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It's family time in the wild west

ANY minute now, this boat is going to reach the edge and knock into a painted backdrop," chuckles one of our four kids, "just like in The Truman Show." He's referring to the Jim Carey film, of course, in which everything is an elaborate set. And I think I know what he means as we roll on a powerful swell beneath a towering sea stack at the Cliffs of Moher -- it's impossibly beautiful, like a painting come alive.

It's our dog Molly's first time on a boat and the six of us giggle as her paws skitter on the deck of the converted trawler, when we're not squinting and gasping, that is, at the tiny figures trailing like ants at the tops of the cliffs.

"We'll be up there later," I say, with no little awe.

"Really?" coos our youngest.

I can't believe how exhilarated we feel, how rosy-cheeked and hungry we are when we get back to our holiday home later and spark up a turf fire before tucking into a bacon joint from the shop around the corner. Our whole family chatters cheerfully together when normally the kids would be at each others' throats over whose turn it was on the PlayStation.

We'd rolled in the day before after an easy four-hour journey from Dublin and Trident Holiday Homes' onsite manager Debbie welcomed us to Lisdoonvarna, showing us around our well kitted-out two-floor condo. Being pet friendly, it meant this was the first time we'd all holidayed together, dog and all.

"Remember," I warned our four kids, "no singing the Christy Moore song please."


I had spied a pub just a hop and a skip away and, later on, my wife and I left our eldest in charge and ambled down to the Roadside Tavern which has a plaque outside declaring this is where the Burren Tolkien Society was founded. Inside, we met proprietor Peter Curtin, founder of the famous nearby Burren Smokehouse that supplied fish for the queen's visit.

We'd five adventures lined up in all, each within what seemed like minutes driving distance of Lisdoonvarna. Next morning was a descent into Doolin cave. We clambered 80ft down the catwalk and we gasped at the Great Stalactite. Tolkien's Gollum would have been at home here, we all agreed, as we were invited to sink our hands into the cool, 450,000-year-old glacial clay at our feet.

Next we hit Lahinch Surf School. I never quite managed to stand on mine as the 7ft waves hoisted us on to the golden sands, but our boys did, and we had a hoot.

We cooked each night at home, choosing local corn-fed chicken or rustling up hot chilli, then we slept like the kings who lay undisturbed beneath the ancient limestone monolith of Poulnabrone Dolmen, which we visited on its windswept crag and took turns snapping pictures for our imaginary rock-band album covers.

A crowning gem was the guided walk with Burren expert Mary Howard. We found that we'd all fallen back in love with Ireland's west.

Oh Lisdoonvarna, Christy Moore, you barely scratched the surface -- we've at least another 10 verses for your song.