We accidentally found Dysert O’Dea (pronounced O’Day) as we left the Burren, in county Clare. Dysert O’Dea was in the guidebook as having this wonderful doorway. But it was at the end of the day and Oct. so as we drove up to this rather small castle, we knew it was closed. There was a guy sitting in a Hummer like truck parked at the front of the castle, built in 1480. He was nice enough to move out of the way so we could take pictures.
Then he told us where the high cross and church were that we might very well have missed if we’d driven out. We drove to a cattle gate and pulled to the side of the road. This was a real farm road so in some ways it was much bigger than the hedge and stone wall encroached main roads.
The castle was newer than the church which was newer than St. Tola’s high cross and the ruins of the tower, which were from the 12th century. The cross holds an carving of Christ and of a bishop (St. Tola) who founded the monastery centuries before, I believe.The doorway was in good shape and very cool with all the faces. Each one was different and some human, others animals. There was a whimsical simplicity to it, and an individuality that made me think some of those faces represent particular people of the time.
I’m not sure if we were in the Burren anymore or just out of it but there was such a distortion of time for us looking at the maps. A map of all of BC and a map of Ireland are the same size on paper. But a one-inch distance on a BC map could be 2 hours of driving, whereas on the Irish map it’s probably 15 minutes.
Which means we managed to go from Carrowmore in the rainy morning, to Dunguaire, Kinvara, Ailwee Caves, Poulnabrone, Burren, Carran Church, Dysert O’Dea castle and church all in one day. We were getting into the very tail of the day. We rarely stopped for lunch. After Dysert O’Dea we drove to the town of Ennis and found a place for the evening.
After Carrowmore, on Wednesday Oct. 3, we headed toward the Burren. It was raining in Carrowmore but the weather was wonderfully clear and fairly warm once we hit the west coast. Here is where the maps screwed us up quite a bit. Dunguaire was shown as being on the other side of Kinvara, a small little fishing village. But instead it was right at the edge of the village. Nothing was really placed correctly so we had to ask as usual. Outside of Dunquaire castle was a cute little bird just singing his head off. It really set the joyful atmosphere of the place.
Dunguaire castle was closed, as of the day before, alas, but the water was beautiful, a deep azure and choppy. I would definitely go back to actually see Kinvara the next time around as we whizzed through it. It took meandering along very curvy roads and a few wrong turns to find the Ailwee Caves. These were carved by underground rivers millions of years ago. European brown bears were thought to be extinct in Ireland for the last 1200 years but they found bones in a hibernation spot that date back only 1000 years. Still it’s sad to think how many large species once populated Ireland and were wiped out in the past 5000 years.
The caves were quite large and there were deposits forming stalagmites and stalactites. White fossils graced the brown and black stone. But they really rushed you through straight out of and back into the gift store of course. There wasn’t really time even to take a proper picture and for the price they charged (not an OPW site) they could have given a few more minutes.
We drove through the Burren (or Burren), which looks like a volcanoe blorped out mud millions of years ago and then it solidified. There’s a picture in here of this and you can see the top of the hill is grey, just like the mud. Because of the stone the Burren was written about through the ages as being inhospitable with no land to grow on and yet people lived there. Rock and rock walls abounded.
Driving into this area reminded me a bit of the Okanagan in BC. It had a certain craggy austerity in parts but I loved this area. Tomorrow, more of the Burren and surrounding area.