Saturday, December 24, 2016

Exploring the Atlantic Coast of Ireland

Hardly two weeks into my baptism in Ireland, we ventured into the West Coast of Ireland that meets the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Leaving early on a Sunday morning, catching the Dublin Tour Company bus that headed into a misty highway towards Galway. The trip seemed exhausting based on the internet advertisement that caused some of the group to drop out at the last minute, though five of us were convinced it was worth every minute spent. Stopping for a short break at Galway, we headed coast ward to cover the coastal sections of Kinvarra, Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. The first stop was the Dunguaire Castle near the south eastern shore of Galway Bay near Kinvarra. We climbed the stone wall adjoining the road, into supposedly private property and headed downhill to capture iconic shots of the castle and the back waters, that were now in low tide. Swans swam in the calm waters and we were told that when the tide comes in the water rises over 10 feet engulfing a lot of the low lands where we stood now ! (the gang of five immortalised in the frame below ;)

This was followed by a lovely drive along the Gallway Bay with the surrounding limestone hills, carved be geological forces of many years including glacial flows from the last Ice Age. The city of Galway was now left behind with the only evidence being white buildings in the horizon as we sped through the coastal highway crossing a white lighthouse. (see image below)
We stopped at a small limestone hill that meets the highway at a sharp angle. Climbing to a vantage point in quick time, i managed a few shots of the amazing landscape (see images below).
The cavernous limestone cut by glacial action made for some interesting climbing and lovely photos to savour as well. Reaching the highest point on the limestone hill, and using my Carl Zeiss optical zoom managed some interesting shots of the highway winding down the coastline.

Climbing down below the road level we reached the cliffs which stood close to 80 feet above the powerful currents of Gallway Bay. Though rather impressive, they are nicknamed the 'minor cliffs'.

Driving further along the coast we reached the lovely Doolin Bay which has a small beach below the rocks. The hallmark was the fierce wind that make the waves pound into the rocks with amazing force. The wind also made photography from vantage points a bit challenging, but that was really part of this wonderful exploration of Ireland's Atlantic coast.

Stopping for lunch at the O'Connors Pub that serves a huge plate of fish and chips and downing some beer got our spirits back to soaring heights. We were truly ready for the Cliffs of Moher. Taking a stroll through the main street of Doolin was a discovery of colour and character of the local houses and shops.

Finally we were en-route to the cliffs climbing a range of hills. Stopping at the visitor centre, the bus driver who had been a great guide all day gave us the chilling news that a lady had fallen to her death the previous day advising caution on the left track that got muddy and slippery and close to the cliff edge at places. A short chat and we decided to take the left track first as it was more tricky and would be time consuming. Moving along the parapet wall, we finally climbed over to the other side to capture some spell binding images. (a small word of caution the track does get muddy and unless you have good shoes it may be a good choice to stay away from the edge)
The Cliffs of Moher stand between 500 to 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean making it a sight to savour. Though not explored as a base jumping location, i did check with a sky diver friend that this was indeed doable with a special chute design for short jumps.

Finishing the left side after an hour and a half, we finally set off to cover the right path which was a lot shorter and had steps all along the way. The right path ended in a small tower overlooking the Atlantic sea face. It was a mesmerizing sight that would remain with me for many weeks.

Stopping at the visitor centre for a few mementos we finally hit the road back to Galway stopping briefly at a pre-historic burial site supposedly over 5000 years old (see image below).

Cliffs of Moher must be on your bucket list, if you happen to visit Ireland. It has been described by the Nobel Prize winning author Seamus Heaney as a place that 'can catch the heart off-guard and blow it open'. I could not agree more with this assessment. So grab your travel planner and get going people. There is so much to see and so little time ;)

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