When you Google Image “Ireland,” this is the kind of thing you get:
There are two things in common with these three photos:
- The scenery is very green, as Ireland is famous for.
- The weather is beautiful and sunny.
So I always imagined Ireland as a beautifully warm and sunny country with bright rolling hills and lush grass. I wasn’t totally off: it’s got those rolling hills, that lush grass. As for the warm and sunny part…
…I was dead wrong.
Honestly, I should have known.
And my group was living in a particularly harsh part of Ireland. We were right on the west coast, in a place known as the Burren.
The Burren, as you can see, has a very distinctive landscape. It’s composed of crumbling limestone, the remains of an ancient seabed. The rocky hills can get quite tall, with many of them reaching over 200 meters high. And since the Burren is by the west coast– where those Atlantic sea winds come blowing in– the weather can be… unpredictable.
Let me give you an example.
During our first week in Ireland, my group was scheduled to go on a hike on Blackhead Mountain. Blackhead Mountain is located right along the coast and promised impressive views of both the sea and the land. What’s more, we had a local Irish farmer to guide us on the hike. I was excited.
We took a bus to the starting point. The weather looked warm and sunny when we were indoors, but as soon as we stepped out of the van…
Windy as hell. You could open an umbrella and fly away, Mary Poppins style.
But it wasn’t raining, so we went on our way. Despite the wind, I was really enjoying the walk. The Burren has a beautiful and unique landscape. For instance, the rocks are full of huge gaps called “grikes.” If you’re not careful, you could step in a grike– and considering that these gaps can be as deep as your waist, that would not be good.
The Burren is also home to a distinct mix of flora. Back in the Ice Age, an iceberg dumped a mix of Arctic and Mediterranean seeds in the area. Today, they still flourish due to the Burren’s year-round temperate climate. I never expected to see orchids outside of a rainforest!
So, in spite of the chilly wind, I was enjoying the hike. Our hiking guide was incredibly informative and walked at a nice pace, stopping frequently to explain this rose bush or that ancient fossil. About 30 minutes in, we paused so he could even give us a bit of Irish history.
Of course, I looked behind me.
There was a HUGE rainstorm blowing right at us.
The storm arrived within a matter of minutes. It came out of nowhere! And it wasn’t just rain. IT WAS HAIL.
Horizontal hail, due to the wind.
There was nothing we could do but continue our hike. Our guide kept going with the tour as usual. But the wind and hail were so fierce that, even when he shouted, we could barely hear what he said.
We continued up the mountain, battling winds that threatened to knock us over. Our guide led us to a structure known as the Caherdooneerish Fort. Here, we huddled against one of the ancient stone walls and waited out the storm.
After about 20 minutes of soaking misery, the clouds finally cleared.
We continued our hike in the beautiful, beautiful sunlight.
Mind you, it was still windy as all get-out. The wind was so strong that it almost tipped me over with every step. And you don’t want to misstep in the Burren: remember, those grikes can swallow your leg whole. Alternatively, you could slip and knock your head on some lovely limestone.
Seriously, I thought I was going to die with each step I took.
It was insane. Incredible landscapes. Outrageous weather. Kids stumbling down the mountain, defying death with every step.
It was one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on.
Because nothing gets your adrenaline pumping better than thinking you’re going to fall off a mountain…for an hour straight.
In fact, I wasn’t even mad when another rain cloud rolled in.
And when it started hailing on us.
Luckily, our guide was prepared this time.
Three hours later, our bus picked 13 wet, freezing kids off the side of the road. I had worn two pairs of pants. Both got completely soaked.
As you can imagine, we were all glad to get back home. We could take warm showers. Heat up some soup. Huddle under dry sheets and thick blankets, thinking about the windiest three hours of our lives.
Maybe I am. But hey, nothing wrong with a little crazy, am I right?
This is great! The first picture you shared is Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland. I had really great weather when I went there. At Portrush nearby, there are quite a few people who even go surfing for a good chunk of the year! And the third, I’m sure you know is the Cliffs of Moher. I went in December. The weekend started great, rained twelve times, saw just as many amazing rainbows, and had off and on intense fog/straightline winds while on the cliffs. Adrenaline rush, freezing, soaking wet… That’s Ireland to me! And I LOVED it. Except for Dublin. I hated Dublin.
Oh man, I can’t believe people surf in Ireland– it’s gotta be freezing! A town nearby our school (Fenore, if you know it) had three surfing schools. I’m still amazed.
You know, I wasn’t actually huge on Dublin either. It was cool, there were sights to see, but I guess it didn’t strike me as much as other cities I’ve visited. What turned you off Dublin so much?
Brilliant stuff Vy! Well written and entertaining as usual.
New Zealand can be a bit like that. Our Split Enz guys wrote a song called ‘Four Seasons in one Day’ for that very reason. Never, ever go anywhere without a coat or blanket you can quickly throw on, because that blue sky is only having you on and somehow hiding the very big rain cloud that’s on its way.
Come to think of it, New Zealand is quite green too…
Ireland looks awesome – I’d love to go and see it with mine own eyes. How did you get on with understanding the locals? Irish people have funny accents. Kiwis are the only people who know how to speak properly. 😉
My sister has just been to Scotland for a clan gathering. That looks awesome and wet too, not necessarily in that order. And THEY speak oddly as well. Funny how us Kiwis are the only ones to get it right.
I wish we could just ‘pop over’ to other countries. We have to fly for 8 hours or more just to get past Australia!
Keep on writing – I’m loving reading it. Pleeeease. 😀
Hahaha “Four Seasons in One Day”…sounds like the perfect song.
As for the Irish accent, most of the time I had no problem with it. But, once in a while, we’d meet a really local person– like, their family had been here for generations– who would be hard to understand. The tour guide I talk about in this post, actually, was really difficult to understand at first. I do admit that I never had that problem in New Zealand! 😉
Ha ha! See?! We’re the ones that speak properly. Actually, from what I can gather, our Scottish ancestors were Irish once. Many generations and miles later, we finally got speaking sorted. They must have chosen New Zealand in the end because the weather made them feel at home. 😀
I would love to go on such a hike again! Haha…you are not the only crazy one but it sounded like fun! Once you ignored the rain, the wet, the waiting and the cold…yeap, pretty sure it was a fun hike…hehe…:)
Right? I think we all had fun on the hike. But, honestly, I’d rather do it again in sunnier weather!
Haha, definitely! Easier to take photos too..haha..:)
You have a good, solid, positive attitude. You know, thinking back – I believe your attitude has improved since you first began blogging. I mean it was never dour or poor, but you have come a long way. Congrats!