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PPoA #10: County Clare

10 June, 2011
Mostly rocks.

PPoA #10: County Clare

County Clare is a soft green rocky place of single track roads and dry stone walls*, dotted about with Things You Are Supposed To Look At. These things are rarely as interesting as the surroundings.

There’s the Poolnabrone Dolmen. Sure, it’s pretty old, but it’s not as impressive as you might expect. Overenthusiastic photographers have done it a great disservice. It actually looks like this:

It's hard to be mysterious, in these circumstances.

We come, we photo, we go home.

Forget about the dolmen. The surrounding area is magic. Every grike is its own tiny rock-pool universe of wild plants.

And grasses, which for some reason don't count.

Common Milkwort and Bird's Foot Trefoil

This is the original version of Rock Paper Scissors. Plant breaks Rock, over a long enough time period.

Rue-leaved Saxifrage

Anyone know the names of these?

Er... ivy and moss.

There’s a birds of prey centre. Midway through the flying display, one of the harris hawks decided that the local crows were much more interesting than the limp day-old-chicks in the handler’s pocket, and flew off**. I was secretly rather pleased about this.

There’s a showcave. If you hang back a bit, the main tour party will rush off through the cave and into the gift shop, and you can take your time. Take a proper look at the rocks down here; someone has spent ages lighting them. This place is old***, and yet, drop by drop, it’s still changing.

We ambled back through the tunnel in the cool damp semi-darkness. Somewhere behind us, the guy closing the cave for the day began to whistle. It echoed around and past us in a deliciously spooky moment.

There’s Lisdoonvarna, a creepy town in which all the hotels are full and yet there is nobody about. And there is nothing in this town except hotels. It’s weird.

And there’s The Cliffs Of Moher Visitor Centre Experience™. Charlie tells me that back in the day, you could go to the edge and peek over. There even used to be a picnic table right on the edge. Now there are walls and warnings and yellow-jacketed sentries. There are coachloads of slow-moving Americans wearing emergency plastic macs. There are CDs of Magical Mystical Irish Harp Music. There are telescopes that talk to you in five different languages****. Really, it’s just a cliff. And what are cliffs for if not looking over the edge?

And yet, such a well-worn path...

No Looking Over The Edge.

Conclusions: avoid the Visitor Centre Experiences like the plague they are, and don’t forget to slow down and look around. County Clare is no place to rush.


* With, yes, grass in the middle and herds of cows now and then.

** Apparently this happens quite often, but the birds come back within a week.

*** Although, when you think about it, no older than anywhere else.

**** I know this because I wanted to see the Allegedly Puffins. I put money in and let it babble away in Irish about puifíní Atlantaigh. It was a crap telescope and I still don’t know if they were puffins.

Last time I ever put money in a multilingual telescope.

Puffins? What puffins?

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