Leap Year Day

February 29th or Leap Year Day is when ladies all over the world may propose to the man of their dreams.  An answer in the affirmative is more or less guaranteed.  If any man should be so bold as to decline a lady on this date, he should pay a hefty fine.

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A solar year is 365 and a quarter days long.  Every four years an extra day accumulates and is added to the calendar on the 29th of February creating a leap year day.

The term ‘Leap Year’ dates back to old England, when the day was not recognized by law.  The day was ‘leapt over’ and ignored, hence the name.

This lack of legal status on leap day resulted in an assumption that tradition held less sway on this date also.  Assertive women took the law and tradition into their own hands by proposing to the bachelor of their choice on this special day.

www.vintagerio.com

Love Is In The Air - Calendar From Leap Year 1888

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This old Irish tradition was highlighted in the romantic comedy Leap Year, released in 2010 and starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.

A legend behind the origins of this tradition dates back to the 5th century.  St. Brigid, a champion of women’s rights in her day, supposedly approached St. Patrick about a woman’s limited say when it came to choosing a husband.  St. Patrick compromised by permitting women to propose to the man of their choice once every four years.  Leap Year Day became the honorary day.

www.vintagerio.com

Knight In Shining Armor

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And so to all the ladies out there, waiting for their knight in shining armor to come along and woo them, wait no more.  If any lady feels the need to put a marriage proposal on fast track, just seize the moment!  Get off the fence and take the leap on Leap Year Day!  Go ahead and pop the question this very day.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sunday_States_1916_Its_Leap_Year_Boys.jpgImage Credit

 

And to all the bachelors out there, delaying the inevitable, not wishing to take the plunge, be prepared for your lady to get down on bended knee on this very special day.

Happy Leap Year Day to all!

 

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

 

What I Miss About Ireland – Rainbows

Rainbows are beautiful symbols of Ireland, made famous by the lure of leprechaun gold, stored in little black pots at rainbow’s end.   Irish rainbows feature prominently in fairytales of old, yet to this day they frequently appear in the cloudy skies of my homeland.

Today I thought it would be nice to share some photos of Irish rainbows, as I reminisce.   Thank you so much to all the wonderful photographers who captured these beautiful skies, and graciously made their work available for sharing through Flickr.com.

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Rainbow Near Clarinbridge, Co. Galway

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Rainbows are something I miss living here in America.  That may sound foolish considering rainbows are not an exclusively Irish phenomenon and are known to illuminate America’s beautiful, bright skies.  But rainbows are rare in Kentucky compared to the frequency of their glorious appearance in the skies of the Emerald Isle.

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Castlerock, County Derry

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Walking the winding lanes or boreens of Ireland, rainbows seem to appear on the horizon, out of nowhere.  There is something spiritual about seeing a rainbow.  Before its appearance the weight of the world may be laying heavily upon the mind.  One glimpse of heavenly rainbow colors makes everything right with the world.

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Ventry, Co. Kerry

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County Kerry rainbows feature frequently in this post.  Kerry is home to all the perfect ingredients for rainbow magic.  Majestic mountains, Atlantic ocean spray and plenty of clouds and rain create magnificent rainbow lit panoramas.

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Cloghane, Co. Kerry

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Another Kerry rainbow illuminates some grazing cows.  They must have eaten the pot of gold.  This rainbow appears to end amongst the cows.  Legend has it a wily leprechaun guards his loot diligently.  If his treasure is in danger of discovery, he will trick the unwitting human to retain control of his booty.

There is an old story of an Irishman who discovered a bush where the treasure was buried.  He needed to return home for his shovel so he tied a red ribbon to one of the branches, making the leprechaun promise never to touch the ribbon.  Upon his return he discovered every tree and bush covered in red ribbons.  There is no tricking a leprechaun!

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Inchydoney Beach, Co. Cork

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A double rainbow adorns this stormy sky in County Cork.

Whenever I see a rainbow I think of Noah’s story from the Bible.  A rainbow is God’s sign reminding us when times get tough, it is best to appreciate the little things in life.  No matter how dreary life may seem, despite the clouds and rain, we should always look for sunshine and rainbows.

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Rainbow in the West of Ireland

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Clarity of color and incredible width are often breath-taking features of Irish rainbows.

