I’ve wanted to take my kids on a walk in the Burren for years, it being somewhere that never fails to humble and inspire me and lift my spirits with its mysterious beauty and the sense of otherworldliness it gives off. To match the abilities and boredom thresholds of my six- and eight-year-olds, I searched for a relatively short and easy trail and came up with the Templecronan Looped Walk.
This route, which takes the hiker on a five km (3 miles) circuit north of the village of Carron in the heart of the Burren, will take the average adult about two hours to complete but took us closer to three (we had after all to stop to examine interesting flowers, dunk our heads into the holy well, pick and devour delicious blackberries and stare back at the sheep and cattle!).
The walk starts northwards from Cassidy’s pub along Carron’s main street and is very well indicated by a series of green arrows (ignore the purple ones as these are for a longer and more challenging trek). Thanks to these, there was never any point of the walk at which we were in doubt as to where to go next, to the extent that the map and guidebook I had brought were very much redundant. My older daughter got a great kick out of finding the next arrow and leading the party through the next stile or gap. Precise details of the route can be found on Discover Ireland’s excellent website . I’ll just give my impressions of the walk as a family man!
First of all, the route is quite flat and the terrain is safe and manageable even for the feet of a six-year-old. Some of the stiles were slightly tricky for our youngest, but she got through these with the minimum of help. There was only one section of the walk that took us over limestone pavement, but the grikes were of the “unhidden” kind. The final Old Bog Road section was quite mucky but nothing that would defeat a pair of good hiking boots and pants. Perhaps the nervous would feel safer with a walking stick for this part.
What I liked about the walk was the mix of surfaces and landscapes it led us through. We walked along country boreens replete with grass growing down the middle. Here the livestock came to meet and greet (including a great white bull) and the hedgerows were heavy with blackberries and still-unripe (unfortunately) hazelnuts. We crossed rich pasture land, where grandiose views of the Burren opened up. There was a celtic-twilight-type section through hazel and ash woodland. We found ourselves on open limestone pavement sprinkled with numerous of the flowing plant species for which the Burren is famous and, on the very last stretch of the walk, a very squelchy bog road.
The route took us by two very special places of worship: the one-celled early Christian church of Templecronan and the Tobar Chrónáin holy well. These ancient sites are located in an area called Termon, which comes from the Irish tearmann, meaning “church land affording sanctuary”. The current church dates from the twelfth century but incorporates earlier structures and was probably built on the site of a pagan temple.
In Christian times both church and well came to be associated with St. Cronán (who may or may not be a distant relation of mine!). The holy well, as is usually the case with these sites, has probably been a centre of devotion since Neolothic times and is still in use as a place of pilgrimage, wish-making and cures. Its waters are said to heal afflictions of the eye. My daughters gave themselves a good dousing although neither suffers from any ocular malady (is this preventative folk medicine?!).
I found there to be a special atmosphere enveloping the area surrounding church and well — a quiet stillness and a sense of removal from the outside world. Templecronan and Tobar Chrónáin are located in a rocky and wooded hollow from which views of the surrounding hills are blocked, something that lends the site a sense of physical isolation. The breeze doesn’t seem to blow there and birds appear to sing more gently. One gets the sense that the place has always had that special “something”. The ancients who picked these locations knew what they were at!
We finished up our walk as fresh as when we began, all four of us with the same contented smile on our face. Perhaps on our next holidays we will tackle a longer and more hilly route. Until then, the nature, the heritage and the beauty we found along the Templecronan Looped Walk will keep us going until the next time we can get to the Burren to recharge.