On initial consideration, one might see an attraction like Caherconnell Stone Fort as perhaps another fort, similar to Dun Aengus or any other of the many stone age remnants dotting the Irish landscape. We were delighted to learn that Caherconnell offers so much more- besides an in-depth tour of their privately-owned stone fort, they offer 3 demonstrations each day of their gorgeous Border Collies shepherding a large flock of sheep.
Sounds a bit different for a vacation activity, doesn't it? But for my canine-loving family (adults and kids included), it was a marvelous and entertaining way to spend an afternoon.
Not far from Doolin, Caherconnell is a bit of a drive (we drove from our hotel in Ennis) and the signs leading you to the fort are borderline "blink and you might miss it." Luckily our two wee-un's in the back seat caught sight of the Border Collie signs before we could and pointed us in the right direction.
I was not sure the kids would care too much about the ring fort, especially considering the fact that we dropped into the gift shop prior to the tour, which is normally a surefire way to distract my souvenir-grabby children.
My 11-year old was rapt as our entertaining and knowledgable guide brought us around the property, pointing out the various types of walls and what is believed to have been A Day in the Life of an average stone-age family. Complete with artifacts and excavation sites, it was a fascinating glimpse into a history of the land.
Accessibility-wise, the ring fort itself is a bit tricky. The paths leading us around the grounds were stone chips and were kept very tidy. However, walking into the fort itself wouldn't be possible for wheelchair users, or anyone who wouldn't be steady on their feet. We were able to bring Lianna in with us as she's still young enough to lift over rough spots.
The Sheepdog Demonstrations:
In all honestly, it was the promise of sheepdogs that brought us to the middle of the Burren on the windy and wild day we visited in October. We were expecting a fairly entertaining show, but were not prepared for just how enjoyable and funny the demonstration was.
The Matriarch of the Pack looks forward excitedly as she waits for her command to wrangle her herd.
Witnessing the delicate dance between the dogs' natural instincts combined with their human's commands was impressive and, at times, hilarious. Jess, the young pup of the group, was a favorite of ours- she certainly has the drive to be a shepherd for the flock someday, but hasn't quite got the attention span yet.
Members of the group were given the opportunity to "drive" the dogs, shouting commands and moving the flock this way and that. A very welcome change from our family dog, who regards our instructions as mere suggestions for conducting his daily life. Check out our video here (and please forgive the sound quality- the wind was sharp in the Burren this particular day!).
For those among us who weren't prepared for the chilly wind, there was a lovely little cafe with an assortment of yummy goodies, lattes, teas, and hot chocolate. We grabbed a bunch of treats before hitting the road to Galway.
For an offbeat and incredibly fun day trip, Caherconnell was more than satisfactory! 10/10 recommended.
Thank you to our friends at Caherconnell and Tourism Ireland for the opportunity to visit and write about this memorable day.