Westport helped us decide to make The Long Drive to go and see Giant’s Causeway. It is not that far compared to other places… just 6ish hours. But that takes around a day of driving up, and about a day of driving back is lost. That time counts. But we were all interested enough to justify it..and we plotted a course that would make the drive worthwhile.
Info center for maps and general directions and guidelines. It was pouring rain, not a soft day in any means besides the sarcastically said kind. Due to the dreary weather we had skipped out on seeing the town and went straight for the maps ( be warned: I am generally useless in the car with maps because I am too nauseated to be reading maps and finding which road goes where). We met the nicest lady there. She reminded me of a leprechaun in her mannerisms and general warm demeanor. Or perhaps a fairy godmother, if they have those in the stories here? She had deep smile lines on her face, and crinkle along the corners of her eyes. She talked to my mom and I like we were friends, not some random lost strangers. Her hair was all tight curls colored blond, and her bangs were a bright pink tuft on her forehead. The biggest glitch in our plan was that we intended to sleep up north close by to the Causeway, however, there was a biker’s event just finishing up, so limited rooms were available. She made a few calls for us, up north, asking about availability, and if they knew anyone who had openings? The answers were not positive. So we came up with another plan. She spoke so very highly of the scenic route around Donegal’s Peninsula, I was enthralled (even with the bad weather). So she rang up Nora, at the Brae B&B in Ardara (a small town northwards). After having gotten 3 phone calls saying all full, and a printout without any openings forseeably available…we opted on this more coastal route.
And let me tell you, all the rain did was convince me that I need to revisit this area again when the skies are clear.
We drove through Killybegs, a small fishing town. The harbor was filled with boats of all sizes, but certainly all functioning. The town looked practical, but we did not investigate on foot. Following this, we then wound our way up the Slieve League Cliffs. I am not entirely sure, but I think someone said these cliffs were bigger than the cliffs of Moher? It was hard to tell. By the time we arrived at a certain part you could drive up, the rain had picked back up to dumping buckets. We opted not to walk the scenic route (This time this time!) or the trails along the ridge. In this area, the mist settled low, swirling close to the earth. The fog here is not the peaceful kind like we have in PA, which clings to the low places and makes everything still. If you looked into the low dense clouds, they were constantly in motion as the wind whipped the heavy mists and sent the clouds boiling in the sky.
The cliffs of Moher had smooth grasslands leading up to their their plummeting drop off. The space around their overlooks was wide open and grassy. It was wild, but peaceful in that way. The Slieve cliffs had no pretenses of peace. While we drove up to the outlook, the sides around us spiked. The road bent and doubled back on itself, winding around the rocky outposts. Above us on one side, you could see the cliffs rugged continuation upward, while on the other side, they determinedly stood against the thundering ocean. We reached the outlook, peaking over the edges of the protective barriers to look down. The rain became sleet against our faces, and wind seemed to gain strength from the cliffs and the weather, so I only got a few glimpses of the cliff walls. The mist was so heavy, I couldn’t tell you how high they rose in front of us. It was wild and it was wonderful, I can’t wait to come back to see it again. The most useful part of this rainy day was that 3 hikers had gotten caught in the ugly weather. We asked if they wanted a ride back down the mountain, and the one that spoke English out of the group gratefully accepted. We crammed all of our luggage into the back, and squeezed all 7 of us into the 5 seater Nissan we had rented. It wasn’t too difficult, not for that short amount of time. I’ve been in smaller vehicles far more crowded. They were from France, and we talked back and forth (my sister and I grasping at what little French remained from highschool). The one lady rattled off a sentence, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I understood. Anyways, it ended well enough. Everyone thawed out by the time we got to the bottom and pulled up next to their car. We exchange hugs and la bise (I think it’s called, the kissing on the cheeks) for goodbyes. Then their came a knock on our car window, the one lady had returned with a box of tea cookies (Les galettes de belle isle, with sets of 2 wrapped in the box) and a bottle of wine from her region. It was so incredibly kind of them! And completely unnecessary!!! We were just glad we were there.
Pulled into the snug little town of Ardara for the night. The Brae house was plenty cozy with a space heater that we turned up. Dinner, just down the street at an old pub and restaurant called Nancy’s. A delicious fish dinner, followed by a hot irish coffee. By the time we had ducked through the rain back our rooms and had a cup of hot tea…things were much improved. Lyd and I went out on the town for the evening. We settled in the corner of a nearby pub. Mostly kept to ourselves, though talked to the matronly bar tender, and a few older locals.
Most frequent questions: “Oh, your American? Where are you from?
Most common follow up questions: “do you like Ireland?”
That’s okay though, I love Ireland, and where I am from has become part of my identity on this trip.
A guitarist started playing for the evening, and the crowd ebbed and flowed. A song was played, per request of one of the people we had chatted to throughout the evening, specifically for the girls from Pittsburgh. It wasn’t the young place we had intended, but around 12:30 (or 00:30) another wave of people came through. By then, the Irish whiskey I had been having caught up with me, and just when we were being bought drinks I began turning them down, did not want to test my sister’s ability to carry me, even though our B&B was within convenient staggering distance.
We ended up staying until after 3 AM. I found a friend in someone carrying a cup of tea to the lady at the bar and managed to have a cup for myself. Unconventional I know, but this tactic made my night much longer and much more memorable: as it was spent in conversation where I did not act any more stupid or giddy then my normal spectrum entails. The topics were lively, and covered a range of subjects. Some cultural, some personal. The whole time, people would stop by and say hi to one of the locals sitting with us, or hello to me or my sister. The general agreement at the end of the evening is that my sister and I are “good craic” …as in good fun and enjoyable to be around. Even though this town was extremely small and remote, it was one of my favorites. Because when you walked into a pub, you only felt like a stranger due to not knowing everyone there. Once people got to talking with you, there wasn’t a dull moment.