Ireland Part 3: Are You Ready For Moher?
Here we were, entrenched in our mother-daughter adventure through the small country of Ireland. On this particular day we were buzzing along a narrow, winding, and picturesque Irish road at 8:30 in the morning. The sun dazzled brightly in the blue sky, the weather was a hint warmer than the previous day, and our bodies sensed we were about to have a notable outing with each other. Today was Mother's day and we were driving towards one of our bucket list items. A place we had both longed to visit for several years. Little did we know we were about to treat ourselves to one of the best Mother’s Day experiences of our lives. And together. After parking our rental in a near-emtpy parking lot (visit in the off season, people!) and using the restrooms for a quick pit stop, we busted out in one of those "shopping mall lady" powerwalks to catch our first glimpse of the world famous, most outstanding coastal features in all of Ireland: The Cliffs of Moher!
Above was one of the first displays that spread out before us of the “cliffs.” Wow! A myriad of adjectives could be used to describe this moment. Breathtaking, impressive, dramatic, sheer, awe-inspiring, steep, exciting, stunning. Or more precisely: “Holy sh*t, this place is freaking AWESOME!” We trekked along the edge of the cliffs. Stopped. Sat mesmerized. Took pictures. Stated above phrase. Then hit repeat. And for the next few hours this was our life. Every foot forward offered a different aspect of the cliffs that appeared just as beautiful as the one before. Every steep edge we peered down was just as startling as the previous. There were birds dive bombing into the sea. The sunlit tufts of green grass stood out in contrast to the dark perpendicular cliffs. Moher also offered a different perspective of the nearby (and very small) Aran Islands, which we were due to step foot on to explore in two days. More on that later! But if you haven’t caught my drift yet, this place was mind-blowingly beautiful!
Musings from the Road…
We strolled along the cliffs for quite some time. In those moments, my mind would wander from topic to topic as it often does when I’m surrounded by nature. I kept coming back to this overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. This entire year of travel, meeting up with people, and completing goals has really been a dream that we weren’t certain would come to fruition. But that’s beside the point, because this whole thought of gratefulness stemmed from being able to spend quality one on one time with my mom. A goal that was included in our initial list but I had no idea it would be to this level.
Perhaps it was the dizzying cliffs that put me in this state or because I was encompassed by such beauty but in this moment in particular I really felt lucky to be experiencing today with her. As we grow older (separate and together), these are the memories I hold near and dear to my heart. Being out of our comfort zone, doing things on the fly, checking items off our bucket list, experiencing new cultures, and (for the most part) laughing or smiling our way through it all. Every time we take a trip together I am reminded that we don’t get this time back. The more we put off a get-together, the less time we have with one another on this planet so I am forever grateful for our adventurous spirit and for exclaiming in unison ‘Yes, let’s do it’ when the next moment arises. It isn’t always easy to find the time, courage, or money but I know we both agree that these experiences together are priceless and bring us a tremendous amount of joy.
Bonus Trip: 24 Hours on Inishmore, THe Largest of The Aran Islands
It was really hard to depart our current air bnb that we had shacked up in the past three days with the highlight being the Cliffs of Moher, of course. But the extra relaxation, a full kitchen with two bedrooms, and roads that became familiar were exactly what we had envisioned this section holding. Now, though, it was time to look forward and drive forward (well, kind of). We loaded our two carry-on sized bags into the back of the car, fired up the engine and shifted into drive. Until seconds later. Crack. Rip. “What the heck was that?!” I said. “What were you thinking, Lindsay!?” exclaimed my mom. We got out to examine the car. It appeared I thought driving over a rocky curb while exiting the air bnb was a reasonable idea. Wrong. Our bumper was mangled and hanging by a thread. I somehow jimmy-rigged it back in its place for the time being and we both prayed the owners weren’t spying on us out their windows. I can see them now shaking their heads back and forth and murmuring under their breathe “Idiots…” So we peeled out lickety split.
I digress, let’s get back to our Aran Islands side trip. A little over an hour later we pulled up to the port of Ros a Mhil, stashed our car for the night, and boarded a double-decker passenger ferry that sailed us west to Inishmore (Inis Mor), the largest of the three Aran Islands. And by large, I mean a 3 km in width by 12 km in length tiny island. After a 40 minute ferry ride, we pulled into Kilronan, Inishmore’s main village, population 297 (see above photo).
Now you may wonder why we wanted to include the Aran Islands on our Ireland itinerary and we have a couple solid reasons. Mainly, we wanted to surround ourselves with an authentic Irish experience and after researching, this fit the bill. Inishmore is known for its ancient sites, its strong unique culture and way of life, for using bike or horse as their main mode of transportation, Gaelic as their first language, and its uniquely beautiful landscape. You’ll see below much of the island is jagged moss-lined rock fences (used as property markers) with thatched cottages and patches of grass sprinkled in. Time definitely stands still-ish here and we were excited to discover for ourselves why.
With 24 hours to explore, we quickly unloaded our luggage at our casual guesthouse for the night (Ard Mhuiris B&B) then set off on two wheels. Our objective was to smile and giggle and laugh and enjoy all while biking along the tiny roads, soaking in the Irish countryside, and touring Dun Aengus, the best known archaeological site on the island. I think my mom and I would both agree that there was not a complete sense of enjoyment going on during our little bike tour. The phrase ‘it’s just like riding a bike’ did not apply here and we underestimated the length of time it would take us (around 8 miles round trip with plenty of stops for views). There were a lot of ‘you can do its’ from me (especially while riding up hill) and a lot of ‘I can’t do thises’ from my mom (very role reversal for a mother-daughter duo). But I would not let her give up and she wouldn’t allow herself to either. It was a challenging afternoon for us but I also believe that neither of us regret it. My only regret would have been not listening to my mom when she asked if she should get one of those motorized bikes. You were right, mom - and yes, next time it’s all yours!
It took us roughly an hour with sightseeing detours to reach Dun Aengus. We parked our bikes (or at least I did…my mom might have thrown her’s down and kicked gravel at it, I can’t seem to remember exactly. You’ll have to ask her). We celebrated with a can of coca cola and our spirits lifted in time to see the historical site. A gradual ascending path led us to Dun Aengus, the ancient cliff top fort. The site spreads over 14 acres with three terraced walls and stunning views across the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. Excavations have shown that people that lived here date back as far as 1500 BC and suggest that its primary purpose was religious and ceremonial.
Back in the village now, we followed up our day of riding with two large helpings of fish and chips plus a giant glass of Guinness. Then a second Guinness for dessert (it is quite rich, isn’t it?!).
What a ‘Wild’ Section
Overall this section of the “Wild Atlantic Way” exceeded our expectations in many different ways. With it being the middle portion of our trip, we found ourselves in a more relaxed state especially having the opportunity to stay in an air bnb for three nights in a row. We were clearly blown away with our Mother’s Day experience at the Cliffs of Moher (add it to your list!) and while challenged at the Aran Islands, we discovered a more authentic Irish experience and way of life. My eyes won’t forget the scenery (which includes the incredible Dingle Peninsula from our previous post) and I won’t forget the deep conversations between my my mom and I. We may have our differences, our age gap, and opinions but I could not imagine traveling through Ireland with anyone else.
Next up, we finish our remaining two days in Dublin, Ireland’s capital city. I always think living in a large city would not be my cup of tea, but visiting one, now that is a different story! Check out all the exciting experiences we get in to in Dublin on the next blog post!