Toe the Cliffs of Moher
There are few better places for contemplation than the shores of a steep cliff overlooking a vast ocean. In this regard, it seems Ireland has perfected the pensive lookout. Take a strolling tour of Ireland's Cliffs of Moher and muse on life, local legends and the long view.
Rolling hills of lush green grass whisk travelers to the Cliffs of Moher, where dark, mossy rock faces drop precipitously into the Atlantic Ocean. They reach their pinnacle at 703 feet above sea level, but the entirety of the 5-mile coastline offers spectacular views of Galway Bay, the Dingle Peninsula, the Aran and Blasket Islands and the Twelve Pins and Maum Turk mountains in Connemara. Of course, standing along any one of the many juts affords a long, hard look at the rough, undulating rock walls.
Ireland is a land of legend, and the Cliffs of Moher are not without their own. Travelers should keep an eye out for man-eating eels, mermaids and submerged cities. One legend goes that Irish Saint Macreehy killed an eel that came ashore to eat the corpses from the church cemetery.
Concerning mermaids, a local fisherman struck up a conversation with one as he strolled the Cliffs of Moher?, or so the story goes. They began talking, and in the course of their conversation, he noticed her magic cloak sitting nearby, which she needed to be able to return to the sea. The fisherman stole the cloak and hid it in his house, hoping to capture the mermaid. She found him, but he would not give it back, so she agreed to marry him. They had two children, but years later, the mermaid found her cloak and disappeared back into the sea, never to be seen again.
As for the city, south of Spanish Point is a patch of disturbed water, marking the Irish equivalent of Atlantis. There sits Kilstiffen, the key to which has been forever lost. Legend has it that every seven years it emerges from the depths, and those who catch a glimpse of it will die before its next rising.
These stories may keep your head in the clouds, but it's also a good idea to keep your eye on the clouds, too. The weather here is unpredictable and, according to the Cliffs of Moher's official website, they seem to get all four seasons of weather in one day. That weather - ranging from baking sun to misty fog - is part of the charm, but it's worth bringing a rain jacket and a good pair of walking boots.