Over the past week, I’ve sat at my computer multiple times, hands poised over the keys, ready to write about our trip to Ireland, waiting for the words to come that will express what it felt like to stand amid such beauty and feel an overwhelming sense of peace, and each time they escape me. Words scatter into the dark recesses of my brain and are replaced by images of crumbling castles, animals grazing amid impossibly green pastures, and cliffs that appear to stretch on to infinity, crystal blue waters crashing at their base. I can picture these places in my mind and even remember how I felt while I was there, but I can’t do them justice by writing about them. How do you describe something that leaves you speechless?
We only spent three days in Ireland, but it was long enough for me to feel a strong reluctance to return to London. On our last day, we were cutting it incredibly close and thought we might miss our flight back to London. Instead of getting the tight, anxious feeling in my chest that usually appears when things aren’t going according to plan, I began to hope we’d miss it. I wanted more time, even if it were only an extra day. How extraordinary for a girl who never gets too attached to feel such a deep longing for a place after only three days.
For reasons I can’t altogether explain, arriving in Ireland felt like coming home. We flew into the Shannon airport in County Clare and rented a car to drive to Doolin, a small village on the coast of western Ireland. What should have felt completely foreign – navigating roads in a new country with no GPS and driving on the left-hand side of the road – felt surprisingly normal. For the first time since we left Tennessee, we weren’t traveling somewhere packed to the gills with a bunch of strangers in subways and buses. It was like old times – Lexie in the back reading a book, Cory behind the wheel, and me riding shotgun, attempting to navigate from a map printed off the internet. Windows rolled down, surrounded in every direction by luscious green farmland, the smell of fresh cow poop in the air – we very well could have been in Tennessee were it not for the Irish tunes playing on the radio, remnants of castle towers along the highway, and towns with names like Ballynacragga and Killnaboy.
When we arrived in Doolin, the sun had already set and we only had one thing in mind – food, so we didn’t realize we’d wandered onto the pages of a fairytale until we awoke the next morning.
A contrasting landscape made up of vivid blues and greens, dotted with farmhouses and the exquisite Doonagore Castle – who wouldn’t fall in love with that? Standing above the town, looking down at the castle and the waves gently washing over the coast, it’s like storybook perfection. A true place of tranquility.
Mother Nature must have been looking on us favorably because every day we were in Ireland, the skies were a bright blue and not a drop of rain fell from the puffy white clouds floating overhead. A real lucky break seeing as every single second of our days were spent outdoors. This trip was a departure from our typical Europe travels in that we didn’t spend much time in the city. The cliffs, the coast, a National Park – these were the things on our agenda this time around.
Doolin was our homebase for the three days we were in western Ireland, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a friendly and incredibly charming Irish village to return to every night, but Doolin also has a lot to offer for tourists just passing through. Known as the traditional music capital of Ireland, Irish folk songs can be heard drifting out of the open doors of Doolin’s pubs well into the night. By day, boats leave from the harbor taking visitors to the nearby Aran Islands or on tours beneath the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin Cave claims to be home to the longest stalactite in the northern hemisphere.
But what you really don’t want to miss is Doolin’s coast. The Burren, a unique limestone landscape covering a good portion of County Clare, comes to an abrupt stop here at the Atlantic where its craggy black rocks meet the strength of the ocean. The Cliffs of Moher dominate the background, stretching south down the coast. It’s an impressive view, so wildly different than the farms directly behind it that it’s hard to believe they both coexist in the same space.
Our second evening in Ireland was the only evening we made it back to Doolin before the sun went down and we took advantage of it by taking a short walk on Doolin’s cliff path that, were we to continue down it far enough, would have taken us all the way to the main portion of the Cliffs of Moher. We didn’t make it that far, but the portion we did walk took us above the village, past idyllic scenes of horses grazing creek-side (and some even running willy-nilly down the road!) all the way to the beginning of the cliffs where we watched the sun set beneath the ocean. The perfect ending to an already spectacular day.
For someone who used to spend at least half of every day outside, close to a year of city-living has started to take its toll. These three days in Ireland were rejuvenating and fed a part of me that’s been lying dormant for too many months now – the part that craves wide open spaces, nature, and spontaneous adventures. London certainly has its perks, but my heart is always drawn to those places where the sights aren’t man-made and there’s a chance you might not pass another person for miles. For me, that was Ireland. Thank goodness it’s only a short plane ride away.
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