Today was an active one, as we headed out from Galway to the small town of Doolin, where we connected with our local guide, Pat Sweeney, for our walk along the Cliffs of Moher. He was quite the character; a local beef farmer who is also somewhat of an entrepreneur. He also runs a bed and breakfast with his wife, and rents out part of his property on the cliffside for weddings. As well, he is the head of a consortium of 27 local farmers who he convinced to donate a part of their land that runs along the cliffs to put in a path so that tourists could have access to the cliffs apart from the section that goes from the visitor centre. There was a large group of us, as we were combined with another tour group, which made for a very strung out trail of walkers. The trail itself is not that arduous, apart from a couple of challenging uphill sections, but what made it a little tricky were the many stiles you had to climb over, as well as the mucky condition on parts. We were feeling very blessed to have had a bright, sunny, relatively windless day, which afforded us fantastic views, not only of the cliffs, but also of the Aran Islands offshore. I can't imagine what it would be like to do this hike in wet, rainy conditions.
To say that the views are spectacular would be somewhat of an understatement. We hiked for a little over three hours and were amazed at the variety of vistas we saw. There was even a point where there is a waterfall tumbling down the cliff down to the ocean. At another, Pat explained that this was a place where surfers came, due to the high waves. All in all, an experience I am very glad to have been party to!
On our return trip to Galway, we stopped at a chocolate factory for a short explanation of the chocolate-making process, as well as a chance to buy some samples of their wares.
Our driver, Paul, had good intentions to take us back along the coastal road. However, partway on, a tour bus and a motor home had met up and were stuck, backing up traffic for a considerable distance. So back onto the motorway instead of the more scenic route!
One thing we did see lots of today were fences constructed of rock, which is in plentiful supply in these parts. One particular type is called a "penny fence", which are rock fences which do not appear to have any particular purpose, but wind their way up the hillsides. In days gone by, after the time of Plantation in the 1600s, the Irish, who had farmed the lands for generations before, were supplanted by British settlers, and forced to become tenants on their own land. During times of famine, when crops failed and these Irish tenants had no means of support, their British landlords, if they had any compassion in their souls, would pay them a penny a day to build these fences, for which there really was no need or purpose, save to give the poor tenants an opportunity to stave off starvation. Hence the name "penny fences".
Once back, we headed over to Mike's recommended restaurant, McDonough's, not to be confused with the Golden Arches! They are known for their fish and chips, and from the generous portions and great taste, the reputation is well deserved! A bonus was that we could go next door to the pub and order our pints to bring back to the restaurant. But only with the proviso that we return the glasses when we were done! After dinner, Mary and I headed out to explore the town a bit more while the boys headed back to the hotel. On our trek about town we saw a hooker boat coming into the harbour, as well as the remnants of a performance in Eyre Square, the aftermath of which was piles and piles of colours streamers on the ground and in the trees.
A quick cleanup back at the hotel and then downstairs to take in the music session right in the hotel. It was great fun, with a lively group consisting of an older lady who played the button accordion and penny whistle, her son who played the fiddle and another young man who played the guitar and sang with a very robust voice. They handed out song sheets, so we ended up singing along with them, some songs we knew, others we did not. In between the singing, her husband came and gave us an impromptu history lesson on Galway and the surrounding area. It was a great way to end our time in this lovely, lovely city!!