Into the West....trip to Galway and the Burren

March 2005

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Shane doing intervalsOn the Friday morning I walked into the kitchen to make breakfast. I could hear a wavering hum from the sitting room. It was Shane's birthday, and he was singing his heart out. We had come up to Galway for the occasion and stayed in Colm's student flat. Determined to make a good start to the day, we headed out for an interval session on a nearby track (right). Gary and Alex didn't arrive in Galway until lunchtime. We met them by the Docks in the city centre where a big grey military ship acted as a rendezvous point. Gary had also brought his little dog Mac D along for the trip. It was Alex's first time to the west of Ireland and Gary exclaimed that he hadn't been in Galway for years.

After a much enjoyed lunch we strolled up and down Galway's shopping streets. Early signs of dusk were noticeable as the sun began to decline so we decided to catch the fading light by coast. We drove out to the beautiful beach of silver stand but the tide was in and the only grains of sand to be seen were on the footpath. We took to the cliff which rises up from the beach and runs for a short distance along the coast. Erosion was eating into the base of this cliff of stones and soil so we had to be careful not to venture too close to the edge. Mac D saw no danger and walked over to the very edge and glanced downwards. Needless to say that Gary called him back as quickly as possible.

From the cliff we had a lovely view of Galway Bay and the hills of Co. Clare in the distance. We gazed out across the cloudy sky as the sun turned it unusual shades of violet and peach just before it dived into the ocean. Later that evening we a enjoyed a peaceful meditation which was followed by a big meal and dessert on Shane's behalf.

The next morning, after a large, protein filled breakfast, we departed for the Burren in Co. Clare. From the forecast we sure that showers were inevitable but the day remained bright and cheerful as we dove. At one stage we descended down a big hill and at the bottom the road ran parallel with a small lake. To our amazement, two swans had just taken off with wings fully spread and were flying directly in line with us. For a hundred meters the swans flew closely side-by- side with us until I quickly had to manoeuvre around a sharp bend. It was such a beautiful sight.


We travelled along the coastline which brought us to the unique landscape of the Burren. Shane explained to us how thousands of years ago the Celts had cut down all the forests which had covered the land in order to create pastures, however this led to the thin layer of soil washing away. The result is a barren landscape of bare limestone, known as karst. We walked through a valley of green fields, sectioned by stone walls that ran up to the stone grey hills on either side. These walls are the consequence of a life of back breaking labour endured, in the past, by farmers trying to claim some small patch of land as their own.

We climbed up the hill to our left, stopping briefly for fruit and biscuits, and then trekked on further up the exposed ridges of weather limestone. From the top we had, once again, a beautiful view of Galway Bay, only this time from the other side. Right across the bay could just about make out the beach that we had been to the day before. Walking on further we came to a sudden drop of mass rock. I enjoyed scaling down it but Gary found a safer roof in order to carry down Mac D. From there we walked across a desolate plain of rock until we reached another valley. At the bottom of the valley was what looked like a huge crater left behind by a meteorite. Shane and I pondered whether it actually was the result of a meteorite.

After a little more walking we stopped for a quick break by a stone wall. In the distance was the cliff of rock which to our amusement reflected an incredible echo. We shouted out our names and after a second delay it seemed someone would shout back at us. Ahead of us the landscape looked like a giants playground with huge football like rocks lying here and there on smooth plates of stone. Long fractures dissected the rock in places were water had found the path of least resistance. It's hard to believe that the subtlety of water could create such wonderful features in resilient rock but everything physical is bound by time and time can move mountains.

Burren View

We walked for a while before reaching the road to lead us back our starting point. Gary carried Mac D some off the way because he was well tired from his adventure away from home. We were greeted by cattle grazing on high ground as we trekked over a hill which took us right back to the cars. Throughout the whole day not one drop of rain had fallen which we were grateful for. We left behind a landscape of wonderful character and enjoyed a hearty meal in the town of Loughrea before we set off for home.