Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ireland Part Four – Cliffs of Moher and a Stop in Galway

After a few days out on the Dingle peninsula, we moved on to explore some more of the Emerald Isle.  We were heading towards Northern Ireland and along the way we wanted to see some more of the dramatic natural wonders and beauty this great island has to share.  The landscape in Ireland was ever changing as we drove.  Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher where you could see majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean from on top of dizzyingly high cliffs (dizzyingly - it really is a word, I promise - I looked it up).   

These cliffs stretch for five miles and at their highest point they reach 702 feet.  This would be the second time on this trip to Ireland that my nerves would be tested.   

Now please understand, I am not afraid of heights, but if you saw your child standing on top of these cliffs with their back to the insanely long drop off, you would panic too.   

One wrong move, just one tiny little trip in the wrong direction… oh it made me shutter.  After all, there is a reason these cliffs were used as the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride. 

They wanted to look over the edge.  I made them get down on their bellies and crawl out to the edge to have a peek.  

This still gave me heart palpitations but not quite as bad as when we walked along the top of the cliffs, or posed near the edge for a picture.  

I wasn’t alone in feeling this way either.  I heard Eric keep telling the girls over and over to be careful or to move a few steps back from the edge.  He felt it too.  And there were a lot, and I mean a lot of other visitors on the cliffs that day, but only a few ventured to the edge to take a look straight down into the churning waters hundreds of feet below.   

These cliffs are insane – beautiful but insane.  That is the only way to describe them.

As we walked along the top of the cliffs, we passed several signs listing a phone number to call for the good Samaritans.  I can’t recall now exactly what they said, but basically their message was that if you are visiting these cliffs because you are feeling troubled, please give us a call.  As we were heading back towards the parking lot we passed by a pretty little wooden building sitting near the entrance to the cliffs.  We stopped to check it out.  Inside was a long cushioned bench looking out over the beautiful Irish landscape with a gurgling fountain in the corner.  The sign on the door said “Meditation Room.”  And there on the wall once again was the phone number for the Good Samaritans.  Sobering - that is what this meditation room felt like.  That such an amazingly beautiful and majestic natural wonder has to be posted with precautions like this - necessary, yes they are.  But they are also very sobering.  In all our travels never have we seen that before. 
From the Cliffs of Moher we carried on heading north, passing old stone structures here and there, some in ruins...

others that are still intact.

 We passed through the barren rocky landscape known as The Burrens.

This is a bizarre landscape made up of exposed limestone that is criss-crossed with cracks known as "grikes."  They look like little valleys between the rocks as you climb on them and oh are they fun to climb on!  These "grikes" leave islands of exposed limestone on the surface that are called "clints" which if you are a kids are very fun to jump across.  

As we passed through this outer space looking area, we stopped to visit Poulnabrone dolmen, a portal tomb dating back to the Neolithic period.  Excavations around the monument have found that between 16 and 22 adults and six children were buried under it, probably sometime between 3800 and 3600 BC, but the tomb was likely used well into the Celtic period as a site for ceremonies and rituals. 

Given it's historical significance and peculiar topography, it's no wonder this area is designated as one of six National Parks in Ireland.  

Late in the afternoon we pulled into the town of Galway where we would be staying for the night.   

We chose a good night to visit because an Irish festival was in full swing on the streets of this quaint town that sits right on the water.  We walked the streets listening to music and watching street performers.  We made our way down by the water where the party continued.   

What this huge balloon is exactly I don’t know, but it was quite a sight.  The streets were very busy, as were the pubs and restaurants but we followed the advise of the hotel clerk and made our way to one of the local hangouts where we found a cozy booth and sat down to enjoyed some Irish beer and a good meal... 

including some Irish Stew.

The next morning, Eric got up early to walk the streets and he stumbled upon this scene.

Must have been quite the party going on in this pub the night before.  But this is Ireland after all.   

Those kegs may not have all been full of Guinness at one time, but Guinness definitely wins the award for some of the coolest beer signs, like this...

and this...

and this. 

As we continued driving towards Northern Ireland, we passed through areas surrounds by huge rocky hills with crystal clear lakes down in their valleys.   

We found vast stretches of beach with huge black cliffs looming in the background.   

Out on a small peninsula we spied a lonely mansion, an eerie looking house rising up from the ground towards the dark angry sky overhead.  

It looked like a scene from a scary movie, the kind of house you would be afraid to knock at if your car broke down for fear of who or what was lurking inside.  Oh Ireland, you are a drama queen, and I loved it!

After driving well passed the time that our bellies told us we needed something to eat, we finally found a small town with some options.  We chose a place called Campbell’s...

and we chose well because the meal that was prepared by the owner’s wife was delicious.  The Irish brown bread she served was so good in fact that we took some with us for the road.  I love it when we just happen upon a great place to eat.  It makes me happy!

As soon as we passed into Northern Ireland we knew it.  It is hard to mistake what territory you are in when Union Jacks are flying from every post.   

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and for the next couple of days we would be reverting back to using pounds instead of the Euros we used in Ireland, and miles again instead of kilometers.  We may have entered a different country late that afternoon, but this was still all part of the great Emerald Isle and we were excited to see what Northern Ireland had in store for us.  If it was anything like her neighbor, we had a lot to look forward to.  And that is where our story will pick up tomorrow.  To be continued...

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