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Dingle, Co. Kerry

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The pot of gold at the end of this Kerry rainbow is hidden somewhere on the sandy beach on the Dingle peninsula.

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Rainbow at Ballyheige, Co. Kerry

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A windblown tree seems to bow down reverentially to this majestically clear rainbow.  What a beautiful photo, capturing the full arc of this rainbow.

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Inch Island, Co. Donegal

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 A double rainbow captured in Co. Donegal.  In these days of doom and gloom in Ireland, I hope the sight of rainbows will renew hope in a better future.

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St. Patrick Blesses A Rainbow

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Since Americans associate pots of gold at rainbow’s end with St. Patrick’s Day, I think this photo is very appropriate.  In this fabulous picture, Ireland’s favorite saint appears to bless that ever illusive leprechaun stash.

And finally ….

My favorite Irish rainbow picture:

 

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Kinvara, Co. Galway

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The reflection of the rainbow in the still gray waters of the lake is picture perfect.  What an amazing shot!

Thanks for taking this rainbow tour of Ireland today.  If you have any shots of rainbows from around the world and would like to share them online just let me know.  I would love to feature them in future posts.

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

Apricot Glazed Corned Beef

 

 

The first time I ever tasted a corned beef brisket was in Elmira, New York  at a St. Patrick’s Day party in 1988.  So many people asked if it tasted just like my mom’s corned beef, and were astonished to learn we don’t eat corned beef and cabbage very often in Ireland.

In Ireland we tend to pair cabbage and potatoes with bacon.  Our version of corned beef is an inexpensive canned deli meat.  I am not sure if it is a step above or below Spam.

So where did the association of corned beef with St. Patrick’s Day come from in America.  When Irish emigrants arrived in America they found that beef and salt were relatively cheap, so they started to cure beef just like they treated a “bacon joint” back home in Ireland. Hence corned beef and cabbage replaced Ireland’s traditional bacon and cabbage dinner.

Bacon and cabbage was a weekly staple in our house.  I always remember my grandmother sending me to the creamery to buy a piece of meat.  “The man behind the counter saves the piece of bacon I like,” she advised.  He never failed her.  I would arrive back with a lovely pink piece of meat wrapped up in brown paper and tied with rough twine.

She cooked it in an ever-boiling pot of water, bubbling on the range, tossing in shredded cabbage leaves about a half an hour before the meat was done.  My West Cork grandmother was no fancy cook, but she made the best bacon and cabbage I have ever tasted.

Since coming to live in America it is hard, if not impossible, to find traditional Irish bacon.  Just like emigrants from years gone by, I have learned to substitute corned beef, but unlike my grandmother, I don’t just boil it.  I make a sweet glaze with apricot preserves then finish cooking it in the oven, to add an extra layer of flavor.

Here is my recipe:

 

Ingredients

  • 1 corned beef brisket (about 3 pound)
  • 1 onion (quartered)
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped in 1 inch pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4oz butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cups apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

 

Place the brisket in a large Dutch oven, and add the chopped celery and quartered onions.

Cover the meat with water and season with salt and pepper.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours.  A 3 pound brisket takes 2 hours and a 4 pound brisket needs 2 and 1/2 hours.

Just before the meat finishes boiling pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and make the glaze.  Melt the butter in the bottom of a small saucepan and add the brown sugar.

Pour in the apricot preserves or jam as we say in Ireland.

Next comes a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce.

Then add two tablespoons of dijon mustard.

Pour a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar into the glaze.

And finally, powdered ginger adds extra depth of flavor to this sweet glaze.

Whisk the glaze ingredients together over medium heat until the sugar and preserves dissolve.

Remove the brisket from the Dutch oven and discard the cooking liquid and vegetables.  Place the joint in a greased roasting pan.

Pour the glaze over the meat.  Use a spoon to make sure the surface of the corned beef is well glazed.  Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Spoon the glaze from the bottom of the pan over the joint every 10 minutes during the baking process.

Remove from the oven and let the meat stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  This resting time allows the meat juices redistribute and remain in the meat when you slice it open.

Serve sliced corned beef with boiled cabbage and potatoes.

