Cliffs of Moher
It has been a pleasure sharing my experience of Ireland with you all and I appreciate your patience in sticking with me along the way. While there is so much more to say, it is time to bring this story to an end to allow for new ones to be told. With this in mind, I would like to spend the rest of this post discussing some of my final stops in Ireland. As you have probably noted so far, Ireland is the land of rugged landscapes and so a visit to Ireland would not be complete without visiting one of the greatest beauties of all; The Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher lie on the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland and are 702 feet at its highest point. As I stood there looking at the waters crashing against the cliffs below, my mind was taken back to an English course during my undergraduate studies where I encountered Edmund Burke’s definition of the sublime.
Burke believed that the sublime was something that could provoke terror in the audience, for terror and pain were the strongest emotions. However, there was an inherent “pleasure” in this emotion. Anything that is great, infinite or obscure could be an object of terror and sublime, as there was an element of the unknown about them. He regarded nature as the most sublime object, capable of evoking strong sensations in those beholding it.1
As the waves crashed against the the cliffs, I could only think about how standing upon these precarious cliffs, I too felt this sense of awe and terror at this terrible beauty. As I watched the waters crash below, I was reminded of my own mortality despite the fact that these precarious cliffs also served as the home for thousands of birds in Ireland; including the Atlantic Puffin. These cliffs were the definition of the sublime. They were beautiful yet terrifying, and as I laid down to take a photo near the cliff’s edge I was grateful for the opportunity to be there and experience the flood of emotions. I was healthy and alive and grateful all of it.
The final stop on our tour: Blarney Castle. According to their official website, Blarney Castle was built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy. The castle has been attracting attention for hundreds of years, and is famous for the “Blarney Stone.” It is said that if you kiss the stone, you will never again be lost for words. Now I am going to be honest with you, I kissed the Blarney Stone because I mean everyone was doing it and I could use some help in being a little more eloquent. Did it work? You tell me. Regardless of whether it worked or not, it was fun to get into the spirit of the legend and march up a tower to kiss some stone that requires some serious acrobatics to reach. I mean I’m going to be honest in that I’m still not 100% sure I even kissed the right stone. For all I know, I could have made out with a regular old stone (please note I did not actually make out with the stone, a simple peck was more than sufficient). You know that saying “it is not about the destination, but the journey” that is what Blarney Castle was. It was about more about getting overly hyped about some stone with your tour mates and marching up the tower like a military troop and imagining battle scenes, rather than actually reaching the top to kiss the stone. So yes, kiss the stone but enjoy the time waiting with your friends and the adventure on your way up.
After kissing the stone, it was time to explore the rest of the castle and so my friend and I walked through the gardens to see what other pleasant surprises the castle held and so we discovered The Poison Garden of the castle. The Poison Garden is kind of what it sounds like; it is a garden in which deadly plants from around the globe are housed in large cage like structures due to their toxicity to people. As we walked through the garden, we encountered hemlock plants, wolfsbane, opium, and cannabis. Beside each plant were small plaques describing their toxicity and side effects to humans as well as their uses during medieval times. It was fascinating to see how these incredibly poisonous plants were once seen as a cure, and made me think of how far we had come medically in curing ailments. After seeing the macabre nature of the plant world, my friend and I carried on and finished our visit of the castle walking through some of the other gardens in the castle where the plants were much more kid friendly.
As we finished our tour of Blarney castle, it was time to head back to Dublin and finish our adventure. My adventure had gotten off to a rough start with a hotel in what might as well have been Narnia, a room that was colder than a freezer, and a stressful run to try and get to our tour bus on time on our first day. However, since that initial hiccup everything that happens onwards was more than I could ever expect. Not only do I reminisce about the places I was blessed to visit, but I often look back on the memories made with the people I met during that trip. I think back on how one of my tour mates pretended to be a dementor during an especially long bus ride and my tour guide’s story about one very special sheep named Trevor. It is all these things together which made this trip one I will tell my kids about when I’m older. I am thankful for everyone who was on this journey with me and may we meet again some day. It was great craic!
1.Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. trans. Abraham Mills. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1856, p. 51.