Over the next few weeks members of the IrelandWays.com team are going to give you the low down on their favourite spots across Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way. We are experienced adventurers and want to share some special sites with you. Many of the team have frequently trekked the cliff tops, cycled the winding roads and spent numerous nights with the locals in the quirky towns along the way. Each week we will pick a member of the team to review their favourite spot on the Wild Atlantic Way and other IrelandWays.com walking and cycling routes. This week Lisa has chosen Fanore to Ballyvaughan, along the Burren Way in County Clare.
This walk starts in the peaceful paradise of Fanore, taking us right up to the small harbour village of Ballyvaughan. Fanore is famous for its sandy beach and gigantic waves. It is also the area where many of the funny Father Ted episodes were filmed. As you leave Fanore you will stumble upon a small lighthouse perched on the cliff top where you will have a spectacular view of Galway Bay. All the way from Fanore to Ballyvaughan you will have fantastic coastal views on your left. It is easy to see where the directors of movies like P.S. I love you got their inspiration. If you are a dreamer like me you will find yourself morphing into Holly from the movie.
Top Sights to See
Where do I begin? This is a stunning area of natural beauty. You will find horse shoe beaches, giant waves, contrasting colours, old ruins and friendly sheep on every corner. If I was to pick out some unique viewpoints it would have to be the view from the walkers boreen down to the surfers on the beach, the sand dunes jutting out to the Atlantic ocean and the fishermen who gather on each side of the main beach. Fanore has one pub, a shop/post-office and a surfers school. It also has some impressive sand dunes. Who doesn’t want to play hide and seek in some Irish sand dunes? Weather permitting, these sand dunes are great fun and can act as a naturally formed adventure course for walkers and hikers. This area is also listed as one of the nine sites of geological importance in the Cliffs of Moher Global Geopark. The extensive flora and fauna found in this remote part of the Burren makes it unique.
As you leave Fanore if you look to the left towards the coast you will see Black Head Lighthouse. This is the most northerly point of the Burren Way. This would be a good time to get out the camera and take some postcard picture memories of your journey. This area is also a popular fishing point for dogfish, mackerel and pollock. When I was younger I would go fishing with friends along the Burren Way. With the right line and tackle for sea angling you can find yourself catching several mackerel on the one fishing rod.
As you walk towards Ballyvaughan you will pass by Newtown Castle. It was once the residence of Charles O’Loughlin who was known as King of the Burren and is now a part of the Burren College of Art. This
beautifully restored 16th Century Castle perfectly captures the old Ireland we love to speak about.
Top Things to Do
One activity that has to be tested on any section of the Burren Way is picking periwinkles. “How do I pick periwinkles?” I hear you ask. Let me give you some insider tips. Firstly, find some fresh rock pools at the edge of the cliffs (easy to find on the Wild Atlantic Way). Next roll up your sleeves, bend down and gently caress the seaweed in the shallow waters. Black shelled periwinkles should peer out from underneath the seaweed. Top tip: Periwinkles should always be black. If you are unsure if you have found one, dip it into the water and it will turn a musty black colour. Once you have had your fill of picking you can boil your perwinkles in salty water to taste this seashore delicacy. To cook the winkles place all of them in one pot of cold water, allowing them to boil gently over a hob for up to one hour. These small snails are salty enough but I always add a few spoonfulls of salt to the pot when boiling for an extra kick.
Another hidden attraction is Monks Seafood restaurant in Ballyvaughan. Monks is one of my favourite stops on any journey in this area. This harbourside treat can be difficult to locate making it even more worthwhile when you reach the landmark. It is situated at the end of the coast road in Ballyvaughan. The minute you enter this small family run establishment you feel like you are in an old Irish sitting room. An open fire greets you and you can enjoy some of the freshest seafood in Ireland. On a fine day you can sit outside by the old peer and on a rainy day (of which Ireland has many) you might be treated to an Irish traditional music session in the restaurants tiny bar. I would highly recommend the seafood chowder and the crab, delicious!
They are my favourite spots along the Burren Way. If you have some more hidden gems along the Wild Atlantic Way we would love to hear about them.
For more information about our walking and cycling tours along the Wild Atlantic Way contact one of our Travel Specialists.