Today I realized a long-held dream. I took a journey to the top of the world, the edge of the earth, with the hot sun beating down and a soft breeze wafting around me. The wonderful, briny smell of the sea was everywhere, and the cries of a thousand seabirds and the crash of surf against rock shivered on the air.
The Cliffs of Moher is Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. Up to one million people make the pilgrimage there every year. The cliffs tower 214 meters/702 feet over the pounding sea and offer views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, The Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains and Loop Head. An amazing array of seabirds soar high above them, including puffins, guillemots, and razorbills. I’m told a pair of Peregrine Falcons nest there. A herd of wild goats roam the length of the cliffs, and you can find Cat’s Ear and Sea Pinks in the summer.
It’s quite a trek to get to the cliff tops, but, oh, it was definitely one I’m glad I embarked upon! The views—even those from the walk up—were absolutely spectacular! The sun shimmered over the water, which appeared calm and blue in the middle. But the froth of lacy foam at the base of the cliffs told us that calm was deceptive.
There’s something about looking out to sea that stirs my heart with excitement and wonder. Perhaps it’s the timeless ebb and flow of the tide, or maybe the vastness of it. Whatever it is, it never fails to bring peace and tranquility to my soul. And standing at the very top gave me a sensation of flying to the top of the world!
A second dream came true for me today, though a more recent one. If you’ve read any of my Claddagh Series books, you might remember that the principal family in the series is named O’Brien (Rory O’Brien was the hero of the first book, In Sunshine or in Shadow). Well, taking all that into consideration, how could I resist walking up to O’Brien’s Tower?The tower was built on the cliffs in 1835 by local landlord and MP Sir Cornelius O’Brien as an observation tower.
The tower was built for tourists in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien. The rooftop offers the best photo opportunities, and certainly, visitors to the cliffs must be aware of that, for the place was crowded! In one way, I wasn’t surprised—how could anyone resist such a spectacular view? On the other hand, the narrow spiral staircase is not for the faint of heart! I battled my fear of heights as I climbed shakily to the top, silently chanting my mantra. “You won’t fall, you won’t fall.” Or perhaps not so silently. I did notice a few fellow tourists casting odd glances my way every so often.
But when I finally stood at the top of the tower and looked out over the rest of the world, I felt as Rory O’Brien might have felt gazing down at his people from the top of Ballycashel House. A sense of pride in accomplishment (though my accomplishment seems only to be slowly overcoming my fear of heights!), and a sense of wonder and awe at the vastness of the world around me.
Coming back down to earth, we proceeded to Kilfenora and the Burren Centre. We’d walked over the Burren yesterday, and I found the audio-visual presentation tracing the history of the Burren, as well as its unique environment, gave me a solid background of that magical place and made me feel as if I were really taking a “Walk Through Time.” And the Kilfenora Céilí Band Parlor was a little taste of some wonderful music by the internationally renowned band, all of whom hail from Kilfenora.
A quick turn after lunch took us to St. Fachtnan’s 12thCentury cathedral, where we were spellbound by magnificent stone high crosses. The feeling of antiquity was almost overwhelming.
The cathedral, which was built in the transitional style, features many fine carvings
and the remains of three high crosses,including the Doorty Cross.
We drove home over some of Ireland’s lovely narrow, winding roads—almost, but not quite as intimidating as those tower steps!—to relax and recharge before going out for dinner.
But the day didn’t stop there…
Not far from Tuamgraney is the small village of Feakle. When Derek told us we’d be going for dinner and a trad session, I was thrilled to find out that the pub was Pepper’s, in Feakle. It was nine years—and a lifetime—ago, that my family and I stayed in a thatched cottage in Feakle, and on our first night there, we had dinner at Pepper’s!
It hadn’t changed a bit. It still looked the same as I remembered it—and I snapped a photo just to compare! The only difference was that this time, there was live music, a wonderful band that played merry jigs and reels, haunting ballads, and those wonderful sing-along songs. Wild Mountain Thyme, The Wild Rover, and so many others. I could have stayed a couple hours longer, only we have an early morning tomorrow.
It was the perfect cap to a wonderful day!
From the Wild West of Ireland,
A Still Tapper Her Toes Wild Westie Cynthia Owens
DISPATCHES FROM THE WILD WEST: