Attending TBEX Travel Bloggers Exchange conference in the small town of Killarney, about an hour west of Cork? Honestly, “a good excuse” to finally add an independent road trip around South-Western Ireland again after what has been more than twenty years! I remember last leaning over the Cliffs of Moher as an eleven-year-old, travelling there with my family. This time, and despite the advent of mass tourism ever since, I just knew I had to go back. “Dear Cilian”, I raise my hand during the Killarney conference, Cilian Murphy who talks to us as an expert on matters of sustainable development, “I have this true (travel) dilemma. I know you are telling us to seek alternatives over the most visited sites, and seasons, around visiting Ireland. However, and I’m sure I’m not alone, I do have these very fond childhood memories of the Cliffs of Moher, and I really want to go there, even though I am horrified to think it will be among thousands and thousands of other visitors, a sort of compromised experience. What is your advice?”
He recommends me a “Doolin Cliff Walk”, a completely different kind of experience of the Cliffs of Moher which I never knew even existed.
Pat Sweeney and his team of “Doolin Cliff Walks“, which he himself started off his private farm land bordering the famous cliffs, are a true force of nature to be reckoned with. But let us start right from the beginning. After the travel conference, my friend Antonia and I took off in our rental car to explore the famous Ring of Kerry. Fortunately for us, the season (early October) means that we are virtually alone on Ireland’s notoriously narrow, pretty country roads – except for a few odd sheep that cross the road occasionally. We especially take to the quaint little town of Cahirciveen as well as its coastal surroundings, including Valentia Island. Typically checking into our “double room above the pub”, we feel like we’ve arrived. No more work, no more itineraries, just us girls and a few days of adventure on the road. What else could possibly be better?
Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula: Easily possible to cover in two full days.
I loved our drive around Dingle peninsula (thank you Toni, for this great suggestion!), not recalling having ever been here with my family. Boy what did we miss back then: A view from perhaps the most beautiful little café at the end of the world, known as “Teac Couminole Café” (which has to be Gaelic, I presume). From Tralee, the main road first leads you past typically Irish sheep pastures, vast swaths of hillsides and coastal areas all the way to the small town of Dingle. After or before a short stop there, do continue onto Slea Head Drive, because this really is the coastal drive you’ve been waiting for, with wide, wild open views upon the Atlantic Ocean ahead. Fascinating. And even more so, since again due to the low season, there are hardly any cars on the windy little roads. Check this out.
Three days prior, I have called Pat Sweeney following my talk with Cilian Murphy, to enquire about his “Cliff Walk” to the Cliffs of Moher. I immediately booked said walk, as well as a night at his B & B farmhouse, eagerly looking forward to the experience.
And what an experience it turned out to be! You have to imagine it like this: I honestly thought that our only alternative would be to arrive at the now huge parking lot, having to cross the equally huge “Cliffs of Moher World Heritage Centre”, before being able to take a few mighty shots of the Cliffs themselves, next to selfie sticks, dozens of Asian tour groups, and countless “Say Cheeeeese”. Horrible! But what’s the choice? After all, this is what all of the “most beautiful World Heritage Sites in the world” run the risk of becoming: Because they are so mind-bogglingly beautiful, they are also mind-bogglingly, helplessly overcrowded.
The fact that there is even a choice in the case of the Cliffs of Moher, is down to the boldness and determination of one eager, local character called Pat Sweeney, and his “let’s-just-do-this” attitude to development. He simply went on to open up a part of his private farm land, which touches upon the world-famous cliffs, and turned the venture into a business called “Doolin Cliff Walks“. If you, too, are feeling averagely fit, aren’t too afraid of heights and really want to escape the mass tourism by walking up and upon the mighty cliffs, you have but this one choice: Go with Pat and completely trust you are in for the experience of a lifetime! Check this out.
More #TBEXKillarney & travel photos from South-Western Ireland are here:
See you soon in beautiful Ireland! 🙂