For the sake of brevity (and because unfortunately, I’m running behind schedule on my posts) I’ll keep this post fairly short.
We started off pretty early in the day to try to beat most of the crowd to the Cliffs Of Moher. We didn’t have any definite plans on what we wanted to do with the day other than to end up in Galway for the night (we have reason to believe that some of our ancestors lived there.) We knew however that the Cliffs of Moher were close enough by that we needed to swing over and see them.
A short hike from the parking lot brings you to the edge of the cliffs. On one side stretches a trail farther than you can see along the edge. The other side leads up to O’Brien’s Tower which marks the highest spot on the cliffs. There aren’t really any rails or ropes in a lot of areas to keep you from the edge but you really don’t want to get too close anyway, the wind is pretty strong. Besides, anywhere you stand you have a fantastic view all the way down to the water. The cliffs are a sheer and straight drop about 700 feet to the deep navy blue water below. To be honest, even with all of the other people around, you still kind of feel like you’re the only one there which allows you to experience the views from a personal level. It was touristy but thoroughly enjoyable. Plus there is a fun exhibit back down by the entrance with a few gift shops and a cafe.
Leaving the Cliffs of Moher, we continued north toward Galway. We decided to take the scenic route and drive along the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s very interesting and very sad to see all of the abandoned little houses and churches built in stone which were abandoned or fell into disuse during the potato famine.
Along the way, we found a few tower houses we couldn’t resist visiting. The first one didn’t have a name posted anywhere and was probably private property but there were other people who had stopped to see it and it was right off of a driveway with no fences or signs so we stopped anyway. I walked around to the back of the castle and saw that the back half had literally fallen off into the water behind it exposing each of the floors so you could see them from the outside. Here’s where my curiosity kicked in (and the part where my mom should probably stop reading. Look away Mom.) I decided to explore what had used to be the inside of the castle on the first three floors. I walked under the first floor to explore the ground floor first. Then I decided I wanted to climb up what used to be a wall to see the third floor. The wall had crumbled in such a way that it was easy enough to climb safely (I use that term loosely) up. It was interesting to see that the original plaster still clung to the walls giving just a hint of what the room may have looked like long ago. This was one of my favorite spots on the trip because I had absolutely no prior knowledge of this house and I was truly exploring the whole thing for myself.
We also hit Dunguaire Castle, which was restored and used as a residence up until its most recent owner passed away, leaving it in the hands of the County. This was the first castle we had seen that had been lived in until recently. Shortly afterward we also saw Aughnanure Castle, another restored, albeit uninhabited and unfurnished, castle. Both were very fun to visit.
The last part of the day we spent driving around Joyce Country. We really just took whatever roads looked interesting to us for the rest of the evening, eventually making our way back down to the water and following the coast back to Galway. We found a few interesting places to stop off and look at the water. Overall, it was really a great relaxing way to spend our last full day on our trip.
Unfortunately, our last day was mostly uneventful. We decided to drive straight from Galway to Dublin, hoping to spend a few hours in the city before my early morning flight. By the time we got to Dublin, we were both completely wiped out. We tried to explore and we did get to see a bit of the city by foot but really we spent most of the day relaxing as well as hitting up a pub with our namesake on it (O’Neill’s Pub.) Once we were done we walked back to the hotel so I could get some sleep before my flight at 3am.
I always find myself emotional at the end of a trip. I’m tired and want to go home, but I never want to leave. This part of the world really felt like home for me so it was hard to board that plane. You never know if you will get the opportunity to come back. But I will. I can’t resist the call of the Highlands and Lochs, the cliffs and the glens.