch their prey. Peregrine Falcons have a nictitating membrane, or a thin, semi-transparent lid, which moves from side to side. It closes and opens keeping their eyes moist and clean- just like a pair of goggles.

Peregrine Falcon Cliffs of Moher

Ireland is home to seven crow species, but the ones you will see the least are the Chough, a very rare species otherwise known as the Celtic Crow. With its red beak and red legs, it’s easily distinguishable from other crows. You may see a pair of Choughs nesting below the sandstone edge.

Cliffs of Moher flag stones

The stones used to mark the boundaries at the viewing sites are called Liscannor flagstone. These slabs are harvested sedimentary sandstone rock layers, which hold fossils, the ancient trails of lug worms that borough their way through the softer layers, the trails of which are still seen on its surface.

As you stand at the cliff edge, far off to the left the last of the headland is known as Hags Head. The nickname the hags head dates back to old Fenian tales of Cu Chulainn, the greatest warrior of all Ireland. His legendary beauty had caught the attention of many a fair and sullen maiden on the island. Legend has it that an old hag known as the ‘Mal’ of Malbay (a nearby coastal town) tried to woo Cu Chulainn. She had great powers in the art of trickery and so was able to disguise herself as a fiery beauty. Cu Chulainn sensed her magic and attempted to escape. Just as they reached the coastline her true identity was revealed. Cu Chullain ran towards the cliffs, his height enabled him to jump along the sea stacks. Mal followed but as she did she lost her footing and was thrashed against the cliff edge, leaving her image forever immortalised on the headland which you can make out in the distance.

Hags head, Cliffs of Moher

On the same promontory headland the ruins of a watch- tower still stand. This is dated from the early 1800’s, built to keep a look-out for raiders, invaders and unwanted traders. It was built on the site of a fort from the early medieval times, the fort was known as the ‘Mahir’ meaning big fort in Gaelic. Thus over time the word became Moher and hence the modern day place name ‘Cliffs of Moher’, the cliffs of the great fort.

Should you wish to, you can visit the O’brien’s Tower, built by the O’Brien Clan, who would have been the Kings of Thomond. This is an additional charge.  

O Breins tower

To get a full appreciation for the variety of wildlife in this area, watch the semi-3D Cliffs experience at the back of the Visitors Centre. This is included in your ticket price.

The Cliffs of Moher is part of an extensive walking route and one can traverse the boundaries of the visitors centre but since there is no supervision and no solid boundaries the walk can be risky, especially with strong winds. Enjoy the Walking just be aware of the wind, the wet and mucky grounds and Be Sure, to stay on the path.

Cliffs of Moher

 

 

The Burren: The Legend of Connor O’Quin and the Swan Maiden

There are plenty of folklore tales from The Burren that have been passed down through the ages. One such tale is The Legend of Connor O’Quin and the Swan Maiden. This story takes place at Inchiquin Lake and Castle in the heart of the Burren near Corofin.

Inchiquin

The story goes that one day Connor O’Quin of Inchiquin saw a beautiful lady on the southern brink of the lake across from his castle. The woman was combing her hair and when he went around the lake to approach her she disappeared. He went back home disappointed and decided to keep an eye out for her the next day. The next day she appeared in the same place once again. Just like the previous day when he made his way around the lake to approach her she disappeared! Connor was sick of this and decided to set up camp behind some bushes near where he had seen her. He didn’t have to wait long before he saw her walk out of the lake, lower her hood and begin to brush her hair. Connor finally managed to speak to her. He proposed, they married and lived happily in his castle for 3 years.

Disappearance

One day the Chiefs of the Country decided to hold a tournament and invited Connor. His wife begged that he not invite anyone back to their home and he agreed not to. Unfortunately Connor forgot and invited the O’Brien clan back to the castle for a feast. His wife was deeply upset by this and after she served dinner she put her hood back on, ran outside and plunged into the lake never to be seen again.

Connor O’Quinn’s bad luck was not over yet though. He was playing cards with O’Brien who proposed that if he wins Connor would lose his castle. Connor foolishly agreed to this and lost the game along with his castle. O’Brien was slight generous however and allowed Connor to build a small home a little to the northwest which today lies in ruins and is known to locals as O’Quinn’s.

