Road trip to Galway + The Aran Islands + Cliffs of Moher
As a part of my study abroad program, I am taking an Irish Life + Cultures class that includes weekend study tours out to visit some top highlights in Ireland that we are learning about. Our first big trip was out West to visit some coastal cities + staggering scenery.
The group loaded onto a coach bus late Friday morning + began the journey towards our first destination — Galway. Along the way, our class instructor educated us with some knowledge + history of the places we were passing as well as playing some traditional Irish music + teaching us some songs to sing along to including Galway Girl + The Fields Of Athenry. We checked in our hostel, dropped off our bags, then headed out to explore the town. After a bit of shop-hopping + menu-scanning we made our way down by the coast. The sun was shining brightly accompanied by a light mist — the perfect combination for producing a rainbow, a full arch to be exact! We then had a nice three course meal together at McSwiggan's Pub which was a perfect wrap up to our first evening.
The next morning we departed our hostel fairly early to drive to the port where we loaded onto a ferry out to the Aran Islands. This area of Ireland is one of few places in the country that still speak Irish opposed to English, or both, so our instructor taught us some common Irish small talk such as how to say “Hello” and “What is your name?” It was a quite rainy morning which was worrisome considering our plans for taking a ferry out to the islands. However, God’s plan is always greater than the limited picture that we can see in the moment: just as we were backing out of the dock, the clouds passed away + the sky’s opened bursting with brilliant light! As we were warned, though, the ferry ride is always somewhat of a rollercoaster no matter the weather. We jumped up + over waves, rocking side to side with views from the window showcasing sky, then sea, sky, sea. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the storms that Jesus + the disciples faced in the Bible. No doubt, the waves that I encountered on this ferry were of no comparison to the raging sea that they met (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25), yet Jesus was completely unphased by the storm — slept through it even! Meanwhile the disciples (aka us in our own storms of life) freaked out. The Lord awoke to calm them + the sea with a single remark. It is so humbling + comforting to know + worship + follow someone of such great power + wisdom that leaves you standing in awe — each + every time. Despite the wild ride, my adventurous nature called me out to the back deck of the ferry to experience the waves in all of their glory. After stumbling my way across, grasping random objects along the way to keep balance, I made it out the back door + my heart overflowed! The golden sun peeked through the clouds + reflected off of the raging green-turquoise waves + a sliver of a vibrant rainbow caught my eye in the distance. As I was taking it all in, a massive wave came across the side of the ferry + smacked right into me leaving me drenched but man was it worth it (after I knew my camera was still in tact)!
Unfortunately, my boat bonanza ceased as we arrived at the island of Inis Mór (Inishmore — “The Big Island”). It is 11 miles long, 2.5 miles wide, containing about 750 permanent residents. As we got off the ferry, we immediately boarded onto smaller tour buses that took us around the island. We stopped off at Dún Aonghasa which is a circular stone fort said to have been built a few thousand years ago for religious purposes initially. It was atop a rocky hillside with dramatic cliff drops on its peripheral. As we made our way back down the hill, it began pouring rain. We all got completely soaked (número dos for me today) + managed to stumble our way down the rocks while battling the strong winds. Everyone on the island seemed to gather inside the only cafe in the area of the fort to warm up with some hot soup + brown bread. Meanwhile, I made my way to the bathroom where I had to ring out all of the water from my pants, socks, gloves — I could have filled a small pool with the rain I was carrying on me! Our group loaded back onto our buses to continue around the island where we came across many old churches, cemeteries, small houses + cottages, extensive coastline. Once we finished up our tour, we perused the handknit Aran sweater markets + boarded the ferry back to the mainland under a dusted pink + orange sky.
Sunday morning started straight on the roads out of Galway to the Cliffs of Moher. Along the way we passed through The Burren (“Great Rock”) in County Clare which is an area of land + mountains made from limestone bedrock that portrays an interesting gray, crackled look. We also passed Dunguaire Castle, as well as numerous mountains, cattle + sheep pastures, small cottages + villages. It was a lovely drive across the coast, clear enough for us to see the Aran Islands in the distance.
Our much-awaited arrival to the Cliffs of Moher had come about noon that day. As most natural wonders, many films had scenes shot in this location including Leap Year, The Princess Bride, and Harry Potter + the Half-Blood Prince. The Princess Bride’s title for the cliffs is quite accurate — the Cliffs of Insanity! They were absolutely stunning + jaw-dropping + unreal + unlike anything I have seen before. At first I was a bit underwhelmed because it was just a simple viewpoint ledge at the top of the hill, but then I kept walking along + eventually found myself trekking a narrow muddy path on the side of the cliff + rocks — ah, just what I was seeking! The weather was just perfect too. I was so worried that there would be fog + rain preventing our view of the cliffs, yet the Father is faithful in answering our prayers + settling our worries. It was completely clear with very little wind as we explored the cliffs, while the clouds + rain began to come out just as we were departing our well-visited scene.
A 2.5 hour bus ride back to Dublin left every single person aboard the coach fast asleep! It’s easy to rest after a satisfying, exhausting weekend exploring new territories + destinations that leave you in wonder + reflection. God’s creative + intricate handiwork is so evident in this country; I hope to bring that realization into the city of Dublin + among the people who are blind + unreceptive to His greatness. I am grateful for the opportunities that are laid out before me + continue to reveal themselves through various people, places, phases.