Is This The Way To Kilfenora? (Ireland 2016)

Is This The Way To Kilfenora? (Ireland 2016)

I promised I’d write about my trip to Ireland with Charley, but I didn’t intend for it to take until the day before I go away again (this time to Yorkshire with the university ceilidh band), so I’m sorry about that. Still, I’m here now, and I’ve finally retrieved the photos from my camera as well as my phone.

Actually getting to Lisdoonvarna, where we were staying, was our first adventure. Just landing safely at Shannon Airport wasn’t enough — from there, we had to find the correct bus to take us to Ennis. Once we arrived at the bus station in Ennis, we made a hasty trip into town, dragging our suitcases along with us, to visit the Tesco there. It was the only sizeable supermarket we’d encounter on our trip, and when you’ve got a whole collection of allergies between you, these are important things to think about. After rushing around the shop and stocking up on as much gluten-free food as I could carry, we hurried back to the bus station, still lugging our suitcases around and now with bags of food too.

"We made it to Ireland!" bus selfies
“We made it to Ireland!” bus selfies

Thankfully, we made it in plenty of time for the second bus, which took a scenic, coastal route past the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin and several other sights before eventually reaching Lisdoonvarna. By this point, the bus was fairly crowded, and we were glad we’d got on it early in the journey as later arrivals were forced to stand, but we’d finally reached our hostel, and not before learning an important lesson: those windy coastal paths combined with a bus travelling at high speed made for some major motion sickness. It was definitely good to learn that early in the week, so that we could plan how far we were prepared to travel by bus later on.

There’s not much to say about the hostel or our first night there, which was mostly taken up with looking at maps, planning the rest of the week, and recovering from all the travelling. Before we went to bed, we made the decision that we’d go and visit the town of Kilfenora the next day. It was about eight kilometres away, according to the maps, and there was a tea room and Burren Visitor Centre there. (The Burren being the geographical area we were visiting, a weird wild limestoney area.) There wasn’t a bus that would take us there, but it would make for a substantial walk in and of itself.

At this stage in the week we only had road maps, which made planning walks a bit tricky.
At this stage in the week we only had road maps, which made planning walks a bit tricky.

Our plan — walking eight kilometres to Kilfenora, sitting in the tea room for a while, and then walking home — didn’t go according to plan. Of course it didn’t. If it had, I wouldn’t have been able to blog about it.

We didn’t get off to a good start, because we left Lisdoonvarna in the wrong direction. Well, not exactly the wrong direction, but not the most direct way to the road we wanted to join. This detour led to the first phenomenon: the “Kilfenora, 8km” signs. Notably, two of them. At least 2km apart from each other.

How could this town be getting further away? We kept walking, but Kilfenora didn’t seem to get any nearer. Without a detailed map, we had no idea if we were going in the right direction, and when faced with a decision about roads we elected to take a risk and just go in the direction the compass had said should eventually lead us to Kilfenora. It might not be the fastest route, but when we weren’t even sure we were on the right road in the first place, it seemed like the best chance we had at eventually getting there.

The road it led us down was narrow, more a track than an actual road. This seemed like a good thing, in my opinion. This was the kind of path we’d been expecting to walk down, wasn’t it? It definitely seemed more suited to walkers than cars, although it was extremely hilly, going up and down and up and down. The hills weren’t huge, but they were interminable, and it was discouraging that every time we encountered a downhill, we knew it was only a sign that soon there would be another uphill.

Ireland is full of ruined cottages and barns -- it seems easier just to build new ones than repair them.
Ireland is full of ruined cottages and barns — it seems easier just to build new ones than repair them.

That said, despite the fact it was starting to rain there was some nice scenery, and we’d seen a sign to the Boghill Centre, which I had come across online. I reasoned that since we were pretty firmly lost by this point, we could call in there and ask if we were at least going in the right direction — if we weren’t, they’d probably be able to point to the road we should take. Maybe they’d even be able to give us a map, although such a thing seemed strangely hard to obtain. We followed the signs for what felt like miles, and eventually reached the Boghill Centre.

It turned out to be a collection of buildings that were even more hippy-ish than the yoga retreats hosted there had led me to expect, but when we called into the main reception, we found a hand-drawn sketch map of the area. We were going in the right direction! Hopefully, if we carried on our current road until the end, we could turn right, and eventually find ourselves at Kilfenora.

We kept walking.

By the time we eventually found ourselves in the small village of Kilfenora (population: 220), my imitation FitBit told me we had walked just over 12km, rather than the eight we’d been promised. But that was okay. We were there! We’d be able to get a proper map and take a shorter route home! Proud of our success, we allowed ourselves a moment to celebrate.

A victorious selfie outside the tea rooms.
A victorious selfie outside the tea rooms.

And then the real disaster struck. We dragged ourselves through the (tiny) visitor centre to the tea room, and were informed the whole place had been booked by a group coming by coach, and we couldn’t sit there. I got a cup of tea to take away, after almost crying as I told the lady at the till that we’d walked twelve kilometres, and we went outside to sit despondently on a rock outside.

Twelve kilometres and not even a tearoom to show for it.

We ate our packed lunches sitting on that rock, and decided we couldn’t sit around and mope forever. Well, I was mainly the one who had been looking forward to the tearoom, since Charley doesn’t drink tea, or much at all, but we both wanted the chance to relax before the journey home, and it was pretty chilly outside. At last, we came to a decision, and went in search of a pub.

The place we found was warm and welcoming. The very friendly bartender poured me a very welcome cup of tea, and asked us why we hadn’t hitchhiked. We told him that we’d been brought up to assume everyone who picked up hitchhikers was an axe murderer, which seemed to amuse him. By the time I’d drunk a second cup of tea, we were substantially warmed up, and had learned that there was live music happening in the pub at 9pm that evening, but unfortunately we didn’t fancy walking our eight/twelve kilometres in the dark, so were going to have to get moving.

We bid farewell to the bartender, who said, “I’d offer you a lift, but I’ve got the hatchet in the back of the car.”

Kilfenora's only claim to fame
Kilfenora’s only claim to fame

Heading out into the chilly outside world again, we called into a crafts shop in Kilfenora, where I bought a grey beanie hat — my ears were getting pretty cold. I also bought a more detailed Ordnance Survey map from the visitor centre, figured out where we’d gone wrong on the way, and we planned our route home.

The journey home was more like nine kilometres than twelve, so still longer than we’d planned, but not by much. Having a map helped a great deal, although eventually we found the road we should have been on in the first place, and from there it was just a case of following it until we ended up in Lisdoonvarna. By the time we collapsed into the hostel, our feet were pretty sore, but we’d done it. My fake FitBit informed me we’d walked around 21km, which I didn’t think I was physically capable of.

Needless to say, even after tending my blisters I didn’t feel particularly able to move for the rest of the evening.

I hoped I’d be able to tell you about the whole trip in one post, but apparently our epic Kilfenora walk took too long to relate, so I’ll have to break it up. I’ll be back tomorrow (?) with tales of music, maps, and an even more epic journey…

4 thoughts on “Is This The Way To Kilfenora? (Ireland 2016)

  1. Ohhhhhhh I would walk five miles
    And walk five hundred more
    Just to be the one who walked a thousand miles
    To get to Kilfenor…a.
    …. Because the roadsigns were misleading and we hadn’t got a more detailled map :P

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