Our first glimpses of County Clare made us feel giddy with beauty. We kept pulling over to the side of the road to breathe in the air, and take photos, and pet donkeys. We walked gingerly through the old ruined abbey and graveyard, trying to step between the graves, the smell of wild chamomile adding to the sense of otherworldliness. Our first night in County Clare brought our first adventure. We missed the last ferry to the Aran Islands-where our hotel for the night was. Shite! But we were literally saved by sisters, Noreen and Geraldine who own the Doolin Chocolate Shop, they called everyone they knew and more until they found us a place to stay-and fed us chocolate. I swear that Noreen's bright blue eyes actually sparkled. Geraldine said to us as she led the way to our BnB, "Ye follow me, and I get yeh on tha road!" We were bowled over by their kindness, and yet, it seemed like second nature to them, nothing really above or beyond what they would normally do. As a result we stayed at the most lovely BnB in the Burren, Fergus View, a gorgeous old stone house overlooking the hills, where Mary and her husband promptly put us in from of the fire in the sitting room, brought us tea, and arranged for after hours supper for us at the local pub. The next morning we were served the most delectable breakfast-and perhaps meal- of the entire trip!
After our amazing night and morning at Fergus View, we sat in our little rental with rain pounding the windshield and wondered whether to go back to the Cliffs of Moher for our planned hike. We decided to try and on the way wouldn't you know the skies started to clear? Luck o the Irish! We hiked along the entire length of the cliffs to Hags Head in some crazy winds. I will never forget staring out at the open sea, the long grasses bending in smooth curves, with those majestic cliffs dropping below.
Galway was young guys sloshing their beers as they did a jig in the alley way, musicians everywhere you turned, trad music in the pubs where locals and tourists were packed in like sardines and you heard people shout things like, "this lad needs a whistle!" or "make way, the girl has song!" We bought claddagh rings, watched the swans in the harbour, and had a creative and nourishing meal at the lovely Michelin guide Ard Bia cafe.
In Connemara, we stayed in the small town of Clifden. I was excited for our first walk downhill to the town square, but the rain and the wind gusts launched a full out assault on my umbrella, which gave my husband and our friend, Renee, quite a laugh. But once we ducked into the cozy pub and I had a Bulmers in hand, all was well again. Next day we did another spectacular hike up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park. If possible, it was even windier that the cliffs of Moher. We could lean forward and briefly be held up by the Atlantic gales. At the top we ate our PBJs and spent a while taking silly photos. Renee taught us the lyrics to the song "Wild Mountain Thyme," that we had heard performed in a pub a couple nights before, and we sang and hummed it on our descent down through the heathered grassy slopes and damp pathways. Among the breathtaking views from the top, we spotted a stony castle and on our way back into town, stopped to investigate the picturesque Kylemore Abbey.