Ireland: Driving, Cliffs of Moher & Galway

Sunday, Nov 24, 2002

Our hosts at Ballymore House, Maurice and Theresa,
with Yvette as we were getting ready to leave.
Nov. 24, 2002

We left Sunday morning, but not without feeling that we had left part of ourselves in Dingle, and that we would have to come back to claim it. Thing is, for the rest of our lives, Dingle will be the place where we spent the most peaceful days of our honeymoon.

Yvette & Danny at the Connor Pass observation point.
Nov. 24, 2002

Since Galway was our next destination, we decided to head north via the Connor Pass; seemed like a good excuse to drive up to one of the highest points in the peninsula and enjoy the scenery. Once you reach the summit, you can pull over to see the peninsula from an incredible vantage point. The fields seem to undulate with the wind, and the various lakes, ponds and streams sparkle like quicksilver. In the distance we could see all of Dingle town, waving us good-bye, and reminding us to return one day. But for now, the road called, and our next destination promised to be simply amazing.

Danny on the side of a mountain on our way out of Dingle. Note the clouds not that far away.
Nov. 24, 2002

Our drive from Dingle took us north, where we had to take a ferry to cross the River Shannon, on our way to the Cliffs. It was early afternoon when we arrived, and we were not prepared for what we saw. The Cliffs of Moher are about as simply a natural sight can come, and yet they take your breath away even from afar. Extending for about five miles from the mainland, they soar up to 650 feet above the raging waters of the Atlantic below. A fine mist hangs permanently in the air, though it is almost impossible to hear the waves crashing (unless you ignore the warning sign and go to the platform and brave the strong winds for a chance to peek over the edge, which Danny thought about doing, except Yvette had no desire to become a widow on their honeymoon). You can see, however, the hundreds and hundreds of birds that make their homes on the crags of the cliffs, playing in the updrafts, well aware human onlookers envy them.

There are a few places on Earth where it is hard to
deny the hand of God in the world; this is one of those places.
Nov. 24, 2002

We wandered the area of the Cliffs up and down, even going to the little tower built by a local lord with money to spare, trying to see the Cliffs from every possible angle. These pictures do not even begin to do justice to the Cliffs of Moher, so be sure to visit them one day.

Yvette & Danny at the Cliffs of Moher.
Nov. 24, 2002

As much as we liked this place, we had to get on the road in order to make it to Galway not too late. There was, however, yet one more ancient stop on our map before getting to the city…

We took a detour on our way to Galway because we wanted to see the Burren, an area unique in Ireland. Once a glacier-covered tundra, it today offers an ecosystem found nowhere else in Ireland, with glacier-gashed limestone peeking from the ground, a network of tunnels that once housed bears, and various archeological sites, including the one we really wanted to see, the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Believed to be a “druid’s altar” a couple hundred years ago, today we know it is a stone-age portal-style grave, possibly a chieftain’s though no one knows for sure. While a center is promised for the future, today the dolmen stands alone in the middle of a field, and it takes a 200-meter hike to reach it. As you can see in the picture, we got there just before dusk (meaning at around 4:00 pm), but we had enough light and time to really marvel at this ancient artifact still standing after four thousand years. The Burren is supposed to be incredible in the summer, with flowers bursting out of the limestone all over; I guess we’ll just have to come back and see. Very carefully we picked our way back to the car and then drove for another two hours to reach Galway.

Poulnabrone Dolmen, a 4000 year-old grave, still captures the imagination.
Nov. 24, 2002

In Galway, we stayed at the Cill Cuana B&B, a place we reserved that morning before leaving Dingle (had it only been one day?). In fact, from here on, all our accommodations would be booked on-the-go, one of the perks of traveling in winter. Cill Cuana was decent, but not a place I would go back to; it was just good enough for the night. In fact, Galway felt pretty much like that.

Galway is a university town, and you can’t miss it. This would have been great if we had been with our friends, but on our honeymoon, and especially after the quiet solitude of Dingle, Galway simply grated on us. We walked the pedestrian part of town, dipping into the King’s Head Pub, there since the 16th century, for a pint and some music (rock covers, not bad). Galway is full of street artists, buskers, and on our way back to the car, we passed by a young woman with her guitar, strumming along in the chilling wind. She started to sing after we were about 10 feet past her, and her voice made us turn around simply because we had to know who it was that was singing. She was amazing, and we purchased her CD right there. Her name was Orlagh De Bhaldraithe (see the Links). After this it was back to the B&B and to sleep.