Western Ireland

  • Adare, Ennis, Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Galway
  • 26,769 miles flown + 1,326 miles driven
  • 52°15′N 9°7′W-ish
  • Temp: 39 deg
  • 7 books read, 11 massages + 2 hot stone + 1 thermal baths in the books
  • Day 46-49

Welcome to the installment of really old things.

As I drove north to Ennis I made a short stop in the very charming town of Adare for lunch. My mistake was not staying longer. I no sooner posted a photo of the ADORABLE Adare Thatched Cottages built in the 1820s, that I was hearing from friends left and right to go visit the Adare Manor. Too little, too late, I had already left town. But this impressive Manor is now a 5-star hotel and begging for a return trip and stay. Frankly would love to stay in this wee little thatched roof cottage too if I could.

Adare

Ennis

I rolled into the Old Ground Hotel around dinner time and had pre-booked dinner that night without realizing it was Valentine’s Day. The Old Ground Hotel is a very charming, very old hotel that was a magnet for couples celebrating. The thing is, it was mostly very old couples, like people in their 80s…and me. I should have pulled an audible and headed up the narrow cobblestone street to the pub, but I was tired and it was raining so I spent Valentine’s with a room full of retirees on a romantic getaway to Ennis.

Bunratty Castle

On Tom and Joan’s good advice, my aim was to see the Cliffs of Moher in the afternoon when the sun would be on the west side of the cliffs. So I spent my morning at the Bunratty Castle, dating back to 1425 and miraculously in tact. Outside the castle are more thatched roof houses, setup as a walking folk village museum to show what life was like. Surprisingly well worth the detour before the main event of the day.

Cliffs of Moher

Speaking of which, how does one describe the Cliffs of Moher to someone who hasn’t been there. When you look at pictures your impression is Incredible! Amazing! Beautiful! But that is only a fraction of the experience. Everyone tells you “dress warmly, it’s really windy.” What they don’t tell you is those winds are hurricane-force. I zipped up my puffy coat, zipped up my gortex, pulled on my mittens and even that didn’t prepare me for the wall of wind I was in for. All along the grounds are wind warnings and signs threatening not to climb over the fence for fear of death. Of course people climbed over the fence. As I walked along the 5 mile path I was literally lifted into the air, had my securely fastened hood blown off, and at one point had to walk backwards to move forward. I got caught in three hail storms, all of which lasted no longer than two minutes before blue sky appeared again. It was thrilling and uplifting in every sense of the word. The views are breathtaking and so is the wind. My phone nearly blew out of my hand and some of the videos I took look like the air is bending. But all of that drama is worth the price of admission — the Cliffs of Moher are unlike anything else. Shouldn’t something that was formed 320 MILLION years ago be? And Tom was right, afternoon is best. I stayed about 3 hours, partially because I wanted to see how the cliffs changed with the sun, but partially because it was amusing to be caught in these flash hail storms and be lifted off your feet as you hiked along the path. Cheap thrills, friends.

Beautiful Beasts

The Outtakes

Air-bending wind:

The Hail Mary:

The Backwards Run:

And the Pot of Gold to follow:

The 700ft sea spray:

The Burren

If the Cliffs of Moher are grand, majestic, glowing towers of glory, the Burren is everything that is opposite. Barren, gray, cold expansiveness that feels like anywhere but Ireland. Perhaps the moon? And yet, AND YET, these 250 million year old fields are magnificent in their own right. You’re looking at the former sea bed when Ireland sat at the equator before continental drift relocated it north. Damn, I could be wearing a bathing suit right now instead of 3 layers of windbreakers. The Poulnabrone Tomb which sits in the midst of this geological wonder was excavated to find bones of 33 Neolithic people dating back 5-6,000 years. Guidebooks warn of parking lots full of buses and masses of people…I had the place all to myself. Just me and some really old dead dudes. If we’ve learned anything about these epic two months of travel, it’s to travel in the off season, right?

Galway

All of this million-year old adventure has led me to Galway, where I am writing to you with a Guinness in hand (actually, my second) while listening to an epic trad session at Tig Coili. The pub is packed with elbow to elbow locals (and a few tourists) while a circle of musicians sits in the corner stomping their feet to the beat of their tunes. Galway is a big city with a small town feel. I sat in 30 minutes of traffic driving into town, but then strolled the pedestrian-only streets lined with musicians, traditional Aran storefronts, cafes, and pubs, many many pubs. Fish and chips were in order for lunch and did not disappoint — thinking I should have left them for late night, but maybe twice in a day isn’t such a bad thing.

Off to get another Guinness, then onward to Dublin.

Xo, xt

2 thoughts on “Western Ireland

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