Back in the Republic of Ireland, today ended up being a little bit of a flop day. There was quite a bit of driving to do to get down to Doolin on the west coast so I set off with a couple sights to see along the way.
The plan was to take a ferry to the smallest of the Aran Islands and sleep on the beach somewhere near the shipwreck that I was hoping to shoot. As luck would have it the remints of a hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic was just starting to hit the coast towards the end of the day.
The last of the ferries were sent to the docks and no one was running any more boats. So being stuck on the main land I ended up heading to the local pub instead. I met a great couple on their holidays from Britain before they moved out to Spain permanently. A brave move really considering he didn’t speak a lick of the language and they were moving to her family’s village which was far away from the major cities… and no one speaks a word of English there!
The morning started off with a quick washing of some camera gear. After yesterday’s caving adventure the mud and silt was in absolutely every nook and cranny. These cameras have been through a lot and are absolute troopers!
“Brown tea” is the best description I’ve heard of the water in Ireland. Clear water does not exist anywhere. In the mountains, in the rivers, streams, caves, anywhere… it’s all brown tea. They say it is due to the high mineral content in the ground but with the amount of sheep I saw everywhere….
The next stop was the Arigna Mining Experience. The coal mining at Arigna lasted until 1990 and was later turned into a museum. I made pretty decent time getting there and ended up arriving before they opened. In true Irish hospitality the gentleman put on a kettle and offered some tea as I waited for the first tour to get going.
I’m a strong believer that a tour is really only good as its tour guide. The tour guides at Arigna are all former miners and Jerry, the fellow who was conducting the tour for one other couple and me, was brilliant. Very personable and chatty and made the experience absolutely wonderful.
The mining in Arigna was a little different than usual due to the very thin coal seams that existed in the mountain. A main tunnel was dug from which a series of secondary tunnels every 5–6 meters branched off where the coal was mined. The secondary tunnels were substantially smaller due to following the actual coal seam.
The coal seams were about 12-18 inches tall and men were typically on their backs the entire day to shovel the coal out. They used to go to the seamstress and have old coats cut up and sewn into one side of their jackets so when they lay on their side, it provided additional padding.
Another interesting demonstration was the pulley system that they used to haul the coal in and out of the mines. They still keep it semi functional and are able to move the cars up and down as the huge pulley spins around. It was very cool to experience firsthand. There was also a simulated explosion that was shown off along the tour. It is mostly speakers and light so you’re perfectly safe as long as you don’t panic when the lights all turn off.
Three more hours of driving! Off to Doolin on super awesome high visibility roads! The Speed limits in Ireland are typically 60-100km/h on roads which in most North American locations would be about half that. It is an absolute heart pumping joy to go driving in the Irish country side.
Closing in on Doolin I came across a coast guard boat in the water conducting operations. I’m not sure if it was an exercise or a rescue. The swells and wind were actually quite considerable for the next few days and we were under a weather warning for the duration.
With the weather rapidly deteriorating the last of the ferries came in to the port and none were going back out. This basically kiboshed my plans to head out to Inisheer which is the smallest of the Aran Islands. There is a shipwreck on the beach and various ruins on the island that I really would of liked to see. A place to check out next time around I suppose.
I had dinner at the Gus O’Connors Pub in Doolin. The food was really good and they served a proper pint of Guinness. It was definitely a tourist pub though as for the most part everyone kept to themselves. I came across a couple on holidays from Britain that was enjoying a holiday before picking up and moving everything they had to a small little village in Spain. She was excited as it was going back home to family, he was Irish and did not speak the language at all. Being rural Spain and quite far from the nearest major city, no one knew any English besides those two. Talk about taking a leap!
After dinner it was off to the Cliffs of Moher to catch the sunset. The winds didn’t cooperate and made it quite difficult to get anything with the fading light as the gusts would just jostle the camera every couple seconds. It is definitely a place to check out again. The cliffs are about 200 meters tall (656 feet) and feature a full visitor center with lots of information and walking paths along the cliffs.
O’Brein’s Tower marks the highest point along the Cliffs of Moher. It was initially built as a teahouse by MP Sir Cornellius O’Brein for visiting Victorian tourists. The rumor on the other hand says O’Brein built the tower in order to impress whichever women he was pursing that day. On clear days you could see the Aran Islands and the neighboring peninsulas.
Naturally I have no idea as it was near gale force winds and rain.
The last shot of the O’Brein tower before the heavens opened up and the sprinkle turned into a full on downpour. It was this day I actually killed one of my cameras and it went into freak-out mode. While being weather resistant, multiple days of rain, high humidity, and then finally a massive down pour was a bit too much for it to take without any sort of protection.
Always carry a backup camera!
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