Cliffs of Moher and Other Bits

Several beautiful vignettes of Western Ireland, from the Cliffs of Moher to the Cong Abbey…

Cliffs of Moher

The cliffs of Moher are one of the main attractions when travelling along the Wild Atlantic Way. These cliffs, like a lot of the coast around Ireland are very old, having formed hundreds of millions of years ago under the ocean. The cliffs themselves are a geological laboratory that exposes a slice of the past, preserving a record of what was, all those years ago.

O’Brien’s Tower marks the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher

The cliffs are truly beautiful, and viewing them curving out into the ocean, one can understand why the cliffs have been named a UNESCO Global Geopark. The cliffs are impressive, reaching up to over two hundred meters and stretching south towards counties Cork and Kerry.

The vast expanse of the Cliffs of Moher are often obscured by fog, so we were very lucky here

We made a stop at O’Brien’s Tower. Fans of Father Ted might find the short walk to the tower worthwhile – from here, you can spot the Aran Islands, which are used in the arial shot of the Craggy Island in the opening credits of the show.

Tourists, cows and windmills in the distance – the Irish landscape often features past, present and future all at once

Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle is a beautiful castle with a beautiful name. Its architecture is quite interesting – a mix of Medieval and Victorian. Facing the castle is Lough Corrib – it seems like most of the castles and mansions worth visiting in Ireland have some kind of lake in front or river running around them.

A lone fishermen trying his luck in Lough Corrib, just outside the Ashford Castle

From the medow that reaches to the banks of the lake, the castle seemed so inviting, like a welcoming home at the end of a verdant green pasture.

Well, Ashford Castle is one of Ireland’s finest hotels and if you can afford it, it might be well worth staying in. The area is simply filled with a tranquility that is priceless. A perfect retreat to get away from it all.

With so many intricate details on its facade, the Ashford Castle can sometimes seem to be made by a very skilful and imaginative Lego Master Builder

Ashford Castle has passed hands a number of times over the centuries, eventually ending up with the Guiness family after the Great Famine (which hit the West of Ireland hardest). It has changed hands many more times since, but each owner has sought to keep the castle’s character and maintain its luxury despite several difficult periods that befell the tourist industry in Ireland. Till this day, it remains one of the best resorts in all of the EU.

This huge tree at the edge of the inner courtyard of the Ashford Castle is just as impressive as the castle itself

The hotel is famous in contemporary Irish culture thanks to The Quiet Man which features its grounds and the nearby Cong village as the backdrop to the action in the movie. We watched the movie before we came, and it was great to see all the locations in real life!

Cong Abbey and the Surrounding Village

Just one of the many “Quiet Man cottages” around, selling movie related souvenirs, this one is actually quite abandoned

Cong village is a little quiet place which straddles the borders of County Galway and County Mayo. It’s a charming place, for sure – like so many places in Ireland. What’s put it on the map though is The Quiet Man, which stars John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, true legends worldwide, but particularly so in this part of Ireland

The movie has certainly made this village a tourist attraction! We definitely did not forget to stop by The Quiet Man house while we were visiting. To be honest it wasn’t too exciting, just a recreation of the interior of the set from the movie. But it does give tourists something to do I suppose – I think if you grew up during the time the movie was made (which I didn’t) it might have more significance for you.

If we are not mistaken, this was the Reverend and Mrs. Playfair’s house in The Quiet Man, an incredibly cute house in any case

Cong Abbey is also another attraction in the area (after the Ashford Castle). The Abbey is a ruin, but nonetheless, a pretty well preserved one. It dates to the 13th century and is a great example of medieval church architecture in Ireland during the period.

Bog Oak 3-Winged Raven by sculptor Ronnie Graham is an amazing sculpture in the village of Cong, well worth a visit

The Abbey is a fine example of early Gothic architectural style in Ireland, and showcases the level of masonry that was present in the country during those days. If you look at the arches and windows, you’ll see some elegant, simple and lovely stonework. More interesting is the architecture that is not seen.

One of the well preserved, intricately crafted arched doorways in the Cong Abbey

As part of the Abbey, a little ways away, there is a fishing house. Underneath this house is a platform of stones which raises it, allowing the river to flow underneath the floor. Local lore said there was a line connected to a bell in the abbey’s kitchen, which alerted the cook to any fresh fish caught at the fishing house – how charming!

The beautifully preserved and maintained inner courtyard of the Cong Abbey

We had a lovely and tranquil time wandering around the Cong Abbey. Even after all these centuries, there still remains something sacred about the place.

Horses, Horses Everywhere

If you are into horse riding, Ireland has a lot to offer you. We saw a lot of horses around when we were driving about, milling in green meadows, doing whatever it is horses do. Grazing mostly, and staring out into the distance. I’m not sure if all of the horses are owned by someone – I think some may be wild.

A couple of white Connemara ponies, set against that quintessential Western Ireland backdrop – lush green grass, lichen covered rocks, wind-swept trees and a body of water

Here, in this region, you’ll find the Connemara pony. She tends to be stocky with a strong back and sturdy legs. The pony has a very distinctive build and you’ll recognise it instantly. The pony is a Viking legacy, having been brought from Scandinavia in 795 AD, although it has since been mixed with Andalusian horses, which are often described as elegant.

These creatures are truly beautiful, and we enjoyed photographing them in the verdant green pastureland of West Ireland.