OPEN COUNTRY Participants are pictured during the Clonbur Woods park run in 2019. Pic: Sportsfile
BACK in the day a trip to Clonbur usually meant one thing — a teenage disco.
Many’s the night was passed in the local hall, doing what teenagers did in the early to mid-1990s, and having plenty of craic doing it!
Even the mention of the small village on the ‘other side’ of the Galway border back in those days conjured up wonderful images in our developing minds — like hearing DJ Ray D’Arcy playing as many Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana records as he could fit in his car (readers of a certain age will probably have to Google ‘records’); meeting girls from exotic places like Finney and Cornamona; and drinking more 7-Up or Fanta than was probably good for us.
They were, as you may have gathered, extremely innocent times.
In more recent years, a spin to Clonbur usually means a significant occasion is being celebrated or marked in one of the Finnerty households.
Because it’s hard to beat Burke’s in the centre of the village when it comes to hospitality and the whole experience of dining out with family or friends.
Last week we made the short journey out for the first time since ‘Tí Bhúrca’ had re-opened for indoor dining again recently. It was a lovely sunny evening and the winding road through green countryside was quiet and open.
When we arrived in Clonbur village, it was obvious that we weren’t the only ones who had decided to visit. Parking spaces on the small narrow streets were conspicuous by their absence and the registration plates told you that they were here from all across the country.
This was where local knowledge proved invaluable, and after a quick u-turn at the aforementioned hall (where the memories came flooding back as soon as we pulled into the car-park) we weren’t long in finding the only parking spot left in the village.
It was a similar story once we landed at our destination; Burke’s was fully booked and the unmistakeable atmosphere of a traditional Irish bar and restaurant hit you as soon as you walked in.
The hum of good, bad and middlin’ conversations, the sound of laughter, the distinctive noise as cutlery hits plates, and the sense of satisfaction that comes from people enjoying good food and good company. Not to mention a few good pints!
There was also the unexpected surprise of a local lady playing the piano that sits in the middle of the restaurant, with a mix of classics from a whole range of eras and genres providing a lovely backdrop to the occasion.
Our visit to Burke’s was everything we’ve come to expect, from the moment we were met and greeted at the front door by the Feár an Tí, Tomás.
A dyed-in-the-wool Galway supporter, he was gracious about the recent Connacht Final defeat to Mayo and congratulated us on the win over Dublin a few days earlier.
Tomás led us to our table, which was positioned just inside a window that framed the spectacular Mount Gable, and we took a few moments to take in the vista and appreciate the scenery before we got down to the task-at-hand.
Maybe 90 minutes later we made our leave, well and happy, and decided to pop into the local playground for a bit of fresh air. If there is a finer, better playground in Europe then I’d like to see it! It was relatively quiet last Tuesday evening when we called, so that made the whole experience even more enjoyable as we wandered around at our leisure and soaked up the last of the evening sun.
During lockdown, when we could travel further than 5kms, we were regular visitors to Clonbur. We walked the well-known woods, explored the loop trails and surrounding countryside, and enjoyed the view of Mount Gable from lots of different angles.
We also took a drive one day from Clonbur along the bendy, twisty road that takes you through Cornamona, Maam Cross, Leenane and on to Westport.
It’s a journey that you could never tire of.
But last week we kept it simple, and having tired ourselves out in the playground, and with the evening drawing in, we found ourselves in Lynch’s shop ordering ice-creams.
Sure, no summer spin would be the same without it!