The last time I was in Ireland, it was for a very brief weekend for St Patty’s Day. I was there barely 48 hours and during that time was told to visit the Cliffs of Moher at least four times. So, with my return to the country of the leprechauns, I made the Cliffs of Moher a big must-see on the list.
We had booked a cute little farmhouse, near the town of Doolin for two nights on AirBnb, because a) we wanted to explore this area quite thoroughly and b) we were a little sick of being in a different bed every night! Our lovely host Gwen took us in and let us make her home, our home which is always a lovely gesture. She even went out of her way to cook us a roast dinner and give us loads of information about the area.
We woke the next morning to that familiar pea soup fog and chilly weather. We had a slow start, which was a nice change from the early mornings we’d been having. By the time we were organised and ready to go, it was coffee o’clock, so Gwen suggested we head into the beachy town of Lahinch to one of her favourite coffee places , Nelly’s. The drive took about fifteen minutes through windy, stone-fenced roads passing green paddocks with with fat and happy cows. Nelly’s was both a cafe and restaurant which served good coffee and delicious cakes! We indulged in both and watched a few surfers freeze their butts off in the rather flat sea.
After refuelling the caffeine tank, we hit the windy paths again in search of the Cliffs of Moher. Gwen had told us of a ‘secret’ parking area, which means you can dodge the hefty parking and entry fee at the official entrance. For a few Euros, we parked in pretty much a locals backyard with absolutely no bus loads of tourists. Definitely recommend. A 10 minute walk to the cliffs edge and we were looking onto the dark blue Atlantic Ocean.
The Cliffs of Moher are named after an old fort which once stood on the southernmost point, Hag’s Head. The dramatic cliff faces were incredible to see and I finally understood why the Irish are so proud of this natural wonder. We definitely had the luck of the Irish with us, as the fog disappeared and the sun began to shine down on us. It was a beautiful, clear day – made even better as our ‘secret’ spot was free from the hundreds of tourists we saw loitering around the official entrance. There were about five other people near us, which made our visit to the Cliffs of Moher seem like we’d stumbled upon something new and magnificent.
While I could have stayed there all day, we had more of Co. Clare to see so we took a final glimpse of the Cliffs of Moher and headed back to the car to navigate the windy roads once again. Consulting our heavily marked map (thanks Gwen!) we made our way out of the lush green farming paddocks into the Burren.
The Burren is exactly the opposite of what I picture when I think of Ireland. This harsh, rocky National Park is a far cry from the chlorophyll-rich landscape we had been driving through. Though what it lacks in the colour green, it makes up in history and archaeological feats.
There are over 90 megalithic tombs in the Burren. This includes a Celtic high cross, a number of ring forts and the Poulnabrone dolmen – a remarkable portal rock tomb which dates back to the Neolithic period between 4200 BC and 2900 BC.
It was such an unusual discovery, I’m glad we had the local knowledge of our host Gwen because we probably wouldn’t have passed this area otherwise. It’s honestly the best way to find out information on an area. By the time we left the Burren, it was past lunchtime so we stopped into a small cafe for a quick break before continuing on.
We continued our drive until we reached the funnily named town of Lisdoonvarna. Normally we probably would have driven straight through this small town, however the decorated streets and hundreds of camper vans caught our eye so we pulled up and went to check it out. As it turns out, Lisdoonvarna holds a Matchmaker festival every year – where singles from near and far travel to Lisdoonvarna in search of love. Particularly popular with grey nomads, we couldn’t help but laugh as we walked down the streets, passing old ladies dolled up to the nines and balding men straightening their bow ties. It was adorable and slightly weird. Feeling like a drink, we walked into one of the pubs plastered with menus, flyers and the odd “Single searching for love” poster and order some cider and settled in to do a bit of people watching.
As the sun started to set, we left our pub in search for some dinner we when looked back and realised we had been sitting in the front window of the Matchmaker Bar. Why everyone would peer in as they passed suddenly made sense! We walked quickly off in case of any potential pursuits chasing us and found dinner at a small pub at the edge of town, who didn’t seem involved with the festival.
It was a hilarious end to our huge day and by the time we made it back to Gwen’s, we were ready for some serious shut-eye. Tomorrow is our final day in Ireland before we head to Wales, so we want to make the most of it!