Westward, Ho!

Mariana Considine headshot
Mariana Considine
December 17, 2023
A person is making a silly face in the stocks with Bunratty Castle in the background.

This week, I got to see some of my family for the first time since arriving in Ireland. On Saturday, my dad and sisters picked me up in a rental car and we drove out West towards County Clare. We were headed to visit the area where my family ancestry is from. We don’t know a whole lot about them, but it was pretty special to get to see some of where they would have lived. 

I had missed driving, to be honest. We got to just pull off anywhere we wanted along the way. At one point, we pulled off at the ruins of Kilmacduagh Cathedral and cemetery and got to walk around for a while. It was very peaceful, and we were the only people around.

It gets dark pretty early this time of year, so by the time we reached our airbnb in the Burren National park, it was pitch black. And not the kind of black where you can see some stars, or a city, or cars, but cloudy, and only-stone-and-scrub-for-miles kind of black. We were the only building in sight on a long stretch of what we in Vermont would call a ‘class 4 road.’ After setting up our things, we drove back 15 minutes into the nearest town of Corofin for a bite to eat. We stopped into Bofey Quinn’s pub, the only food open aside from a Centra corner shop. It was quiet inside, but cozy, kind, and the food was great. 

The next day, my sisters and I took a little walk around the Burren, before heading out to visit Bunratty Castle. Even though it was rainy and cold, it was such a neat location. Walking around the drafty stone passageways, I could almost imagine how people may have lived and worked in those rooms. My favorite part was that there was a choir practicing in the main meal hall, so you could hear them quietly singing Christmas music through all the halls of the castle. It felt truly magical. And of course, I had to get a photo stuck in the stocks in the courtyard.

After the castle, we made a beeline Northwest to visit the cliffs of Moher before dark. We reached the cliff visitor center just as they were closing up, but the pathways to the cliffs were still open. So as the sun was setting, and the wind was whipping almost to knock you over, we stumbled up the steps to the lookout spot. Although it was dark and a little wet, it was amazing to be alone in a place that is usually packed with tourists. 

Looking over the ocean, I was thinking about how neat it has been to get to visit each distant coast of Ireland. To see the ocean from the far north at Giants Causeway, to the Eastern cliffs of Howth and Sandycove, and the cliffs of Moher to the far west. I’ve never had the ocean so close at all times. 

To finish out the night, I had a delicious bowl of soup in a pub on the drive home. My word of advice to anyone on a budget in Ireland—always, always, get the soup of the day.

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