Mafia connections, the Emerald Isle and a Highland Fling travel blog

The Burren

a robin at the Burren

Poulnabrone Dolmen - over 5000 years old

Poulnabrone Dolmen (aka Portal Tomb)

Kilfenora Cathedral built in 1189

800 year old Doorty Cross

Leamaneh Castle - original tower house built in 1480 then converted in...

Galway on a Saturday evening

After enjoying another evening's entertainment of traditional music along with a coachload of German and Dutch tourists we spent the night in accommodation above the local Chinese Restaurant in Lisdoonvarna. I could hear people snoring all around me, that is what you get for being a light sleeper. This town holds an annual Matchmaking festival in September when around 40,000 romantic hopefuls, bachelor farmers and accompanying revellers hit town. The current matchmaker is Willie Daly, a fourth-generation matchmaker. We wondered whether he declares this as his occupation on official forms?

We headed for the Burren which is one of the finest examples of glacio-karst landscape in the world. Excited, we certainly were. It certainly looks otherworldly and very inhospitable. It was shaped beneath ancient seas, then forced up and covered by glaciers during various ice ages. It now looks like limestone pavements with deep gullies (grikes), walking around we had to be careful where we stepped as the grikes are very deep and no one wants a broken leg on holidays. Many have wildflowers growing out of them and in spring the whole area is covered in them. Not too far away was the Burren Perfumery which made lovely soaps and perfumes using the local flowers.

Situated on one of the most desolate and highest points of the region was the Portal Tomb dating from the Neolithic period. What remains today are three standing portal stones supporting a horizontal capstone, originally it would have been covered with soil, and its flagstone capped by a cairn. When it was excavated last century they found around 33 human remains. It looked particularly eerie on the grey, windy day we visited.

We also visited the Burren Smokehouse and watched an interesting video about the Irish tradition of oak-smoking salmon, the process takes 18 hours at 30 degress. There were also free tastings of smoked salmon, local cheeses and seaweed pesto which I thoroughly enjoyed. Grae gave them all a wide berth.

We headed to Galway City for the night not realising it was Race Week. Our host did warn us that town would be heaving and to get in early if we wanted dinner. Did we listen, no!

By the time we walked in to the Latin Quarter, we could barely move as everyone was out and about. Groups of lads celebrating or regretting the afternoon's betting. Ladies immaculated dressed, coiffured and tanned complete with fascinators on top..... and then the heavens opened. Come on what did they think, this is Ireland afterall. It seemed like only the tourists were prepared with raingear as the racegoers walked on looking like drowned rats in their suits and frocks.

We ended up in the restaruant of the heaving Quays Pub for dinner, it was crowded but we managed to get the last table. I ordered the Salmon Salad and Grae who was on a rare health kick ordered Vegetable Soup and Beer. The Salmon around here is very good.

After dinner the rain eased off and it was still light so we walked around town. We didn't realise Galway had so many waterways we seemed to keep crossing numerous bridges over the River Corrib.

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