Cliffs of Moher, The Burren and Galway

I start this travel diary quite late but so many things happened in my life than Ireland went far back on my agenda.

Because of certain circumstances we had to spent two months in Dublin during the summer of 2019. We were there from the middle of July to September. The incredible Irish summer will be mentioned more in my other diaries but it was so unpleasant, rainy, windy and cold that the only salvation during the weekend was to travel somewhere outside Dublin with the secret hope to magically forget about it 🙂

After spending few weeks in Dublin we decided that it is about time to see some more of the country. I doubt that there is anybody who haven’t heard about the Cliffs of Moher, so it’s no surprise that this was our first choice to travel.

First, we wanted to rent a car but some reasons made this idea go away, then I spent a lot of time searching for a way to go there by public transport (almost impossible) and finally the only option – organised tour.

I chose Irish Days Tours cause their meeting point was close to our apartment, where many other companies gathered, but I liked this one most.

The departure was at 6.50 AM on 03 August from the iconic Dublin statue of Molly Malone, but I will tell you about it some other time. There were a lot of people, the weather was cold, damp and quite unpleasant.

We headed for the bus at the exact time but my first impression wasn’t good because most of the people have sat everywhere and we had to separate. This turned out to be not so bad because me and our son happened to be seated to a Bulgarian, living in Austria and on vacation with some friends in Ireland. It was lovely for both of us to speak with another countrymen 🙂

The trip to the Cliffs is long, about 270 km, which was the reason for the early departure. It was raining but I managed to have a glimpse at the famous green lands of the country 🙂

Somewhere around the middle of the road we reached a gas station complex with restaurants. It was named after Barack Obama, because, as our tour guide said ” Whenever a famous person visits us we built toilets to mark it” 🙂 I have to mention that our tour guide was a lovely woman. Very funny, constantly telling interesting facts and stories and our excursions was so great mostly because of her. Besides tour guide she works as a extra in a different TV show such as “Vikings” and “Game of Thrones”.

So, in 2011 Barack Obama came to Ireland and visited the village Moneygall to give respect to his ancestors. Yes, it turns out that Obama has a great-great-great-great grandfather from this village, here’s more information. As you can imagine, this was an exceptional event for the village.

Here’s a little from this strange complex with statue of the Obama’s in front. Of course, it was raining 🙂

There wasn’t any landmarks until the Cliffs, except the views, of course.

The bus left us in front of the Visitors center where you can your tickets, to see an exhibition, use the restrooms and to eat. The price varies on the time , if you want to visit them from 11 AM to 4 PM it 4 Euro, the other time is 8. Children under 16 years go for free. Here’s the site where you can buy your tickets in advance.

When you make your pilgrimage to the Cliffs of Moher, you’re coming for one of two things: the staggering height of the rock face, and the even more staggering beauty of the views from the top. Soaring to 214m, the striated stone reaches its long fingers southward to counties Cork and Kerry beyond, with a keen eye from O’Brien’s Tower even able to spot the Aran Islands to the north.

As the sea spray fills the air with the invigorating freshness of the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s hard not to feel as though you’re braving the ocean from the prow of a magnificent ship. To make the most of the magic, nothing quite beats a wind-whipped trek across the clifftop, the edges peaking slightly upwards like the crests of the waves that roll endlessly below. Try the Doolin Cliff Walk if you have enough time. We went right from the Visitor center because we wanted to see more of the most iconic part of the Cliffs for the time we had (two-three hours).

Standing alone on a high cliff, O’Brien’s Tower is the best lookout over what are arguably the most impressive views in all of Ireland. The 19th-century tower was built by a local landowner to attract more tourists to the Cliffs of Moher and its stone viewing platform can still be visited today.

