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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Ancient stones, stunning cliffs and musical pubs

Posted July 10

Ireland is blessed with meadows of stone, a part of a rugged region known as The Burren.

I visited a tomb there that is older than the pyramids of Egypt. As many as 28 people are buried in Poulnadrone Dolmen, which was built 5,000 years ago. It is hard to believe that people could exist in this plateau of limestone, which, in many ways, resembles a moonscape.

However, this is fertile rock. Sprouting from it is an amazing array of wildflowers, herbs and ferns. If you go to The Burren, be sure to visit the national park and perfumery. This is also a great place to hike.

Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction is actually part of The Burren. The Cliffs of Moher represent the stunning end of The Burren’s rocky plain as it comes up against the waters of the Atlantic. The views are spectacular here even though it is a bit “touristy.” Arrive early in the day and you can beat the crowds. Hiking. Birdwatching. Fabulous photographic opportunities. You’ll find it all at Cliffs of Moher.

We stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast near the cliffs and The Burren. The Ballinsheen House is in Lisdoonvarna. Just ask for Mary. She will take good care of you. Mary told us Lisdoonvarna is a foodie town. She was right. Mary recommended that we get dinner reservations at Wild Honey Inn. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the best meal of my life!

It was a seafood special on the menu: Wild Pave of Turbot which is highly prized for its delicate flavor. The fish was covered in smoked salmon cream and accented on the side with delicious strips of burren smoked salmon. Add to that creamed savoy cabbage and pickled shemeji and you have one fabulous culinary experience!

Nearby is the music town of Ennis. This is a great place to go for a pint of your favorite beverage and traditional Celtic music in a plethora of pubs. We stayed at the delightful Old Ground Hotel in Ennis. The pub here featured five fabulous musicians who reminded me of The Bothy Band.

It was a magical “session” featuring acoustic guitar, a pair of fiddles, flutes and goatskin drum. I wish I had packed my Celtic whistles. It would have been great to join in the fun.

After Ennis, Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, we headed north to Connemara with its “savage beauty,” as Oscar Wilde described it. Next week, we will talk about this land of moody mountains and religious refuge. I took some of my favorite photographs in Connemara. I can’t wait to show them to you.

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