County Spotlight: Clare

Clare is the main destination on our Cliffs of Moher tour and has tons to offer!

County Clare is situated on Ireland’s west coast and is the main destination on our Cliffs of Moher tour. Clare is particularly well known for its rugged and varied landscape. It ranges from the rugged Atlantic coastline to rolling country hills and of course the limestone phenomenon that is The Burren. Clare is the 7th largest of Ireland’s counties in terms of size.

 Clare’s nickname is the Banner County. In a nutshell the reason Clare got this nickname is because the custom of carrying banners goes back a long time in County Clare. They were carried in battles, they were displayed at political meetings and most trade guilds had their own banners. Clare had a particular reputation for greeting politicians with Banners and so the name stuck.

Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Nowadays Clare is part of the province of Munster but back in the Early Middle Ages it was actually part of the Kingdom of Connacht until it was annexed to the Kingdom of Munster in the mid-10th Century.

County Clare has a strong history of Traditional Music. It is the home of the Kilfenora Céilí Band and the Legendary Russell brothers who helped the village of Doolin acquire its reputation as the Traditional music capital of Ireland.

Doolin

Clare’s rugged coast has made it a highlight on the Wild Atlantic Way, a tourism trail that runs along the West Coast of Ireland. The county’s most famed attraction is of course the Cliffs of Moher. Towering at 702 feet at their highest point the sight of these cliffs is guaranteed to make your jaw drop every time. Nothing will make you feel smaller than standing on top and staring out into the vast Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day you can see the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway Bay. Some also like to joke that you can nearly see the Statue of Liberty. The cliffs stretch for 8km as the crow flies and they are Ireland’s most popular natural attraction. They are Ireland at its most rugged, natural and breath-taking & provide a photo opportunity like no other.

How Doolin became the Trad Capital of Ireland

Traditional Irish Music or ‘‘Trad’’ as it’s commonly know is famed around the world for its lively sounds and joyful energy. There is no better place to find it than Doolin which is often referred to as the capital of Traditional Irish Music. So how exactly did it end up with this reputation?

Doolin

Many say it began with the Russell brothers who helped put Doolin on the musical map. Micho, Packie and Gussie Russell lived in Doolin all their lives. Their immense musical talent drew people from all over the country to listen to them play.

Micho (1915-1994) was a master of the tin whistle and also played the flute. He was well known for the inventiveness of his rhythm and the fact that he would throw in surprising stops whilst playing. A deep knowledge of songs, stories and tunes from the old days made him especially popular with archivists from far and wide who would travel to Doolin to record his tales. From the 1970s onwards he toured all over Euro and the States where he would let people know that Doolin was the place to be if they wanted to hear more music similar to his.

Packie (1920-1977) was considered by many to be the best of the brothers in terms of raw technical ability. His musical instrument of choice was the concertina and many concertina players have cited him as a huge influence. Packie was not like his brother and stayed in Doolin where he played in Gus O’Connors  Pub rather than travelling the world.

Finally Gussie (1917-2004) played the tin whistle and concert flute and was also very talented. Unfortunately not many recordings of him playing exist as he was quite shy!

Russell Brothers

Doolin remembers its 3 greatest musical ambassadors on the last weekend of February with the Russell Memorial Weekend. It has been running since 1994 and is the kick-start to the Trad season with the best musicians from around the world arriving in Doolin for sessions and workshops in all the pubs and the Russell Cultural Centre.

The main venue that these 3 brothers played in was Gus O’Connors Pub. Founded in 1832 it still maintains a hectic music schedule with music sessions kicking off around 9pm until late each evening from the end of February to the end of November and there is an early Sunday session at 6.00pm weekly all year round.

Galway

Dublin may technically be the capital of Ireland but Galway is for sure its cultural capital. It’s even been named the European Capital of Culture for 2020 which proves it’s not just me who thinks so! The city of tribes sits where the River Corrib meets the west coast. Its winding medieval streets are packed with authentic Irish pubs and on every corner you are greeted by a street performer from buskers, to artists to magicians. You may even come across the next Ed Sheeran, he busked on shop street long before he was famous.