It’s almost always really windy here, it rains often, so it’s important to stay on the marked by the authorities path. On this photo you can see that it is carved in the soil, in some places almost till your waist, but with such strong winds it could be lifesaving. You can also see that almost nobody is following this rule, but I was afraid not to do so. The wind was stronger than I like and the edge looked quite unsteady…

Of course, one of the most unique and precious aspects of the cliffs is the local wildlife that calls them home. Those with a love of bird-watching will be spoiled here: think countless sad-eyed puffins; elegantly dressed razorbills; chattering kittiwakes; and if you’re lucky, even an elusive peregrine falcon.

Maybe because of the wind or because of the huge crowds we didn’t see many birds but marveled at some cows calmly grazing almost at the edge of the cliffs.

However incredible the Cliffs were or an old dream of mine, we had to leave eventually. We had two more stops to make but firstly had to have lunch.

On trips like this you usually sit at some restaurant that is already expecting you, but if you don’t want you can eat your sandwiches in it’s garden and to look around.

After the lunch we went to see The Burren, a region of County Clare in the southwest of Ireland. It’s a karst landscape of bedrock incorporating a vast cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone, with cliffs and caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites.

The Burren National Park is located in the southeastern corner of the Burren and is approximately 1500 hectares in size. The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. This is an extremely appropriate name when you consider the lack of soil cover and the extent of exposed Limestone Pavement. However it has been referred to in the past as “Fertile rock” due to the mixture of nutrient rich herb and floral species.

Our bus just stopped in the middle of the road and they let us have some photos. If you like this type of nature and have enough time you can check out the walking trails in the park.

We had more kilometers to go to Galway and the views were gorgeous…

Here you can see the Fanore beach, a relatively unspoiled long narrow Atlantic facing beach behind a broad expanse of sand dunes with the Burren as a spectacular backdrop. The beach is located in close proximity to Fanore village which includes a coffee shop, pub, shop and campsite and is very popular with walkers, surfers, tourists and is particularly interesting to botanists, owing to its position on the edge of the Burren.

And here is the Blackhead Lighthouse was built and its light first exhibited in 1902. Blackhead Lighthouse would have guided many famous vessels during Belfast’s golden age of shipping, including the ill-fated Titanic. Lightkeepers lived at the station until 1975. It is one of 70 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today.

From the road we saw the Dunguaire Castle, which has stood proudly on the site of the 7th-century stronghold of Guaire, the King of Connaught, for centuries. This majestic castle bridges 13 centuries of Irish history, from skirmishes, battles and sieges, through to the literary revival of the early 20th century.

Dunguaire Castle was first built in 1520 as a tower house with fortified walls along the shores of Galway Bay. The castle was constructed by the Hynes clan who were descendants of Guaire, the king of Connacht who died in 663. The castle takes its name from this legendary family connection, with dun meaning “fortress” in Irish.

In the 16th century, the Martyn clan took ownership of the castle and stayed there until it was sold to Oliver St. John Gogarty in 1924. Gogarty was trained as a doctor and also served as a senator but his true life’s passion was for poetry. After restoring the 75-foot tower and surrounding walls, Dunguaire Castle became a well-known gathering place for Irish literary society. Dublin’s literati, including W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and J.M. Synge came to the former stronghold to enjoy a country retreat and to spar with Gogarty’s legendary wit. These writers went on to immortalize the castle in their work, and Yeats in particular references King Guaire in several of his poems. 

Christobel Lady Ampthill purchased Dunguaire in 1954 and completed the restoration. Today, the castle is a popular historic and entertainment attraction owned by Shannon Heritage

Really close was the so called ” most Irish town” in Ireland – Galway. It is renowned for its vibrant lifestyle and for hosting numerous festivals, celebrations and events. The city is currently the European Capital of Culture for 2020, alongside Rijeka, Croatia.

A city streaked with canals on the Corrib River, Galway is affectionately called the “City of the Tribes”. That name recalls the 14 families that controlled trade and politics on Galway from the 13th to the 19th centuries.

