Part Six of Our Treacherous Ireland Holiday
Our trip to Westport was predicated on two things. First was to visit a bar owned by one of the Cheiftains called Matt Molloy’s, and the other was to climb Croagh Patrick, the famed pilgrimage site where St. Patrick was supposed to have driven all of the snakes out of Ireland. On a clear day, the view from the summit of the mountain and the small chapel that was built up there in the early 1900′s is supposed to be breathtaking, but we will have to wait for that view for another time.
Upon our arrival in Westport, after our harrowing trek across the country, our landlady at the B&B we were staying at informed us that Croagh Patrick was covered in snow and closed to tourists. I would be lying if I said I was disappointed at the news. My legs were already somewhat stiff from our adventures at Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, so the thought of a seven mile hike up the side of a mountain was not all that enticing at that moment. Add to that the fact that we had ourselves a little too much fun with some young Brits and a local named Ollie Mac over at Matt Molloy’s the night before we were to make the climb, and it was probably a good idea for us to stay at a lower elevation that day.
We did take a trip out to the mountain so that we could say we had been there, and much to our surprise there was a bundled up couple readying to make the climb in the ice and the snow. They almost seemed as shocked that we were not taking the hike as we were that they were. So we wished them well and watched as the started up the muddy path, walking sticks in hand just as many others had done over the years, but if they had been true pilgrims, they would have made the trip barefoot to pay homage to the Saint.
With no guilt at all about not climbing the mountain on this trip, we decided to get an early start to our next destination, across the Burren to the small harbor town of Doolin. Knowing that we were heading into one of the more “treacherous” driving areas of our trip in good weather, we didn’t want to make the same mistake from the day before and have to drive through the mountains in the dark, and the good planning worked out well. We make such good time heading south that we had time for a stop in Galway for a bite to eat and some shopping. It was here in Galway that we decided we had temporarily had our fill of Elvis Costello, even great music can get tiring when listened to over and over again. So The Kings of Leon, The Who, The Cure, and The Ramones become our musical choice for the next bout of driving.
As we walked about Galway, I think I was more nervous about the time than Maureen. I knew from the past day that the sun would be setting some time around 4:30, and as we approached two I probably got a little on her nerves as I kept asking if we should hit the road yet. Although I am pretty certain that the only reason we got back in the car was that Maureen was just trying to placate me, and to get me to shut up, this was one of the few times that I believe I may have actually been right.
The rest of the trip around the Irish Sea to County Clare and our next stop should have only taken a little over an hour, but the ice and snow in the higher elevations brought us to an unexpected detour. The N67 is the main road through the mountains, but the treatchous weather had finally caught up with us, and the road was closed. We were forced to take the coastal route the rest of the way into Doolin.
In the good old U.S. of A. there is sort of a laid back, easy going idea about what it means to take the coastal route. Songs like Ventura Highway by the band America give images of crusing along the open road under a blue sky while alligator lizards float in the air. Even the city of Chicago, in the great mid-west, has its own coastal route of sorts. Lake Shore Drive runs the length of the city on the edge of Lake Michigan, full of beaches and parks, with people running and relaxing and enjoying time in the sun. The southern coastal route of the Irish Sea is beautiful, but nowhere near what I would call relaxing.
As we wound along the thin road, sun starting to set, obstructing our view, there was nothing between us and a sheer drop down into the waves except a small wooden rail. Certainlty nothing strong enough to keep our midsized Toyota on the road should we skid on a patch of ice in this treacherous weather. And as we had been reminded several times along our trip, the roads were not very well gritted. About the only thing that kept Maureen from losing all feelings in her fingertips as she white knuckled the steering wheel was that whole driving on the wrong side of the road thing.
There were portions of the drive where the face of the cliff on the reverse passenger side outside my window seemed to be close enough to lick, but although I knew scraping that wall of rock would certainly cost us at least the deductable on the insurance, I was not going to say a thing. That last thing Maureen need from her new husband was a blind backseat driver. So I bit my tongue and admired the view, and the setting sun and said a quiet little prayer that we would be off the side of this slippery mountain before it got dark.
We did eventually manage to pull away from the coast and head downhill into the valley where we would at last find Doolin. We even had a good laugh along the way as we past a white cow strolling causually along the road just outside of town. We had calmed down and began to enjoy the ride again when we found our B&B for the night, a very nice homey place called Seaview that was literally cut into the hillside and looked down upon the town and the harbor. All we had to do was make a 180 degree turn up a steep and icy driveway to get to our lodgings.
Suddenly my beautiful and articulate new wife had the mouth of a sailor again.