I have a quite a bit to catch up on as so much has happened in the last few weeks. One of the most informative and interesting days was when we took a tour of the Burren with the Dean of the College, Conor McGrady. We began in Ballyvaughan and made a loop around the coast and through the countryside. The day-long tour furthered my appreciation for this special place.
The first thing that Conor points out to us is that across the bay, you can see Connemara and Galway. On a foggy day, they are faint images in the distance...but you can almost always make out the wind turbines as they pop through the heavy air.
One of the spots we passed at the beginning of the tour was the remnants of Gleninagh Village. Gleninagh was wiped out by famine, tuberculosis, and immigration, but the area is now home to Brandon Gleeson. Gleeson is famously known for acting in Braveheart, Troy, and Edge of Tomorrow. He occasionally makes his way into Ballyvaughan to play the fiddle at a local pub. Gleninagh is known for being the last Irish speaking village in County Clare.
The coastline of the Burren is made of fossilized coral and the visually stimulating landscape is notable for layers of limestone marked with long cracks. 350 million years ago, the Burren was under the sea. It was the first part of Ireland to be inhabited about 6,000 years ago. As we walked along the coastline at one of the stops, Conor pointed out the site of Richard Long's "A Circle in Ireland." Below is me standing in the middle of it. Long made this piece and photographed it in 1975. It's been maintained (semi-unintentionally) over the past 40 years by walkers. The photograph is held in the Tate collection.
Though the landscape may look barren at first glance, it is home to 70% of Ireland's flora. Because of its unique climate, a tropical and alpine plant can be easily found sharing soil.
There are over 200 cave systems in the Burren and all but one river are located underground. A cave in Doolin holds the largest stalactite in all of Europe.
One of my favorite parts of the day happened when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs are never a dissapointing sight, but they were particularly exciting that day because I ran into one of my sorority sisters, Ginny Schoder! Ginny is currently doing a semester abroad in Limerick and we happened to both be touring the Burren. It was such a treat to share a hug and see a familiar face.
The final stop before heading back to Ballyvaughan was a look over corkscrew hill into the town. As we looked, Conor pointed out Gregan's castle--a famous spot of the Burren. In the 1950s, J.R.R. Tolkien stayed in in Gregan's castle, just outside of Ballyvaughan. He was inspired by the landscape and used it as inspiration for The Lord of the Rings. Gregan's castle is a fancy Bread and Breakfast with incredibly elaborate (and expensive) multiple course dinners. Many celebrities enjoy staying at this special hotel.
The motto of the Burren is: Take nothing but memories. Everyone is conscious of their impact on the landscape and desire to preserve its beauty as well as possible so a "leave no trace" mindset is emphasized. Memories I took from this Burren tour!