A River Runs Through It, Ireland Day 5 & 6


Does any river bring a more beautiful mental image to your mind than the River Shannon in Ireland?

After a hearty Irish breakfast in Killarney we were off to the River Shannon, which we crossed via ferry and continued to the Cliffs of Moher.  The River Shannon estuary is beautiful, lush and full of wildlife.  We spent all of our time on the ferry crossing outside taking photographs. 

As we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher we were thrilled to learn the weather was in our favor and we’d see the Cliffs from the sea.  We boarded our vessel and off we went into the wild Atlantic between the Cliffs and the Aran Islands.

The Cliffs of Moher soar 700 feet above the Atlantic and are the most visited natural site in Ireland.  There’s a terrific visitors center at the top of the Cliffs and the view from top isn’t bad, either.  O’Brien’s Tower marks the highest point of the cliffs.  Built in the 1800’s the tower served as an observation opportunity for Victorian tourists. 

We continued on to the Burren, one of most fascinating natural areas I have ever seen.  The Burren is over 200 square miles of limestone pavements.  I am not a geologist so I can’t accurately describe it but to see it is to believe it, it’s amazing.  Google it and look at it for yourself.  Home to a wide variety of flora and fauna and with a climate unique to itself, the Burren is a place for wonder and awe.

We continued on after hiking around the Burren to the Aillwee Caves.  These underground caverns were a mini-Carlsbad Caverns.   The views of the Burren from there were the best yet.  Even better, I encourage you to watch Aerial Ireland on the Smithsonian Channel.  Their aerial view of the Burren is staggering. 

We spent the evening at the Spanish Point, a quaint seaside village with friendly service and delicious food.  After our evening meal we gathered outside and enjoyed the sound and smell of the sea and some lighthearted laughter with Mark, our tour conductor.  

Mark was extremely generous when it came to sharing his life experiences in Ireland.  That night he regaled us with tales from his youth and kept us laughing through it all.  Mark was able to move to the United States when he was 19.  Can you imagine sending your 19 year old son to a foreign country with two of his friends to make their way in the world? The boys knew no one in the U.S., they were on their own. His father became gravely ill less than a year into his adventure and he returned to Ireland to help support his family.  He’s remained in Ireland and in the tourism industry ever since.  We count it a blessing to call him a friend as well as a business associate.

Day 6 on our adventure was spent on a road trip through Connemara, the area where The Quiet Man with John Wayne was filmed.  Talk about spectacular scenery.  This wild, sparsely inhabited area is romantic and mesmerizing.  I loved it.  

We continued on to Galway for lunch (I had giant chicken quesadillas that were delicious).  

Our time at the Westport Estate and town was inspiring.  During the great potato famine the owners of Westport Estate went bankrupt trying to feed their tenants.  Because they were one of the few land owning families in Ireland to protect their people, during the uprising their estate and family were spared.  

More about the final days of our Irish Pub and Folklore Adventure next week.

Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns and operates The Joy of Travel.