Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

A damp hike along Clare cliff tops

18th December 2022

This report comes from a trip to the counties of Galway and Clare in August 2018. While that year brought a lot of sunshine, this was a fading memory by the time of a stay that was based in Galway city. The autumn was to bring a share of rain that was welcomed by farmers, who otherwise faced a tough end to a year when feeding for livestock was in short supply.

Though there were sunny interludes, grey weather was my lot for much of the time. Given the rather clandestine nature of the escapade (very few knew what I was doing, since I fancied some quiet time to myself in the country of my birth), the juxtaposition of less-than-glorious weather felt like a repudiation of what I was doing. Even so, I made the best of it.

The first full day of the trip came damp, yet that did not deter me from going to Cliffs of Moher and Doolin. The outbound bus journey rounded Galway Bay with a sighting of Dunguaire Castle near Kinvarra before we then continued around by Black Head. On a bright, sunny day, this would have been a glorious journey. Alas, another attempt will be needed for that, and the castle looked inviting too.

What was equally striking was the narrowness of the roads that the bus driver needed to negotiate, especially with ongoing cars. Several buses left Galway at the same time to follow the same route, each one having a different final destination. It seems that Irish summer school holidays allow extra bus services to run, and for existing ones to get capacity improvements. All get withdrawn at the end of summer, when schools reopen for the new academic year.

The bus called to Doolin, so I got to see its calling point for the end of my planned walk. There, most of the passengers appeared to leave too. Once at the Cliffs of Moher, there was a shout for us to pay for our way into the amenity. If I had gone to Lehinch or Liscannor, I wonder if that charge might have been avoided. For a better day, thoughts of walking from either of those to Doolin have their appeal.

Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Co. Clare, Ireland

Instead, I pottered south as far as the Moher Tower on Hag’s Head before turning back again. Some were edging towards the cliff edge as I suppressed urges to roar at them to get back. Limestone is a slippery rock when wet, so any slippage would have been fatal; it was easy to see why superintendents were using whistles to tell people to stay back. The prospect of a long drop into the cold surf was enough to make me to the landward side of any fencing slabs that were present. Views were restricted by the damp fog and mist, and photography was limited. Only record shots were a possibility.

The way back towards the Visitor Center and O ‘Brien’s Tower often got slowed by those unaccustomed to walking, for these cliffs are world-famous and a must-see on any coaching tour of Ireland. My desire for speed may have intruded on their day, but I got past all of them on what was a narrow path. The way up Branaunmore was misty but well paved, and it was the descent down the other side that held my attention because that was less well surfaced with added exposure as well.

Things got less dramatic once I got past Knockardakin, and I largely had the trail to myself all the way to Doolin, too. The Burren Way briefly took me onto tarmac before returning to field crossing again. The obvious trail stayed back from any edges, so I got to relax a bit more. Largely having things to myself also helped with this as I shortened the distance to Doolin with a castle in view to my right.

The time of arrival meant that I had quite a wait for the next bus. That was used for getting something to eat and to see where boats depart for the Aran Islands and for trips under the Cliffs of Moher. The extra time may have been available because I had just missed a departing bus that I never saw, but there was no let-up on the greyness, even if the dampness had stalled.

There was no mistake made in getting on the next bus to Galway, and it went by a different route. This took us via Lisdoonvarna and gave us a brief stop at Corkscrew Hill to savour the view of Galway Bay below us. From Ballyvaughan, we were going back the way as the outbound bus had gone. Weather does not always work in our favour, so a revisit remains a plausible possibility.

Travel Arrangements

Return bus journey between Galway and Doolin on Bus √Čireann service 350.

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