July 11, 2010 – A Sunny Drive to the Cliffs of Moher
It’s funny how days of rain will cause you to bound out of bed early at the sight of the sun. That was my reaction (although my mom insisted she still felt cold and damp), and we made our way north from Kilarney, passing through Limerick, to the very tourist-packed Cliffs of Moher. There’s no way to see these except either from the sea, or by walking up the path from the parking lot about a quarter mile away to the cliffs that loom over the water.My mom didn’t feel she could walk along the windy path to the cliffs so my dad and I made our way up alone, promising to take pictures for her.You can’t really see the cliffs on the north end without heading south on the path running atop of the cliffs, but I had to laugh when I saw this sign as I headed that direction. Apparently it’s private property and you’re not supposed to walk there, but nearly everyone does.When you get further out on the edge (which I did very carefully as you see how steep the drop-off is), you have a spectacular view.You can actually keep heading south on that path quite a bit further, but I was worried about leaving my mom for this long so jogged back down to collect my dad and return to the parking lot.It may not look like it to you from this picture, but to the well trained eye (I’ve been driving around the countryside of Ireland for a week now) it’s clear that County Clare is entirely different from County Kerry. Kerry has more hills (mountains) and steep valleys, more trees. Clare, on the other hand, has rolling soft pastures dotted with farms and houses but almost no trees at all. It has a very exposed feel to it – something that I’m certain the residents notice when that weather kicks in off the Atlantic coast.It was already three in the afternoon as we drove through County Clare and stopped at the first roadside spot to eat – along with everyone else, it seemed, on the journey to see the Cliffs of Moher. It’s worth the wait at these small, homey places – spinach and blue cheese quiche, a great fresh salad, and hot and crisy chips. Yes, I now officially eat Irish soda bread and butter along with a heafty helping of chips (fries) at nearly every meal. I dread the diet I’ll begin next week!Our destination for the next two nights is the Ballinalacken Castle Hotel in County Clare, just past the tiny town (that’s an exaggeration, really) of Doolin.The hotel sits high on the hill next to the old castle ruins, looking out over a large front grassy knoll to the barren looking fields that run down to the shallow and boggy-looking coastal areas. In the distance you can see the Aran Islands (famous for the sweaters), and across the water (Galway Bay) and hill to the right is the city of Galway.The hotel has quite a reputation for the fine dining in their restaurant so we booked a table in the historically preserved dining room (the house is from the 1840s – the family added on the additional guest rooms to expand the hotel). I love when a meal starts with a little present from the chef like this prosciutto bite.I adore goat cheese, so couldn’t resist this pistachio crusted round that was baked and served warm atop dressed salad greens.I’ve been photographing sheep for the past week in Ireland, as they seem to dot every field, so finally decided I had to break from my fish routine for the County Clare rack of lamb. To be accurate, this isn’t the sheep I see in the fields along the way which are raised for wool (or mutton at best), although perhaps they also are the mothers. The lambs are born in the early spring and don’t really see life into the summer, but what a grand sacrifice they made for the most tender chops I’ve had in ages, served over a fresh sort of ratatouille. Tomorrow we’ll explore what this part of Ireland has to offer before finally ditching the car for the city life (walking) in Dublin.