We arrived in Galway yesterday on the 5 P.M train from Dublin and tried to find our way to the B & B in Salt Hill, an area “just a 5-minutes drive from downtown center.” With lack of street signs and our need to constantly asked for directions, it took us nearly one-and-a-half hours to hoof the 2 miles. After settling in, we went to Salt Hill to walk on the beach, see the sights, and grab some grub. On the way, we purchased a full-day tour to The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.
At this morning’s breakfast we were treated with a full rainbow, a harbinger of how great our day would be. The rain fortuitously came when we were on the bus or inside a building and the sun came out when we needed it.
The Burren in County Clare boasts a unique limestone landscape. There are rocks everywhere! Our first stop was the Connolly Family Farm, an actual working ranch. Derrick, the guide and nephew of the owner, told us that the land and mountains are owned by the farmers, not by the state as in other countries. The limestone makes for very fertile soil, ideal for cattle grazing. In the past fifty years, a reforestation has increased the amount of trees from 3 to 15 percent, mostly fir. Though the ubiquitous rock walls divide property, the rock walls over the mountains (see picture above) do not; they were built during the potato famine. The purpose of these ‘famine walls’ was to create employment for and provide income to the starving communities at the time of the potato famine. They divide nothing from nothing. Prior to the famine, Ireland had 9 million people. During the famine 2 million died from starvation and its related diseases and 2 million emigrated to other countries. You could hear the emotion in the guide’s voice…it is still difficult for the Irish to think about the famine, knowing that during that time (1845 to 1852) Ireland, then under British rule, exported large amounts of food to the English and their colonies.
In Lisdoonvarna, we saw The Matchmaker Bar. Every year in September and October, there is the Matchmaker Festival, a tradition for hundreds of years when farmers would come to this site to find a wife. If they failed to find a suitable partner, they would return to their fields until the following year. If interested, the festival this year is between 31 August 2013 and 07 October 2013.
The Cliffs of Moher is an “awesome natural spectacle.” The cliffs rise 650 ft above the sea and stretch for five miles. We were fortunate to have a clear day; it is often fogged in. I saw a Peregrine falcon, but not the orange-beaked puffins known to this region. The ride to the cliffs was an adventure and I have a lot of respect for the bus drivers that manipulate the narrow winding roads, competing with cars, trucks, and other buses for the tiny lane.
We returned to Salt Hill and ate at a Russian restaurant, a first for me. We were both delighted with the fare.