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Situated in the heart of the Burren region about twenty miles north west of Ennis is the popular tourist town of Lisdoonvarna. Coming from the Irish "Lios Dhuin Bharna" meaning the lios or enclosure of the fort in the gap, there is plenty of archaeological interest surrounding Lisdoonvarna with many ring forts dating back to the Iron Age and Christian era to be found in the area. However, Lisdoonvarna is best known for its Spa Centre and its festivals.
Lisdoonvarna developed into a tourist centre as early as the mid 18th century when a top Limerick surgeon discovered the beneficial effects of its mineral waters. People travelled from near and far to bathe in and drink the mineral waters which are rich in iron, sulphur, magnesium and calcium and were said to provide relief for certain diseases. It was because of the popularity of these mineral springs and the huge amount of people coming here that led to the Lisdoonvarna "matchmaking tradition". The tradition is still celebrated with a festival held in its honour throughout the month of September.
The Lisdoonvarna Horse Racing Festival is an amateur race meeting. It is a three day event with six races taking place each day. Some of Ireland's top jockeys began their careers at this popular festival. Recently, International Harness racing has become part of the programme.
The Marching Bands Festival Weekend is another three day event in Lisdoonvarna. All bands are welcome to participate and will play for 30 minutes each day.
The annual Irish Barbecue Championships take place in Lisdoonvarna in early September. There are eight categories, but you need only compete in four to be eligible for the grand prize. For those who enjoy barbecuing the festival is great fun.
Lisdoonvarna is close to many major tourist attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher , the Burren and the rugged North Atlantic coast Angling. There are many places ideal for fishing in the area surrounding Lisdoonvarna. Sea fishing is very popular and easily located in the area.
What to see
The world-renowned Spa Wells Health Centre, the only spa in Ireland, is what made Lisdoonvarna famous. As well as the healing sulphur and chalybeate springs, the Spa has a Victorian pump house, sauna, a massage room and mineral baths all in beautiful woodland surroundings.
A short distance to the west of the town is the Spectacle Bridge. It gets its name because of its double lower arch forming a circular opening. It was so built because the Aille River flows through a deep narrow gorge and the bridge must support the road at a point 25m above the river.
The Burren Smokehouse Visitor Centre produces very fine oak smoked Atlantic salmon. One can learn the ancient tradition of cold smoking salmon and about the folklore of salmon.
Cahermacnaghten is a large ringfort that was inhabited up until the late seventeenth century. With a diameter of almost 100 feet, the fort is still relatively intact and has the remains of late Mediaeval two-tiered gateway.