One of the popular travel routes people take when going to Ireland is up the west coast - starting from Cork and heading north through the Dingle Peninsula - to Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, and ending in Galway. This is a fantastic trip, rugged enough to require hardy boots and a good tent, but still peppered the entire way with cozy beds for the weary and some of the best pubs in the world.
While one can certainly hike the complete circuit of the Dingle Peninsula, I definitely recommend that you rent a bike. And even though Dingle Town has great pubs, fish and chip shops, and hostels, the true beauty of the peninsula is best revealed by taking a bike ride around to the western edge. Experience the thrill of watching the sun set overhead, or searching for Lost Lake somewhere in the craggy hills between the north and south coasts and, then coast down the great hill all the way back into town. The trip can be done in one day if you like, but if you want to extend this wondrous encounter, just bring a tent and you can camp along the coast at designated sites or sneak into a green glen for a night. There are also many bed and breakfast options along the way, but this is a residential peninsula and lights tend to go off most everywhere soon after the sun sets.
If you can pull yourself away from the Dingle Peninsula, then you have great things to look forward to. North of Dingle is County Clare and the rolling green hills and windswept cairns that will make a dreamer out of almost anyone. Whether or not you stop somewhere on the way to Doolin is not important. When you finally do get to Doolin, you will be standing atop one of the great natural wonders of the world; the Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs will seize your heart, first with wonder and admiration, then as you get closer, most likely with fear. This heady mixture kills tourists every year, so be careful. One of the great little pleasures about the cliffs are the sprays of droplets that fly all the way up and sprinkle your nose as you lean against the wind and smile out across the Atlantic toward the shores of the United States.
The town of Doolin is actually a couple streets with a few pubs and cottages scattered across the hills inland from the cliffs. These pubs are places of merriment that may be hard to find these days. Hopefully things are as they were back in the late 1990s. At that time, the pubs in Doolin would stay open all night, thick black beer and whiskey would flow and girls would jig on the tables as an Irish band played till the crowd staggered home.
If you make it out of Doolin, then you have Galway to look forward to. Galway is the great castle of mirth on the western edge of the Old World. It’s a university town… an artist’s getaway… a pub crawlers pilgrimage site…a laughing, dancing, peaceful city that hosts one of the greatest summer festivals of all time: the Macnas Parade. While this festival tours Ireland, it has a special place in its many, many hearts for the city of Galway.
This small itinerary is for the gypsy and dancing queen in all of us. There are rumors out there that portray Ireland, the new “Celtic Tiger”, as a more capitalistic, less free-wheeling island than it once was. But if you have ever met the Irish out on the road, it is hard to believe that they would give up song and drink and dance for a few pieces of gold.
Written by Sascha Matuszak for EuropeUpClose.com