live blog: cliffs of moher

The Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s most interesting natural sites as well as one of those attractions – like caves or stalagmites – that I can’t seem to get enough of. Almost 700 feet at their highest point, the Cliffs range for five miles on the western edge of Co. Clare, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. They take their name from a ruined promontory fort – Mothar – that was demolished during the Napoleonic wars to make room for a signal tower and from the top of the headland you can see why: spectacular views across Galway Bay to the Aran Islands, Loop Head, and the mountains of Connemara. (Well, on a clear day anyway.) Home to one of the largest colonies of cliff-nesting seabirds in Ireland, the Cliffs take on another dimension entirely when viewed from the open water. What at first appears to be guano-encrusted rock reveals itself  on closer inspection to be massive colonies of nesting birds: puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars & kittiwakes. Click both the snapshot and the panoramic image for greater detail.

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bucket list: 2010 – october

IRELAND: I honestly didn’t expect to be able to get back to Ireland this year, so when the opportunity arose for a long weekend on the west coast with friends, I jumped at the chance.  County Clare, as typified by the sheer Cliffs of Moher and the otherworldly landscape of The Burren, is that vision of Ireland often enshrined on picture postcards:  wild and rugged, yet also starkly beautiful.  Secreted away at a house in Doonbeg, the eight of us cooked, drank, and spent a lot of time laughing by the fire. The absence of a typical Irish rain – and unseasonably mild weather, to boot –  made for lovely strolls out along the strand.

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sea of tranquility

Sailing out into the Atlantic Ocean and looking back on the majestic Cliffs of Moher, I’m reminded of Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s Nobel-winning poet: “Did sea define the land or land the sea?  Each drew new meaning from the waves’ collision.  Sea broke on land to full identity.”  The Cliffs stretch for five miles, rising dead out of the water to a height of 2,300 feet and claiming one of the most astonishing views in Ireland.  On a clear day the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay, as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara.  While I’d previously walked the Cliffs to take in the views, I never fully grasped their scale and beauty until I approached them from the sea.

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