A Tim Hortons coffee cup in Ennistymon, Ireland?
After taking our leave of Killarney, Bob and I wasted no time driving towards our next destination, the Cliffs of Moher. A freeway made it possible to put the miles behind us quickly, and then we exited onto secondary roads near Ennis. Next thing you know, we were driving down the quiet streets of the country market town known as Ennistymon in County Clare. A short walking tour of the Main Street turned up a very unexpected reminder of our Canadian home, a Tim Hortons coffee cup.
Bob and I drew up short when we spotted, discarded on top of a signpost, a Tim Hortons’ coffee cup, one of the most iconic Canadian symbols ever. Tim Hortons is a coffee chain that went into business in Canada many decades ago, and today, every small town, village and city in Canada is dotted with Timmy’s stores. Needless to say, seeing a Tim Hortons’ coffee cup anywhere in Canada would not give reason for pause, but there in Ireland, it had us momentarily stupefied. Really! We couldn’t imagine how it came to be there and set out to solve the mystery.
It didn’t take much sleuthing to determine the source of the coffee cup. A few people on Main Street pointed us in the direction of a SPAR store across the way. Bob and I soon learned that SPAR, one of the biggest food stores in Ireland, had cut a deal with the head office of Canada’s Tim Hortons back in 2007. They secured permission to open 50 Tim Hortons stores across the Emerald Isle. We could have gotten our coffee fix long before had we only known where to look.
The choices of donuts and coffee available for sale paled in comparison to the extensive selections at home in Canada, but still, what a welcome sight. The smile on Bob’s face said it all when he made off with a large coffee in hand to brace him while we finished our tour of the community.
When we joined the mingling pedestrians once again, it was impossible to ignore the loud rumbling emanating from beyond the business establishments across the way. Quiet excitement was evident in their lightness of foot as they made for the same alleyway tucked between two buildings. Like lemmings, we followed in pursuit to discover the source of the noise, a raging waterfalls on the Cullenagh River.
Ennistymon is secreted in a recess amongst the hills on the southern edge of the Burren and only two miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The narrow street near the bridge that crosses the Cullenagh River is the oldest part of the town. A little below the river bridge, the waters rush over a substantial ridge of rocks and form a beautiful cascade.
As we learned from the informative sign at river’s edge, the waterfalls has a poetic name, The Cascades, although the powerful volumes of water surging over the precipice on the day we visited did nothing to suggest a gently cascading falls. Bob and I were happy to learn that, underneath the swollen river, a fish pass had been constructed to allow salmon to migrate upstream to their breeding grounds.
The surging river certainly reflected the vast amounts of water accumulating within its banks, attributable to the volumes of rain that had fallen the previous couple of days. Local news reports commented about the heavy rainfall, saying that it had exceeded any other rainfall in the area in recorded history…close to 67 millimetres in one day.
The falls in Ennistymon can be viewed from the bridge, but better still is the view from a riverside walk along a footpath.
With nary a bit of protection for the onlookers in some areas, I found it fearsome to observe the power of the raging waters literally a step away.
The power of nature is always daunting and reminds you to be respectful of the natural forces. The roar of the water was deafening there at the lip of the falls, and a persistent mist filled the air.
The swift current soon had any debris carried in the water swept into the distance around a crook in the channel. A further 1.5 miles downriver, the waters are joined by the River Derry, and the united streams, from thereon to the sea, are the Inagh River.
Due to the unusual high water levels, the location drew lots of interested sightseers to revel at the magnitude of the sound as the pounding waters fell over the precipice. It is uncommon occurrences like that that remind everyone of the fundamental interaction between man and earth.
I could see, by looking at the river, how idyllic the location would be for salmon fishing at the right time of the year. The river is reputed for bountiful catches below the Cascades, whereas above the falls, trout are the fish most often caught. What a perfect way to pass the day when the flow is reduced to a less turbulent stream of water.
Surrounded by beautiful historic buildings on both sides of the river, The Cascades is a highlight of any visit to the bustling market town of Ennistymon. The town is steeped in rich history, but Bob and I had not the time to explore further.
In our later research about the falls, Bob and I were very surprised to learn that The Cascades actually ceased flowing when the water froze solid on December 26, 2010, only the first time since the late 1960s. What a sight that would have been, and the silence deafening.
And so, before we drove off towards the Cliffs of Moher, Bob and I cast one last look at Main Street Ennistymon with its abundance of tidy, family-owned businesses.
As we bade farewell, Bob and I knew we would always remember the town for its Tim Hortons coffee shop that had us feeling at home, but we also could never forget the torrential rains that had engulfed us the days before we passed through there. The Cascades had seen to that.