I was still pondering how I might get my own back for the leaping salmon trick in Galway and at our next stop I had my opportunity…
At a place called Fenore where the barren grey rocks of the Burren meet the blue water of the Atlantic Ocean we stopped the car and walked across the fissures to the shore and then I pulled my trick, I feigned shock and when asked what was wrong told my companions that I had dropped the keys to the car and they had fallen down a very deep crack in the rocks.
We were miles from anywhere and before you could say the word crisis Kim and Pauline moved in an instant from slightly concerned to blind panic as we all got down on hands and knees and peered hopelessly into a narrow gap that seemed to go as far as the centre of the earth. Arms were thrust into the crack and fingers probed for the missing keys, we looked for a stick that might help and looked back woefully at the car that was all securely locked with no access to a mobile phone.
It was a good trick but unfortunately I am not very good at keeping a good tease going and it wasn’t long before I could no longer suppress the smirk that was creeping across my face and my ruse was discovered but I was happy that I had got my own back for the phoney salmon sighting story.
Our next destination was the cliffs of Moher, an eight mile stretch of cliffs that soar vertically out of the sea to a height of nearly seven hundred feet at their highest point. They are the third most visited visitor attraction in Ireland after the Guinness Storehouse and Dublin Zoo and attract nearly a million visitors a year which is even more than the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. They are so famous that in 2011 they were included in the final twenty-eight candidates in a global on-line poll to find the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
They didn’t make the final seven but then neither did the Grand Canyon or the Galapagos Islands!
The road was quiet and there weren’t a great deal of traffic so I was shocked when we arrived there and found a car park that covered several acres and was completely full of vehicles, I couldn’t imagine where they had all come from, it was as though they had been beamed down from space.
The second shock was the admission fee which at €6 seemed excessive to me so at the pay booth we asked for four senior tickets at only €4 each and got away with it. This was a massive shock to Kim who sulked for the next few minutes because she hadn’t been challenged and later that night she used a lot more miracle night cream than she normally does.
There is no doubt that the cliffs are a wonderful sight but they have been commercialised with a vengeance with tarmac pavements, concrete viewing areas, an arcade of touristy craft outlets and a visitor centre with restaurants and a gift shop and the cliff top walk has been sunk below the level of the ground where visitors are safely separated from the land which ends surprisingly abruptly above the sea and the vertical drop beyond by a metre high rock wall which effectively destroys any effective communion with nature.
The Irish Independent newspaper include the cliffs in a list of Ireland suicide black spots* so I suppose it also prevents people throwing themselves over the side…
I like my cliff top natural environment experiences to be more natural, moody and solitary, rather like Wordsworth wandering through his field of daffodils or John Masefield going down to the sea again but that was impossible here, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of people swarming over the hills and any natural experience has been brutally denied so I came away cursing Clare County Council for building the carbuncle that is the visitor centre and feeling a little deflated and uninspired by the experience we walked back down the path past the coach park and the buses with growling engines and returned to the car park.
It was late afternoon by now so we continued the short distance towards the town of Ennistymon and found our accommodation for the night, The Grove Mount Bed and Breakfast, perched on the top of a hillside just outside the town. It was a small and simple place and Sheila, the owner, made us welcome and gave us some advice about dining options for later on. This didn’t take her very long because it turned out that there was only one so to be on the safe side we drove down to the town and booked a table.
We explored the main street and came across a pub called Eugene’s with a plaque on the wall declaring that it had been awarded the James Joyce Pub Award for being an authentic Irish Pub. This was based on the fact that Joyce based many of his fictional characters on real people that he met in pubs. It also had a painting of the Father Ted cast and whilst we stopped to photograph it a man who had far more drink than was good for him offered the information that the crew of the show used to stay in the Falls Hotel just around the corner but preferred to drink at Eugene’s. We thought that we might come back later.
Back at the accommodation I remembered about the car and the question that I had asked earlier about the engine blowing up so I phoned the car hire company. I explained about the mudslide of dashboard warning lights but they didn’t seem terribly concerned.
I told them that there was a reoccurring message that a service was due and the person on the other end of the line immediately diagnosed this as the problem and that it was therefore perfectly safe to drive. Just to be sure I asked her the same question that I had asked earlier at Dunguaire Castle, ‘is the car going to blow up? ‘Oh no’ she replied casually ‘It will be perfectly all right’ as though this was a question that she was quite used to dealing with. On a scale of one to a hundred my confidence levels went up one notch – from zero to one.
* Most sources claim about ten suicides a year at the Cliffs of Moher but it seems that there are no really accurate statistics available – there are eight miles of cliffs and a raging ocean below so it is possible that many go unreported.
According to Wikipedia the three biggest suicide black spots in the World are:
- Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, Nanjing, China
- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
- Prince Edward Viaduct, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The three most popular suicide spots in England are the London Underground, the one hundred and sixty metre high cliffs at Beachy Head in Sussex and the two thousand two-hundred and twenty metre long Humber Bridge.
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