Here is the printable recipe:

Apricot Glazed Corned Beef

Serves 6 to 8
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 3 hours
Total time 3 hours, 15 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
This corned beef is not just boiled. Brushed with a sweet glaze of apricot preserves, cooking is finished in the oven, adding an extra layer of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 corned beef brisket (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 onion (quartered)
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped in 1 inch pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4oz butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cups apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Step 1 Place corned beef brisket in a Dutch oven. Add chopped celery and onion. Cover with water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours for a 3 pound brisket, 2 and 1/2 hours for a 4 pound brisket.
Step 2 Five minutes before the end of cooking time for the meat, make the apricot glaze. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar, apricot preserves, worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, vinegar, and ground ginger. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
Step 3 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When cooked, remove the meat from the pot. Discard the cooking liquid and vegetables.
Step 4 Place the cooked beef in a greased roasting pan. Brush the brisket with the apricot glaze.
Step 5 Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Every 10 minutes reglaze the joint by spooning some of the glaze from the bottom of the pan over it.
Step 6 Once cooked, let the corned beef stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
Step 7 Serve with cabbage and potatoes.

Wishing you all successful St. Patrick’s Day planning and cooking.

 

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

Who Am I? Where Am I From?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nukeit1/72941941/in/photostream/

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My son’s second grade class learned about Ellis Island and immigration last week.  Each child’s homework involved investigating family origins and reporting back to class to answer the question:

“WHERE IS YOUR FAMILY FROM?”

 

My son was intrigued by all the different answers he heard – Italy, Germany, Africa, Sweden to name but a few.  His classmates’ heritage truly reflected America’s melting pot.  His best friend is part Native American, Italian and Irish.  My poor son was pretty disappointed.  He could only report one country of origin.  At seven the motto “more is better” rules.

“Do I only get to say Ireland?” he asked mournfully.

“I’m afraid so,” I replied.  “You’re 100% Irish for generations.”

The very next morning I came across a blog post by Charles R. Hale on his website STORIES CONNECT, LOVE HEALS.  Hale, an Irish-American writer and genealogist based in New York coincidentally asked the very questions my son was exploring:

Who Are You?

Where Do You Come From?

 

I found these to be very thought provoking questions, especially upon reading Hale’s previous post called  Genealogy: Fascinating Folly?

This post explained how most people can trace their family for 200 years or maybe 300 years if they are lucky.  But if the human race is over 200,000 years in existence where does that leave the genealogist trying to trace numerous ancestral lines?  Hale concluded in typical lyrical style:

 

“I am a marauding Viking and a pagan dancing around a fire.  I am an

archaeologist piecing together ancestral shards.  I am a historian

mapping  my ancestors’ spirits and emotions with words.  I am all

their stories and all their wisdom.  I am everyone.”

- Charles R. Hale


He urged his readers to add their interpretations of who they think they are in comments and by email.  He then featured individual ancestral revelations in additional posts.  The questions he posed set my mind reeling.  I left a comment that goes like this:

 

“I am, I am, I am,” is resonating through my head.  Until recently

there was only one answer in my mind to the question “Who am I?”

I quoted Yeats and answered solidly:  “I am of Ireland”.  But life has

taken me on a path of transition, of evolution I never dreamed of.  I

have chosen to dance in America, not the holy land of Ireland, and

now I must decide who I have become.

 

After reading some of the beautiful responses and comments on the original post, I decided to try to put in words who I am, and where I have come from.  Here is what I came up with:

 

I am lulled to sleep by droning rain songs. I am rich earthen clay

breaking between fingertips. I am forty shades of emerald green, the

smell of fresh-cut hay, waving daffodils and purple fairy kisses.

 

 

I am a weary farmer feasting on potatoes with melting butter,

washed down by tangy buttermilk.

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/byrnsey/4338382969/in/photostream/Image Credit

I am a West Cork dreamer standing on towering cliffs above Atlantic

ocean swells, illuminated by the orange glow of the setting sun on a

distant, watery horizon.

 

 

I am a loving mother, watching her children play, leaning on the

half-door of a little stone cottage with white-washed walls, and a

bonnet of yellow thatch.

I am a survivor, inhaling the putrid smell

of decay, scraping the oozing earth from the roots of black potato

stalks, laying limp across cherished fields.

