Road trips can be a blast. There’s something appealing about seeing every mile from point A to point B, with the freedom to stop at any moment for a photo opportunity or site exploration. It’s all fun and games until you’re stuck in a very basic Nissa Micra. Our trip from Dublin to Dingle was a stressful one for the both of us. As we left our Dingle accommodation for the
wide open narrow road, we were both nervous about what the next four hours of road tripping would look like. To my delight, I had a brand new driver. The Excellent Driving Fairy must have visited Justin overnight because he was rounding those corners, meeting oncoming traffic, and passing slower cars like a boss. I found I could relax a little easier in the seat, free from worry of losing a side mirror. I guess it just took him some time to get used to it!
Through the twisty-turny roads of the Dingle Peninsula, we found our way to Slea Head Drive – a route full of beautiful views and ancient history. Slea Head makes up part of the Wild Atlantic Way, which is the coastal route we are taking for the majority of our drive through Ireland. The sky was gray with low-hanging clouds. The sun didn’t appear to be making it’s way out of them anytime soon. As we carefully navigated the hairpin turns, we enjoyed beautiful sea and landscapes alike including a view of the Blasket Islands.
Having driven most of the way through the circular route that starts and stops in Dingle, we stopped at Gallarus Oratory, the best preserved early Christian church in Ireland. It dates to over 1000 years old and was constructed from dry rock masonry. Just to the side is what appears to be a pile of rocks. It is suspected this “pile” is actually a tomb of the founders of the church.
With our Dingle Peninsula expedition now complete, it was time to make our way to Doolin. We took the Conor Pass on our way out of the peninsula. It is the highest mountain pass in Ireland and as such, provided the most stunning views.
At the base of the mountain was a big, sandy beach just outside the town of Castlegregory. We made a quick pit stop to dip our toes in the water. When I stepped out of the car, it was incredibly windy and cold! I decided Justin could dip his toes, but I was staying completely covered! I didn’t understand his infatuation with getting in the water – he’d been talking about it for weeks. I later learned he’d never been to the Atlantic Ocean before. His toe dipping endeavor was cut short when it started pouring down rain! We ran back to the car and continued our long drive, eager to make our way to our destination.
Onward to Tralee where we would stop for a delicious lunch – a creamy seafood chowder for me. The weather continued to provide clouds and intermittent rain showers. We really needed sun for our afternoon plans, so we remained hopeful it would pass. We continued north along the Wild Atlantic Way. Justin, now confident in his Ireland driving skills, made me feel like we were on Mariokart – zipping here and there. (Our car is about the same size)!
We made a stop at Lahinch Beach. It is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland, and a great place for watching surfers. It was still very windy, and without any sunlight, quite cold. Justin walked down with me and we watched what appeared to be surfers, but everyone was just floating on their boards. We finally saw one person catch a wave and it was unimpressive. I was freezing so we decided to leave. I wanted to get a picture of the car (for your viewing pleasure), but Justin was a bit ahead of me as we walked back. He had already gotten to the car to open the door for me. I was trying to get his attention for the photo, but instead it just makes him really look like my chauffeur, rather than a chivalrous boyfriend. He is definitely the latter, and incidentally is also driving me around Ireland!
Wrapped tightly in my scarf and bargain North Face trench coat I scored at Nordstrom Rack right before my trip, I jumped back into the safety of the car. The cold must have gotten to my brain, because suddenly my navigation skills struggled. Once I finally figured out where we were going, I was trying to tell Justin the Google reroute, but he tends to exceed the speed limit… frequently… so as I was trying to tell him where to turn, he would zoom right past it. Someone needs to remind him he’s driving a 3-cylinder Nissan and is not Bowser (his Mariokart race car driver of choice).
We drove around in at least 3 circles through the town center. Each time we made a circle, I could hear my sister teasing me about driving around in circles – something we’ve encountered on a few trips of our own. Additionally, I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that we were “darting” everywhere. When she was in middle school and I was in high school, I would joke around with her on the way to school by “darting” into random parking lots for no good reason.
Once we were done darting in circles, we darted right back onto the highway, en route to our next stop: the Cliffs of Moher. As we passed pastures with cows and sheep, I couldn’t help but notice even the livestock was freezing!