Galway is a hotbed of traditional Irish music, as you’ll find out walking the lively pedestrian streets of the Latin Quarter, where buskers abound and there’s always music and dancing in the pubs.

Besides the pubs you can also visit a lot beautiful little shops and galleries.

Here you can see and buy the famous Claddagh rings. The Claddagh’s distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown).The way that a Claddagh ring is worn on the hand is usually intended to convey the wearer’s romantic availability, or lack thereof.

“There are a variety of legends about the origins of the ring. One tale is about Margareth Joyce, a woman of the Joyce clan. She married a Spanish merchant named Domingo de Rona. She went with him to Spain, but he died and left her a large sum of money. She returned to Ireland and, in 1596, married Oliver Ogffrench, the mayor of Galway. With the money she inherited from her first marriage, she funded the construction of bridges in Connacht. All this out of charity, so one day an eagle dropped the Claddagh ring into her lap, as a reward.
Another story tells of a Prince who fell in love with a common maid. To convince her father his feelings were genuine and he had no intentions of “using” the girl, he designed a ring with hands representing friendship, a crown representing loyalty, and a heart representing love. He proposed to the maid with this ring, and after the father heard the explanation of the symbolism of the ring, he gave his blessing.

To look at Galway Cathedral you could be mistaken for thinking that this dignified limestone construction is centuries old. In truth it was begun in 1958 and completed in 1965, on the site of Galway’s old city prison. The architecture is a big jumble, and has Romanesque influences in its plain walls and narrow semi-circular window arches, Gothic in its traceried rose above the main portal, and Renaissance in its barrel vault and magnificent dome reminiscent of Il Duomo di Firenze.

By the Corrib River, the Galway City museum opened in a new building in 2007 and is a free and multifaceted attraction covering Galway’s archaeology, folk history, art and natural history. You can see a traditional Galway sailboat, known as a “hooker”, and the “Great Mace” a magnificent piece of ornamental silverware produced in Dublin at the start of the 18th century. Fragments from the 16th and 17th centuries are presented in the “Medieval Stone Collection”, which has corbels, plaques, coats of arms, chimney fragments and two complete 16th-century fireplaces.

Right in front of the Galway City Museum are the last surviving arches of the Ceann an Bhalla, or Front Wall. Known as the Spanish Arch, this structure was part of defense running from the old Martin’s Tower to the Corrib River to defend Galway’s quays.

And while the arches aren’t exactly a stirring monument it’s worth remembering that they date all the way back to 1584, and also sustained damage from the tsunami caused by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

At the corner of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street is a robust limestone house that stands apart from the buildings around it. This is Lynch’s Castle, a fortified house that could go back as far as the 14th century but got its current design in the 16th century. The house afforded extra protection from raids to its owners, the Lynch family who had Anglo-Norman roots and were one of the 14 tribes that held sway in Galway in the period.

In 1493 when James Lynch Fitzstephen was mayor of Galway he hanged his own son from a window here for killing a Spanish sailor. The term “lynch” came from him and his family.

On the main facade you’ll find the Lynch family coat of arms, and there’s another framed panel sporting the coat of arms of Henry VII, who reigned from 1484 to 1509.

This was the end of our tour of Galway, where I got really tired of the wind and the rain and just wanted to go back to Dublin. The western part of Ireland is famous for it’s bad weather and no matter that the locals were in shorts and t-shirts I couldn’t feel at all that it was the beginning of August.

The way back was long but the views were gorgeous once again.

This is the end of this filled with emotions and beauty day and I wish you all, if you have the chance, to visit this lovely but unfriendly part of Ireland. To me personally, the highlight of the day were the Cliffs of Moher, after all we came for them, but the Burren was a nice surprise. I really loved the view of the infinite green lawns of Ireland, but couldn’t not wander how this people manage to live so isolated and keep sane! I guess that if you’ve lived your whole life like this it doesn’t bother you but it was something to think about…

Stay tuned and don’t stop to travel!

Author: marinelapetrunova

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