The Cliffs of Moher
Today, we became tour veterans and hopped aboard the Wild Rovers excursion from Dublin to the amazingly beautiful Cliffs of Moher (http://www.cliffsofmoher.ie). The Cliffs are Ireland’s number one tourist destination and we just couldn’t depart from Dublin without seeing it. The tour was reasonably priced, 40 Euro for the adults and 30 for the kids given that we had a live tour guide throughout the day and it included our transportation. We had looked at renting a car and making the drive to the West coast ourselves but this was a much more enjoyable way to travel for all of us. The only catch was that the tour departed at 7am from the City Centre of Dublin. Yikes!
We boarded the bus at 7:15 with snacks in hand and we were on our way. A quick 3.5 hours and we arrived at the Cliffs. The first 2.5 hours on the bus we were speeding down the highways but the last 30-minutes we were able to glimpse at quaint sea-side villages and towns that time has left behind. I was really worried that our tour would be “cheesy” and try too hard to entertain us tourists but instead, we were pleasantly surprised with our knowledgeable guide who interjected just the right amount of humor.
We were given 2 hours to explore the Cliffs at our own pace. We were rewarded with sweeping views of the Atlantic and varying angles and points of interest along the 5 miles of coast. We stuck mostly to the paths and vantage points that were clearly marked but it is remarkable that individual farmers still own the land up to the Cliffs. There are cows mingling with tourists hiking around to get the best photos with electric fencing to keep both tourists and cows on the straight and narrow.
There are too many photos to include of the cliffs but here’s a start:
After the Cliffs, we were bussed to the Burren, , which is a point in County Clare that is area of limestone rock that pops up from the coast to the imposing mountains. This area was once covered by the ocean and is compressed limestone that is an extremely dry area although flora and wildlife are still abundant. Rain falls downward through the limestone creating streams and rivers below that cavers frequent. (that would be so cool to do one day without the kids!) 20 minutes to explore wasn’t enough time to look for fossils in the rocks, take pictures and really just take it all in.
Another 1.5 hours on the bus and we came to the city of Galway. We were given another 2 hours to explore and offered a guided tour through the city. By this point in the day, the kids were hungry again so we found a quaint restaurant called that King’s Head (www.thekingshead.ie) and chowed down. We grabbed some ice cream on the way back to the bus only to be the last one’s on the bus. We were reminded that if we were late we’d have to sing our national anthem.
Another 2 hours on the bus and we were home. All in all, I really enjoyed the tour because we learned so much about the various areas we visited and passed through. While we weren’t out walking around in every small town and village, I feel like we got to experience the “real” Ireland and life outside the city.
Here’s a few tidbits about what we learned:
1. As we passed through County Kildare, we learned about the various bogs in the region. Farmers today are still digging up their bogs, drying out the bog material and unearthing treasures and bodies dating to 362 BC and 175 BC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bog)
2. Fairy trees are normally Hawthorne trees that stand in farmer’s field or even roads that have untouched for hundreds of years. The folklore that surrounds these trees is very interesting. We didn’t see any fairies but learned a bit of their history: (http://irishfireside.com/2012/02/25/fairy-trees)
3. Lishdoovarna is a matching making festival held in County Clare every September. It’s hilarious! (http://www.matchmakerireland.com)
4. The beautiful rock fences that you equate with Irish countryside have withstood hundreds of years. How do they get that way and how to do they withstand the elements? It’s really a function of managing the land on which the farmers lived. The ground is rocky in general and to get their crops to grow, farmers had to remove the large stones and boulders before planting a crop. They would pile these unearthed rocks around their property and that is what we see today, often with trees and bushes totally obscuring the fence line that has lasted hundreds of years!
5. So, with all the rocks around, how were farmers able to get crops to grow? Apparently, they would take seaweed and lay it on top of their freshly cleared fields and then let is dry out and rot. Eventually this would create a nutrient rich topsoil.
6. Owen swore he heard a snake slithering around in the rocks on the Burren. Turns out it was a locust but there aren’t any wild reptiles in Ireland other than a few species of frogs.