Wonders of West Clare

Christopher Moriarty travels west and north, and through magic of Burren in co. Clare.

Even smallest map of Ireland shows two great indentations on west. One is Shannon Estuary, other is Galway Bay and coast between them is that of County Clare. One of most wonderful coastlines in world, it displays some of finest cliff scenery together with a fantastic lunar landscape – to say nothing of a great variety of more commonplace but totally entrancing countryside. A trip of just 43 miles (69 km) of it can be comfortably accomplished on a summer’s day, though it would be more satisfying to spend a great deal longer.

We begin our journey at Spanish Point – where a charming sculpture in pale grey limestone of a 16th century galleon commemorates visit in 1986 of King and Queen of Spain. The reason that they came was to remember fate of some of ships of Spanish Armada which had been wrecked close to shore four hundred years previously. The coast remains as dangerous as ever, with hidden reefs abounding. But today its long sandy beach and splendid surf have made it a haven for water sports and it is home of one of a number of surfing schools in vicinity. In common with other villages which we will visit, Spanish Point is well supplied with all sorts of accommodation and good food.

The road northwards keeps close to coast, giving a view of a great expanse of Atlantic Ocean to left and rolling countryside of Clare on right. The green fields with their stone walls make a very pleasing patchwork pattern but, by Irish standards, it has a very unusual appearance because trees and hedges are virtually absent from this landscape. Eight miles of this road bring you to Lehinch, a small town immortalised by comic genius Percy French in his song on ways of West Clare Railway. The railroad has long departed, but seaside resort that it helped to create remains, even with its delightful main street of 19th century shops and houses. A mile of golden strand provides both safe bathing for ordinary people and fantastic surf. Two golf links lie in shelter of sand dunes. And there is plenty to do there if it rains.

The road from Lehinch crosses estuary of Inagh River and proceeds to Liscannor, an old fishing village and an even older citadel, as marked by tall remnant of an ancient castle that stands out above houses. At harbor you may see specimens of traditional fishing boats of west of Ireland, black-painted cloth-covered curraghs, vessels which combine exceptional seaworthiness with enough portability to allow crew to carry them up beach out of reach of breakers. The same harbor has superb modern power boats which wait to take visitors to Aran Islands or for trips around corner to view great Cliffs of Moher from sea.

Liscannor is famed as source of paving stones which are used far and wide throughout Ireland. They have a corrugated surface created by wanderings of marine worms five hundred million years ago when much of Ireland lay beneath a warm, tropical sea. As you leave town, towards west, you pass emporium which celebrates love of stones. The Rock Shop stocks stones and a wealth of objects made from them from all over world, a truly amazing collection of color, arts and crafts – and they have a café, too.


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