It was our third day in Galway and the first of several days that we devoted to all day bus tours of areas nearby. On this day we decided to visit the Cliffs of Moher and other sites in County Clare south of Galway. Tourists have many types of tours and local tour companies to chose from and we checked out a few of these and decided on Healy Tours. As it turned out, the only people who purchased tour tickets for that day were the ten members of my family and so we piled into one of their Mercedes mini buses and Patrick, our driver and tour guide, headed south to County Clare. We were on our own private tour!
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Aillwee Cave was created from glacial melt thousands of years ago and is one of the oldest caves in Ireland. About ten thousand and four hundred years ago an old bear crawled into the cave and died. His skull was discovered in 1976 and radio carboned last year. There were only about a thousand people living in Ireland at that time when the bear died.
The Aillwee Cave is privately owned but partners with the UNESCO Burren and Cliffs of Moher National Geopark.
“Poulnabrone” means “the hole of the sorrows. This Neolithic tomb was excavated in 1985. The remains of a half dozen children and around twenty adults were discovered. Most of the adults were under thirty when they died. Only one was over 40.
Shops near the Visitor Centre are built into the hill. So is the Visitor Centre.
Cornelius O’Brien built his tower in 1835 and began to charge admission fee for tourists to see the view from the top of his tower. Two years later he became Clare’s representative in Parliament, a position that he held for the next twenty years. The tower was restored in the 1960s and tourists today can pay a 4 euro admission fee and climb to the top and wonder at the view. The view from the steps leading to the tower was good enough for us.
We were allowed to linger along the cliffs for an hour and a half. After walking as far as O’Brien’s Tower some of us retraced our steps to the Visitor Centre where we spent the rest of our time. Others hiked further south and were rewarded by being able to view a number of puffins nesting in the cliffs. There are about twenty other species of birds in the area.
The Visitor Centre was built in 2007. The plan then was to be able to accommodate an estimated 400,000 annual visitors. But the number of visitors has increased to way over a million a year and we found the place overcrowded with long lines. The centre offers a gift shop and a café and rest rooms plus an audio-visual presentation that allows you to see what the cliffs look like on a sunny day if you happened to visit on a bad weather day.
It was about a ten minute drive to the village of Doolin where we had a delicious lunch at Fitzpatrick’s Bar. We were allotted 45 minutes for lunch and I didn’t think this would be enough when we noticed all the buses parked outside and the long lines inside. But to our surprise the double line at the carvery moved rapidly and several outdoor table seats opened up when a group left to board their bus. The meal at the carvery included your choice of turkey or beef plus potatoes and vegetable.
Ater lunch we drove to a place called Burren Walk Parking Spot and were given 2o minutes to explore. During our brief stay we noticed several buses come by and unload their passengers. It must be a conspiracy!
Our last stop for the day was at Dunguaire Castle on the southern end of Galway Bay near the village of Kinvara. I will show you several photos of the castle in my next post.
Irish Music Bonus — The Cliffs of Dooneen by Planxty
Since we spent most of the day in County Clare I thought I would include a Clare song, perhaps one on the Cliffs of Moher, but the best I could find was this beautiful ballad made famous by the legendary Irish trad band Planxty. Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn and Christy Moore formed Planxty in the 60s. Moore left in 1975 to go on his own and the group officially disbanded in 1983 but have joined up again here and there over the years. This video clip is from their reunion at Dublin’s Vicar Street theater in 2004.
Liam O’Flynn was a master on the uilleann pipes. He also played the tin whistle. Donal Lunny plays the left handed guitar and the bouzouki. Andy Irvine plays the guitar, bouzouki and harmonica and also has a wonderful voice. Christy Moore is the main singer of this song but wait till you hear Liam break in with his pipes!
Liam died last year but the other three, all in their 70s, are still going strong. Sometimes they perform together (both Donal and Christy were members of Moving Hearts for awhile) or with other groups or just solo. Christy Moore, in fact, is playing ten shows at Vicar Street over the next two months. But don’t bother to jump in a plane just yet. All ten shows are sold out!
The cliffs of Dooneen are actually in County Kerry across the Shannon from County Clare and you really can see the towns of Kilrush and Kilkee from the cliffs.
So without further adieux here are Christy and Liam and The Cliffs of Dooneen: