CLARE: Walking through wonders of Burren

BALLYVAGHAN, THE BURREN, CO CLARE

CLARE: Walking through wonders of Burren

THIS loop walk, largely on green or un-trafficked by-roads, takes us through a unique landscape, the limestone pavements and stone walls of The Burren. We enjoy close views of limestone cliffs and small, rocky fields supporting unique flora, orchids, stunted blackthorn, whitethorn and holly.

Leaving the car park, we walk a 200m on the N67 in the Galway direction and take the second turn right, L5036, signposted Lough Rask. As we walk between houses, there is a small cemetery on the left. Cowslips grow amongst the old headstones in springtime. Soon the stone-scape of the Burren comes into view, and we see how bright green fields lap the very margins of the bare limestone on the hillsides.

A laneway on the left takes us to Lough Rask, passing through a stone stile beside a green gate. The lake is weedy, and brackish, with sparse bird life, mainly mallard. However, the trodden path around its perimeter is a pleasant diversion, very much a ‘wild’ walk, with willows, meadow grasses and wild flowers.

Retracing our steps to the top of the lane, we turn left and then take the first right; “Waterstone Cottage” is painted on a stone on the verge. We pass Dolmen Lodge and Waterstone Cottage. Just beyond an old farmyard with overgrown gardens, we reach two gates and pass through onto a green laneway bordered by stone walls. Stone walls divide the stony fields, dotted with orchids and cowslips in spring and summer. Westward, the hill of Cappanawalla rises, part pasture but much rock. Cattle are wintered on such uplands in the old Burren ‘winterage’ tradition, with cattle allowed to wander the hills.

After moonscapes of limestone and grykes, passing through a stile at the end of this lane, we come to a gravelled road. Ahead, cattle graze in green fields and, beyond a gate, is a large, barn-like structure, with antennae. We go right, along the dead straight, gravelled road. Behind us, we have glimpses of Galway Bay and the distant Connemara mountains; in the middle distance, the slim steeple of Ballyvaghan church. Spots of bright yellow lichen on the stone walls, outcrops of brilliant yellow gorse and the white flowers of dwarf blackthorn break the grey monotony of the limestone. High limestone cliffs rise to our left. Rock roses and stunted ash and willow are typical here, holly and hazel in profusion. I was surprised to find white, garlic-smelling ramsons on the verge.

In a field on the right, with a solitary tree, a ring fort is clearly discernible on a slight salient, suitably overgrown with sceacs (blackthorn), holly and hazel, all suitably old, ‘magic’ Irish trees. The fields just afterwards are bounded by boulder walls, rather than stone walls, made possible by new ‘magic’ JCBs. We pass Aillwee Mountain and the entrance to Aillwee Cave, and reach a tarred road.

After a tarred stretch, and then a potholed stretch, we can take a path (1) across stone fields as marked in the OS Map in square 2205. After 500m, this meets a lane taking us to N67, where we turn right. Alternatively, (2) we can continue on the road, and turn right at the Tjunction onto the R480 and right again onto the N67 to take us back to the village and the trailhead.

Start Point

Start Point: Car park behind the Spar supermarket on right at T-junction in the centre of Ballyvaghan village. Coming from Limerick, N18, turn onto N85 at Ennis, then N67 at Lahinch (75km.) Coming from Galway, turn off N18 onto N67 at Kilcolgan (50km).

Time: 2 hrs., 8km.

Difficulty:

Largely on green or un-trafficked by-roads with no climbs. Close views of limestone cliffs and small, rocky fields supporting unique flora, orchids, stunted blackthorn, whitethorn and holly.

Map: OS Discovery Series Map 51, marked ‘Wood Loop’.

Get there

NENAGH HILLWALKING CLUB(www.nenaghwalk.ie)

Jun 18: Tuesday evening walk (fee) meet Moyle’s garage, Birr Road. Nenagh, 7pm.

DUNMANWAY HILLWALKING CLUB(www.dunmanway.ie/activites/walking)

Jun 23: Stumpa, Grade A, 10km; 5hrs; ascent 690m. meet SuperValu carpark Dunmanway at 8.30 am.

WEST CLARE WALKING CLUB (http://westclare-walkingclub.com)

Jun 22: Moylusha, Grade: Moderate to Hard; highest mountain in Clare, bogs, climbs, great views, 4.5-5hrs, meet Lough Derg carpark, 9.30am

KILMACTHOMAS WALKING CLUB (www.kilmacwalking.com)

Jun 23: Sandhills, Tramore, 2/2.5hrs. meet at car park beside the Credit Union in Kilmacthomas,10:30am.

GALTEE WALKING CLUB (www.galteewalkingclub.ie)

Membership €40. First 2 walks with club are free of charge with no obligation to join.

Jun 23: Knockmealdowns. Grade A, meet Grubb’s Monument, The Vee, 10am

Jun 23: Galtymore, Grade B, meet Skeheenarinky village, 10am

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