Destinations, Ireland

Ireland Day 7, Part 4: Doolin town, Cliffs of Moher by land

October 6, 2012

Suffice it to say that we made it back in one piece from the Cliffs of Moher ferry.  Thoroughly chilled to the bone, we took some time to collect ourselves in the renowned O’Connor’s pub.  It gets some serious points for kitsch factor – they had police badges from all around the world on the walls, and license plates as well.  (Is this a tourist pub thing? We saw it a couple times during our trip.)

Ireland Day 7, Part 4: Doolin town, Cliffs of Moher by land | Destinations Ireland

Cliffs of Moher ferries: more exciting than Six Flags for a fraction of the price.

Jason tucked in to a hearty beef and Guinness stew, while I went for crab claws in a garlic butter sauce.  Sadly no pictures because it was dim, and also because I was too busy stuffing them in my face because they were amazing.  Interestingly, the crab claws came already peeled, so all you had to do was pick them up and eat them.  There were also a lot of them (they’re smaller than the hefty crab claws you might get elsewhere, but the quantity was still surprising.)  A lot of pubs had these on the menu and while I didn’t try them elsewhere, I think this might be the way they’re typically served.  If so, that’s a notion I could get behind.  I’m all about reducing the barrier to entry between me and eating tasty crustaceans.

O’Connor’s had music and storytelling going on, so after eating we squeezed our way into the common area (we’d been sitting at the bar near the door), to listen to what ended up being a very bawdy tale about a man who accidentally gives his love interest a pair of his mother’s underwear instead of the new gloves he bought her.  We listened through to the end and then left, shaking our heads ruefully but grinning nonetheless, not entirely convinced that we were the lewd-pub-story types after all.

 Wandering around Doolin revealed what a small town it really is.  We could walk from one end of it to the other in less than 10 minutes.  There weren’t any sidewalks once you got outside the main shops, so we stuck to the edge of the road along a grassy field.  There was no denying that out here we were in farm country.

Near O’Connor’s we stopped at a candy shop and got some luxuriously rich dark chocolate fudge.  The proprietor beamed with pride when we told her that the presentation of them was beautiful – her sister makes the fudge locally.  It must be an incredible amount of work given how many varieties were offered.

We returned to the car.  It was still light outside.  What to do?  How about the Cliffs of Moher?

“Wait a second,” you might be thinking. “Didn’t you just see the cliffs?”  Why yes, we did.  But we saw them from below.  Seeing them from above?  That’s an entirely different proposition altogether.

We drove the 10-or-so minutes to get to the cliffs parking lot and paid to park, only to realize that we didn’t actually need to pay to get into the cliffs.  When you pull up, they charge you for tickets to the “Cliffs of Moher” experience at the interpretive center.  Once the interpretive center closes, parking is free.  Thus, the cliffs are free; it’s the visitor center that isn’t.  I suspect that if you tell them you aren’t going to the visitor center, you might be able to park without charge and skip the center (which we’d planned to do anyway). Otherwise, if you’re a penny-pincher, wait until after the center closes, or park elsewhere and walk a short ways to see the cliffs.

We arrived just about 15 minutes before the visitor center closed and had no interest in actually going to it anyway.  Oh, well; we’ll consider it a donation to the cliffs.

Leaning forward against what felt like blisteringly gale-force winds, we made the short uphill walk up a pavement incline to get to the cliffs.  There was a rock wall of moderate height preventing you from going out to the edge.  Beyond it, nothing but grass covered cliffs as far as the eye could see.

Ireland Day 7, Part 4: Doolin town, Cliffs of Moher by land | Destinations Ireland

Salty prickling droplets of water on our faces were, incredibly enough, water kicked up by the wind and carried all the way up here, over 700 feet above the roaring waves below.

Near here is where surfers come from all around the world to catch one of the largest waves in the world. I shivered, imagining the icy waters below.

Up close we could see the long grasses of the cliffs bending in the winds.  Shading my face with my hand, I gazed out at the cliffs stretching far off into the misty distance.  The waves crashed below. Far out on a cliff – beyond where pedestrians were permitted – two figures perched on the end, sitting atop their rocky tower and watching the sun’s gradual descent as late afternoon gave way to evening.

Walking down below again near to where we came, we went up in the other direction now, toward a castle-like tower perched across the rise behind us. We envied their position more than a little, but weren’t feeling up to hoisting ourselves over the wall and making the likely-inadvisable walk across the cliffs out to some of those plateaus off in the distance.  Perhaps if we hadn’t already had the excitement of the earlier ferry ride we would have considered it more closely.

Somewhat disappointingly, the tower (O’Brien’s Tower) wasn’t that old, and, peering in the windows, appeared to be converted into a gift shop. (A glance at the brochure later revealed that you can pay extra to climb to the top of the tower.)  Here there were quite a few steps heading upward – we had to force ourselves against what had turned into a gale, fighting every step of the way upward as the wind tried to shove us back. Phew. Finally at the top now, we could gaze back behind ourselves again at the cliffs from more of a distance.

Ireland Day 7, Part 4: Doolin town, Cliffs of Moher by land | Destinations Ireland

Not that old, and also a gift shop. See how jaded we’ve become?

We spent a little more time up there, hugging ourselves against the chill air and taking it all in. The cliffs are absolutely one of the most amazing things we’ve seen on our trip so far.  I would return to them again if we visited here.  I imagine they must look even more incredible at sunrise and sunset.

Bidding our goodbyes to the Cliffs of Moher, it was time to make our way back to the B&B for a round of dessert. We’d no room left over the night before but promised ourselves (and our hosts) that we’d return for something sweet if possible.  I got a strawberry “surprise”, which ended up being a parfait of sorts with delicious coffee foam; Jason, a sticky toffee pudding with banoffee (bananas + toffee?) ice cream. As always, the presentations were beautiful.

We gazed out at the pastoral views out the window as we savored our dessert.  It got late quickly, and while we had initially considered a visit to McDermott’s once again, it felt like it was time to turn in for the night.

Tomorrow we’d be leaving Doolin. Though it is a small place and might not initially seem like it has a lot to offer for an urbanite, it still managed to get into our hearts and root itself there. Perhaps it was Beans the dog, or the lowing cows outside our window. Maybe the winding walls of Inisheer and the harrowing-but-exciting ferry ride to the islands and to the cliffs. Or, perhaps even the stark landscape of the Burren had grown on us more than a little. There was something about Doolin, however, that sticks with me even now. We will definitely be back.

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