HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 7 – Learning about the Highlands

After a great time learning about the history of Orkney and exploring its wild and rugged landscape, it was time to return to mainland Scotland for Day 7 of our Compass Buster tour.

The night before we were to return, there was a bit of a storm brewing! We could hear the howling wind as we were cooking dinner and having a night-in with our group mates at the Orcades Hostel. Even as we left the next morning, the wind was still blowing and the rain kept falling. The wind and the rain doesn’t really bother us – being from Raincouver and all! But we were a bit nervous about the ferry ride back to the mainland.

This ferry ride was completely different from our ride to the Orkney islands. That time, we were bathed in sunshine on the upper deck. This time, the ferry tossed from side to side and splashed up and down as we crossed back to mainland Scotland. Ioana and I decided to hide out inside. I will admit – I did feel a bit queasy 🤢 There may or may not have been stories of people throwing up on the upper deck… A great piece of advice we got from our group mates… don’t stand downwind from someone who might throw up! It most probably won’t end well for you!

At last, we arrived back to mainland Scotland and back on solid ground.

Our first mini-stop was only a couple of minutes from the ferry terminal. Unfortunately this stop is “mini” because we could not actually access it!

Pretty clear we can’t go in, eh?

This is The Castle of Mey – purchased by the Queen Mother in 1952. Prior to that, it was known as Barrogill Castle and was the seat of the Earls of Caithness. This castle, the most northerly on the British mainland, was restored and renovated by the Queen Mother.  The castle also includes several gardens, which the Queen Mother took much interest in selecting the plants and tending to them. You can even purchase fresh veggies grown from the gardens here!

Although we did not go inside for a visit this time, it is possible to visit the Castle, garden and grounds. More information on admission and visiting can be found here. I think it would be interesting to visit the Castle of Mey. It is said that much of the interiors is still set out as the Queen Mother had it, along with furniture, bathroom fittings, photographs and portraits that she chose herself.

Alas, we would have to resign ourselves to a faraway photograph on this trip!

After reveling in our little Royal visit, we hopped back onto the bus for a short ride to Dunnet Bay. Even though it was still windy and spitting rain, I found it beautiful and calming – even with the rolling waves. Perhaps it was because we had this beach all to ourselves.

You could wander on and on…

From Dunnet Bay, you can even get a glimpse of Dunnet Head – the most Northerly point on the British mainland.

After a bit of a reprieve from the storm, it picked up again, just as we arrived at our next destination – Dunbeath Harbour.

Check out this spectacular and wild coastal scene. The white castle perched up on those cliffs, with the storm brewing all around it and the waves crashing underneath.

What a wild and rugged picture. I’m actually glad we saw this on a stormy day – it kinda fits the picture that I have in my head of Scotland. But I imagine it would look quite different and beautiful on a clear, sunny day.

This building is Dunbeath Castle. As it is a private home, it is not open to the public. So I will have to just imagine the stunning views from the windows of this castle – stormy or not!

Heading out of Dunbeath, we continued south towards our next stop. This next stop was a sobering history lesson.

We soon arrived at Badbea Clearance Village. As it was pretty miserable outside, Andy did give us the option to stay on the bus. But most of us wanted to learn more about the Highland Clearances, so we followed Andy out into rain.

Walking through this area with the rain and wind around us set a solemn tone for us as we listened to Andy explain the history and factors behind the Highland Clearances.

The Highland Clearances occurred mostly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Entire Highland families were evicted from their homes and farms, some forcibly and some with their homes and villages burnt to the ground. Instead of being resettled to green pastures where they could continue farming, these families were given small plots of land, which were often not well suited to farming.

One such Clearance Village is the Badbea Clearance Village. Located on the rugged coast and on a steep slope, residents had to clear the land for farming and build their own homes with whatever they could find.

The village is no longer inhabited and has fallen into ruin. But even just looking at the land and the ruins, it was easy to see that this is not very good farmland. Villagers tried to make the best of the situation – some turned to fishing and its associated industries, while others took on spinning and carding wool. But ultimately, the village’s last resident left in 1911. All that is left here are the ruins of their homes, which nature has already taken over again.

The monument here, erected by a descendent of a Badbea villager, commemorates the people of Badbea.

The Highland Clearances had other far reaching and permanent effects. The culture of the Highlands was forever changed. The old, traditional Clan system, their way of living and their settlements were no more. Wearing of Highland Dress, including tartan and kilts, was banned with the Dress Act 1746. Even speaking Scottish Gaelic could be met with punishments. It also led to the emigration of Scots to all corners of the globe – for example Nova Scotia or New Scotland. Even though the Dress Act 1746 was repealed and there are now efforts to revive and promote Scottish Gaelic, all of this has had a huge impact on the cultural fabric of present day Scotland.

