We got up at 9:30 am and were quite rested. After our simple breakfast at the village, we headed out on our driving tour towards the Cliffs of Moher. We planned quite a few stops on the way.
Our first stop was Dunguaire Castle, right on the side of the main road. It was built in 1520 and restored in the 20th century. The main claim to fame is that it is the most photographed castle in Ireland, which is not difficult to believe as it is so close to Galway and has a beautiful backdrop of a fishing village in the distance. It seems to be on an island with the surrounding bogs slowly spurting a river that opens into the bay. We walked around the castle taking pictures along the way.
Heading to the next destination, we missed a turn and took a rather long detour on small village roads. However, the drive was fun and challenging. Old stone walls and tall grass lined both sides of the single lane road so you couldn’t see what was around the bend. So I relied on the “make-blind-turn-and-pray” strategy which worked out well.
We finally arrived at the Dolmen. This structure, erected between 4200 BC – 2900 BC, is a tomb where they found 30+ people’s remains. Excavated with the human remains were weapons, tools, pottery, and crystals from the time. From the pictures it looked like a huge megalith structure three stories tall, but when we parked and spotted it from the parking lot, it was barely the height of a person standing (1.8m high). A lady next to us who just arrived shared the same sentiments, “Is that it?!”
The limestone ground around the site was picturesque with these crevices carved by water and ice during the ice age. After some quick pictures, we were out of there.
Another castle, on the side of the road, which strangely wasn’t open to the public. We parked and hopped over the electric fence to study this structure. It was just the ruins of the castle left as the roof was gone and the inside was completely hollowed out. Peering into the doorway offered an insight of what the castle might have been at its prime.
Originally it was a manor house built by one of the High Kings of Ireland c. 1480. It was mostly used as a family house until it was left to deteriorate in the late 18th century. The shell that was left made for some good photo-ops.
Next stop was the highlight of the day.
Cliffs of Moher
We arrived at the large parking lot where you buy your entrance ticket when you park. It was a large parking lot, which is expected as they get around 1 million visitors a year. The park was packed with tourists but it didn’t seem too crowded due to the vast open spaces. After a quick stop in the visitor center, which was built into the mountain at the entrance, we walked up the path towards the right side. We reached the highest point of the cliffs at O’Brien’s Tower.
The tower was built by Sir Cornelius O’Brien in 1835, apparently to impress the ladies he took up to the cliffs. Nice one Cornelius…
We climbed to the top of the tower to find that the views were partially blocked by the walls and we couldn’t see much more than you could at the base. We were not impressed. It was not worth the climb, not to mention the 2 Euro coin.
We then continued toward the right side, which had a fence that everyone walked over. This section did not have a guard wall to prevent people from falling off the edge, which meant danger and adventure! We walked all the way to the end of the bay. On this side, there were stone slabs sticking out of the rock face, which made for some amazing photo-ops. We sat with our legs dangling off the edge, one slip or a strong gust of wind could have been the end of us. Peering over the edge, I felt a tingling in my toes, which I attributed to some kind of survival reflex that kicked in as my brain was trying to process the sheer height and danger of the position. At around 214m (702 ft) high, it was a long way down. Sitting there, I was literally “on edge”.
After one particular photo-op, an old man tapped me on the shoulder as I was leaving and pounded his chest with his fist while shaking his head. I think he was trying to tell me that my antics were giving him a heart attack. 😛
The hike back was beautiful and after spending only 2 hours or so we were back on the road.
We stopped at a roadside pub, A. E. O’Donohue’s, for a lunch consisting of a pint of Guinness, fresh fish ‘n chips and mushy peas. The server was really friendly as well. We also picked up some sandwiches for the drive up to Belfast.
We stopped at Black Head, which featured a plain tower overlooking the Atlantic. The burren, the typical limestone landscape of the area, was worth a few photographs.
Then we continued east towards Dublin and then north towards Northern Ireland. The drive was painless and scenery was pleasant. The highways had a decent speed limit of 120km/hr, but we kept a 140km/hr pace for the most part and only stopped once for gas. We passed the Ireland/Northern Ireland border within a few hours and didn’t even notice it. My only clue to confirm we were in Northern Ireland was that my phone (with my Irish sim card) displayed a “vodafone UK” signal. This means I was now roaming long-distance!
Yah! Take that phone credit!
We drove to Belfast and through the city center, but decided against going for drinks as it was almost 10:30 and we didn’t check-in at our hotel yet. A few minutes from town, we found the Chimney Corner Hotel near a golf course.
We settled in and I spent sometime jotting down some notes of the day, before getting some much needed sleep.
Taking on Belfast tomorrow!