The action started with Ted, the family Border collie, who was more than eager to round up a few candidates for the demonstration on sheep shearing;
Most sheep farms in the Republic of Ireland are still small by comparison to the world’s leading exporters. Scotland’s flocks are typically 200 or more in size while New Zealand’s flocks, the industry giant, usually number approximately 1,400. Fintan’s 80 acres supporting approximately 100 ewes is the norm, as is the small, family owned farm.
Surprisingly, there is no money to be made in the wool from the sheep. The shearing process costs Fintan about 2 Euro per ewe while market prices bring in 1 Euro per ewe for the wool. Wool from Fintan’s Suffolk sheep, the most common breed in Ireland’s lowlands, is too rough for use in sweaters; the wool is used mainly in the production of carpets.
Fortunately Fintan’s wife, Frances, knew as much about hospitality as her husband did sheep farming.
A real turf fire took the chill out of our mid-morning visit and highlighted the genuine warmth behind the Connelly welcome.
I'm done with Rathbaun Farm, but ewe (I'm a little sheepish after that awful pun, but I just couldn't help myself),
The Bottom Line on Rathbaun Farm:
Verdict: If you're in the area, you'll want to see this, especially families with young kids! Okay, your visit may feel a bit reminiscent of a school field trip, especially when you arrive via a tour bus, but there was no test when it's all said and done! Besides, I'd never pull the wool over your eyes, especially when it comes to an opportunity to visit such a charming farm and family.
From Galway: Leaving Galway city take the N18 south. Follow the signs for Limerick, by passing Oranmore en route. You will pass through Clarinbridge and Kilcolgan. Travel on to Ardrahan. In Ardrahan make a left turn. Travel on for 1 ½ miles to cross-roads and go straight through. Continue for approximately 1 mile.
From Limerick/Shannon: From Limerick take the N18 north to Galway. Follow road signs for Galway as far as Ardrahan. Towns you pass through en route are, ClareCastle, Ennis, Gort. In
Ardrahan turn right. Continue for approx. 1 ½ miles until you reach a cross-roads. Continue straight through for about 1 mile until you turn right on to a little road. Signpost for “Rathbaun Farm” at the head of the road.
From Cliffs of Moher: Leaving the Cliffs of Moher head for Lisdoonvarna. Then travel through Ballyvaughan to Kinvara. Continue through Kinvara and turn right just as you reach Dunguaire
Castle. Travel into Ardrahan and follow signs for Rathbaun Farm.
As Frances said, "If you get lost, just ask a local."
Nearby Food: Duh! Fintan and Frances provide goodies, or a full meal, depending on your arrival time and group size. Otherwise, head back the way you came.