After a tragic and reflective history lesson, we headed off to our next stop still deep in thought.

Half an hour later, Andy pulled the bus over and our group took a stroll down this pretty laneway to our next stop.

Can you spot our destination yet?

What a grand entrance into Dunrobin Castle!

We didn’t get the chance to go inside but we admired its beautiful facade, architecture and…

… its beautiful clock tower!

We also noticed these little features on the walls – can you spot the cannons?

Before heading off to our next destination, we stopped for a quick afternoon snack 😋 We could never resist dessert! This time it was a beautiful and sparkly blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake. Although this cake was really yummy, the cheesecake we got at Beauly was still the most delicious!

First time having a SPARKLY cheesecake!

Stay tuned for our next post – it’s going to feature another one of my favourite photographs from this entire Scotland trip!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 6 – Adventures in Yesnaby

After visiting Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, we headed out for another wee walk to end off Day 6 of our Compass Buster tour! We loved being outside and experiencing the amazing scenery of Scotland – instead of being cooped up on a bus!

This time, we headed out to Yesnaby.

We left our wee yellow bus behind as we set off to explore the wild, unforgiving and beautiful landscape of Yesnaby.

This was probably my favourite wee walk of our trip. Coastal walks are my favourite – the crashing waves, the open water and the never-ending views! It was a bit gloomy and cloudy earlier in the day, but when we arrived here on the west coast of Mainland, the sun came out! And it was all thanks to the STRONG Orcadian wind blowing all the clouds away.

Walking away from our parked bus, we were immediately blown away by the coastal cliffs and the views out over the water.

We couldn’t help but start taking photographs right away!

There’s always time for a gazing photograph!

As we walked farther from the car park, we marveled at Nature’s unrelenting power in shaping this land, the cliffs, the arches and the sea stacks that we were headed towards.

Another photo stop – this time with our friend M!

Remember how we said earlier that the winds had blown the clouds away? Just to show you how windy it was – you could literally lean back and the wind would support you! 🌬 (Also, check out the windswept hair – not staged at all!)

Continuing on, being blown this way and that, we found a lone Standing Stone in the middle of a field. I wonder what its story is…

Besides spotting a Standing Stone, we also passed by inlets, rocky beaches, little streams and of course – more cliffs!

As much as we enjoy exploring and adventures, we do have a safety message… These cliffs and the area here are truly epic and spectacular. So they make for great photo opportunities! Having said that, do be careful – these cliffs can be dangerous. Especially if you are visiting in inclement weather or if you have little ones in tow! Make sure to stay a safe distance away from the edge and be careful of your footing. We also advise wearing good walking/hiking shoes or boots.

As we paused for our next photo stop, we turned back to check our progress and this view took my breath away! This landscape doesn’t even seem real! It almost seems a fake photo backdrop. But we can assure you that it is most definitely real and if you enjoy coastal walks as much as we do, we would definitely recommend you visit!

Can you spot our wee yellow bus off in the distance?

Here’s the nerdy side of me coming out again… 🤓 The rock formations here were really interesting – from the layers of rock pressed upon each other over the centuries, to the way the cliffs were “cut”, to the fragments of rock that are strewn around the cliffs. The Old Red Sandstone of Yesnaby hides a lot of history, I’m sure.

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We were a little bit drawn to the rock formations… just a wee little bit! We may or may not have scamper around and climbed over rocks to have a mini photoshoot…

And finally, we saw it – our destination. Yesnaby Castle.

No, it’s not an actual castle. But Yesnaby Castle is the name of the sea stack you see here. We hurried along to get closer…

But before we got to Yesnaby Castle, we came across the “False Stack”, which looked epic in its own right. The False Stack is a little sea stack, which is connected to the Yesnaby cliffs via a little rock bridge. Even though the bridge was maybe 3 feet(?!) wide, it felt much more narrow when you are approaching it – or rather when you are standing there!

Again, if you do choose to walk onto the bridge and take a photograph, do BE CAREFUL! And you definitely do NOT have to walk over the bridge or even go near it. A photograph from afar would do just as well!

Carefully picking our way over the rocks to the little bridge, we did stop for a couple of photographs. And I think once in our lifetimes is enough! If we do return to Yesnaby, I think we’ll be taking photographs from afar this time.

And, of course, the ballet side of me couldn’t leave without at least doing an arabesque in this wild and beautiful location!

Safely back on solid and less-treacherous land, we continued on our journey.

Here is a closer look at Yesnaby Castle.

Instead of stopping here, we continued further. And we were rewarded with this stunning view of this famous sea stack. It was well worth the journey!

As we looked further south, we could just make out another famous Orcadian sea stack WAY off in the distance…

Can you guess what we were trying to spot?!

