By Meghan Downey — June 12, 2015 —
I spent the spring semester of 2015 studying abroad in Europe, and Dublin was one of several weekend escapes that I managed to organize.
Before going, of course, there was time for a little planning. I had heard about day trips to the Cliffs of Moher, and this was something that definitely interested me. My friends, however, were rather ambivalent about the idea. Although they had heard good things too, they were not thrilled about the prospect of an all-day bus ride that departed at 7 am. Moreover, the journey cost 40 euros, which for many of my friends equaled a considerable sacrifice of Guinness.
As soon as I arrived in Dublin, I asked a taxi driver what he would recommend to someone with only four days to visit. He listed the Guinness storehouse and the Jameson distillery as big tourist spots, and told me that there were a few churches worth seeing. Then he said, “If you come to Ireland and don’t go see the cliffs, you really didn’t see Ireland.” I knew in that instant that I would go, even if it meant traveling alone.
I signed up for Extreme Ireland Adventure’s day trip at a local tourist office, and the pamphlet they gave me listed a few different sites that we were going to see. The front of the pamphlet read: “We will take you to the edge of the world and back in one day.” Sure enough, when I looked at the map, it sure did seem like we were going to the farthest reaches — the Cliffs of Moher are on the exact opposite side of Ireland from Dublin.
Getting to the Cliffs of Moher
The next morning, while still half asleep, I found my seat on the bus and readied myself for a long, exciting day. Our first stop was King John’s Castle in Limerick. This castle, located right along the River Shannon, dates from the 13th century. It is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in all of Europe.
When I signed up for the trip, my only real interest had been seeing the Cliffs, so stopping at another amazing site was a bonus. After a quick photo stop, I returned to the bus and let my anticipation for the Cliffs build even more. After an hour and a half, we finally arrived. My stomach dropped because right as we pulled up, it started snowing! I thought to myself: “I paid 40 euros and woke up this early and I won’t even be able to see the Cliffs!” I exited the bus, all bundled up and rather dejected, and started my trek out to the shoreline. Once I got up there, however, I was blown away, and not just from the extreme winds…the Cliffs were absolutely beautiful!
Seeing the snow come up over the Cliffs from the water was like something out of a movie. Then, after about 10 minutes of taking nonstop pictures and videos, I finally put down my camera and noticed that the sun was coming out. You wouldn’t believe the scene! After 10 minutes of snow, the sky was perfectly clear and sunny. Word’s can’t adequately describe the view, so I’ll just let you see for yourself.
The Return Trip to Dublin
After about an hour and a half at this sublime scene at the end of the world, we got back on the bus and went to Doolin Village for lunch. We stopped at a little restaurant for fish and chips and live Irish music. Later, we went to The Burren. Our bus driver called this stop the “mini cliffs.” The Burren is the largest exposed limestone region in Ireland. Where the driver stops, the Burren and the Atlantic combine so you can see this amazing landscape as well as the so-called “mini cliffs.” It was quite windy the day I went so be careful because when the waves hit against the cliffs the water really blows over and can leave you soaking wet!
After another hour drive we arrived at the Corcomroe Abbey, a 13th century Cistercian monastery built out of limestone. Once inside, our tour guide told us to look into a little hole where a brick was missing from a big cement box. I swear I saw a skull!
After Corcomroe, we drove a few minutes to a nearby chocolate shop! After the cliffs, this stop might have been my second favorite of the entire trip. The shop was small and owned by just two people, and I enjoyed the BEST hot chocolate of my life. Literally the BEST hot chocolate of my life with fresh whipped cream.
When I got back on the bus, I was more than content with my hot chocolate and all the amazing pictures and videos that I had captured. Then we stopped at a harbor and got to stretch our legs one last time. The multi-colored buildings and boats on the blue water were absolutely incredible. Just walking around for 20 minutes and enjoying the scenery amid the crisp air is something that I will never forget.
On the final part of the journey we drove by the Dunguaire Castlewhich, which was built in 1520 and is still used today for weddings and receptions. Can you imagine getting married and having your reception at the Dunguaire Castle on the shores of Galway Bay?! Yes, please! Sign me up!
You’d think that after such a long day I would have slept on this last segment, but I simply couldn’t. Passing through the countryside was so beautiful. Also, who could tune out an amazing Irish brogue telling stories about his motherland….not me!
I must say that of all the trips I took during my time abroad and of all the sights I saw, the Cliffs are the most breathtaking. If you travel to Ireland and don’t go see the Cliffs, well — to quote a rather wise taxi driver — you aren’t really going to Ireland.