Four pubs, a few sweater and souvenir shops, and a handful of beds and breakfast are all the buildings that make up the tiny village of Doolin, which didn't even appear on all the maps of Ireland we saw. The draw is that she sits along the Atlantic coast opposite the Aran Islands and a three hour walk (or 15 minute drive) from the Cliffs of Moher. This was our favourite stop on the trip, and coming early in the vacation, colored everything else we experienced.
We descended from the Burren and arrived in Doolin in the early afternoon on Saturday determined to walk the trail along the coast to the cliffs. A marvelous afternoon greeted us, with clear blue skies and visibility for miles. Locals told us there are only a handful of days each year like this one.
From the town one walks up a steep street to the entrance to a pasture that begins the official trail. Funny signs warned of the danger of falling off the cliffs. Mom, who doesn't do a lot of hiking, was determined to walk with us, and I'm so proud of her for the four hours of walking, sometimes on difficult trails.
Wild blackberries lined the hedgerows. Cattle and horses grazed in the pastures, some of which we walked through, not just alongside of.
The trail slowly rose, and with every turn there was another panoramic view of the islands, cliffs, the castle tower behind us, the Connemara across the bay. We had dressed for a chilly wind off the ocean, but soon were shedding our layers as the afternoon warmed. We paused often for pictures.
A little stream wound its way through the green grass and then a little trickle as it ran over the rocks near the cliff edge before disappearing below me. Any sound the falling water might have made was drowned out by the crashing surf below. A strange mix of sounds--babbling brook and crashing waves.
The first hour and a half was most pleasant and brought us to our first really stunning view of cliffs, though not yet the famous ones. Then the trail turned and the steep ascents began. We took our time, rested often. But the ascents were not the most difficult part of the trail.
Not far from the final ascent to view the famous cliffs, the trail turned inland, apparently some property owner didn't want the trail over his land? The trail then dead-ended at a cow pasture with a sign saying to walk through the pasture to the other side where the trail would pick up again. The pasture was a muddy, boggy mess and took us a very long time to traverse. At one point we decided to walk around some cows to go further into the pasture, as the ground along the fence was so muddy, when we realized one of the cows was a bull. "That's a bull," Mom said. "Be careful." "Here, let me get between you and the bull," I said. He grazed on, thankfully ignoring us. Only when we finally reached the other side of the pasture, where the trail began again, was there a sign "Beware of Bull."
Soon we were making the final ascent up a steep set of steps. We watched teenagers above us cavorting at the very point of the cliffs. Then the panorama opened up before us. The evening light glowed upon the cliffs. We walked on to the visitor's center. At one point, Kelli slipped and fell, in a spot much less difficult than earlier in the day. A man who helped her up said, "You survived a fall at the Cliffs of Moher."
From the visitor's center we looked along the rest of the trail that led from their to Hag's Head, but we were done, after four hours. At the center, a well-designed building, buried in the side of a hill, the receptionist called for a cab to take us back to Doolin. He admired that Mom had make the hike uphill instead of the other way. He gave us stories about the area and stopped to take our picture.