That is the Old Man of Hoy in the distance. Similar to Yesnaby Castle, it is a sea stack. Located off the coast of Hoy, it is said to be the tallest sea stack in the UK at 449ft! Experts estimate that the Old Man of Hoy is less than 250 years old, as there are old maps and paintings that do not depict this sea stack. The strong winds and waves here have carved this sea stack out of the Old Red Sandstone relatively quickly. It is said that the Old Man of Hoy once had two legs – an rocky arch for legs. But with continual erosion by wind and water, that arch collapsed – probably some time in the nineteenth century. This sea stack, and Yesnaby Castle also, is popular with rock climbers. Unfortunately, experts say that this sea stack will probably collapse soon. Although we didn’t get the chance to visit Hoy or the Old Man of Hoy on this trip, we were glad to have set eyes on it – even though it was from afar.

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As the sun started setting, it was time to make our way back to our bus and return to Kirkwall.

Before heading back to our hostel, we made a quick stop at St. Magnus Cathedral.

We did not go inside but admired it from the outside. The building is striking – with its alternating red and yellow sandstone from the Orkney isles. St. Magnus Cathedral has an interesting history – from the martyrdom of St. Magnus, to the founding of this cathedral by his nephew Earl Rögnvald, to the reformation. You can read more about its history here.

Across the street from St. Magnus Cathedral, are the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces.

This site is maintained by Historic Scotland. Information on making a visit can be found here.

Although we did not go inside, we had a wander around the ruins on the outside. We also read a bit about the history surrounding these two buildings and were intrigued by its Norse roots, its transition to Scottish rule and the tyrannical means that the Earl’s Palace was allegedly built. More on the history of these Palaces can be found here.

We tried to imagine what the complete building would have looked like…

After a full day of adventures, we headed back in the direction of our hostel, with a beautiful sunset leading us back.

Most of us decided to make a grocery store run (there is a Tesco near the Orcades Hostel) and prepare a nice dinner in the hostel’s well equipped kitchen.

Let’s just say there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen that evening! 😋 But we had a really lovely time chatting with our friends, cooking and sitting down to a nice dinner and some sangria🍷!

As we were chatting and cleaning up after dinner, we could hear and feel a storm brewing outside. The wind was something fierce! I guess they weren’t kidding about the unrelenting weather up here. And it howled all night… We were a little concerned about taking the ferry the next morning in this weather! I don’t think we would have been too heartbroken if the ferry got cancelled – it would just mean more time spent in Orkney 😉

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The Orkney Islands are full of fascinating stories and have a rich history going back to the prehistoric times. By no means did we traverse all of the islands, visit all the historic sites or see all that the Orkney islands had to offer, but we got a glimpse of its history, charm, its natural and scenic beauty. We are really glad we got to explore these islands on this tour. I’m not sure that we would have made it all the way out here, if we had made our own way around Scotland.

If you’re travelling around northern Scotland and have a couple of days to spare, we would definitely recommend catching the ferry over to visit Orkney. (Just be sure to check ferry schedules and weather conditions!)

Here are some useful websites if you are planning a visit to Orkney:

Visit Orkney

Orkney Events

Northlink Ferries’ Guide to Orkney

Pentland Ferries

John Groats Ferry – which also organizes some day tours

Orkney Ferries – if you want to explore the other islands of Orkney

Lonely Planet – Orkney

Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Orkney Explorer Pass

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Check back next week for our journey back to mainland Scotland.

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 5: The Cliffs of Moher

After visiting the Mini Cliffs of Moher at the start of Day 5 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour, we finally made our way to the destination I had been waiting for the whole trip: The ACTUAL Cliffs of Moher!!!

As our bus was parking, my feet were itching to get out and start exploring!!! I had such high expectations from pictures I’d seen, that I was hoping not to be disappointed. But then again, how could I be?! The moment we stepped on the stairs that led to the views of the Cliffs around us, I was mesmerized, not to mention the weather was some of the most intense I’d ever experienced in my life!

The view speaks for itself!

“Standing 214m (702 feet) at their highest point they stretch for 8 kilometres (5 miles) along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. O’Brien’s Tower stands near the highest point and has served as a viewing point for visitors for hundreds of years.” – Check out the Cliffs of Moher website for more on this spectacular location. 

O’Brien’s Tower

Fortunately for us, entrance to the Cliffs was included in our Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Tour. If you are travelling alone, you can buy your tickets online or in person at the cliffs themselves. Ticket prices are €6.00 for an Adult and €4.00 if you are a Student! If you want to go up to the top of O’Brien’s Tower it is an additional €2.00 for an Adult. Although we didn’t do this, it is definitely a reason to go back and see the Cliffs again. The prices are reasonable for the sights you are going to be seeing.

