Irish beauty and wisdom in Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher

Finally I’m back to wrap up my summer 2018 Scotland/Ireland trip with Oldest. Apologies for the delay!

After a wonderful three nights in Killarney, we set off on another driving adventure. After a little difficulty rescuing our car from a garage (it wouldn’t accept my Euro note, I had to go back to the hotel to exchange), we headed toward Doolin via the Shannon Ferry (https://www.shannonferries.com). It’s a more direct “as the crow flies” route than driving around the mouth of the Shannon, through Limerick City, and also makes for a p’sretty journey up the Clare coast. The Ferry runs every half hour in both directions during the busier summer months, but we managed to drive up just in time to see one pulling away. The wait was not unpleasant, however, as we enjoyed watching other families stretch their legs along the Shannon as our cars queued.

Shortly after exiting the ferry, we stopped over in the little beach town of Lahinch, where we enjoyed an ice cream and a walk along the beach:

From Lahinch, the winding road into the tiny town of Doolin provided some beautiful views, including this one of Doonagore Castle, with Doolin down below it to the right in the photo:

Our one night stay in Doolin was a return to the friendliest B & B’s at which I have ever had the pleasure to rest. Daly’s House B&B (http://www.dalys-doolin.com) only boasts a handful of rooms, but they are sweet, cozy, with updated bathrooms, and impeccably clean. We were greeted by Susan, who truly seems overjoyed to meet and chat with each and every guest. The first time I stayed here, Husband and I had endured several windblown, rainy days and a treacherous drive through an Atlantic storm to arrive here; Susan’s sunny smile and hot tea made all our crankiness disappear.

This time, with much brighter weather, we were treated to “happy hour” on Susan’s flower-filled patio, with other guests and her tiny dog Ted – short for Teddy Bear, which is exactly what he looked like.

After a brief rest at Susan’s, we decided to enjoy the beautiful day by exploring the little town of Doolin by foot. There are probably less than 25 buildings in the town proper, so this shouldn’t take long.

As we walked further out of town, the land became increasingly bucolic. We met a donkey, and some cows. I had decided not to take my phone on the walk – vacation is all about disconnecting, right? However, this proved to be a serious mistake.

As we wandered, I came across a beautiful scene. On a hill upabove us, stood a mother horse and her foal. With a cloud-streaked sky behind them, they appeared to be “kissing” nose to nose. I gasped at the beautiful scenery, reached for my phone to take a photo and…. @@#$!*!$# UGH! What was I thinking? I watched the scene for just a few more seconds, wanting to soak in the image, and then … you guessed it…. sprinted (as best a middle aged banker can sprint) back to Susan’s for my phone, and then back again to the hill with the horses.

You can probably guess how this story ends: by the time I returned, the horses had moved out of position. The foal was lying down. Mom was still on the hill, but at a different angle:

Sigh. I’m glad I was able to capture this photo, at least. Time for a multiple choice quiz: What was the wisdom gained from this experience?

A: Never leave your phone/camera behind

B: Enjoy the moment, because it will pass quickly

C: Appreciate something, like the photo above, even when it isn’t “perfect”

D: All of the above

Go to Ireland to find the answer 😉

We enjoyed the rest of the evening at O’Connor’s pub, where we dined on traditional fish and chips and enjoyed a trad session in a bar full of Americans:

The next morning, we woke early to the sound of birds tweeting, cattle lowing, chickens clucking, and horses neighing to herald another beautiful day. After a delicious breakfast at Susan’s, we headed out for our day’s activity: The Doolin Cliff Walk with Pat Sweeney.

Meeting outside of O’Connor’s pub, Pat leads a group of explorers from Doolin town south and rambling up, up, up along the coastal cliffs to the towering, 700-foot Cliffs of Moher. http://www.doolincliffwalk.com . Pat’s website doesn’t specifically state the distance walked, but the walk does indeed take about 3 hours. I’d guess the distance at about 5 miles.

Pat himself, a local 4th generation farmer, developed the trail, which winds along the rising cliffs through adjoining farmer’s lands, as a way to boost the local economy. Doolin is the closest town to the Cliffs, which are probably the most famous stopping point along Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way”, and Pat recognized that higlighting this fact would bring more tourists -and euro – to the town. Over the course of 10 years, he convinced 36 farmers – 36 stubborn Irish farmers – to allow a trail to be built along the western edge of their lands.

In building the trail, Pat heeded his mother’s advice, which is sage for anyone, but especially salespeople:

Take no as a maybe!

(Pat Sweeney’s mom)

He was almost 100% successful … but there are a few, particularly intractable holdouts, which results in some fence climbing heroics for Pat’s hikers. Hence, Pat has dubbed his tour the “ADVENTURE TOUR! to the Cliffs of Moher”. I must capitalize ADVENTURE TOUR! because that is how Pat says it. The description is apt. Here are a few photos from our ADVENTURE TOUR!


looking back North toward Doolin, with Irish Flag in the foreground
Getting closer to the top…

Pat grew up along these cliffs, and told tales of jumping off of the shorter ones, playing in the wild, wavy Atlantic ocean and tide pools as a boy with his brothers. Hence, he is extremely surefooted, and did not hesitate to test the cliff edges:

At one particularly treacherous point, where a farmer refused access, the trekkers on our cliff walk were required to step over a steep crag, with the cliffs plunging over 400 feet below. One of our group had an unfortunate fear of heights (oops!) , so for him this truly was an ADVENTURE TOUR! But as Pat liked to remind us “I haven’t lost one yet! Hee Hee Hee!” His high-pitched laugh – incongruous for a big, burly farmer – really kept us all laughing despite the heart-thumping nature of the journey.

I waited to take this photo until I had successfully navigated the most adventurous part of the ADVENTURE TOUR!
love the graphic

Eventually, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher Visitors’ Center , where we enjoyed a snack and toilet break. Then Pat took us even further, to the less-visited southern vantage point, looking back goward the Cliffs:

The Cliff Walk was yet another highlight of our trip. While unfortunately not recommended for the faint hearted, disabled, or those with a fear of heights, the walk is certainly accessible for anyone with a moderate level of fitness. And Pat’s stories, told in his lilting Irish brogue and puncutated by his “hee hee hee” high pitched laughter, made it easy to forget I was climbing 700 feet from sea level to the Cliffs (until the next day, when my legs reminded me!).

Doolin was by far the most rural destination of this trip, and I found peace and wisdom in the broad skies, rocky cliffs, pastoral scenes, and welcoming, “living in the moment” personalities of Susan Daly and Pat Sweeney.