The Burren Way is essentially a linear route, starting in Lahinch and ending in Corofin (or vice versa). However, there are a number of offshoots or spurs off the main trail. These are to link in other County Clare towns such as Lisdoonvarna, Fanore and Ballyvaughan. This is helpful in that it gives walkers access to more accommodation options. For me, day two of walking the Burren Way can be broken into two main sections. Firstly, I walked just over 21km from Doolin along the main Burren Way. The second part for me was then the 6km offshoot to Ballyvaughan where I stayed the night in the Wild Atlantic Lodge Hotel.
Starting off from Doolin
Doolin is a beautiful village. It’s famous for its warm welcomes, cosy pubs, live music and friendly locals. All of this makes it a great location for travel-weary walkers. However, one thing you need to know about Doolin is that there is no shop in the village to buy a packed lunch. The Doolin café wasn’t hugely helpful when I enquired there about a takeaway sandwich.
As such, my advice is to ask the Hotel or B & B you are staying in to prepare one for you. They will usually do this for a small fee.
Leaving Doolin I set off on my walk by crossing the Aille river and walking steadily uphill for about 3km along the R479.
Looking back towards Doolin I could see the Cliffs of Moher looming ominously in the background with nice views out towards the Aran Islands to my left.
Then it’s a right turn along much quieter country roads. The route is well signposted along this section and I could see plenty of colour in the pretty hedgerows as I walked along.
While much of the sea views are no longer available after the first 3km, they come back at around the 6.5km mark. I literally came around a bend in the road and was met with a stunning vista of the Atlantic Ocean and Aran Islands in the background and lush green fields in the foreground.
First Mountain of the Burren Way
The walk thus far has been generally uphill and from the 8km mark it gets quite steep. The reason for this is that I am ascending Knockaun’s Mountain.
The country road turns into a rough boreen as I move upwards. I don’t summit the mountain itself on this trail but rather come up the shoulder of it. The highest height I get to is about 230m between the 12 and 13km mark. Despite a cloudy mist hanging over the mountain, being up at this height gave great views out over the ocean. It must be amazing in clear weather.
As I made my way down the mountain, I had a great view of Fanore Beach from Balliny. Then I cross the road and go over a stile to get on to a mountain pathway. For the first time today, I come across other walkers and cyclists. This section of the Burren Way is also part of both the Black Head Loop and Caher Valley Loop so it makes sense that it’s a little busier.
The next 4.5km are probably the nicest of day two of walking the Burren Way. I walked uphill once more as I went up Slieve Elva (the highest point in the Burren). Again, the summit is to my right as I go over the shoulder of the mountain.
For the first time on the Burren Way, I get to really experience the limestone pavement scenery that the Burren is famous for. There is still greenery around, and the wildflowers along the edges of the mountain path are beautiful. However, the overall feeling is of being surrounded by stone. The walls on either side of you are made of stone. The small fields the walls border are mostly limestone pavement. The mountains in the distance are grey and shaley. The path underfoot is limestone. This valley of stone has a real rugged beauty to it. The alien feel to the environment makes it all the more appealing for visitors like me.
The downhill portion here is a bit tricky so I would advise you to be cautious as you descend. Just before the 18km mark I crossed the shallow Caher River. There is a small section of road walking here.
The Final Climb
The third and final big ascent of day two of the Burren Way brings you along a gravel road past the fort of Cathair on Ard Rios. This is probably the steepest part of the day. Coming at the 19km mark, it’s pretty tough going. Plus I’d walked 29km the previous day which made legs a little tired! Nonetheless, the sun started to come out by the time I began moving downhill so I was kept in good spirits.
Back on the Road
I took a right turn when I reached a surfaced roadway after coming down the hill. I walked another 1.5km to get to the end of the first section of day two of walking the Burren Way at nearly the 21.5km mark. At this juncture. A right turn would bring you uphill, which will be part of tomorrow’s walk to the village of Carran. However, I kept going straight following the direction markers to Ballyvaughan.
The Ballyvaughan Spur
The offshoot to Ballyvaughan still keeps the Burren Way signposts and it is simple enough to get to the village. You need to stay on the road you are on until it meets the very busy N67. There is a pleasant stream running alongside you for much of the walk approaching this busy main road.
Luckily, I didn’t need to walk on the N67. Rather, the route turns left along another quiet country road. The next highlight is walking past the interesting looking Newtown Castle – a 16th century fortified tower currently in use as the Burren Art College. I took a right turn about 500m past the castle.
Shortly thereafter it was a left turn. This time off the road and along a pathway on the edge of a green pasture. I wasn’t sure if the fence here was electrified but I wasn’t taking any chances!
After the field, it was over another stile and on to a short forest walk. Then via a path through a limestone pavement. There are some direction markers in the stones along here but they can be difficult to see. So it’s important to pay attention to where you’re going. I passed through the limestone pavements and from there, the trail went over a couple more stiles and through a couple more fields before coming out at the Ballyvaughan GAA pitch. There were cattle grazing in the fields as I walked through but they didn’t pay me too much attention as I went by.
The GAA pitch is only a few hundred metres down to the water and into the heart of Ballyvaughan. And, that was it….just over 27km completed on day two of walking the Burren Way! Plenty of hill walking and plenty of sea views to show for the effort.