The West of Ireland

15 Mar

Visiting Galway and Clare opened my eyes to a new dynamic Ireland could offer that I had not yet seen in my over two month visit so far.  Dublin life is quite different from the West of Ireland, though there are also important similarities. Namely, the people I’ve encountered in Ireland so far have been collectively very good natured, friendly, and helpful people. The weather is also as unpredictable in the West as it is in Dublin, perhaps even more so. The geography of the West of Ireland is breathtaking and the views it offers does not compare to city life in Dublin. Galway City, also known as the City of the Tribes, is a bustling city much like Dublin, but it offers many Irish treasures such as Claddagh jewelry and beautiful Irish sweaters.

In the West of Ireland, I realized more than ever why Ireland is so closely connected with the color green. The sprawling hills covered in healthy grass reminded me of the preconceived notions I had of Ireland before coming. Visiting the Aran Islands was incredible. It was exhilarating crawling up to the edge of the cliffs and peering over the side in the howling winds for a view of the Atlantic Ocean. It was an adrenaline filled excursion. It is thought that people first came to these islands to farm, which was incredibly difficult because of the uneven and rocky terrain. Christianity became the religion of the islands very quickly. Starting in the 14th century, two Gaelic families (the O’Briens and the O’Flahertys) were the rivalry powers. However, the English were to take over these islands under Queen Elizabeth I. Galway’s importance began to decrease, which meant that of the islands’ did as well. They were very isolated so were not as modern as many other places and held more strongly to their traditions right until the 20th century. The ferry ride over to the Aran Islands was not an easy one, especially for those prone to motion sickness. This was a far more perilous journey a few decades ago. After we had gotten lunch, we were free to walk around the shops for a while until our ferry was ready. Here, there were many traditional, hand-knit clothing and scarves. This is traced to the traditional values the islands had up until the 1930’s. They were still wearing traditional clothing during this time. There were ample cream-colored sweaters, which were hand-knitted as well and originated there. Irish was spoken there fairly often and as little as ten years ago, students from the smaller two islands had to go to the larger one for boarding school, where they quickly had to switch to English rather than using Irish.

On Sunday we travelled to the Cliffs of Moher. The view was amazing and walking along the paths was incredibly picturesque. I couldn’t help but admire a beautiful tower while there, called O’Brien’s Tower. In 1835 Cornelius O’Brien built it for the many tourists visiting. This was very intuitive of him to do because even though it was a prevalent place to visit back then, it is even more popular now. This attraction was excellent for tourism, which in turn helped the Irish economy, which he anticipated.

The Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking (especially when the fog cleared). Their creation is thought to have begun as many as 320 million years ago. The bottom of the cliffs, where they meet the water, is where the oldest rocks can be found. They have been winning a battle with erosion for many years now and do not seem as though they will be deteriorating anytime in the near future. Looking down at the water from so far up gave me a very strong reminder of my own mortality. Visiting both the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher were absolutely amazing experiences.  It was quite an experience to view the jaw dropping beauty and geography of the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

Cliffs of Moher History | Cliffs of Moher Cruise | Cliffs of Moher Ferry. 2014. Cliffs of Moher History | Cliffs of Moher Cruise | Cliffs of Moher Ferry. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.doolin2aranferries.com/cliffs-of-moher-history.html. [Accessed 15 March 2014].

By: Alyssa Ashleen Danilow

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