This morning didn’t exactly begin bright and early since we were up before the sun, and off to the McDonald’s on Grafton Street for coffee and McMuffins before heading to meet our tour bus at the tourist information center nearby.
We had booked with a newer tour company, called Extreme Ireland to take us to see the mid-west coast of the island. We were greeted by Bud, our tour guide and bus driver for the day, and were soon off to our fist stop: Limerick.
About a two-and-a-half hour drive from Dublin, Limerick is on the Shannon River and is historically known for being the location of the end of the Williamite War, in which William of Orange defeated King James II, and imposed protestant rule in Ireland for the following 300 years or so. Presently Limerick is known for being home to comedic rap geniuses, the Rubberbandits. We were there to see King John’s Castle, of which I know absolutely nothing about because Bud decided no one on the tour would be “interested in boring things like history, anyway.”
Speaking of Bud, it soon became apparent that the man was a certifiable maniac. He decided to forego the normal method of talking into the bus microphone while driving from location to location for no discernable reason, and instead preferred to park on the side of the road for long stretches while lecturing us about the area. Nothing historical, mind you, but I now know several stories about Bud and the shenanigans he got himself into while living at the Two Mile Inn in Limerick several decades ago. In an effort to make-up for time lost during these lectures, he drove well over the 100 km/h speed limit on the narrow, winding, and bumpy roads that passed dangerously close to mountains, cliffs, and sheep, causing Mom to pop Dramamine like Tic-Tacs and avoid looking out the window for a good part of the drive.
After departing Limerick, we made a short stop at Bun Ratty Castle, which still holds medieval banquets and produces mead that is sold all over the country. From there we stopped at an Atlantic beach, complete with surfer dudes braving the 42 degree water, and then went to one of the most distinctive features of Ireland’s west coast: the Cliffs of Moher. For those of you who’ve been keeping up, you know that this is actually the second time I’ve been to the cliffs. You also know that this is the first time I’ve actually seen the cliffs.
Luckily for us it was an amazing day and we could see the rocky splendor of the cliff face all the way down to the crashing waves. We walked all the way up to the top of the cliff, around O’Brien tower and all the way from one end to another; though unlike other people on our tour we respected the many DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT signs, and enjoyed the view from the safety of solid ground.
After the cliffs, Bud once again illustrated his insanity by taking us to a stop “we’re not supposed to go to.” Completely disregarding the many well-marked signs stating buses and other large vehicles were strictly forbidden, we drove down a tiny road that quickly turned into a tiny and immensely steep hill and saw a fantastic little castle that had once belonged to the sheriff of Doolin, but is now the summer home of an American family. We somehow disentangled ourselves from the death trap road we had driven into, and continued on to the cliffs at Doolin. The tops of the cliffs were at one time ocean floor, which gives the ground a very unique erosion pattern, as well as giant boulders placed at precarious angles.
By now it was about 3pm, and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast at about 6:30am, so we were glad that the next stop was lunch. We stopped in Fitz’s Bar in Doolin where we all enjoyed seafood chowder and the Guinness and Carlsburg taps conveniently placed in the middle of our table. When we were done eating we got back on the bus and made our way to the Blackhead Cliffs. Mom was much less excited about these cliffs given their complete lack of any sort of safety measures that keep idiots with cameras (read: Dad and me) from getting as close to the edge as we wanted.
Our last official stop was at the ruins of a Cistercian Abbey and the accompanying cemetery. It was then time to head back to Dublin, and everyone on the bus promptly passed out from the long day spent traveling around in the countryside. We got back to city center at a little after 9pm, said good-bye to my parents, and went back to Sandymount, where I am very much looking forward to going to bed.