After spending a day on Inishmore marveling at the cliffs at Dun Aengus, I had no idea how big the Cliffs of Moher were going to be. A long three-hour bus ride from Galway left me tired, hungry, and for the most part uninterested in looking at the Cliffs. After a quick lunch, and my motivation restored, four of us embarked to one of the scariest walks of my life. Generally, I do pretty well with heights, but as I scaled the thin, dirt path along the cliffs, it really sunk in how close I was teetering on the line of life and death.
As I walked further to the right of O’Briens tower, the Branaunmore Sea Stack stood out of the water, a beautiful spectacle. I was equally impressed and confused as to how such a structure could have formed. Further down the trail, there was a flat cliff of rock that people were gravitating towards. There, the drop was dramatic, a 700-foot drop, nearly straight down to the shale beach below. It was there, where I braved my newly discovered fear of heights, and laid down just close enough to the edge where I was able to stick my eyes over. As I looked over, my depth perception was off; being so high up it was hard to determine how big everything was down below. After about ten or so minutes of laying on the edge marveling at the beauty, an older gentleman walked close to us with a rock in hand, and threw it over the edge. The rock was small enough that on the way down, we lost sight of it, until seconds later the sound of it hitting the rocks below echoed up the sides of the cliffs. The time between when the rock was thrown, and when it hit the ground below really made the scale of the fall sink in.
The 700-foot high Cliffs of Moher stand as evidence of 300,000 years of nature’s power, an overwhelmingly beautiful, natural wonder. Visiting the cliffs has been the highlight of my time in Ireland so far.
“I hope that was a good sandwich.” – Maeve O’Sullivan, 2015
We were all hungry by the time we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. People were exhausted as well after hours on the bus. And many were not sure if the Cliffs of Moher could top our trip to Inishmore.
To this end, a couple of us went to the nearest café for some sustenance. Our stay at the café was extended when a friend spent more time than usual frantically searching for a vegetarian sandwich. When we got out, we saw flocks of other N.U.In kids heading our way and saying “Oh you missed the group picture.”
Nonchalantly Maeve said “I hope that was a good sandwich” as Hridayam ravenously consumed her sandwich. In short we were a bit annoyed that we missed the group picture. When we reached the edge of the cliff, we were quite literally, shocked. We were exposed to an endless view of blue and a strong gale of wind brushed on our faces. We savored the crisp weather, as we walked along the cliffs. It was then a battle of smartphones as the three of us frantically tried to outdo each other with pictures, we wanted to capture the view not just for the views on our Instagram or snapchat, but to keep a memory of an incredible experience alive.
I had lost track of my friends when I realized I wandered off the beaten path. The railings that kept visitors safe was no longer in sight. But the feeling of being on the edge of a cliff and walking along it was just a feeling I had to explore. The view was even more spectacular with no railing to hold me back. I lost myself in thought as I looked upon the clear blue skies, meeting the embrace of warm blue sea. The view was so serene that I started to reflect on my time here in Ireland. Like the view, my experience here is something that I will never forget.
I can also see how the Irish people formulated the legends associated with the Cliffs of Moher. Such as the legend of the Lost City of Kilstiffen, a city lost to the seas when a chieftain lost the key to it in a great battle. This symbolizes the limitless nature of Irish imagination, as from the cliffs one could see to the unknown. The rocks below the cliffs are also incorporated in legend, the Mermaid of Moher. It was so serene of a place that it is thought that the spiritual veil was thin enough that a mermaid was sighted. She was so captivated by the view, she took the chance to visit the mortal world by marrying a fisherman. If even a mermaid can fall in love with physical Ireland, then I daresay so can I.
As my first co-curricular I went to Croke Park. I was excited for this, as I have always enjoyed sports. When we arrived we watched a short movie about what goes on at Croke Park. Then, we went into a locker room. Our guide talked us through what a player would be experiencing before a match, and we were to imagine we were them. We went into a room where they stretch and warm up. We all huddled up in a circle and the guide led us through some possible pre-game rituals that would occur. Next, we got to walk through the entrance to the field that the players would use, getting to see the pitch up close.
Our guide briefly discussed Bloody Sunday, the massacre that occurred during a Gaelic football game as revenge for the “Cairo Gang” assassination. I did some further research on this and discovered that the “Cairo Gang” was a “team of undercover British agents working and living in Dublin” (crokepark.ie). The night before the football match, Michael Collins sent soldiers to assassinate some of these men, leaving fourteen dead. British forces then attended the game, claiming they were there to search people for weapons. Shots were fired very shortly after the start of the game and fourteen people were killed. It is unclear what exactly happened, as the official statements released about the event are not consistent. The incident shook both Irish and British citizens, as the British forces seemed to have targeted innocent bystanders in retaliation.
What struck me as very unique and different from the United States, was that the athletes who play at Croke Park do not get paid, and yet the sports are still very popular in Ireland. It seems as though amateur sports would not get nearly as much of a following in the US. This is highlighted through soccer. Soccer is not very big in the US and one possible reason for that is due to the fact that there are very little commercial breaks, leaving little room to make money off of advertisements. It is a sad reality that American culture seems so focused around making a profit.
Gaelic football and hurling are very unique and entertaining sports, it’s a shame they are not played internationally. I enjoyed learning more about this aspect of Irish culture and the history behind the stadium.
Saturday, September 5th
The sun beating down in early September with a refreshing waterfront breeze made for a perfect day to hike the coast of Howth. N.U.in planned a day trip to Ireland’s beautiful harbor town of Howth for the students to enjoy a scenic walk along the town’s cliffs. It was amazing to me how drastically scenery could change in a 20 minute train ride. After spending a week in Dublin, it was a nice break from the rainy bustling city to be in open space full of fresh air. Immediately after hopping off the train I knew we were close to the water thanks to the strong smell of fish. My friends and I quickly began our ascent up the cliffs to get a better view of the spectacular landscape. Once at the top, I instantly noticed this fairly large island a few miles off the coast. I did not notice any activity around the island or any signs of civilization on this beautiful piece of land in the distance. I later learned that was not always the case.
Over 1000 years ago in the 9th century, the Vikings settled on a small island known as Lambay Island just off the shore of Howth. This island is the exact one I noticed while on my hike with my friends. After seeing the area, it is easy to visualize the vikings sailing in and finding a new temporary home in Ireland. The vikings did not remain on the island, for it made more sense to settle on the larger piece of land with access to more resources. This Scandinavian group continued inland and founded the city of Dublin sailing in on their longships. Dublin (originally Dubh Linn), meaning “Black Pool”, was named after a large area of still water that connected to the River Liffey where the Vikings docked their ships.
– John Braun