Llew and Rochelle at the stunning Cliffs of Moher
Leaving County Wicklow behind us, we drove north towards Limerick to Bunratty Castle which we made our next stop. At the suggestion of our friend, Blair Williams, we did make it a point to notice Durty Nelly’s Pub, established in 1620, one of the world’s most famous pubs, but we did not quaff down a shot of mead, which was another one of his recommendations! Bunratty Folk Park was closed by the time we reached there. We continued our drive skirting the city of Limerick which acquired notoriety a few years ago through Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography Angela’s Ashes. We did not stop in Limerick though our ride did take us close to Shannon Airport.
I insisted, however, in stopping for a while in Adare, considered one of the prettiest villages in Ireland, where I took snapshots of the thatched roof houses that line the streets and the Dutch fronted homes that are unique to the area (left).
Passing through the town of Ennis, we headed west towards Lahinch in order to see the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, where we arrived just as the sun was setting on this natural wonder.
The best vantage point of the cliffs is afforded by a climb up into O’Brien’s Tower (left). Dusk had taken most of the crowds away from the site so that we pretty much had the place to ourselves, allowing us to drink in the eerie wonder of the towering cliffs without the distraction of hundreds of people. As the sun sank lower on the horizon, we drove away from the cliffs past the Burren, a limestone desert that made for very unusual scenery in a deathly quiet region. On our left, the sun was setting, salmon-pink and pearly, over Galway Bay, making me realize what a long time it had been since I last saw a spectacular sunset. Living on the east coast of the USA, we do not have the privilege of gazing in wonderment at the kind of sunsets I saw almost daily in Bombay, on the west coast of India where I grew up. It was nightfall by the time we arrived in Galway and settled into Bohola House, where our hostess Bridget “Bridie” Moran was warm and welcoming.
The next morning, we drove into the Connemara region of Ireland, the Gaellic-speaking part of the country where the landscape was essentially rural. We passed by countless sheep in pasture (right), some brave enough to wander within inches of our car’s tyres on narrow highways. We also passed handsome brown cows munching lazily in the pastures, horses grazing in the meadows, and goats. Cattle farming is very much the mainstay of the Irish rural economy and provides the bucolic scenes that so endeared us to the region. The 1950s film The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was shot in this area which is reminiscent of many locations from the film.
At Bridie’s suggestion, we stopped in Clifden, capital of Connemara, and took the Sky Drive, a route that literally took us up into the sky. From the towering heights of thick heather covered purple mountainsides, we looked down upon the glorious expanses of Clew Bay (above). Then, we continued our drive further north, stopping by briefly at Kylemore Abbey, a romantic Gothic revival fantasy that is today an exclusive girls’ boarding school run by the Benedictine nuns. After posing for pictures on the shores of Lough Kylemore (below right) where the abbey sits quite splendidly, we headed into the chic town of Westport which is every bit as snazzy as its Connecticut namesake, a town situated right besides us.
After lunch in Westport, we drove further north, this time following in the footsteps of our Irish-American friends, Tim and Catherine Shannon, who suggested that we make it a point to visit lovely Achill Island (below left), one of their favorite parts of the country.
Crossing the narrow straits of Achill Sound via a bridge, we took the Atlantic Drive that wrapped around the outermost periphery of the island. At times, we had the most awesome views of the shimmering expanse of the Atlantic Ocean laid out before us; at other times, we were climbing up narrow roads into the Minaun Heights where the wind blew relentlessly but we were rewarded with marvelous views of the sandy bay in the lowest depths. Achill also had some lovely cliffs, much less known than those of Moher and we could see why the isolation of the landscape, its almost scary sense of being in the midst of nowhere, would so appeal to the Shannons.