Sunday morning we woke in Ennis to a sun trying to burn its way through fog both high and low. Our bus took another set of winding roads – I’m apt to believe Ireland has nothing but winding roads spilling through green and rocky countryside. Pushing out toward the seaside our bus climbed up the top of a hill. In front of us dropped the Cliffs of Moher.
For the uninitiated the cliffs are the ones featured as the cliffs of insanity in The Princess Bride. Other film locations I saw included Far & Away (I was the only one on the bus who knew the film) and PS, I Love You. You are kept from the edge of the cliffs by a rock wall. Before the wall went up about 4 people (mostly Americans) died each year taking photos at the edge of the cliffs. A strong gust of wind would come up suddenly and push them over. I have no doubt this happened it was incredibly windy at the top.
Also, after a little walk we found this :
(click for a larger version)
You can clearly see that the path used to stretch on along the 8 miles of cliffs and right along the edge. I’m not sure I’d want to walk that close to the edge – though truth be told I did get that close to the edge at Dover and that was about the same height! Needless to say part of me wanted to hop over that fence like countless others had and wander along the cliffs for a while in the wild where we weren’t fenced in.
After the cliffs we sped northward and the landscape grew steadily rockier with a grey creviced rock. Soon we found ourselves in the heart of the Burren. The Burren is known as Ireland’s lunar landscape. At first it just seemed a very rocky place, there were still decent patches of green heading over the cliffs and into the sea. A few of us ventured up away from the sea though, climbing the rocks until we hit a huge plateau. With the sea to our backs we could see nothing but rock filled with pockets and slits for miles.
Although I’ve seen landscapes of nothing but rock before, the pumice fields in central Oregon come to mind there is nothing quite like the Burren. Flat and grey it’s hard to imagine anything surviving here on the cold windy coast of Ireland. But you can see the green poking through patches of rock and dotted around were vibrant purple flowers stark against the grey of the rock and the grey of the sky.
Lunch found is in Galway, the furthest north our journey took us. Just outside of Galway is the town of Claddagh where the famous symbol of two hands holding a crowned heart come from. People go to Galway to buy the Claddagh ring and I’m no exception. Normally the ring is given by a friend or lover, as a sign of endearment. There are 3 ways to wear the ring and they mean distinctly different things. On the right hand if the ring is worn with the heart pointing away from the wearer, that indicates that the wearer is single, if the heart is worn with the heart pointing towards the wearer a promise has been made. If the ring is on the left hand, the heart is worn pointing towards the wearer and it is a signal of two hearts intertwined for eternity.
After lunch we sped towards Dublin, our time flitting around Ireland at an end. Though my friend and I stayed one more night so we could explore Dublin. Morning came and we found ourselves at the Leprechaun museum – a museum of Irish folklore. Although I knew the stories they told it was grand craic (that’s Irish for a good time. Craic, pronounced crack, means fun or liveliness and grand is their way of saying fine. So if an Irish person asks you how you are you say that you’re grand). Next was Dublin Castle nestled in the heart of the old city, nearly hidden behind it.
To me this castle represents Dublin and Ireland so very well. You can clearly see 4 different eras in architecture represented in the one building. The old is coexisting with the new in a beautiful strange harmony. It’s that sense of the old be lived with and not on or around.
That night saw our last glimpse of Dublin as the sun set over the Emerald Isle and our ferry pulled us out into the Irish Sea. I sat watching the sun sink lower and the colours change from pale pink to vibrant red and orange. With each moment we pulled further out and I knew that I’d left part of me in Ireland and not just because I stood in the ocean on the beach that is rumoured to hold part of your soul unless you return within 20 years.