The realization that I would be moving to Galway, Ireland for four and a half months didn’t hit me until I was midway through flying over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a terrifying thought when you suddenly realize that you’ll be moving to an entirely different country on a different continent without any knowledge of what’s going to happen next. It’s a great deal of change. I wouldn’t be able to see my friends and family for the next couple of months, and I would no longer be Kat Klima Vine Editor at the Fairfield Mirror.
Despite the initial fear and hesitation, my leap of faith in deciding to study at Galway has been thrilling. Located on Ireland’s west coast, Galway is a city that embodies Ireland. It has pubs that are to die for, luscious scenery and is absolutely rich with Irish culture. After spending a day there, I could not wait to take over my new title of Kat Klima Abroad Columnist.
Since my arrival, I’ve had the chance to also explore the Ireland beyond Galway. So far, one of the most breathtaking parts about Ireland that I’ve seen —besides the pubs—, and one of my first travel excursions here on the Green Isle, were the Cliffs of Moher.
On Jan. 20, students who are part of Fairfield University’s Galway program took a trip to the Cliffs of Moher – one of Ireland’s famous natural wonders. Along with a tour of the cliffs, we also got to visit Dunguaire Castle and the Aillwee caves.
Our first stop was Dunguaire Castle. The structure dates back to the 16th century and it is a massive stone fortress located on Kinvara Bay. Surrounded by immense blue and green, the fortress seems to stand very solitarily and majestically from a distance. Seeing it for the first time, part of me thought– hey, I wouldn’t mind living there. However, when we got up close, there was mud everywhere. I think at least four people slipped and, to make matters worse, we decided to trail around the edges of the castle– essentially, we were climbing on very slippery rocks that would lead to more sharp and pointy rocks if one happened to slip and fall. Despite the safety hazards, Dunguaire Castle was my first look at an Irish castle and I was thoroughly impressed.
After Dunguaire Castle, we visited our next destination– Aillwee Cave, one of the oldest caves in Ireland. It had been discovered by a farmer, Jack McGann, in 1944 when his dog fell into the cave (don’t worry, the dog lived. We checked). McGann went on to keep the cave a secret for the next thirty years, for some unknown and odd reason, but eventually opened it to the public. The cave itself is amazing. It features an underground waterfall, some pretty cool stalactites and stalagmites and the site of brown bear remains— which indicates that brown bears, which were previously thought to never been in Ireland, were actually in Ireland.
Despite the caves being an interesting spot, I am a 5 foot 11 inch woman with intense claustrophobia. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy crawling in a 3-foot cave that was dripping water everywhere like a five-year-old with a runny nose. As educational as it was to be there, I was ready to start rioting deep inside the mountain. At one point they even had us on grates looking down at a natural waterfall inside the cave and all I could do was stare down at the grate and remember how my mother always told me not to step on the subway grates in New York City because I’d fall right through.
At that point, I didn’t care if it’s been said that J.R.R. Tolkien got inspiration for “Lord of the Rings” from this cave. I wanted to make like Gandalf and split. I was not about this. It was like a scarier version of Magic Kingdom’s “Thunder Mountain Railroad.” 0/10 would recommend unless you like that sort of thing.
Finally, after scrambling out of that cave, we went to the Cliffs of Moher and I was ecstatic. We had arrived at our main destination. The one thing I had been dying to see all day. However, thanks to Ireland’s weather, it was foggy. Like super foggy. I’ve never seen fog as thick as the fog that day at the Cliffs of Moher. In fact, when we got there none of us could see where those cliffs ended– which was kind of a big problem.
Luckily, after some lunch, the fog cleared and we got to see the beauty of these absolutely breathtaking cliffs. It’s lush, green landscape overlooks the never ending, crystal blue Atlantic Ocean. Standing on those cliffs reminded me a great deal of that scene in the Twilight Saga’s “New Moon” when Bella Swan went cliff diving. However, I don’t recommend cliff diving here. You’d probably die being that these cliffs are roughly 214 meters high, or about 702 feet.
I was terrified of falling off the cliffs. If you get scared of caves, you’re probably going to be scared of falling off of cliffs too. There are barriers that protect you, but there are areas where there are no barriers and people take loads of pictures. I think the scariest part for me was climbing up a slippery uphill area. I am very klutzy and have a habit of injuring myself a lot– a few nights prior to this I had tripped and fell into a table. So, climbing a steep, muddy incline is not exactly my cup of tea. I ended up getting stuck midway through the incline and had to get a friend to help me get up to the top because I really thought if I made one false move I’d shoot off the cliffs and into the ocean. Once getting to the top though, the intense and stunning view was worth every struggle.
Even though we were covered head to toe in mud by the end of the trip, it was a fun filled day. It was the first time I really got to experience Ireland’s rustic and lush countryside while being able to take in some of its greatest landmarks. Overall, my first excursion on the Green Isle was a success and I can not wait to see what other excitement Ireland and the rest of Europe brings me. So, tune in next time.