Ireland’s West Coast: The Burren and The Cliffs of Moher

Our first day in the countryside included a drive down to our B & B near Liscannor, on the Western coast.   We drove from Dublin, through Galway and then southward.

On the way, we passed through The Burren which has an incredible panorama.   Edmond Ludlow in 1650 said,  “(Burren) is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him…… and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.

Landscape of The Burren

We found our B & B, Atlantic View, operated by energetic Mary and then headed to see the Cliffs of Moher.

Backpackers near Liscannor

We arrived around 7pm.  The views were breathtaking.  We had heard about them from Couch Surfer.

Gorgeous Cliffs of Moher

She had told us about people climbing on the path on the edge and she thought they were crazy.   Gabe coaxed me out there but I didn’t stay long, wanting to get back behind the safe wall.   The reason is that it is very windy.  I know it would take a lot to blow off the edge, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Hubby on the edge.  He’s braver than me. 

The other side

We enjoyed the view for about two hours, quitting just before sunset.  With the sunset at about 10pm in Ireland during our trip, neither one of us could postpone dinner any longer.

One last glance. Beautiful.

We found a local joint, Daughan’s Anchor Inn, in the fishing village of Liscannor and happily enjoyed our seafood dinner.

The next morning we set off for Killarney, our base for exploring the Ring of Kerry.


Jameson Distillery

While in Dublin, two of the tours were recommended were The Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery.

Neither one of us had toured a distillery before.   Surprisingly, the tour was similar to the beer tours we’d done.  The feel was the same, with walking through the ingredients, the process, the barreling, etc.

Jameson is special because its double malted and triple distilled.   What that means is that they use two types of barley – both malted and unmalted.  And that they put the liquor through 3 stills to get out more impurities.

Everything is done throughout the tour to show Jameson’s superiority.

Jameson Whisky starts its life as barley.   It is spread in a malt house on a heated floor, where it sprouts.  Then it goes into the oven for drying.  This is in contrast to some which are entirely done in the oven, like scotch, which gets a smoky taste.

Next, it goes to a Mill where both barkeys into powder called grist.  Jameson used a real river water wheel until 1971, but when they moved their factory, they changed.

Then comes the Mashing where it is warmed and the starch turns to sugar.   They drain the liquid out which is now called wort but later becomes the whisky.  The leftover grain matter goes to animal feed.  How green!

Next is Fermentation, done in a washback…here the wort is mixed with yeast.  It rests 3 days and a the end is 8% alcohol.

Distillation comes after.   This is done in a Pot Still to separate the water from the alcohol.   They boil the wort and the alcohol becomes vapor and goes into the neck and comes back down the other side as alcohol.

Our guide claimed that this triple distillation makes Jameson more pure and helps Ireland function better without hangovers.

Next comes Maturation.  The minimum time for whisky to “rest” before consumption is 3 years.   Jameson’s minimum is 5 years.   When you are in the room, it smells like vanilla which is the evaporated whisky.  Each year, the barrel loses 2% of its stock, which equates to 15,000 bottles in a year.   There is no way around it.  They tried burying the barrels but the whisky never matured.  So evaporation is key in maturation.  They call it the “angels share.”      It makes sense why the aged whisky is more expensive.  It is reduced significantly in volume after 25 years…someone has to pay for that.

They talked a bit about the barrels.  They actually use white oak barrels that are recycled…they come from Spanish port, sherry and Bourbon* from Kentucky!  The residue from the various other alcoholic drinks is critical.    I thought that was pretty neat.

The person who makes barrels is called a cooper. They have to train for 8 years…more than a doctor!

After the barrels are done at Jameson, they ship them to the Carribean for rum.  Another green practice.

After this, next is marrying and vatting. They mix the liquid made in each barrel, then add water and then bottle.

After this, we each got a shot of Jameson.  We could add ginger ale, sprite, or coke or have it “neat”.  We could also could use ice.  However, the guide told us it was only for “girls”.  Glad i was a girl. I had mine with ice and ginger.

Enjoying my Jameson & Ginger

Gabe volunteered to be among the elite whisky tasters who would try Jameson vs. Johnnie Walker Black Label vs. Jack Daniels.  This was meant to further drive the point of Jameson’s quality and to demonstrate what we learned.   It was a bonus because it was a lot more free whisky for him.

Ready to taste!

Tasting card in order of best to “worse” as they classified it

Love this shot!

He had to go in the order of Jameson, then Johnnie Walker (top scotch) and Jack (top American whisky).

The guide talked about the flaws in each one with the scotch being smoky and the Americans using new barrels vs. old, and corn vs. barley, which produced a sweet result.    It cracked me up that when the guide introduced Jack as smelling like “college and bad decisions”.   He also noted his frustration that when he visited Lynchburg, Tennesee it was a dry county and he couldn’t even buy it there.  He was perplexed.

After Gabe tasted, I tried.  I agreed that Jameson was the best.  It was the smoothest.  The Johnnie Walker didn’t do much for me.  But I am fine with the sweet taste of Jack.

You got me, Jameson, I am now a fan!

*We learned that the reason Bourbon is different from Whisky is that it is made in Kentucky.   Plus some other reasons.  But good to know….its like Champagne can only come from Champagne.

Related links:
The Swiss Watch Blog:  Heineken Redeems Itself

We graduated from Guinness Academy

A must for us in Dublin was the Guinness Storehouse.

A few fun facts about this iconic brewery:

-When Arthur Guinness took out the lease, it was for 9000 years.  Now that is thinking ahead.

