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Leave the N18 at Kilcolgan and drive towards Kinvara on the N67, about an hour south of Galway City. After the village of Kinvara the landscape begins to change. Gently rounded blue-grey hills rise before you, their flanks a patchwork of green fields. You’re in the Burren National Park, one of those World Heritage places that blows you clean away. It’s a karstic limestone pavement and remains sub-horizontal, meaning the ravages of time never threw the bedrock on its side, as is the case with most of Ireland. That’s why the hills look like a pile of slumped pancakes in the thickening atmosphere. Turn left off the N67 to Abbey Hill, start to climb and you’re a child again, hopping from stone to stone, higher and higher, knowing that on the descent your knees will remind you childhood is a distant memory. The limestone pavement is broken and fractured into clints and grykes, some jagged, some flat, some rounded. Some are loose – an ill-judged step can mean a tumble. Peer down deep, dark cracks and you’ll see delicate ferns, their rocky shelters a private walled garden in miniature. Keep climbing Abbey Hill and you reach the cairn at the top of the hill; it’s got some sort of archaeological significance that I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about. I made the sketch at the top of this page there. From left to right, that’s my brother-in-law, my husband and my son. Sketching the Burren in watercolour is a wonderful way to capture this magical, special place.
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