After two weeks of traveling by bus through Ireland, I finally found some alternative long-distance transportation. On my last night in Dingle, I met an Australian girl who was driving to Doolin, so I got a lift with her over the pass to the next peninsula. I had already made a hostel booking and so had she, and as small as Doolin is, we managed to have rooms at different hostels. She lucked out and had the nice hostel with a cozy character and I got the sterile hostel overrun with a massive school group. Needless to say, I visited her in her charming cottage/hostel that night.
While having dinner with her, I ran into one of the gals I met in Cashel! We had a great time catching up on the last few days and she listened to my sob story about my business-hotel of a hostel down the street. She encouraged me to switch and the next day, I moved up the street to join them! It was a great decision and a lesson that the guidebook is not always right!
In a rented car, we drove to the foggy Cliff of Moher. We were cheap and had gotten a tip on where to park for free, but nearly paid instead with our lives as strong winds tried to blow us off the road and rain pelted our faces in the 15 minute walk to the cliffs. When we got there, we were rewarded with the mystical looking cliffs drenched in fog. It was perhaps the most evocative place I’d been on my trip so far and will forever be ingrained in my memory.
After walking the accessible length of the cliffs (and a little beyond), wereturned to the warmth of the car for a drive around the countryside. The Burren is chock full of massive megalithic tombs, portals and ring forts. It was all a lot to take in and paired with speeding down the one-way roads that are so common in rural Ireland, it was very exciting.
It was mostly mindless driving, pulling over to the side of the road when we saw a sign pointing to a site, or just saw a bunch of interestingly stacked rocks, but we did have a destination: The County Clare Slow Foods Festival in Lisdoonvarna. The festival was kind of a like a local farmer’s market and focused on local foods, most of which was organic. People were selling food to take home, ingredients to cook with, prepared food to eat there and items made from local sheep wool. We put together a feast and thoroughly enjoyed every last bite.
Throughout the day, it was getting brighter and brighter until blue sky shone down upon us by late afternoon. We decided to visit the cliffs once more. It was a totally different place. We could see to the end of the earth and notice what had been hiding in morning’s fog. We were there as the sun was setting and it was a beautiful way to end the evening.
Ireland is beautiful. The landscape is amazing, the people are friendly and the beer is good. The weather is so-so, but if you don’t like what it’s doing outside, just wait an hour or two and it will change. I met many travelers in hostels in Ireland and I found we were all following the same ‘tourist trail’, going from one hostel to another and seeing the same people. It’s great to have a built-in network and to make friends to travel with for a bit when our travel paths collide.