The Burren is a national park located in county Clare, in between the cities of Galway and Limerick. Its name comes from the Irish word “Boíreann” which literally translated to rocky place; describing the area perfectly well.
We arrived in the Burren national park on our 4th day of our Wild Atlantic Way road-trip. After a quick stop at the Burren Hostel were we were off to the Mullaghmore Crossroads, a place where several hiking trails through the Burren start.
We ended up choosing one that didn’t go up to the famous Mullaghmore hill and instead went for a 6 km trail loop that went across the land of a working farm, called the Lough Avalla Farm Loop. It was a magical walk really, which started when we got out of the car and were greeted by a small friendly dog that we named Ennis (also the name of the town we had spent the night in before and had really taken a liking to).
While we were putting on our hiking boots and figuring out where to go, Ennis was happily walking around us, bumping his head against us for an occasional pet. At the same time I was contemplating what we should do with this friendly visitor. Ennis had a collar and looked well fed and well groomed, could someone have lost him recently? Yet while we were debating what to do with him, Ennis already had plans of his own. When we started walking, he happily followed us. The trail starts on a wide road and after a while takes a turn into a forest. Every time we ran into people on the trail we would ask them “Is this your dog?” but it never was. Every now and then, Ennis would run off, disappear somewhere between the pavement of rocks. But always to reappear 10 minutes later after we had already moved on. This continued for a while, he seemed to know the trail and ran in front of us most of the time, occasionally waiting when our long legs didn’t carry us as fast as his tiny ones.
The trail (marked by Purple arrows) took us past a Holy well and I idly wondered if Ennis was an evil spirit trying to trick us into bringing him past the fences for the Holy well so he could enter it. But alas, this was not the case and he happily continued on the trail with us. It was only after we reached the end of the forest and came upon the stone slabs that he disappeared again, only to later reappear with a guy also walking the trail (it wasn’t his dog either). That was the last we saw of him. I still wonder about that little dog… Was he living on the farm? It would explain why he was apparently so incredibly familiar with the surroundings. We would never know.
Later, in Connemara, Barbara, who is working at the Connemara hostel told me a story of how she once ran into a dog while she was out hiking with a friend. The dog seemed to want them to follow, running ahead in front of them and pausing for them to catch up with him. So they did what I would probably do as well; they followed the dog. After a while the dog stopped and when they caught up with it they saw he was sitting next to an old well that had completely filled up. The dog just sat there and kept looking at them and then back at the well. After finding their courage they poked a stick in the well because they were worried that the owner of the dog might have fallen in. Which thankfully wasn’t the case but it is still a bit of a creepy story! I’m grateful Ennis didn’t take us to a creepy place like that, yet it does make our encounter feel a bit magical too!
Towards the end of our hike on the Burren we started coming across fields with goats, with some making a lot of noise. We were wondering what was going on with them while we walked uphill next to a field with baby goats, when Imke pointed out that there was a big mother goat bleating outside of the fenced off baby area, whilst a little white goat was stuck with its head in the fence. Obviously we couldn’t leave it like that. So we walked down, I armed Imke with two branches “Please defend me if the mother tries to attack me while I help the baby” and we approached the goats (a little bit terrified of the mom). Luckily for us, mother goat seemed to understand that we were there to help and with a little push the baby goat was freed and we were backing away as fast as we could. Relieved that mom didn’t feel the need to head-butt us.
Relieved and happy that we had saved the baby goat we were on our way again. All in all this hike was beautiful and enchanting. The Burren’s landscape is so different from what you usually see with the rock faces lining the earth. On top of that the differences in landscape even on this short trail were immense; from the rugged rock faces, fairy-tale forests, holy wells and grassy fields. Check it out and start exploring the area from our The Burren Hostel!