Galway

The Latin Quarter is a beautiful pedestrianised part of the city which contains its cultural heart. It features the Galway City Museum which shows the rich heritage of Galway through a variety of exhibitions. Galway is especially famed for its nightlife and the Latin Quarter is the place to experience this. Walking through this area your ears will be filled with traditional Irish music flowing from every pub. It is also home to many of the West’s best restaurants so it is the perfect place to grab something to eat.

Galway

The promenade gives you a perfect view of Galway Bay where small finishing boats provide the perfect relaxing backdrop and you can watch salmon fisherman from the vantage point of the Salmon Weir Bridge.

In the centre of Galway city centre is Eyre Square an award winning landscaped park. Regularly filled with stalls from local food & craft producers it is the best place to sit and watch the city go by.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher didn’t receive over 1.4 million visitors last year for no good reason. Towering at 702 feet at their highest point the sight of these cliffs is guaranteed to make your jaw drop every time & knees wobble if you get too close to the edge. Nothing will make you feel smaller than standing on top and staring out into the vast Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day you can see the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway Bay, some also like to joke that you can nearly see the Statue of Liberty. The cliffs stretch for 8km as the crow flies and they are Ireland’s most popular natural attraction. They are Ireland at its most rugged, natural and breath-taking & provide a photo opportunity like no other.

                       

 

A visitors centre provides all the amenities needed to make your visit a pleasant one and it has been built into the hillside to ensure that no intrusive man-made buildings spoil the rugged atmosphere. The centre features an interactive media display covering the geology of the area, a cinema experience displaying a bird’s-eye view of the cliffs as well as a range of craft gifts from local producers in the region. Come rain or shine the cliffs are equally impressive, on clear days you can see for miles & on rainy days the echo of the waves is even louder as they smash off the cliffs. Many birds make the cliffs their home including the only mainland colony of breeding Atlantic Puffins in Ireland. In fact the cliffs are one of the only places in Europe where the population of these Puffins is increasing and not decreasing so clearly even birds aren’t immune to the Cliff’s beauty.

 

                       

 

If the views from the ground weren’t already impressive enough you can scale O’Brien’s tower to see even further. The tower was built in 1835 as an observation tower for the Victorian tourists that visited the cliffs at the time & over 150 years later it is still used for that purpose. In the 1970s the tower was restored to its former glory and now provides views as far as the mountains in Kerry on a clear day. Another alternative way to view the cliffs is from a boat cruise. This allows you to see the cliffs rising above you and see the visitors on top appear as small as ants. The cliffs sit on a walking trail that 20km and includes a stop in the traditional music capital of Ireland, Doolin. This colourful village is within easy reach of the Cliffs and provides plenty of song, craic and amazing food so be sure to check it out!

Did you know?

The Cliffs of Moher range in elevation from 120m to 214m and stretch for 8km

2014-11-07T13:50:01+00:00
The Cliffs of Moher range in elevation from 120m to 214m and stretch for 8km

The highest point is at Knockardin, near O’Brien’s Tower, which is 214m from sea level.

2014-11-07T13:57:45+00:00
The highest point is at Knockardin, near O’Brien’s Tower, which is 214m from sea level.

Testimonials

Cliffs of Moher Tour with Bud

Our tour with Bud was amazing. The ride to and from the Cliffs of Moher is really long, but he kept us entertained for a good portion of the ride by telling us stories, facts, and singing traditional Irish songs

Trip Advisor June 2017

Cliffs of Moher tour
2014-11-06T15:54:08+00:00

Trip Advisor June 2017

Our tour with Bud was amazing. The ride to and from the Cliffs of Moher is really long, but he kept us entertained for a good portion of the ride by telling us stories, facts, and singing traditional Irish songs

Cliffs of Moher Tour

Fantastic value for money! Our guide, Barry, was extremely knowledgeable and very funny - so the journey was just as great as the seeing the stunning cliffs themselves. Highly recommended!

TripAdvisor June 2017

Cliffs of Moher tour
2014-11-06T15:36:05+00:00

TripAdvisor June 2017

Fantastic value for money! Our guide, Barry, was extremely knowledgeable and very funny – so the journey was just as great as the seeing the stunning cliffs themselves. Highly recommended!