The Promenade and the Cliffs in the Distance!

The Cliffs of Moher website states that if you are driving and planning to visit during peak season, it is advisable to avoid the hours of 11am – 3pm, as this is when it is most crowded. Plan you trip ahead of time so you can make sure you get the best of it!

Also, WEAR LAYERS! I suppose it would depend on the season you are going to visit but, when we visited in September, layers were definitely needed! We experienced rain, very VERY high winds, and gorgeous sunshine all in one day. This weather just added to the dramatic experience of the Cliffs overall!

Remember come dressed appropriately!!!

Even the countryside surrounding the Cliffs was amazing

When we arrived, we were so stunned to see the views that we literally couldn’t stop taking photos. The landscape is truly awe inspiring in its grandeur. We could barely pull ourselves away from the breathtaking vistas. At first, we climbed the promenade stairs up to O’Brien’s Tower. The tower itself is like a little castle. It was built as an observation tower for the hundreds of visitors that came through the area each year. As stated above, we didn’t go see the views from the top of the tower but we will definitely do so next time ;).

Getting closer to O’Brien’s Tower! Notice the viewing deck on top!

The Cliffs have an extensive history created by wind, waves and a little bit of Irish Legend. As with Giant’s Causeway, there are a number of legends linked to the Cliffs. After reading through them, my favourite would have to be about the Mermaid of Moher.

The Legend goes as such:

“There once was a local man who saw a mermaid while fishing from the Cliffs of Moher. He engaged her in conversation and while they were speaking together he noticed, lying on a nearby rock, her magic cloak.  This cloak she needed to wear to be able to return to sea. Seeing an opportunity to capture the mermaid, he grabbed the cloak and ran off to his house, where he hid the magical garment.

She followed him to his house to get the cloak back but it was well hidden. She agreed to marry the fisherman and they had a son and daughter. But one day some years later, while her husband was fishing out at sea, she found her cloak. He came home to find her gone, returned to the sea and he and his children never saw her again.”

This is only one of the Legends associated with this area. Maybe if you look out onto the water, you can spot the Mermaid wearing her cloak! If you want to read some of the other Legends you can do so here.

Light and Shadow – What an amazing sight!

Besides the fact that the Cliffs have Legends attached to them, they are also so famous that they are featured in many movies! If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, you may or may not know that the Cliffs were the site for a specific scene from the Half Blood Prince movie. The scene in particular is when Harry and Dumbledore enter a cave to find the Horcrux! Yes, that cave was in the Cliffs of Moher! Also, if you love the Princess Bride, the Cliffs of Moher were the Cliffs of Insanity in that movie! There are many, many more movies that feature the Cliffs and it’s no wonder why!

No matter where you stand, there is a picture opportunity…

After viewing O’Brien’s Tower, we went back down and started heading towards the Cliffs themselves, of course snapping about 100 more photos on the way! Walking on, we reached a fork in the road!

Do Not Pass?! Of course we won’t…ahrm!

The safe or the adventurous way! In true Irish fashion, and because the path wasn’t blocked :P, we decided to live on the edge, literally, and boy, was it worth it!!!

And that’s how close to the edge we went!

The pathway just continues onward!

The views were spectacular…I didn’t want to leave!! We continued down the unobstructed pathway and ended up getting really close to the edge to take same amazing photos of the promenade area we had been at earlier with O’Brien’s Tower.

O’Brien’s Tower in the distance

The ocean views are stunning! I bet it would be just as amazing viewing the Cliffs from the ocean, as it is from walking on them. You can actually get a guided tour, in addition to a cruise from sea level! You can book this when you purchase your tickets and I bet this would be a once in a lifetime experience! Another reason for us to come back for a visit ;).

Endless Sky. Endless Ocean. Reflections abound!

If you continue to walk along to the southernmost tip of the Cliffs, apparently you reach the Hag’s Head. At this location is the Moher Tower, which is the ruin of an old watchtower.

“The human story and history of the Cliffs of Moher dates back at least two thousand years as the name derives from a 1st Century BC fort that stood where Moher Tower now stands. The old Irish word “Mothar” means ruined fort and it is this that gives the cliffs their name.”

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to walk all the way to the southernmost tip, so we didn’t get to see the Moher Tower. We walked long enough that we could take some amazing shots and absorb the wonder of what was before us but we DEFINITELY have to go back and explore more!

Can you spot Moher Tower?!

After noticing that our time was running out, sadly, we started to walk back along our perilous path, but couldn’t resist taking some silly pictures along the way.

Who knew you could capture the tower between your fingers?!

Goofing around!

Walking back, we also made some new friends…

Moo!

