My Travel Blog

From The Barren Burren to The Garden Garnish Island

If you follow this blog then you know that Lisa and I love to hike.  While we were at Gergan’s Castle our travel agent made arrangements for Lisa and me to go on a 2.5-hour guided walk.  I suspect that when we told our guide Shane how much we enjoyed hiking he changed the plan.  We drove twenty minutes to The Burren, which is an area that was once covered in lush forest, but is now barren.  Shane explained that after hundreds of years of logging and cattle grazing all that was left was the exposed limestone surface.  Even the topsoil was washed away.  There are signs that nature is recovering.  We saw evidence of topsoil being regenerated, and even a few stunted trees were starting to grow.  When I say stunted, they looked more like ground cover than any tree I’ve ever seen.  Maybe in another 1,000 years there will be forests on the land where there is currently little more than rock.

Lisa and I at the Burren.

Our guide Shane.

Not your typical IRISH weather.

Part of a circular fort at the top of the hill. Shane said they didn’t know how old it was, but that it could be up to 3,000 years old or just a couple of hundred years old.

An ancient sponge exposed in the limestone surface.

Shane proved to be an impressive fount of knowledge. We talked about everything from politics to geology to cattle ranching to botany in Ireland.  I have to say when it comes to their homeland the Irish are certainly passionate.  Of course who can blame them when you read their history, and what they went through to gain their freedom.  By the time we were done our 2.5-hour walk had turned into a four-hour hike, and we loved it.

Our next stop was Sheen Falls Lodge near Kenmare.  The view from the hotel entry looked out over a placid tidal inlet, which disappeared at low tide.  From our room we watched a bubbling brook or a raging river depending on how much rain there was that day. After an exhausting drive on Ireland’s narrow roads we went for a peaceful walk along the river.  On our return we decided to go to the bar and have a drink.  Of course we had to have our new favorite refresher, a pint of Guinness.

A couple pints of Guinness for Tom and Lisa. Note how much water is in the stream.

It rained a little, and now see how much water is in the stream.

Lisa and I went for a walk along the stream.

The next day we went to Garnish Island.  John Annan Bryce and his wife Violet purchased the island in 1910 from the War Office.  Ultimately it would be their son Rowland that would complete the island improvements.

The forty-acre island has a number of different gardens with names like Happy Valley, The Walled Garden, The Jungle, and the Italian Garden. The family house is rather modest, as it was originally built as the gardener’s cottage. The plans for the massive home the Bryce family had hoped to build are on display. Unfortunately the family lost most of its fortune to the Russian revolution, as John Bryce had invested heavily in Russian gold mines.

The Garinish Island ferry coming to pick us up.

The Italian Garden.

Our next adventure was one of the many highlights of our trip.  Liam met us at the front of the lodge, and directed us to a large grass lawn on the hotel property.  We were each given heavy leather gloves to protect our hands and arms.  Liam then introduced us to Tex, a Harris Hawk from Texas of all places.  He explained that the Harris hawk was one of the best breeds for falconry.  Liam demonstrated how he sent Tex off to one of the perches set up around the multi acre lawn, and then brought him back with a raw piece of chicken.  After his demonstration Lisa and I got to try our hand at falconry.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I was thinking I might like to get involved in this hobby.  I asked Liam how he got involved and what it took to take care of these magnificent birds.After hearing about how your life is dedicated to these birds that can live up to 30 years, I decided I would leave falconry to the professionals.

Big bird holding an owl.

We loved interacting with these magnificent birds.

This little guy tried to pick my pocket.

That’s better.

Tom Miller

Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.