Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Brief Step Into The West

Just back from an overnight trip to County Clare and some of its best known attractions, though for me the Cliffs of Moher was the main reason for going. Thanks to the M4 you can travel from one side of Ireland to the other relatively swiftly, though at the cost of 2 tolls (90c x 2 for a motorcycle), but any decent GPS can be set to avoid them. The weather was not going to be the best, but here in Ireland if you don't ride in the rain then you don't ride! Though motorcyclists are usually the best prepared for visiting Ireland's outdoor attractions since we are usually well prepared for the worst of the weather while other huddle indoors and for the first time do not stop to ask "but don't you get hot in all that?".


The first destination was Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey center, though I had often heard of the cave the Birds of Prey I knew little of and it turned out to be the real highlight of the trip and well worth the journey. Let me just mention now that for anyone visiting any of the following attractions to go to their websites and book online beforehand, you will save a nice bit of change by doing this and in some cases you have 12 months to use the ticket. All the grounds and aviaries were in excellent condition and you could get close enough to get some really good pictures. During the day, and depending on the weather, there are displays with the birds and the audience get multiple chances to participate. The staff are very friendly and overall I can highly recommend.

Aillwee Cave - Birds of Prey
This is 'Owly' in action, he is a bit dim but lovable

Following the Birds of Prey center the next destination was the actual Aillwee Cave, which is a 5 minute walk up a hill, but you can also drive up or take a bus that goes back and forth all day long. Here you get a guided tour through the 400m long cave which lasts approx 30-40mins, the tour guide was very friendly and was very comfortable dealing with the children on the tour. The story behind how the cave was found is almost as interesting as anything you see in there, also you only really get to see a fraction of the entire cave with much of it (and three underground lakes) not easily accessible. Overall an interesting experience.

Aillwee Cave
The waterfall inside Aillwee Cave

Following Aillwee Cave the next destination on the trip was the Poulnabrone Dolmen, just 6km's south of Aillwee. The site is of a portal tomb, some 4000+ years old, it has good parking and information points along the path to the dolmen explaining the rich history of the site. This is well worth visiting, especially since it is free, and also you get your first real sample of the burren's bleak landscape which has been described as "a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him" (Edmund Ludlow, 1651-52).

Poulnabrone Dolmen
At 4000+ years it is not looking too bad

After the dolmen the final destination for the first day was Logues Hotel in the coastal town of Liscannor. Upon arrival we were immediately greeted by a cat who seemed to be a resident of the hotel, we would see it again the following morning as we left curled up in the sun room. The hotel staff were very friendly and helpful, WiFi is available throughout, the food in the restaurant was good quality, rooms were clean and warm, so overall can happily recommend. There was not too much to see in the town, but we did go for an evening stroll to visit Liscannor castle at the rear of the the local school. The next morning we had full breakfast to kick off the day and a pot of coffee, with the poor weather that had arrived this was a necessity.

Liscannor
Liscannor Castle

The final destination of the trip was the Cliffs of Moher, just a few km's north of Liscannor along the coast. Despite the wind and rain we were determined to make the most of the visit, but thanks to the bike gear we were much better prepared then some people coming off the tour buses in shorts and sandals! If you have booked online for the visitor center then you will have saved some money but as it turns it this is not a must, especially if you have a motorcycle. If is more than possible for you to find a location outside the car-park and then just walk to the cliffs, thus bypassing any entry fee's. Even on a bad day the cliff's looked impressive and easily accessible thanks to the paths along the cliff, though avoid using the telescope's, most seemed to be broken.

Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher

After the cliffs it was back on the road home in the pouring rain, but even in these conditions the R478 is great fun to ride, but have liked to have tried it on a dry day to get a real feel for it. I have posted photo albums on Flickr for Aillwee Cave (and birds of prey), Ballyallaban, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Liscannor and the Cliffs of Moher. Looking forward to exploring the roads around the Burren again, but hopefully with better weather next time.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.