It’s crazy how on one side of the Cliffs, there are cows grazing and then the other leads to some of the most amazing scenery in Ireland!

It’s insane how blue the sky is, when just a couple minutes before it was overcast!

I would have to say that the Cliffs of Moher were probably my favourite part of the trip to Ireland. As I said earlier, I had high expectations and they were so completely met. I loved the wind, rain and sun. I loved the mist and the clouds and the mystery that these Cliffs offer their visitors!

The Cliffs of Moher truly did capture our hearts with their mystery and magic!

Go Visit the Cliffs everyone!!!

Sadly, we had to leave the Cliffs behind us but we weren’t leaving County Clare without a little bit of Irish dance and authentic Irish music!!!

Stay tuned to find out how that went!

Ioana and Natalie
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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

 

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 5: The Mini Cliffs of Moher!

Leaving Galway behind, I was extremely excited to be finally getting to the Cliffs of Moher on Day 5 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour! This was probably the most anticipated part of the tour for me! Driving along, Ireland didn’t disappoint – giving us some beautiful views of the countryside.

Proof that Ireland is actually all green!

Getting closer to the Cliffs, our tour guide Gillian said we would be making a small stop before arriving at our destination. I honestly didn’t want another stop, I wanted to get to the Cliffs! But, after stopping and seeing what we saw, I’m glad we took the time!

We stopped at what is known as the “Mini Cliffs of Moher!”

Mood Setting Scenery

The landscape here was already changing and there were more rocky surfaces rather than arable farmland!

Similar to the Aran Islands, rocky surfaces are evident here

Clearly this rocky land would make for some beautiful scenery and Mini Cliffs!

People started building with the rocks!

If you are on your way to the Cliffs, do make a stop here and you won’t be disappointed.

Rock, Water, Sunshine!

The area is not as touristy and if you are lucky, you may or may not be the only people here taking pictures and enjoying the scenery.

Enjoying the View

 

From the Mini Cliffs you also get a teasing glance at the actual Cliffs in the distance!

Can you spot the Cliffs?

We spent some time taking photographs and enjoying the sunshine while exploring some of the rocky landscape.

Nothing better than a picture on the edge of a cliff

After having our fill of selfies and scenic photographs, Gillian rounded us all up and we climbed back aboard our bus and onto our final destination:

THE CLIFFS OF MOHER!!!

Stay tuned!

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 4: Dun Aonghasa

Day 4 began with a biking adventure for me and a horseback riding adventure for Ioana! We would be reunited for our next stop – Dún Aonghasa. This popular tourist attraction is a stone fort, that sits at the top of a 300 ft cliff! Archaeologists believe this site has been inhabited since 1500BC.

Whilst we were walking to the Worm Hole, we were able to catch a glimpse of Dún Aonghasa off in the distance.

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Can you spot Dún Aonghasa? Toward the right side of the photograph, on top of a cliff!

Pretty incredible!

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After the Worm Hole, we continued on our bikes to Kilmurvey Village. Here, we purchased tickets to visit Dún Aonghasa.

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We left our bikes behind in the village and continued up to the cliff and Dún Aonghasa on foot. It was a climb but the views at the top were definitely worth it! We would definitely recommend a visit to Dún Aonghasa if you are exploring Inis Mór. If biking doesn’t appeal to you, you can also find your way to Dún Aonghasa via mini-bus or pony and cart.

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Check out this view – looking out over the south coast of Inis Mór, including the Worm Hole!

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Look at that vertical drop, straight into the Atlantic Ocean!

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We even spotted a friend!

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I love cliffs – but secretly I’m a bit scared of heights! But the chance to sit at the edge of a cliff looking out at the Atlantic Ocean was just too tempting to pass up. So here I am!

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It IS a long way down from up here!

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And, of course, there had to be a selfie to document this moment – sitting at the edge of a 300 ft cliff with your best friend!

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After a couple more selfies and more cliff photographs, we had to start our journey back! We didn’t want to miss our ferry back to the mainland! (Dave told us we were scheduled to be on the last ferry back to the mainland, so if we missed it, we would be spending the night on our own here – not that it would be such a terrible thing!) So we walked down from Dún Aonghasa, hopped on our bikes and headed back to Kilronan Village.

Note: This island is not a flat island! There are hills to cycle up, so expect a bit of a workout! But going the other way, the hills become great fun to cruise down – with the wind whipping through your hair!

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The beautiful views did not end with the cliffs – check this out!

We had some time to spare, so we ventured into the Aran Sweater Market. The Aran islands are also famous for the Aran Sweaters – wool sweaters that were designed to keep generations of locals warm and dry in this harsh environment, by the Atlantic Ocean. The Aran Sweater Market had some gorgeous scarves and sweaters here. Being a bit of a knitter myself, I bought some beautiful Aran wool to make myself a souvenir to remember this trip by! Check out my next post for more on my project!

