In which several sights of Ireland are visited and described, the country lives up to its reputations for being green as well as incessantly raining, and much time is spent riding buses.
It has been some time since that last blog post, but rest assured the time has not been wasted. Most of my time during the week is taken up with classes, homework (they lied about not having much homework here), TKD and fencing clubs, and the occasional quest for fresh groceries or clean laundry. That last is particularly perilous due to the shady washer/dryers that sometimes eat your wash tokens and the Laundry Nazis (aka campus security) who lock the wash room after 11 P.M. The last few weekends, however, have been devoted to sightseeing and adventures in various parts of Ireland. These expeditions were accomplished student-style: small price, large group and loooooong bus rides. Here is presented brief descriptions of some of what the Green Isle has to offer in the tourism department.
Trip 1: “Into The West” Located in: Clare County. Bus time: 4-5 hours. Weather: Rainy
The Cliffs of Moher: High, beautiful cliffs that look out into the Atlantic Ocean. Supposedly you can see lots of stuff from them, but not on days when it’s raining (About 90% of the time). The cliffs are crazy steep with lots of little seagulls flying around and nesting on them. We had the opportunity to walk along the tracks to a couple of lookout points, including one with a little mini-castle by the name of O’Brien’s Tower on it. The guard-walls and fences along the tracks had helpful signs on them showing pictures of stick figures tumbling off of cliffs and listing the numbers of suicide hotlines. The cliffs were awesomely windy and look like some lost island or Jurassic Park.
The Burren: A rather difficult place to describe, the Burren’s name comes from an Irish word meaning “rocky place” and that’s pretty much what it was. We hopped out of the bus and walked down over smooth, slippery, reflective rock with deep fissures in it to the edge of the ocean. These rocks were especially treacherous on such a rainy day. There were lots of shells around and big waves crashing on the rock edges. It was sort of a wild and desolate place that made me think of how a lot of Irish legends came about.
Aillwee Cave: Dubbed “Ireland’s Premier Showcave” (by who or what, don’t ask me), Aillwee Cave is small potatoes compared to big caverns like Kentucky’s Mammoth Caves, but still pretty nifty. We were taken through by a guide who had a voice nice enough for audio books and told the story of how some Irish guy found the cave when his dog ran off after a squirrel. Aillwee offers some usual cave formations like a frozen waterfall, “drinking straws,” and stalactites and stalagmites in varying states of lumpiness. We also got to see hibernation pits of cave bears that used to live there.
Trip 2: Northern Ireland Weekend. Located in: Counties Antrim and Derry. Bus time: 18+ hours.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: This rope bridge is suspended 100 feet above water and rocks, so no horseplay! The surrounding cliffs and caves were very nice as well. The bridge is actually sturdy enough, but the ferocious gusts of wind that blow between the cliffs it connects make it seem like you’re going to fall off anyway.
Giant’s Causeway: A strange beach full of mysteriously perfect hexagonal rocks. The creation of this place is explained in Irish legend through a fantastical myth about the giant Finn McCool. It was VERY treacherous going with the rocks being so wet, but that just kind of added to the experience. The rocks formed “staircases” and big heaps that we climbed all over while avoiding the high waves that crashed around us. Beware the darker black rocks if you want to stay out of the “splash zone”
More sights described later in Part 2.