the sleeping warriors

Arguably no place in Ireland is as strange and eerie as the Burren of County Clare. The name `Burren' comes from the Gaelic bhoireann, meaning "rocky place", and there is no other landscape like it in Europe. In parts of it the country takes on the quality of a lunar surface - vast areas of moss-covered limestone, thick with strange flowers and fauna, matched by great fists of rock rising out of the calcified surface as if to threaten the unwary traveller. This is also a land of druid stones, ancient forts, the ivy-clad tower-houses of long-vanished families and of deserted villages and overgrown roads, it is indeed a lonely and sinister place.

Because the Burren is composed of sedimentary rock, water comes and goes through it, creating deep caves and fissures in its surface. There is a belief that they are the portals to the dark fairy world, near which ancient heroes slumber on their sentry duty. But let the interloper beware, for the slightest sound may stir them into action. Indeed, there areIreland many local tales concerning those who have been so ill-advised as to trespass on their domain.

"They say that there is a cave out on the Burren that only opens once in every seven years. Some would tell you that there is a grand treasure hidden there but that it is unwise to enter it for it is the abode of the fairies and the gold rightfully belongs to them. It is as well to leave it alone.

There was a man named MacMahon, a poacher, who lived over beyond Ballynalackin and he was out hunting very early one morning, near the old castle there, when he came upon the entrance to a cave that he hadn't noticed before. He had been chasing hares across the rocks when they had suddenly disappeared and, under a rocky overhang, he came upon the mouth of a tunnel, nearly hidden by long grasses. Now he was a curious man and, as he knew the locality well and had never seen this cave-mouth before, he was anxious to know where it went. He had heard old stories of hidden treasures far below the Burren and thought that there might be a lost fortune to be found if he were to explore further.

> > > Read the next part in this story.

From Beasts, Banshees and Brides from the Sea by Bob Curran