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And finally, after an exciting day, it was time to leave this breathtaking island behind. We boarded the ferry and headed back to Galway.

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Review: We were very lucky to have such spectacular weather for our day here. I can imagine the island would be vastly different if it was raining or if there was a storm. We definitely would not be able to get right to the edge of the cliffs and rocks – an errant wave might sweep us away! We had an amazing day visiting Inis Mór – definitely one of the highlights of our entire Ireland trip. 

We would definitely recommend a visit here, if you are in Ireland. If you have some time, consider staying overnight at one of the hotels, bed & breakfasts, campsites or hostels located on this island. I’m sure the sunsets (or sunrises!) would be a sight to behold! It would also give you more time to roam the island – on foot, on horseback or on a bike. We only visited the eastern and southern parts of the island on our day trip. But if you had more time, you could wander slowly all over Inis Mór, enjoying the spectacular views and getting to know the locals.  You might even consider venturing out to the other two Aran Islands!

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After our epic adventures, we were famished! There are many, MANY options for food in Galway. It wasn’t an easy decision to make and we kept changing our minds as we walked up and down High Street. Eventually we settled on one (The King’s Head) and most of us ended up ordering the Fish and Chips!

Since we were in Ireland, we couldn’t miss out on Irish Dancing! So a bunch of us asked our tour guide, Dave, where we could try out Irish Dancing. He told us to check out Monroe’s Tavern – they had Irish set dancing that night (Tuesdays). So after grabbing our now-very-late-dinner, we headed over, thinking we would be late for the dancing! Our trip mates had gone ahead to the Tavern and when we ran into them on the streets of Galway, they said there didn’t seem to be any dancing that night. It was really too bad – but it just means we’ll have to come back to Galway for our turn on the stage!

We wandered back to High Street in search of the rest of our group. We ended up at The Quays, where we grabbed a couple of drinks, tables and got settled in for the night! This was our last day with our tour guide Dave. To our surprise, we found out that our tour consisted of people on a 5-day tour and those of us on a 7-day tour. Dave was heading back to Dublin with those on the 5-day, while we were continuing on with our next guide – Gillian. It was a good night – story telling, sharing adventures, laughs, licking strangers’ faces as a means of introduction… Don’t ask! After a round of late night/early morning hugs, we wandered back to the hostel.

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Those of us on the 7-day tour had the luxury of a later start on Day 5. This gave us a chance to explore Galway during the daytime! While looking for a place to eat this evening, we saw that Galway had many neat, small stores that we wanted to venture into! Dave also told us that Galway is the city to get our Claddagh Rings. So tune in to our post on shopping in Galway for more about the Claddagh Rings!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 4: Inis Mór Adventures!

Day 4 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour brings us to The Aran Islands. Located on west coast of Ireland, the islands of Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr take you back in time and immerse you into the traditional Irish way of life. The Aran Islands are also an official Gaeltacht area, meaning Irish or Gaelic is the predominant language here. Many residents do speak English – particularly on Inis Mór, which attracts plenty of tourists yearly – including us!

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After a fun night out in Galway, we woke up nice and early to eat breakfast at the hostel and headed out to buy a bagged lunch for today. As we would be spending the day roaming around Inis Mór, Dave (our tour guide) had suggested for us to take along a lunch. We were careful not to be late – as the bus to the ferry will not wait for us! Once everyone gathered, we followed Dave to the bus stop. A double decker bus was waiting to connect us to ferry terminal at Ros a’ Mhíl. This was not a private bus for our tour, so members of the public could also take it to connect to the ferry terminal. The websites here and here has more details – including shuttle bus stops, schedules and the connecting ferries. I believe Lally Tours run the shuttle buses for both of these companies. This shuttle bus took us along a scenic coastal route from Galway city centre to the ferry terminal, making a couple of stops to pick up passengers along the way.

Once we got to the ferry terminal, we boarded the Aran Island Ferries and got settled in for our journey to Inis Mór. We were so lucky with the weather! (We think it was that rainbow we saw the day before!) Our adventures, particularly today, would not have been as spectacular if it was pouring rain or if there was a storm brewing. And we probably wouldn’t have been able to make it to the cliffs due to safety reasons – as you’ll soon see!

After a smooth ferry ride (where we may or may not have taken a nap…), we arrived at our destination – the beautiful island of Inis Mór! The ferry dropped us off at the pier in the main village of Kilronan. Dave then gave us some options for our day: we could hang out around the main village; hire a bike and follow Dave on a tour of the island; or hire a horse and wagon to take you around! I went with the bike option, while Ioana went horseback riding! Check out Ioana’s adventures here!

