One of my six geocaching resolutions for 2016 was to finish my Irish county grid, and I have managed to complete it half way through the year. That may not be as impressive as it sounds, since I had only one county left to cache in, so just one trip was in order to fill in that white gap on the map.
The muggle and I spent three days in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. Not only was this to finish my county grid, but also to see the world famous Cliffs of Moher, which to my shame, I had never seen. The weather forecast for the weekend was rain, rain, rain so with raincoats and umbrellas packed, we headed off to Ennistymon.
When we arrived at the Deerpark House B&B, the owners were very helpful giving us recommendations and tips for our trip. We had planned to head straight to the Cliffs of Moher after checking in, but Tom advised us that you can visit the cliffs for free and use the official car park if you enter after the visitor centre is closed. So we delayed our trip to the cliffs until after 7pm.
It rained twice over the weekend: two heavy showers on our first day lasting less than two minutes each and both were thankfully when we were driving between locations. The rest of the weekend was wall to wall sunshine.
Poulnabrone Dolmen (GC5D0TH) by Flep98
For those that don’t know, dolmens are a type of megalithic tomb, usually consisting of at least two large vertical stones (or ‘megaliths’) and a large flat horizontal capstone. The Poulnabrone Dolmen is estimated to date from 4,000 BC. There are approximately 190 dolmens in Ireland and Poulnabrone is one of the most well-known.
The tomb sits in the middle of a field of karst limestone in the Burren. The limestone pavements are interspersed with wild flowers at this time of year, making the picture even more stunning.
Cliffs of Moher (GC1W06N) by krutzilab
After dinner, we headed for the Cliffs of Moher. We spent over two hours there exploring the area and completing the two EarthCaches. Cliffs of Moher is the most favourited EC in Ireland, with 496 FPs as I write, and it’s easy to see why in such an amazing location.
The cliffs are breathtaking. I was so looking forward to seeing them and they did not disappoint. It was especially nice to walk around the area in the evening when tourist numbers were limited. We enjoyed watching the sunset – a must-do if visiting the west coast of Ireland!
The other, newer, EC Coastal erosion at the Cliffs of Moher (GC656FG) brought us to three different waypoints and provided us with a nice tour of the area and afforded us great views of the cliffs from alternative angles.
Fossils of Inisheer (GC5AFQY) by Kloepschen
On day two of our trip, we booked a boat trip to Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands in terms of size and the second smallest in population terms, with approximately 250 inhabitants. The main reason for the trip was to see the shipwreck that appears in the opening titles for the TV Show Father Ted.
The island was amazing: beaches with golden sand and crystal water, a maze of green fields and stone walls and very friendly locals. We hired bikes from the lovely folks at Rothaí for a very reasonable price. I can confirm that although you might initially have some trouble jogging your memory on how to ride a bike, it is true, you never forget! After a few falters, I got the hang of it and we were on our way to the wreck of the Plassey.
We only spent a few hours on the island so we didn’t have time to look for the other two caches there but that just means a return trip is in order some time. As we waited for our boat back at the harbour, a dolphin swam right in and gave us a show.
On the way back to the mainland, we did a cruise past the Cliffs of Moher and got a great view of them from the sea. If you’re making a trip to the Aran Islands while in Clare, it’s well worth incorporating a Cliffs cruise, especially if the season is right to see puffins (between March and July).
The Two Towers (GC3RJCY) by Burrentracker
Later that evening, we decided to go for The Two Towers cache. The cache is located at Hag’s Head and named for the two ‘towers’ that appear there: one man-made and the other a towering rock formation that is said to resemble a woman’s head looking out to sea.
The legend goes that Mal (the ‘hag’) was in love with the great Irish hero, Cú Chulainn. However, Cú Chulainn did not reciprocate her feelings and ran all over Ireland trying to get away from her. He ended up at Loop Head in the south of Clare and she thought she had him cornered. However, being the amazing hero he was, he managed to escape using the sea stacks as stepping stones. She tried to follow him but lost her footing and fell to her death at Hag’s Head. Quite the story and quite the cache to go along with it!
We paid €2 to park at a farmer’s yard about 1.2km from GZ. We could have parked 600m further away for free but we were tired after a long day and it was getting late, so we decided it was worth the €2! When we got within 150m of the cache, we were at a wall. We would have to climb over and on to the exposed cliff edges to get to the cache. Now, the path wasn’t narrow and was clearly well-worn but there were steep drops on both sides. Did I mention I hadn’t told the muggle that this was a terrain 4 cache? Needless to say, he wasn’t keen, so I employed the ‘let’s just go another 20 metres and see how we feel’ method and soon we were within 15m of GZ!
The cache page warns,’there are a few holes along the way that would swallow a slim grown-up, never mind kids!‘ This is very true – there were several holes that we couldn’t see the bottom of, though I didn’t take any photos for fear of leaning that little bit too far while looking down the lens! When we got to within 15 metres of the cache, the muggle decided while I could make it down the slope, I might have trouble getting back up (since I’m vertically challenged!) so he insisted that he go the rest of the way to find the cache. If he wasn’t there, I would have happily done it but it made him feel better to go himself, so I let him 🙂
How do you know if a muggle really loves you? He goes to a cliff edge to get a cache and bring it to you!
I really enjoyed this cache. It’s been far too long since I’ve done one that gave me an adrenaline rush like that!
Father Ted’s Tribute Cache (GCGD82) by CraigsBar & AmJay
On our last morning in Clare, we headed to Craggy Island Parochial House also known as a random farmhouse in the middle of the Clare countryside, used as the house in the 90s sitcom Father Ted. The muggle and I are both huge fans so it was a must-see while we were in Clare. We actually saw a number of locations used in filming the show so it’s a great county to visit for fans.
Thanks to the cache located about 2km up the same road, we were able to find the house without any issues. We then moved on to look for the cache. I groaned as we climbed over the stile and saw GZ: rocks everywhere. After our DNF at the Plassey shipwreck, I wasn’t optimistic about our chances of finding a cache hidden in a sea of stones. As luck would have it, I managed to stand in the right place and spied a geocacher’s pile of rocks within just a few minutes!
That was my last cache in County Clare for that trip but I will definitely be back and hopefully for longer next time. Undoubtedly, the beautiful weather helped make our trip even better but there is a lot more to see in the Banner County and even if it rains, I can’t wait to go back and see it all!
Have you completed any of your 2016 geocaching resolutions already? Let me know in the comments.
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