The Cliffs of Moher have been Number One on my Ireland itinerary. We knew we were getting close when we saw Moher Cottage, a little café and gift shop that followed me on Instagram a month or so ago. We made a little pit stop to check it out. It’s almost as quaint as it appeared on social media. Of course, the building was full of tourists and it was too cold and windy to enjoy the patio. One of their big selling points is their homemade fudge. They also claim to have “the best coffee in Ireland.” As I’ve not been that impressed with the coffee here, I opted to have a hot cup of tea with my Three Layer Fudge, so I can’t confirm whether or not they live up to their name in the coffee department. I saw a million adorable little lamb gifts I wanted to buy my infant niece, but held out. The two ladies behind the counter were very friendly, and we enjoyed a short conversation.
Back into our racecar, we went up a hill and turned the corner to find we were already at the Cliffs of Moher… along with everyone else in Ireland. Rental car upon rental car was lined up next to one another in the car park. We parked and loaded up my day bag with all the necessities: rain jacket, GoPro (with selfie stick), wallet, phone. When we got to the visitor center we had the option of going right up allllll the stairs to the castle, or to the left up the big hill. We chose both and we were rewarded with the most magnificent of views. No picture can adequately depict the height of the cliffs; the sound of the waves crashing against them; the feeling of cold water from below when the wind blows it upward and it hits your face; the smell of the salt (and sweaty tourists). The very best feeling, though, is sitting in the cool grass, just feet away from potential demise, letting God’s beauty resonate within you. How majestic is He and these beautiful gift of nature He’s given us to enjoy.
I’m going to take a detour for a moment, if I may. When I travel, there’s always something in particular for which I’m going. For example, with Italy, it was exploring my roots and, of course, enjoying the food and wine. (Duh). England – to spend time with family. Singapore – see how clean it really is and have a Singapore Sling. Budapest – the baths. Every destination offers something different, but nearly early every country I’ve been to offers spectacular views. Beaches, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, hill-covered wildflowers in every color… Views that will make you stop dead in your tracks and lose your breath views. If I have discovered anything through my travels, it is that my God has provided us with the most beautiful things; more beautiful than any building or souvenir. My number one priority is to ensure that I’m truly enjoying these gifts, being grateful for them, and always acknowledging they are from Him. Not to mention, being thankful for the ability and opportunities I’ve received to travel. Many friends and family say to me: “Ohhhh, I wish I could go to (enter any number of destinations). My advice: just go do it. If you wait for the time, the money, the co-traveler, you’ll never make it. I hate that I waited as long as I did, and as soon as I set out on my own, it unleashed a passion for seeing this beautiful world. Not to mention, once I booked the trip, friends started showing up in various places giving me traveling companions along the way. In those moments I was solo, it opened up opportunities for me to meet some wonderful people.
Ok, thanks for sticking with me. It had to be said.
So where were we? Ahhhhhh yes… the Cliffs of Moher. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The wind had not let down at all, and it was nearly impossible to get a photo without unruly hair, my scarf obstructing the view, or squinty eyes because apparently we bring the sun with us wherever we go. I can’t complain at all. Here is my attempt to get “the perfect photo.” It doesn’t come easy, people. It doesn’t come easy.
The sun gradually started to descend in the sky, and we knew it was time to go find our Airbnb for the night. Many travel blogs and books have advised not to drive after nightfall, as roads are not clearly marked.
We arrived at Nellie Dee’s Doolin B&B just at dusk. Our host, Jimmy, warmly welcomed us right away and had us place our orders for breakfast in the morning. He would be the chef, and showed us 4 options from which to choose. He then showed us our room, gave us a dinner recommendation and left us to unwind. With Justin’s driving skills dramatically improved, I didn’t feel as stressed out as the day before, but still felt physically exhausted. We knew if we laid down for too long, we’d waste our night in Doolin.
Doolin is known for its traditional Irish music. However, the all day expeditions were really starting to wear on me and we feared we wouldn’t be able to hold out late enough to enjoy the music. We were quickly seated at a busy little pub called McGann’s. I obliged my hankering for another fish and chips and Justin did the same. When our meal was completed and there was still no music, we decided to go ahead and get dessert to pass a little more time with hopes the music would start up. The apple crumble with some sort of creamy goodness and ice cream went down way too quickly, and still no music to be heard. Finally, at 10:15pm we surrendered to our exhaustion and left McGann’s for the comfort of our little Doolin bed.