We spent three weeks driving the narrow coastal roads around Ireland, counterclockwise from Dublin to Dublin. In Ireland, of course, they drive on the left side of the road. We had three weeks to progress from white-knuckle terror to relatively relaxed as we sailed along narrow roads, always on the left, with precious inches to spare between our little car and the oncoming bus to our right and the ditch to our left.
OK, maybe not always that relaxed.
In the summer of 2015, we spent some time visiting Frank’s family in Ireland. We quickly learned that the Toyota Corolla we rented on that occasion was too wide for the narrow roads in Donegal.
So, this time we rented the smallest car we could, and were incredibly relieved that there was plenty of headroom. And at only $300 for a three-week rental, we were ready to go.
Along Ireland’s west coast, they have designated a drive named the “Wild Atlantic Way”. It features amazing rocky shorelines and white sand beaches, historic castles and beautiful mountains.
First the Cliffs
The most famous cliffs in Ireland are the Cliffs of Moher in county Clare. They were featured in a Harry Potter movie and were also the “Cliffs of Insanity” in the movie Princess Bride. The cliffs range from 400 to 700 feet in height and drop straight down to the Atlantic below. Tourists are free to walk right to the edge of these extremely sheer cliffs, with no railings whatsoever, and look over. It is petrifying.
But days later, while driving the Ring of Kerry, we discovered the Kerry Cliffs, which we found to be even more amazing. Maybe because of low expectations since there were few people there. Maybe because they weren’t as high as the Cliffs of Moher, so we could clearly see the amazing churning of the sea directly below us. Possibly too because the cliffs and the rocks below are all made of slate, which naturally forms huge flat surfaces that are quite beautiful. We both walked away saying that they were possibly the most spectacular natural wonder we had ever seen.
Then Hiking and Biking
It is easy to get out of shape while traveling like this. So we are always on the lookout for chances to get out of the car and hike or bike for the day.
In the Connemara National Park we took a 2 1/2 hour hike to the top of Diamond Hill. The top was very windy and shrouded in clouds that day, but the beautiful wild flowers and scenery on the way up made it quite memorable.
Here are more pictures of outings in the beautiful countryside….
Castles Around Every Turn
The Irish countryside is sprinkled with castles of every type. Ancient ring forts from 5,000 years ago, tower houses from the Middle Ages, and more traditional medieval castles are everywhere. Some offer tours, some are off-limits and some were open for expl0ring.
This tower was sitting by the road. To our surprise, we were able to climb the ancient spiral staircase to the top.
In Killarney National Park, which is just a short walk or bike ride from the center of the Town of Killarney, the Ross Castle has been restored and offers guided tours.
Alas, they don’t allow photos inside Ross castle, so we have little evidence of our visit.
It was very interesting to see how a local ruling family lived in one of these defensive fortresses in the Middle Ages.
And here are a few more photos we took along the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way…
We love Ireland. The people are warm, welcoming and funny. Especially in the west of Ireland there are many communities where Irish Gaelic is still spoken as the native tongue. The B&B’s were always clean, friendly and readily available. In the evening, the pubs come alive with music and community.
The entire country of Ireland is as green as early spring in California. The Atlantic shore along Ireland’s west coast was special, rugged and untouched.