Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 7

     From County Clare, where the Cliffs of Moher are situated, our Irish dream continued in County Galway. We were there mainly for its beautiful 2,957 hectares big Connemara National Park. But in exploring County Galway, we also stumbled upon many gems.
     Castles abound in Ireland and as we drove around the Emerald Isle, we were getting used to all the pretty castles (especially the ruins). However, the sight of Dunguaire Castle at the shores of Galway Bay still managed to take our breaths away. Built in 1520, Dunguaire Castle is one of the most photographed castles in Ireland.
A swan saunters over to complete the capture of Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara

     Taking a detour to the town of Clifden, we visited Clifden Castle. According to information obtained over the Internet, the castle is in ruins and has no owners. But as we were making our way there, we met a local vagabond-like farmer, who insisted that his family owns the castle and wanted to charge us for the visit!
The town of Clifden was founded by John D'Arcy and was one of the last towns to be built in Ireland

The road leads to Clifden Castle

In ruins, but spectacular anyhow!

     A visit to County Galway would not be complete without dropping by Kylemore Abbey. It was founded in 1920 for the Benedictine nuns who fled Belgium in World War 1. But it was originally built as a private home for a wealthy doctor from London.
Picturesque Kylemore Abbey

     We were staying very near Connemara National Park so we were able to be there for sunset. It is such a vast area and we could not do it justice. But we derived great pleasure just wandering around and enjoying nature. One tender scene of a pony faithfully following her mama around tugged at my heartstrings.
Love and affection in Connemara National Park
t reminded me of how I used to follow my mama around, hating to let her out of my sight and often asking her to reaffirm her love for me.
Connemara National Park --- truly breathtaking!

     County Galway may not be top on visitors' list, but it is indeed a trove of treasures. And it is often the less touristy places that turn out to be the most rewarding!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 6

     County Clare may be famous for the majestic Cliffs of Moher, but it's also home to the Burren. Though lesser known, the Burren is just as imposing, especially in geological terms. 
     Covering an area of 160 square kilometres, the Burren (which means stoney place in Gaelic) is unique and is like no other place in Ireland. After seeing greenery all around, suddenly you will find very few pastures here. You will now be surrounded by huge pavements of karst limestone called 'clints' with vertical fissures called 'grikes'. The area is remarkably similar to the moonscape, but amazingly, it has abundant foliage and wildlife.
Driving around the Burren offered sights of landscape like this

     The Burren may look like a bleak, uninviting place to set up a home but in truth, man has settled here since the stone age. There is plenty of evidence of this as massive dolmens, wedge tombs and stone forts are all around. A dolmen, which some people call the Irish Stonehenge, is a megalithic tomb with a large flat stone laid on upright ones. The most famous and most photographed dolmen in the Burren is the Poulnabrone. Excavations in the 1980s revealed the remains of 21 people in the main room chamber! 
The Poulnabrone Dolmen at the Burren

Ireland's Stonehenge?

Poulnabrone Dolmen at sunset

Marvel at this megalithic tomb
Driving around County Clare, we also stumbled upon Dysert O'Dea Castle, built between 1470 and 1490. It was there that we saw the St. Tola's High Cross, a magnificent example of a Celtic cross. Celtic crosses abound in Ireland and Scotland, and they are so pretty.

Quiet all around at Dysert O'Dea

St. Tola's High Cross
Mama Cow checks us out

while Baby Cow is caught in the act!

Celtic cross at sunset

     The Emerald Isle is truly amazing. As you explore slowly, you will drive from green meadows to serene lakes, then on to  stark landscape and onwards to imposing cliffs. It is a treasure trove indeed!

Friday, 2 September 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 5

     Despite being three and a half hours away from Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher at County Clare have been a firm favourite among tourists in Ireland. Those who are pressed for time even make the day trip over to the west coast of Ireland, just to visit the Cliffs of Moher. And long before our trip to Ireland was planned, I had dreamt of setting foot here, after reading about them in legends and seeing them featured in movies like "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince".

     Stretching for 8 kilometres, the Cliffs of Moher are 214 metres high. They are not the highest cliffs in Ireland, but they are definitely the steepest! It is certainly not a place for the faint-hearted as the pathways at many spots are very close to the edge of the cliffs and there are no fences to barricade you from land and a drop into the Atlantic Ocean.
Misty Cliffs of Moher on a wet and windy afternoon

     It was a wet and windy day when we first set foot here. Mist soon enveloped the place, making it even more perilous to explore further. Taking photos was out of the question. Fortunately, we were staying at a B&B nearby so Derrick could return for sunset shots after the weather improved. By then, the tourists had left and he had the place all to himself. 
Derrick's patience and persistence pay off as the mist clears in the late evening

God's glorious painting in the sky

Derrick the daredevil crawls to the edge to peer over
Derrick enjoys the stunning sunset at his vantage point
The next morning, the weather was glorious. So after we had checked out, we returned to the Cliffs of Moher and I could savour its awe-inspiring majesty properly for the first time. Standing there, I had an unparalleled view of the wild Atlantic Ocean down below. It was indeed mind-blowing! And I am so glad that another piece of my Irish dream has been fulfilled.

Marvel at the Cliffs of Moher
A calm and beautiful morning at the Cliffs of Moher