Burren Stories

The Burren Stories & Art

John Betjeman’s poem ‘Ireland With Emily’ dedicates two stanzas to a laudatory description of the landscape of the Burren. Written during the Second World War, when Betjeman was working for the British Embassy in the then neutral Irish Free State, the poem is evocative and richly detailed.

Stony seaboard, far and foreign,
Stony hills poured over space,
Stony outcrop of the Burren,
Stones in every fertile place,
Little fields with boulders dotted,
Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted,
Stone-walled cabins thatched with reeds,
Where a Stone Age people breeds
The last of Europe’s stone age race.

The following legend of Bóthar na Mias is to be found in the work of the great folklorist Thomas J. Westropp in Folklore of Clare (Ennis: Clasp Press, 2000):

‘The dish-like hollows in the crags below the hermitage of St. Colman MacDuach, at the great ‘Cliff of the Eagle,’ in Keelhilla, the name Bohernameesh (bothar na mias, i.e. road of the dishes), and marks like the footprints of men and animals all seem to have been seized on by the saint’s biographers. Colman, brother of King Guaire ‘the hospitable,’ of Hy Fiachrach Aidhne (the district round Gort), early in the seventh century retired to fast and pray in the wilderness. After a most austere observance of Lent, a companion monk yearned for meat, and Colman pitied him and prayed.

‘The King’s Easter feast therefore flew to the hermitage, pursued by the whole court. Terrified by the angry warriors Colman again prayed, and their feet and the hoofs of their horses stuck fast in the rocks. The legend is still told in a form identical with that in the Life. The servant is said to have died from the feast, and his grave is shown beside the Bóthar.’