Peninsulas seem to attract us so we drove out to Loop Head which is at the mouth of the River Shannon. A lighthouse was not open to the public, but as it was set back a bit from the tip, we could walk all around. The whole headland was high cliffs with the churning Atlantic below. Peering over the edge as near as we dared showed us nesting sites of guillemots and fulmars. We looked in vain for puffins but apparently they nest further down. The rocks were slate in strata that dipped and curved. Some layers were horizontal; others dived almost vertically into the ocean. It was geology textbook-perfect folding. Northwards along the coast towards Kilkie was cliff after cliff, stretching away into the mist with farms and stone walls coming right to the ocean's edge.
Further north are the much more famous Cliffs of Moher. This time we were not alone to walk the cliff tops but joined the crowds. Special car parks for cars by the hundred and coaches by the dozen, craft shops, food shops, souvenir shops, a visitor centre and wide paths all catered for the tourists. The cliffs are indeed well worth the visit, with sea birds nesting, with enormous sea caves and with stacks and rocks surrounded by swirling sea and waves. We walked up to the end of the paved viewing site. A huge sign warning people in several languages not to go further was no deterrent to anyone. It was more fun to get a photo next to it and then walk on.
We joined the others who walked through. The path becomes a dirt track that comes alarming close to the cliff edge at times. When the wind gusts, it is more prudent to try and walk a bit further back. And we did - at this height, peering over the edge is a very dicey thing to do! However we continued to follow the cliff-side track for about 5 kilometres, by which time there were only a few other walkers. We still looked for puffins, hoping at every new promontory that we would see them. Again, no luck. We were fortunate however that the rain stayed away. While the wind was strong off the ocean, rain would have made the walk truly miserable, not to mention very slippery and therefore very dangerous.
We hoped to get on a ferry to the Aran Islands the next day, so stayed in a campsite right next to the ferry pier for a trip the next morning. But all night the rain poured down and the camper shuddered and shook with the wind gusts. In the morning, the white caps on the sea and the sight of the ferry wallowing in the huge swell was enough for us to make the decision to move on. The small island we would have chosen to go to (incidentally the island filmed as Craggy Island in the opening credits of Father Ted) is almost completely treeless and so would be quite unprotected from wind and rain.
The Burren is a large region in northern County Clare that is unlike anywhere else in Ireland. Here the substrate is limestone with a thin or no cover of soil. The limestone forms large 'pavements' of flat but eroded and pitted stone. There are no surface rivers with water seeping into the rocks and forming underground stream systems and limestone caves. The botany of the region is unique with a diverse range of hardy, small plants that are not normally found together growing next to each other. But throughout this, at times, lunar landscape, there are megalithic tombs built circa 3000 to 4000 BCE, as well as ring forts, which are not really forts but settlements enclosed by circular dry-stone walls and dating from about 500AD. We stopped to see the most photographed monument in Ireland, the Poulabrone Megalithic Tomb, a dolmen with a huge capstone in the middle of a field. Of course to be the most photographed, there have to be lots of photographers... cars and coaches filled the car park and people moved in and out in a continuous stream. But then we headed off onto the back roads, where no coach would fit and where people just don't seem to go. We saw more tombs on hills and climbed a fence to see a wedge tomb, more enclosed that the dolmen type.
And we were the only people there!