-The factory spans 55 acres in downtown Dublin

-3 million pints are brewed at St James Gate each day

Every beer tour we’ve done has included a visual tour about the ingredients they use – barley, hops, water and yeast.  Guinness did as well, but claimed a 5th ingredient too.

Also every beer tour we’ve done included the process.   In going to Jameson the day after, we learned making whiskey is almost the same.

The steps for Guinness beer are:


Mashing à Wort






Making Guinness back in the day

I found the area about transportation particularly interesting.  Since it was brewed downtown, they had to make special boats to get under the low Dublin bridges:


They also had to get it overseas:

How’d you like to be the captain of this boat?

Love their slogans

The Obamas enjoy their Guinness from time to time.

You’ll be happy to know that we graduated from Guinness Academy.  We even got diplomas.  This was the most fun part of the tour….learning how to pour a Guinness.    Now, at Heineken, you could do this with water and a tap, but at Guinness they really let you do it.   And pouring a Guinness is more involved than you would think!

First you must inspect the Guinness branded glass to make sure it is clean and absent of lipstick.  Being a marketing person, I appreciated the branding mention.

Next you tilt it and pull the tap toward you.  You fill it up to the Guinness logo then slowly tilt the glass upward and stop the tap.

You must let it rest.   Notice how the lighter ones have just been poured and the darker have rested a bit?  That is due to the special tap and helps accentuate the flavor.


Once dark, then, you top it off with a slow pour by pushing the tap backwards.


Then you proudly serve it.  Good things come to those who wait.


They also have a pretty sweet Gravity Bar to enjoy a drink:

You can order by the glass if you can’t drink a whole pint.  I did this when we visited all the pubs in Dublin.  It allowed me to keep up with Gabe “glass for glass”.   At Stag’s head, they even had teeny branded Guinness glasses.

Gratitude Friday: Sunburns in Dublin

We just returned from a fabulous long weekend in Ireland.  In preparation for our trip, we knew to expect rain.  My friend K told me her grandma says, “You don’t go to Ireland for the weather”.  We had heard stories of friends who never saw blue sky the entire time.

When the weather forecast included a sun, I refused to accept it.  After all, you know Murphy’s law.   So, I prepared my warmest sweaters and scarves to take.  A raincoat.  And an umbrella.

We were greeted with sun.   And it stayed.  We know this was unusual based on the research we did.  It was also accentuated by the Irish.  Every time we saw locals greet each other, they quipped about the unbelievable weather.   It was all the radio stations talked about.

We dripped with sweat in our jeans and long sleeves.  We were burned slightly.  We couldn’t be happier.

The city was so alive with people appreciating the turn of good luck.

Crowds filling the streets for happy hour

Loving the sun

Some sought the shadows

It was warm enough for street dancing in the evening

Even forgetting about the sunshine it donned on us, we loved the city of Dublin.   It was evident that it didn’t need the sun to have warmth….in the colors, the personality of the people, the liveliness of the local joints.

This guy might have had a little too much gratitude for the sun

And I am not just saying it.  The people were some of the nicest we have come by so far in our travels.  Sure, the English not being a barrier helps.  Two examples to further illustrate:

#1 – Gabe and I were debating where to go for lunch.  We had the map out and we knew where we were, just more bantering about when and where.  A businessman walked up to us and inquired, “Can I help you find your way?”.  Out of the blue he wanted to help us.

#2 – I had a little bit of a red eye the second morning (no, not the Guinness!) and we inquired about the nearest pharmacy so I could get some Visine.  As soon as we asked, the receptionist at the hotel came over, worried, and said, “now what’s wrong, what can I do?”  We told her the simple answer and she embraced me and gave my shoulders a rub, empathizing with me.  Even though my little malady wasn’t a big deal, it was really nice of her.

We knew the Irish people were great as we have a friend in Geneva who has set a first example.  We love her bubbling personality and art for conversation.  We really appreciated seeing the city in which she lived, colorful and fun, along with more friendly folks, just like her!

Luckily, she and her partner had given us lots of good tips for what to do and see…and most importantly, where to eat and have a Guinness.   So, we did just that.  I thought I’d share the list for those traveling to Dublin soon:

Elephant & Castle, recommended by T, this was a delicious lunch spot in Temple Bar.  They have great burgers, salads, and wings.  Loved the duck salad.

Stag’s Head – we went there for an early drink one night and for music the other night. Great Guinness and service.

Gabe enjoying Stag’s Head music

Me enjoying a glass of Guinness at Stag’s Head. Just my size.

Temple Bar – we walked by this when exploring the historical area and it was also a fun place for a drink with live Irish music

O’Neill’s. They have a hearty Irish buffet served all day. Also great Guinness and a very traditional atmosphere.

We stayed in the Mercantile Hotel. It was an awesome location with friendly staff. They also had a sweet bar below.

In addition, we really enjoyed outdoor lunch at Kitchen, and our pre-theatre dinner at La Stampa.  Sorry no pictures there.

We did one of the Hop On, Hop Off Buses.  I’d like to say we only did it to save my feet, but we really like these sometimes to scope out the area and it provides cheaper and direct transportation.  It did additionally help with the feet though.  We loved seeing Trinity College, St Stephens Green, Christchurch, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and our stops at Guinness Storehouse and Jameson.

So, Dublin gets an A+ in our books.  Very grateful for our sunny experience.

Bon weekend, everyone!