The beautiful bay on our arrival

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There was a group of maybe 20 of us who went with the bike option. After we got sorted with our bikes, we took off after Dave and headed away from the village of Kilronan. It was the perfect day for a bike ride – the skies were blue, it was relatively warm and there was a nice breeze to cool us off in between stops! And the scenery was just gorgeous. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road, while trying to admire the gorgeous coastline and the beautiful emerald green fields divided by stone walls.

Our first stop was the Seal Colony. Alas, we did not see any seals but we did get a great view of the crashing waves and the rugged coastline. After a quick break, we were off again!

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Our next stop was a beautiful beach – Kilmurvey Beach. This beautiful, sheltered, white sand beach is indeed in Ireland! Who would have thought Ireland had white sand beaches! Look at that gorgeous water! We took a bit of a longer break here – just enjoying the views, grabbing a bite of our lunches and trying out hurling  – one of Ireland’s native games.

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Our next stop was an exciting one! We were headed to the “Poll na bPéist” or the Worm Hole on the south side of Inis Mór! You’ll see why this was such an epic stop soon enough… We rode our bikes as close as we could and then walked the rest of the way there, roaming over grass and stepping on rocks and boulders. Look at this incredible landscape! Can you spot Dún Aonghasa there in the distance?

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I was so excited to see the cliffs and the coast. I also quickly saw that if the weather had been stormy, it might not be a great idea to be clambering over these rocks or walking so close to the edge, where an errant wave might pull you into the Atlantic! Having said that… I have a thing for crashing waves and the ocean – I just find it so breathtaking and calming at the same time. I must have taken hundreds of photos of the waves here… Here are just a select few – so I don’t bore you all to sleep! But they are pretty cool photographs, if I do say so myself!

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And then there is this rocky landscape to take in. It is incredible to think of the geology of the land and also the sheer force of nature that shaped these islands thousands of years ago, and continues to shape this land now, with its wind, waves and water.

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More crashing waves…

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One of my favourites! Glistening water, gorgeous sunshine, the perfect rolling wave and the infinite ocean stretching out to the horizon! Breathtaking!

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And finally – the Worm Hole. This rectangular pool, 100% made by nature, is carved into the rocky landscape. The water levels of this “pool” changes depending on the waves crashing over the rocks and into the pool AND the water coming into and out of the pool from underneath the rocks. Besides being a cool product of Mother Nature, its other claim to fame is hosting the Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition, not once – but twice.

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I had never heard of this competition before and I naively thought it was just… jumping from a ridiculous height into this Worm Hole. I had no idea, Cliff Diving actually meant diving (from a ridiculous height) – like competitive Olympic type diving, until I saw this video. I felt a little sick while watching the video, just thinking someone was going to have a misstep and get injured! Thankfully they were all professionals and there were some incredible dives in there!

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We were told very explicitly that if we wanted to jump in, we were doing so at our own risk. There was also the fact that there was probably poor cell phone coverage there and if you needed medical assistance, you’d probably be waiting a long while! I love swimming and I love the water and I love the waves, but there was no way I would be jumping in!! As you can see below… someone on our tour did jump in.

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With this exciting adventure over, it was time to head back to our bikes. But I couldn’t leave without taking one last photograph:

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Review: If you are here on a Shamrocker tour, I would definitely recommend following your guide on a bike tour. You get to hang out with your trip mates, do some exploring and go on an epic adventure with your new travel buddies!

If you are here on your own, hiring a bike and slowly making your way around the island is also a great idea! You can get a map of the island and follow the roads and paths to leisurely explore Inis Mór on your own. Being on your own allows you to take as long as you want along the way – stop wherever you want for photographs, stay as long as you want at the beach and explore the cliffs to your heart’s content. 

Our next stop was: Dún Aonghasa – a stone fort on a 300 ft cliff. You just know the views here will be epic! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 4: Inis Mór on Horseback!

