Driving Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Ireland’s west coast was the end of the world to Europeans for thousands of years. Hundreds of millions of years ago, before continental drift created the Atlantic Ocean, the land was part of what is now the Appalachian mountain range. Layers of sedimentary rock pounded by North Atlantic waves for millions of years formed sheer cliffs that dominate the coastline. These cliffs, along with the numerous bays and the mountainous terrain give this area its nickname: The Wild Atlantic Way.
Ireland has been inhabited for 10,000 years or more. There are stone age tombs all over the place as well as fortifications from the time of the Giza pyramids. One such fort is built at the edge of a sheer cliff on Inis Mor, an island a few miles off the coast. We took a boat out to the island, and on the way back they took us along the Cliffs of Moher which rise 700 feet straight out of the sea and stretch for 3 miles. The next day, we drove to the top and hiked along the same cliff edge admiring the view from above.
A network of narrow winding roads lead from one stunningly beautiful vista to the next. Mountains, farms, lakes and the sea just keep coming at you around every bend in the road. At Sliabh Liag, a parking attendant saw Maria’s walking stick and let us drive past all the young hikers on the uphill mile to the observation deck to see the 2000 foot cliff that drops straight down to the sea. The next day, we stopped at Downpatrick Head, a 200 foot high rock formation that years ago was attached to the mainland by a natural arch that has since collapsed. Guys were casting their fishing lines off the nearby cliffs 200 feet down into the sea.
Sheep and cows are everywhere, we have had to stop the car and wait for livestock to move on out of the way.
Driving is no longer nerve wracking, the roads are wider and in better condition than I expected. At first, I was shifting a lot to try to be fuel efficient, until I decided to give my left leg a break and become more muscle efficient. The diesel car we are driving gets fantastic mileage, and fuel prices are not really much higher than in the US.