Posted by: mdmusingsie | July 21, 2018

The Cliffs and More

I’ve visited the Cliffs of Moher at least 7 times, but I still feel in awe every time I see them.  This most recent trip, however, we were able to see it from the top as well as the bottom.

You can either drive down to Doolin (or Rossaveal) yourself or book a bus tour from Galway that takes you on a cruise around the base of the Cliffs of Moher.

Weather can make or break this type of tour. In this instance, we were traveling during the warmest summer in 40 years in Ireland.  The bright sun may be good for tourism, but isn’t always the best for photographs; neither is bouncing about on a boat – have that high speed shutter ready.  Despite the hazy photos, it’s a great way to see the cliffs.

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Part two of our trip had the ferry take us out to Inis Oirr (pronounced Inisheer) – the smallest of the Aran Islands (only 3 km x 2 km in size).  My only other trip to the Islands was to Inis Mór, the big island, so I was looking forward to a new glimpse of these charming islands.

Tourism is now a large part of the economy on the island as farming the rocky land is not easy, and fishing isn’t much easier.  There are approximately 260 residents of the island – this can swell not only with tourists, but with students coming for months at a time to learn the Irish language.

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Eco-friendly school – Inis Oirr

If you have the time you can walk around the island, or rent a bike and peddle around yourself. However, if you’re on a bus/ferry trip your time is likely limited and you may want to take one of the pony and trap or tractor tours offered by local islanders.  When I say locals, that means someone living on the island, but not necessarily a native born islander.  Our guide happened to be an Australian (or New Zealander – I should have written it down!) who married an island gal.  It gave a new perspective to island life.

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The terrain is very much like the Burren; not surprising given its proximity.  Thus, you’ll find plenty of stone walls that weren’t built to divide but to survive.  The walls allowed sand and seaweed to be contained and turned into soil to grow some of the necessary food.  They also kept the animals, and probably small children, safe.

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Inis Oirr boasts quite a few attractions for such a small island.  There’s a ship wreck on the south side of the island.  The Plassey was driven against the rocks more than 50 years ago.  Fans of Father Ted will recognize it from the opening credits.

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O’Brien’s castle ruin sits atop the highest spot on the island.  It is estimated it was built in the 14th century.  St. Caomhán’s sunken church is nearby, built 400 years before the castle. Of course it wasn’t sunken in its day.  Blowing sand built up around the church, but it’s now kept in check by the islanders.

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Oh, and don’t forget the gorgeous sandy beach!

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People laugh when I tell them how warm the summer has been – particularly in July.  When standing on the asphalt/tarmac on the island, I noticed you couldn’t stand in one place for long or you’d get stuck as it was melting.  Our guide said it was much worse a week or so earlier when the heat was at its peak.

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Asphalt/tarmac melting in the sun

We had a fabulous guide on this tour – the best I’ve ever had.  Tom was at home as an islander on the island, helping serve food at the restaurant to ensure everyone had the maximum sightseeing time, helping board, disembark, and cast-off the ferry; that was when he wasn’t driving the bus.  He’s a real asset to the Galway Tour Company and I hope he’s around the next time I get out that way.

Sometimes you wonder about the tales told by tour guides, but I’m inclined to believe the one he told about a group of Italians who didn’t make it back to the ferry in time and were stranded on the island for the night.  When Tom came back the next day with another tour group, the Italian lads told him it was the best time they’d ever had!  There’s plenty of music and dance, and definitely a pint or two (or twelve).

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