Ireland day 0230. Monday 16 May 2022- Burren2

Ireland day 0230. Monday 16 May 2022- Burren2
Today’s summary Day 2 of our Burren trip.   Drove round the coast road from Ballyvaughan to Fanore beach, then down to the Cliffs of Moher.   Brilliant, despite the crowds.   Stopped at a service station on the motorway on the way home and discovered it was Barack Obama’s ancestral home
Today’s weather Heavy rain overnight but dry by morning.   Occasional showers but mostly brilliant sun and bright blue skies.   Light easterly wind.   About 19C
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of our walk)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where we walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Cliffs of Moher short

Last night we stayed in an AirBnB just outside the village of BallyVaughan, on the south side of Galway Bay just opposite Galway City itself.   It was small and perhaps a bit cramped, but absolutely perfect for our flying visit.   But the defining characteristic was the silence.   We’ve got rather used to the constant rush of traffic and the trains coming in and out of Malahide station, but the peace and quiet of the Burren was like – as Val put it – balm for our brains.   It made me, at least, realise just how important an occasional bit of P&Q is to my sense of wellbeing.

Last night in fact the only thing that woke us up was the insistent drumming of heavy rain on the roof of our cabin.   It was quite a surprising turn of events, considering how bright and sunny Sunday had been, and it made me reflect on how wonderful it was to have a solid roof over my head, rather than a flimsy wall of tent canvas.   But by the morning the rain had stopped and the bright late spring sunshine was quickly burning away the clouds (we didn’t get up to see the lunar eclipse by the way – and anyway I think it was raining at the time of the maximum around 4am).

We had a swift breakfast, then packed up and were away by 10 am.   We headed west along the coast road towards Fanore Beach, with the Cliffs of Moher, to the south, our ultimate destination.   This stretch of road is part of the “Wild Atlantic Way” – a 2500 km / 1500 mi driving route which skirts the west coast of Ireland from Donegal to Cork.  It is Ireland’s answer to Scotland’s “North Coast 500” route, but three times as long.

The drive this morning was absolutely stunning.   Out of this world.   The scenery is almost unbelievable and round each corner, even more spectacular sights seem to open up.   We both thoroughly enjoyed the short section we did today, although I have to say I don’t think I’d relish driving it in high summer, with camper vans and coach trips coming through in their thousands.   Definitely a journey to be enjoyed best midweek in a stormy November.

We paused at Fanore – a beautiful golden beach, with clear views out to the three main Aran Islands west in the Atlantic (Inisheer, closest to the coast, then Inishmaan and finally Inishmore – the biggest – furthest from the coast).   Apart from a few hardy swimmers – who quickly gave up when they put a toe in the icy water – the beach was deserted.   I imagine on midsummer weekends, it gets pretty busy though.

From there we headed a further half hour down the coast road, to pitch up at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience.   I always hesitate slightly at any popular destination that describes itself as an “experience” as it will almost certainly be tacky and expensive.   The Cliffs of Moher experience is certainly expensive (€12 each) – and it’s not really clear what you actually get for your money other than a car park.   And the visitor centre is definitely on the tacky side.  But none of these things, nor the hordes of tourists (it is Ireland’s most visited natural attraction), can detract from the magnificence of the Cliffs themselves.

They are situated on the south side of the Burren, and are made of dark shaly rock rather than the light grey limestone of the Burren itself.   And they really are impressive.   Rising sheer 200m / 600ft out of the sea, they are some of the highest in Europe, and run for 14km / 9mi from Doolin in the north to Liscanoor in the south.   There’s a wall running along the top to keen vertiginous visitors like me well away from the edge, but there were a good number of thrill-seeking visitors in pursuit of the ultimate selfie, ignoring the dire warnings of probably death, climbing over the wall and teetering right on the edge.   It was almost too heart stopping to watch.

We had a quick look round the visitor centre – not a lot to see but nice scones and coffee – then walked a short way both north and south from there, along the clifftops.   I think in any weather it would be spectacular up there, but today with brilliant blue skies and sparking sunshine, the cliffs were at their very best.   To add further interest, seabirds were nesting all along the cliffs and in the far distance we spotted a colony of puffins – just white dots to the naked eye but luckily I’d brought my binoculars and we could clearly make out the black, white and orange miniature penguins standing on sentry duty by their burrows in the cliff-face.

By then it was mid afternoon and we still had a lengthy journey back to the east to contemplate, so we reluctantly turned our backs on the cliffs and headed back inland.  With the new motorway network in Ireland, the journey back was very quick and mostly uneventful.  That is, apart from a brief encounter with Barack Obama outside the gents toilets in the Moneygall service centre (you’ll have to check out the pictures below to get the full low down on that bizarre event).

Anyway, we made it safely back to the world of noisy trains and busy roads, full of ideas and looking forward with renewed enthusiasm to the next chapters in our Irish voyage of discovery.


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

Our Scandi-Nordi AirBnB log cabin just outside Ballyvaughan.   Cozy, but perhaps a bit too “compact and bijou” if you were contemplating staying longer than one night Down on Fanore beach first thing this morning.   Pretty much deserted apart from a few hardy swimmers.  But even they only seemed to go in as far as their knees before beating a defeated hasty retreat.  Suggests the Atlantic is even colder than the Irish Sea at the moment.   At least in Malahide, the swimmers do actually immerse themselves.
Rain sheeting down over the Aran islands (which are on the horizon, if you enlarge the picture enough).  Luckily we missed the deluge.  In fact this happened to us a couple of times today – storm clouds approached but we escaped a soaking, The visitor centre – partly buried in the hillside to reduce the environmental impact.   To be honest it’s a bit disappointing.   Expensive, tacky and not very informative.   There are plans afoot to replace it with something more in keeping with the magnificence of the surroundings – but not until 2040
Looking north from the visitor centre to O’Brien’s tower, built in 1835.   Even 200 years ago, the cliffs were a popular tourist attraction and local entrepreneur Cornelius O’Brien (MP) spotted the business opportunity and built this viewing tower to attract fee paying guests.   You can still climb up to the top, but actually the views aren’t that great as the huge castellations on the parapet get in the way. We stopped for a comfort break at the Moneygall service station on the M7 on the way home.   Imagine my surprise at coming across Barack and Michelle Obama hanging around just outside the gents toilets.   In fact somewhat improbably it turns out that Barack’s great great great grandfather Falmouth Kearney was born here in 1830 and in recognition of this momentous event, the service station is named Barack Obama Plaza.   I’m sure he feels honoured
Iconic photo of the 200m / 600ft high Cliffs, with sea thrift iridescent in the foreground
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 4201 m
Max elevation: 170 m
Min elevation: 0 m
Total climbing: 568 m
Total descent: -569 m
Total time: 01:33:25
Download file: Cliffs Of Moher corrected.gpx

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