Day 4 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour brings us to The Aran Islands. Located on west coast of Ireland, the islands of Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr take you back in time and immerse you into the traditional Irish way of life. The Aran Islands are also an official Gaeltacht area, meaning Irish or Gaelic is the predominant language here. Many residents do speak English – particularly on Inis Mór, which attracts plenty of tourists yearly – including us!

~~~~~

After a fun night out in Galway, we woke up nice and early to eat breakfast at the hostel and headed out to buy a bagged lunch for the day. As we would be spending the day roaming around Inis Mór, Dave (our tour guide) had suggested for us to take along a lunch. We were careful not to be late – as the bus to the ferry will not wait for us! Once everyone gathered, we followed Dave to the bus stop. A double decker bus was waiting to connect us to ferry terminal at Ros a’ Mhíl. This was not a private bus for our tour, so members of the public could also take it to connect to the ferry terminal. The websites here and here have more details – including shuttle bus stops, schedules and the connecting ferries. I believe Lally Tours run the shuttle buses for both of these companies. This shuttle bus took us along a scenic coastal route from Galway city centre to the ferry terminal, making a couple of stops to pick up passengers along the way.

Once we got to the ferry terminal, we boarded the Aran Island Ferries and got settled in for our journey to Inis Mór. We were so lucky with the weather! (We think it was that rainbow we saw the day before!) Our adventures, particularly today, would not have been as spectacular if it was pouring rain or there was a storm brewing. And we probably wouldn’t have been able to make it to the cliffs due to safety reasons – as you’ll soon see!

After a smooth ferry ride (where I can’t remember a thing since I tend to fall asleep on any moving mode of transportation), we arrived at our destination – the beautiful island of Inis Mór! The ferry dropped us off at the pier in the main village of Kilronan. Dave then gave us some options for our day: you could hang out around the main village; hire a bike and follow Dave on a tour of the island; or hire a horse and wagon to take you around! Natalie went with the bike option, while I went horseback riding! For Natalie’s bike adventures, click here!

The beautiful Bay on our arrival

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Sadly for me, I had never properly learned to bike so that wasn’t an option for the day! Luckily enough, there were some tour mates that also didn’t want to do the biking option and instead we opted to do something a little bit different.

Dave had told us there was the option of exploring the island by horse and wagon! Although that sounded rather appealing, one of our new friends suggested to actually go horseback riding! I had never been horse back riding but, for one reason or another, it seemed less daunting than a bike! Our friend got in contact with the person who schedules Aran Island Horseback Riding and programmed us to go for a ride that afternoon. I was extremely excited seeing as this was something I had never done before and did I mention I love animals!!!

If you want more info about how to go on your own Inis Mór horseback riding adventure visit Aran Island Horseback Riding’s Facebook page here!

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Ruins of a Church as we walked to our destination

Walking along, we got some beautiful views of the island, as well as some of the ruins that remain from times passed. Once we reached the house where our guide lived, I was even more entranced by Inis Mór. It’s exactly the type of entry to a house I’d love to own!

Entrance to Aran Island Horseback Riding

After meeting our guide and discussing our levels of experience with horseback riding, we each got a lovely horse. Mine was named Lady and she was the most mellow of the bunch =P!

As we were mounting, we could already see the beautiful views from our guide’s house. I could definitely get used to seeing this every single day!

View from our guide’s home

Our guide walked us around the island and showed us some of its spectacular untouched scenery and glorious beaches. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to record the names but if you do the Horseback Riding tour you will definitely view some of these untouched sites yourself!

Beautiful beach on our ride

Inis Mór and the other two Aran Islands are mostly made up of limestone rock consisting of clints and grikes. This makes for a spectacular landscape, in addition to the dry stone walls that are all around the island! Our guide told us the walls were constructed to separate land for farming and is still used as such today!

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Moving along, we got some photo opportunities on the beautiful beaches and I even attempted a gallop on my lovely horse Lady. She was a tad lazy and we never actually did come to a slow gallop, but it was fun nonetheless! The colours of the water and the beaches themselves were beautiful (something I hadn’t expected to see in Ireland) and it was great to get so up close and personal with some of the more hidden parts of Inis Mór.

Lady and I posing

Photo Opportunity on the Beach!

We came to learn that the island only has about 840 inhabitants and of course everybody is keenly aware of everybody else! With so much land, the raising of animals is the main occupation on the island, along with the famous production of Aran Wool, which Natalie will talk about in another post! As we trotted along, we got to see more of our guide’s land and met some of his other horses and animals! The scenery continued to be spectacular and of course the fact that it was sunny made the island look even more stunning.

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There are several abandoned houses on the Island making the scenery even more interesting (I sure want this one!)

Lady continued to be a lovely companion and walked slowly enough for me to snap a few pictures of her and the beautiful landscape around me!

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Beautiful Water and Landscape surrounding us

Our horseback adventure was slowly coming to an end and I was sad it couldn’t last longer! It was such a great experience to view the island from this perspective and I was very grateful that my new friend Marissa suggested we do this! As our horses climbed the hill back to our guide’s home, we had to say goodbye and hope we could come back again soon!

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Our Horses taking a well deserved break

I’d definitely recommend this experience if you are visiting the Aran Islands! If you are staying on the island, you can do both this and biking! It is a bit off the beaten path and you can view some sights you may not know to see if you were biking around! I definitely enjoyed it and would do it again!!!

Sunshine, Water, Warmth – what more could we have wanted?!

Our next stop would be: Dún Aonghasa – a stone fort on a 300 ft cliff. You just know the views here will be epic! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!