DOOLIN, Ireland – On nearly our last full day in Ireland, we decided to try to visit three treasures. In the morning, we drove to the Cliffs of Moher and braved the sudden and seemingly endless winds that blew ashore from the North Atlantic.
The weren’t more than 50 cars in the parking lot, a very small number for one of the most popular tourist attractions in this part of Ireland, and because of the weather, we decided to try to park closer to the visitor center.
Much to our surprise, that lot also appeared mostly empty. We parked in one of the empty spaces and rolled out of the car. I don’t think the door was open more than a few inches before the wind nearly ripped the door from the hinges, but more on that later.
The four of us bundled up for the cold breeze and we were no more than a few steps from the vehicle when we started laughing and simultaneously started to lean into the wind. This was going to be an adventure.
As a group, we ducked inside to use the facilities, and as we waited for the everyone to return, a brief announcement came over the speaker system suggesting that it might be too dangerous to walk along the edge of the cliffs. Not for this hearty crew.
We bundled up again and started walking toward the section of the walk that was built for the best possible views. The wind made the walking difficult and the layers of clothing now seemed more like a sail than a jacket, and linking arms only made the sail larger. The funny thing was, we all seemed to have a smile that spread from ear-to-ear and with each short, choppy, awkward step, the laughter from our group could be heard above the howling wind.
After stepping over a short chain that held a wildly swinging caution sign, my wife asked me, “Do you think we should keep going?”
“If it was really dangerous, the sign wouldn’t be six inches off the ground,” came a quick reply and we marched ahead.
I tucked my trusty camera into my jacket, took my wife’s hand and followed him toward a small observation post. About halfway between the visitor center and the round, stone observatory, the walkway was closer to the shore and with the wind now approaching 90 m.p.h., the spray from the crashing waves came roaring up and over the cliffs. It looked like a shower, but when we walked into the spray, I realized it too was traveling at a high rate of speed and our cheeks hurt as they were pelted by the salt water.
There were a few F-bombs from the bundled woman on my right as the spray found its way inside her hood, but within seconds we were clear of the water and still moving toward the stone observatory. I stopped for a second and realized we were all still laughing and smiling. The sun was out and we were going to make it.
We took turns stepping out of the wind at the observatory and I even managed to take my camera out for a few photos. The views of the cliff, the sea, and countryside were breathtaking, and as we gathered to take shelter from the wind, the laughter continued. All in all, we spent two or three hours out in the elements before deciding it was time for lunch. The next stop was Doolin, a magical little town no more than a few miles north of the cliffs and home to Gus O’Connors, one of my favorite pubs.
By the time we parked and made our way inside the pub it was nearly two in the afternoon and the lunch crowd had thinned. The pub may be small, but they handle busloads of tourists and individual travelers with grace and a friendly smile. Within minutes our table was filled with four orders of fish and chips and a round of local beer. It couldn’t have been better.
After lunch, we forced ourselves away from the confines and decided to take the coastal route through the Burren National Park. When people talk about Ireland and describe the landscape they often mention the green pastures and rolling hills and mountains. The Burren is the complete antithesis of that description. It’s an area of the country that is almost devoid of vegetation and color, and more likely, visitors will see mile after mile rocks and limestone deposits.
In its own way, it too is a breathtaking part of the western shores of the country. After driving for almost an hour, we stopped to look at the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient (3,000 b.c) burial tomb that some people believe was built as a portal to the world beyond this one. We weren’t sure of that, but it was an amazing site, and when you think about the effort to create it, well … enough said.
As we climbed back into our trusty vehicle, we were tired, hungry (again) and had more than a few things to think about. It was time to head back to Adare.
I started writing these little travel stories to document our trip and to let family and friends know what we were up to, but along the way, a funny thing happened, and I realized how comfortable I feel in this part of the world. I thought about the list of places I have called home over the years, the places that I keep returning to in some strange migratory pattern, and this is now one of them.
Thank you, Frank and Theresa.