 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Irish_potato_famine_Bridget_O%27Donnel.jpgImage Credit

I come from a long line of survivors, searchers, storytellers, lovers

of words, and the company of friends. Their dreams and aspirations

are now mine, and inspire me as I shape my new life in America.

 

Charles Hale graciously featured my genealogical interpretation in his follow up.  Here are the links for all the posts in his series.  I thoroughly enjoyed his readers’ responses.  If you have a moment, take some time to check out the beautiful answers on his website.

 

Genealogy: Fascinating Folly?

 

Who Are You? Where Are You From?

The Ancient Warrior, The HulaHoop And Yeats

 

Cowbells, Conquerors, Fishermen and Nomads

 

West Cork Dreamer, Indian Lullabies, A Caretaker And A Daughter Of God

 

A big thank you to Charles Hale for creating such a wonderful exercise and for featuring my ramblings.

 

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom


P.S.  Feel free to continue the conversation by leaving a comment.  I would love to hear who you are and where you are from.

 

 

 

County Clare – Home Of The Cliffs Of Moher

 

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The Cliffs Of Moher

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The majestic sheer walls of the Cliffs of Moher may be County Clare’s most famous scenic attraction, but when you visit you will be spoiled by a wealth of breath-taking scenery, great natural wonders, ancient castles, charming towns and villages, relaxing pubs, exceptional traditional Irish music, and invigorating outdoor activities.

The people of Clare are laid-back and welcoming, making Clare a county to fall in love with.

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County Clare, Ireland

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County Clare, one of the six counties of the southern province of Munster, is the only Munster county lying west of the river Shannon.  The eastern county boasts rolling hills, forests, verdant fields, beautiful lakes and streams – a bounty of serene, peaceful scenery.  The western coastline is in sharp contrast, dominated by the rugged beauty of wind, rain and wave lashed cliffs and beaches.

 

Shannon:

 

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Moonlit View From Airplane Approaching Shannon Airport

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The first glimpse of Ireland for many tourists is framed by a small window as their plane approaches Shannon Airport in Co. Clare.  The rising sun tinges the patchwork fields in the the shadowy glow of an Irish morning, the countryside embellished by a pink, pre-dawn radiance.

Then again, you may not be so lucky!  You may be greeted by lashing rain and low lying clouds, limiting your view to the airplane’s wingtip.  I hope you are lucky enough to experience the magic of landing in the emerald isle on a glorious, sunny morning.

Shannon is the first port-of-call for many, and a perfect spot to begin touring County Clare and the rest of our beautiful island.

Bunratty Castle:

 

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Bunratty Castle At Night

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Bunratty Castle lies just a few miles east of Shannon airport.  It is Ireland’s most complete and authentic medieval fortress.  It dates back to 1425, but was fully restored in 1954.  Tourists can enjoy castle tours, beautiful gardens and a medieval banquet hosted by the ‘Earl of Thomond’ each evening.  This is a dinner experience not to be missed.  If planning to visit by day, plan on arriving early, since the castle closes each day at 4 pm to prepare for the evening’s entertainment.

 

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Cottage In Bunratty Folk Park

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Bunratty Folk Park gives the visitor a glimpse of Ireland’s past.  This reconstructed 19th century Irish village brings to life a rural Irish existence from days long gone.

 

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Durty Nelly’s, lies in the shadow of Bunratty Castle and is one of Ireland’s most famous pubs.  Dating back to 1620, Durty Nelly’s offers a unique Irish pub experience with traditional music 7-nights a week.

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Dromoland Castle

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Dromoland Castle is a luxury, 5-star hotel with an excellent golf course, situated just a few miles north of Bunratty.  The ancient home of the O’Brien clan, the current building was finished in 1835.  A castle has been located at this site since the 15th century.

The Shannon River:

 

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Killaloe On The Shannon River

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The Shannon river borders County Clare to the east.  Killaloe is a beautiful town from which to explore the delights of the river and nearby Lough Derg.  The town is home to the Brian Boru Heritage Center, which celebrates the life of Ireland’s greatest High King.  He was a native of County Clare and defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

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Tinarana Bay, Lough Derg – © Copyright JP and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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Lough Derg is a large lake on the Shannon river and offers a wide variety of watersports, cruising and angling.  The lake is surrounded by beautiful countryside,  with trails perfect for walking, cycling, and horse riding.

