One way to tell you’re in Ireland, rather than a particularly lush corner of North America, is the difference in birdsong. Sure, the Irish finches sound pretty much like their Canadian cousins, but Celtic crow definitely do not. They squawk instead of cawing, almost (but not quite) like a dog’s squeeze toy. They’re also smaller & less tricksterish. And at David & Lin’s place there are also cuckoos, which I’ve never heard outside of a clock.
Today I went to the Cliffs of Moher, and I was hoping to see puffins, but didn’t, which I’ll explain later. Puffins are not a bird you’re likely ever to see in Vancouver. Apparently they breed on the cliff tops. But I’m jumping ahead.
I took the coast road down to the Burren, the geographical region of which the Cliffs are a spectacular piece. The road took me through the village of Kinvarra, which is home to, among other things, Dunguaire Castle. It was built in the 16th century, although it has a decidedly medieval feel to it. I decided to stop, since I’d already passed by a bevy of ruined farmhouses, churches and towers in the few days I’ve been here. I decided I shouldn’t pass them all, and besides, today was all about sightseeing.
It costs €8 to go up into the tower, and while the view of the village and the surrounding countryside is good, I’m not sure it’s worth handling over €8 for. I got better pictures from the outside. (At some point I’ll have to transfer some photos over to my phone/iPad from the camera.) Still, I guess they’ve got to raise the money to keep the doors open somehow.
I bought a coffee in the courtyard, and chatted a little with barista about her motorbike, which was parked behind the coffee wagon. Then I headed back to the bike and continued on to the Cliffs of Moher.
Access to the Cliffs’ visitors centre & parking also costs €8, although I don’t feel bad about it. The views are spectacular. And I even made sure I took one picture with my phone. Sadly, I’m blocking most of the view, but I’ll post better pictures later, and in the meantime, there’s loads of pictures on Google.
I walked up to the Norman-looking observation tower, thinking it might some historical relic. But in fact, it was an early attempt at tourist trapping, having been built a mere 183 years ago for Victorian tourists by the then landlord, Cornelius O’Brien. I decided to forego ascending to its battlements.
I’d read in the visitors centre that there was a place to see puffins along a path in the opposite direction from the tower, so I set off to see if I could find them. After a while, though, I started to feel more inclined to find lunch, and so headed back to the snack bar at the visitors centre, which is is called The Puffin’s Nest. Life is pretty funny sometimes.
After lunch and a quick tour through the gift shop, I headed back to the bike. It was already after 1 p.m., and I wanted to make another, less common tourist stop.
I set the GPS for Gort, and when it tried to make me backtrack, I promptly defied it. In my brief and limited experience with the Zumo, this often leads to more interesting routes. Today it resulted in a two-hour detour along wonderfully winding, terrifically twisty, brilliant Burren backroads. Narrow lanes between stone walls and hedgerows, past old stone farm buildings with roofs missing and walls caving, cattle lazing in the sun and horses seemingly posing for photographs.
I passed another castle, and stopped to take a picture since it appears still to be in use, at least as a holiday rental. A little further on I came across the ruin of the Monastery of Kilmacduagh, which was more impressive architecturally.
Eventually I reached the village of Gort, and near that Thoor Ballylee, the tower where Yeats moves with his wife and children in the midst of the Irish Cicil War. Only €7 for this, and worth every penny if you’re a fan of Yeats. (How can you not be?) Yeats wrote some of his most important poems here.
I sat through the audio-visual presentation made by the tourism board, by the look of it sometime back in the 70s, and then went up to see the inside of the tower itself. They even have a stare’s nest in one of the windows, with birds living in it. (No honeybees, though. You can’t have everything.)
I talked for a while to the volunteer who was running the place, an older (than me) woman named Toni. I asked where she was from, since her accent was clearly not local. She said she was from Florida, that she had worked for the Miami Herald, and told me how she came to be there. About Yeats, she said she couldn’t imagine what George (his wife) must have thought about being brought there, close as they were to Lady Gregory’s place at Coole. I said she likely had confidence he was no more attractive to Augusta as a married man thane had been when single.
After leaving Yeats’s tower it was time to come back here to rest up before another long day tomorrow. I’ll be sad to leave Galway behind, and David and Lin have been marvellous hosts. But tomorrow I’m heading west to Connemara, and then north to Sligo and Donegal. I’ll visit Ben Bulben, and Yeats’s grave. I’m hoping my luck with the weather holds, but I’ll deal with things as they come. There isn’t another way.