On Friday we had an amazing itinerary of events planned, en route from Galway, County Galway, to Ennis, County Clare. We had planned the day out, down to the millisecond, booking our tickets well in advance, due to the popularity of many of these attractions.
We have experienced a fair amount of rain since arriving in Ireland. That was to be expected. In fact, I was even looking forward to it, given how little rain we get at home. I love rainy and cold weather, so I am fairly tolerant of most conditions. However, what we experienced on Friday, was even more than I could handle.
I have become a really proficient Irish driver. I have grown accustomed to driving on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car, with a stick shift, in the pouring rain. So the rain wasn't so much of an issue on our very long day of driving. Ironically, it was being out in the elements that proved to be so challenging.
This was not your standard rain. This was unrelenting rain and high winds. Umbrellas were unusable due to the wind gusts. The rain looked fake, like the kind they generate on a movie set when they're filming in Los Angeles and trying to make it appear as if the scene is taking place in Ireland. Despite wearing heavy-duty rain jackets we were still soaked to the bone. Even our shoes and socks were wet and soggy. There's nothing worse than wet socks!
Not only were we uncomfortable, but also disappointed because we had looked so forward to this particular day. We had put so much time into planning all these events (all of which we had purchased advance timed-entry tickets). We did our best to be troopers, but the weather conditions really put a damper on things.
Nonetheless, carry on, we did. When traveling, the weather is one thing that cannot be controlled. So we did our best to salvage what we could of the day and enjoy ourselves.
Our first stop with the Aillwee Caves, which is part of the Aillwee Burren Experience in Ballycahill, Ballyvaughan, County Clare. This is a cave system in the karst landscape of the Burren. The cave system consists of over a kilometer of passages leading into the heart of the mountain. The cave was discovered in 1944 when a farmer named Jack McGann followed his dog, who was chasing a rabbit. The farmer did not explore very far into the caves and did not tell anyone of the find for nearly 30 years. He told cavers of the cave in 1973. To learn more about this fascinating place use this link: https://aillweeburrenexperience.ie
The Birds of Prey Center was also part of the Aillwee Burren Experience. Eagles, Owls, Vultures, and Hawks all reside at Aillwee. Visitors can see the raptor collection in their aviaries and in free flight, during scheduled flying displays. They even asked for volunteers which was so fun for the kids!
The Farmshop, also part of the Aillwee Burren Experience featured a delicious variety of award-winning Burren Gold Cheeses. They had lots of samples out to try and of course, we couldn't resist buying some for the road.
Our next stop was at the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an unusually large portal tomb that dates to the Neolithic period, probably between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. It is the best-known and most widely photographed of the approximately 172 dolmens in Ireland. To learn more about this fascinating sight, use this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poulnabrone_dolmen
Already completely drenched, we were off to Caherconnell Stone Fort & Sheepdog Demonstrations in Ballydoora, Carran, County Clare. Catherconnell includes ruins of a medieval stone ring fort, a fabulous visitors center and gift shop; a cafe; and of course, the crowning glory -- the sheepdog demonstrations. Despite the unrelenting rain, we managed to enjoy ourselves and loved meeting the sheepdogs, who were such troopers. To learn more about Catherconnell use this link: https://caherconnell.com
We were drenched to the bone when we finished watching the sheepdog demonstration. We quickly got in our car, blasted the heat, and did our best to warm up before soldiering onward.
By the time we reached the Cliffs of Moher, our final stop of the day, we were still wet but had warmed up a bit. It was tough to get back out of the car and brave the elements, but we had traveled so far to see this beautiful place, we had to at least try. Rather than spending the three to four hours there that we had planned to, we only spent about ninety minutes. The weather was uncooperative, to say the least, with the wind knocking us to our feet a few times, not to mention the torrential rain. Right as we were leaving the rain let up, but by that time we were just eager to get to our next town and hotel to get warm and dry.
The Cliffs of Moher are sea cliffs located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare. They run for about 14 kilometers (9 miles). I assume they are best visited in better weather conditions than we encountered. To learn more about the Cliffs of Moher use this link: https://www.cliffsofmoher.ie
We were so happy to arrive at the Old Ground Hotel, in the charming town of Ennis, County Clare. We all took hot baths and showers before heading down to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, Town Hall, which was superb (Garin was so bushed he stayed behind in the room rather than joining us for dinner). Both the food and service were some of the best we've had in Ireland!