Ennis:

 

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Ennis – On The Banks Of The River Fergus

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Ennis, Clare’s largest town, is located in the center of the county, making it the perfect base for touring.  It offers a superb range of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and unique shopping.

 

The Cliffs Of Moher:

 

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The Cliffs Of Moher

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The Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions.  Rising 700 feet above the Atlantic ocean swells, a walk along the cliff’s edge path is not to be missed.  If you look closely at the top left corner of this photo, you will see a group of tourists standing at the very edge.

Doolin:

 

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Fisher Street, Doolin

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Doolin, Co. Clare

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Doolin village lies just north of the Cliffs of Moher and is renowned as the traditional music capital of the country.  Doolin’s pubs offer a warm welcome to visitors.  Ferries are available to the Aran Islands which lie to the west of counties Clare and Galway.

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Doonagore Castle, Doolin

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Doonagore Castle in Doolin is a 16th century tower house built overlooking the great Atlantic ocean.

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The Great Stalactite, Doolin

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Doolin Cave is open to the public and is home to The Great Stalactite, one of the largest known stalactites in the world.

Aillwee Caves:

 

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Aillwee Caves

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If you enjoy geology and caves, Aillwee Caves in the heart of the Burren are amongst Ireland’s oldest caves.  Expert tour guides educate visitors on Ireland’s underworld.

The Burren:

 

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Limestone Pavement – The Burren

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The Burren is an area of limestone rock in paving formation which covers imposing mountains and valleys.  Gray limestone hills against an ocean backdrop create a truly breathtaking panorama.

 

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Megalithic tombs and monuments dot the countryside of The Burren.  Many are older than the Egyptian pyramids.

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Flowers In The Burren

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The tapestry of colors within the Burren is spectacular.  It is home to many unique wildflowers, found only in this part of Co. Clare.  The Burren Center is located in the village of Kilfenora.  A beautifully presented educational program, helps visitors discover all of the wonders of this unique part of Ireland’s landscape.

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Corkscrew Hill – Ballyvaughan

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The view from Corkscrew Hill in Ballyvaughan is amazing.  The gray limestone hills, tranquil valley and Atlantic ocean are mesmerizing.  No photo can truly capture the beauty of this landscape.

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Signpost In Ballyvaughan

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I had to include this photo of a Ballyvaughan signpost.  Good luck trying to figure out which way to go!

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking:

 

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Dancing By Day At Lisdoonvarna

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Lisdoonvarna is famous for its Matchmaking Festival, held each year in late September and early October, with dancing, music, socializing and of course the age-old tradition of matchmaking.  So anyone looking for a partner, should head to Lisdoonvarna.

 

Outdoor Activities:

 

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Golfing At Lahinch

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Spectacular golf courses in County Clare test the skills of players of every level.  Be prepared for a few lost balls in the Atlantic waves.

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Fishing At Lahinch

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Fishing the rivers and lakes in the east of County Clare is a very different experience to hauling in a catch in the rough waters of the Atlantic.  Fishing guides and instructors are available throughout the county.  An extensive list is available on the Fishing In Ireland website.

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Surfing At Fanore Beach

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The Atlantic coastline of Co. Clare offers world-class waves, making it amongst the world’s best big-wave destinations.  Information on County Clare surfing is available on the Shannon Region Trails website.

Once again, I have only been able to bring you a small taste of what County Clare has to offer.  Here are some great sites to help you plan a visit to this beautiful coastal county.

Shannon Heritage

Clare – Live The Life

Cliffs of Moher

Discover Ireland

Clare Heritage And Genealogical Center

County Clare Ireland

 

Wishing you all happy travels in County Clare.
Here are the links for the other counties we have visited so far on our tour of Ireland, county-by-county:

1. County Antrim

 

2. County Armagh

 

3. County Carlow

 

4. County Cavan

 

5. County Clare

 

6. County Cork

 

7. County Derry

 

8. County Donegal

 

9. County Down

 

10. County Dublin

 

11. County Fermanagh

 

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom