Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday 13th- Cliffs of Moher

We awoke the next morning to a misty and overcast day. Showered, refreshed and wearing our clothes from the day before we made our way over to the other house for the first of many Ulster Fries; basically a full English Breakfast with black and white pudding extra. And our second taste (the first was last night at the pub) of the famous Soda bread that gets served up with everything; breakfast, lunch and dinner AND any snacks in between. I loved it, it has an unusual crumbly texture, is quiet heavy but easy to eat, mostly white but you can get a brown wheaten soda bread too. And always home-made. I think I’m going to try making it, I’ve found an recipe from our own Irish lass, Peta Mathias-

"To make soda bread, sift 2 cups of white and 2 cups of wheatmeal flour with 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in 2 cups of burttermilk. Incorporate the flour into the the buttermilk, turn out onto a floured board and knead for a minute or two. Smooth and shape to a round about 4cm high, cut a deep cross from one edge to the other. Place on a floured baking tray and bake at 200c for 30 minutes. Eat with lashings of butter!"

We were hoping to have received a phone call by the end of breakfast from the luggage claim lady to say she had our wayward bag in her hot liitle hands but alas there was no call. After breakfast Susan, our B&B host, suggested we pack up our car and come down to her house and rest up in the guest lounge, check our emails etc until we got the call. David called the number a few times but had got no response. It was going to be another long day.

After an hour or so of twiddling our thumbs we had enough of wasting time and decided to head down the coast to the Cliffs of Moher, one of the main reasons we had chosen to stay in Doolin. Susan took the baggage claim phone number and said she’d get onto them and give them the “message” if she got through. We had intended to visit the cliffs early in the morning and then head north again on our way to our next destination, Clifden, a good 4 hours drive away.

The Cliffs of Moher are a major tourist attraction located on the south west coast of Ireland in County Clare. Over 215 meters (700 feet) high they drop almost vertically into the Atlantic Ocean and stretch for over 8kms. They are also home to a huge number of nesting seabirds including the puffin although because we were there at the end of the season we did not see any. It started to rain just as we arrived and without our wet weather gear(in the missing bag) we nearly decided not take the walk over to the cliffs. But having entered the car park and paid our 8 euros we decided to sit for a bit and see if it cleared.

While waiting we got the call to say they had our bag at the airport, "when would we be there to collect it?" After much tooing and froing and some gentle persuasion from David they agreed to meet us at Ennistimon (Susan had also “encouraged” them to deliver to us when she spoke to them) and would call us back to confirm a time to meet. By now the rain had stopped so we made our way along the walkway and over to the cliffs where the mist was still lingering. By the time we had walked out to the viewing point and turned round to return the mist had lifted and we had a great view of the cliffs.

With the rain gone a lone busker appeared, retrieved his plastic chair out of the undergrowth in the paddock next door, took up position and proceeded to play some beautiful music.

Just as we were finishing we got a call from a courier driver to say he had our bag on board and he’d meet us outside the Garda in Ennistimon, he was already on the way and would be there in 30 minutes. We thanked him profusely and raced back to the car and headed away. The Garda? What was the Garda?…..nobody told us that it was the police station and we couldn't find it for a bit, thank God for mobile phones. Finally, with a tenner tucked into the courier's hand, we had the bag on board. We took a quick walk along the main street and saw our first views of small town Ireland; lots of colourful buildings and traditional Irish pubs which mostly, unlike their English counterparts, bear the name of the present or past owner.

There was also a small market happening at one end of the street where we saw this character-

By now we'd lost over half a day of travelling north so then we had to drive hell for leather to get to the next B&B before dark, where we were staying for the next two nights. We headed back along the narrow winding roads that we’d crossed in the dark the night before and then out to the coast where we skirted around the outer edge of the Burren. It was very beautiful countryside, bleak and wild with lots of photo opportunities but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to stop.

We did stop to take a photo of this house though……and I thought Mum and Dad had a lot of garden ornaments! Not a patch on this!

We stopped for lunch at Monks in Ballyvaughan overlooking Galway Bay where we had some excellent chowder and more soda bread. Luckily we had just missed a bus load of unexpected guests who had nearly eaten the pub out of house and home!

Obviously you have to watch how you park the car in this neighbourhood.

The pub was located on the side of a quiet little harbour where there were two or three high and dry fishing boats and some beautifully (and bright) coloured traditional cottages.

And the amazing backdrop of the rocky Burren

Back on the road we made our way along the Galway Bay coastline heading towards Galway which again unfortunately we had no time to visit. We did make a short detour to the 200 year old Moran’s Oyster Cottage, renowned the world over for its superb seafood especially oysters from Galway Bay. But alas we had only just had lunch so it was more a cursory inspection and then back on the road again.

We skirted around the outer edges of the city, stopping quickly to withdraw some euros from an ATM, the first one we had seen. Definitely not like NZ where ATMs are on every corner of every street! As we left Galway the rain set in again and it became very dark and misty. We were also caught in the afternoon rush hour traffic so progress was painfully slow. The roads were still narrow and winding and quite rough in places. We passed through lots of small colourful villages until finally we reached Clifden and our next B&B, Hillside Lodge which is located just out of town at the beginning of the famous “Sky Road” .

We were again worn out and ready for a good night’s sleep so after a quick chat and some directions from our host Ruth, we headed into town for a bite to eat. Hillside Lodge happened to be one of the better B&Bs we stayed at right through Ireland. There were 6 large guest rooms, ours also had a small lounge with a flat screen TV. We were the only guests for both nights as it was the end of season and Ruth was taking internet bookings only until the end of October then she would be closed for the next 4-5 months. This was not the only B&B we found had the same situation and in fact some has aready closed for the season. We found this quite strange as there were still plenty of tourists about. In NZ ,while we have high, low and shoulder seasons the tourists are in the country 24/7, 365 days of the year, they're here either for the sun and sand or for the snow!

There are many colourful buildings in Clifden, it’s just a pity I couldn’t capture them without the cars in the foreground.

Finally, it felt like we were on holiday.

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