Doolin, Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher
10.08.2009 16 °C
There are two upshots from staying at a bed and breakfast – you get a bed AND you get breakfast. This is why I found myself at 8:00 AM (which definitely still felt like 3 AM) in a nice little dining room down the hall from our room. I ordered the “hot” breakfast, which was sausage, egg and bacon. The bacon is actually fried smoked ham. It was delicious. Raquel on the other hand, had the “cold” breakfast. It was, less than surprisingly, cereal.
After that it was off north to Doolin and the Aran Islands. This, of course, involved driving. By now I was sufficiently used to driving on the left side of the road, but driving in Ireland, I soon discovered, poses other difficulties as well. Most notably that two lanes on a major road in Ireland is about a third as wide any road in the US. And Ireland is full of busses and very steep curves. This results in spectacular leaps of faith that you won’t hit anything/drive off any cliffs anytime there is on-coming traffic. I must also applaud Ireland for comprehending the meaning of the word “limit” as the speed limit is 100 km/hr and that is certainly the speed at which the odds of survival drop precipitously.
In any event, we reached Doolin without a scratch. Doolin is actually a region of Ireland that is composed of three tiny villages that are quite cute. We stopped by the tourist information center, which was a room full of brochures and no one around to help us. Not dissuaded, we drove west and came upon the Ocean and a pier. We soon had purchased tickets to the nearest Aran Island, Inis Oirr.
The ride over was undoubtedly and early highlight of the trip, with rain falling and against the backdrop of the misty Ciffs of Moher (more to come on that) we headed west on a very choppy Atlantic. The boat was rocking back and forth and we had a blast. We befriended an English-Irish couple with a nine month-old baby. Both happened to be looking away when their stroller started to tip. Fortunately Raquel and I were on it and it did not fall over. The parents were still oblivious – great people, pretty bad instincts.
We reached Inis Oirr and disembarked. We soon found ourselves on the back of a horsedrawn wagon taking a tour of the island with a driver named “Oli” who claimed he would gibe us a history of the island as while we toured. Instead he didn’t say anything and when we asked questions he answered with “Oh yeah, sure, sure” and then mumble off into Irish. I’m pretty sure anything Raquel and I asked would have been incorporated into the Aran Islands’ history (“Do you get many volcanoes around here?” “Oh yeah, sure sure, and . . .”). The tour itself was stunning – we saw rolling hills and stone walls, a beautiful lake and a shipwrecked tanker that no one got around to moving in the last 40 years. After the tour we were on our own and ascended to the top of the island where a 14th century castle stood, built in the center of a 1st century ring (the remains of which we were completely unable to locate). While inside Raquel noted the roof didn’t look to stable. She was right and I thought it wise to, after 600 years or so, not push our luck. We meandered down to the main town area where we stumbled upon the remains of an 8th to 9th century church – a 1200 year old structure. There was not much left, but it was still awe-inspiring to stand inside of it. After that we had a quick lunch and back to the mainland we went.
Upon reaching the mainland we drove back south a bit and came upon the Cliffs of Moher. For those of you not familiar with them, they were the inspiration for the Cliffs of Insanity in the Princess Bride. And believe me, the cliffs of insanity have very little on the Cliffs of Moher – they are very tall and very steep. We walked along them until the paved trail ended and a large sign read “Please Do Not Go Any Further.” All around us people continued to walk along the cliffs where the trail ended and, more importantly, where the protective wall ended. I explained to Raquel that the “everyone else was doing it” defense probably wouldn’t save us from being completely barred from recovering any damages we might suffer from falling down the near 800 foot high cliffs. We decided to press on anyway. The Cliffs can really be described only one way: stunning. I doubt any picture we took will really capture their essence. It was like something straight out of a movie. And they dropped straight down literally feet from where we were walking. While I spent most of my time looking at the cliffs Raquel was mostly amazed by the grass covering the field that we were walking alongside. I’m fairly certain she has more picture of the grass than the cliffs. The grass was, as she said, “very green.”
Exhausted from our walk along the cliffs we headed back to Ennis. We stopped in a little town, Ennistymon, along the way and had a nice dinner. Finally, we were back in Ennis where we planned our next day and went out for a bit. Ennis is evidently known for its live music and we wanted to make sure we experienced that before moving on. We went into a cozy pub with a warm atmosphere where a local band played some traditional Irish music. They were great. After about an hour of listening we called it a night Tomorrow its South to the Dinge peninsula and Killarney.