Doolin is what you get when a seaside village meets a barren limestone landscape. Rugged beauty – yes. Crazy caves – check. Quaint little cottages – yep.
Following the signs for the Wild Atlantic Way, as you crest the hill coming down into Doolin, your eye is immediately drawn to an old 16th-century tower house called Doonagore Castle that sits overlooking the landscape. It was restored in the 1970’s by a private developer and is presently a private property, so it can only be admired from the road.
The homes in Doolin are some of the brightest around, many sporting thatched roofs.
You’re now in the area of County Clare that comprises the northern end of the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk. From here you can hike to Liscannor via the Cliffs of Moher if you are up for it. Beautiful Buren landscapes are visible to those who take this path by foot. No vehicles allowed. Total walk is 20 km. It’s 8 km from here just to the Cliffs of Moher.
Want to see the largest stalactite in the northern hemisphere? It’s hanging out in Doolin Cave (Pol An Ionain) and can be seen on a guided tour below ground. If you are uncomfortable climbing 120 stairs or bending over – you might want to stay topside and enjoy a cup of tea in their dining area.
You’ll don a construction workers hardhat for the tour below ground, as the ceiling clearance is constantly changing. Lucky thing, because I bashed my head into the rock ceiling on five separate occasions.
That’s just me though – nobody else did – not even once. I just have a thing about not looking above the brim of my cap – hence I’m beating my brains in everywhere there is a low hanging anything. Luckily, the hard hat did the job and I came out unscathed.
That said, it’s worth the trip to see this monster stalactite. Hard to believe this 23 foot tall, chandelier-like object was formed drop-by-drop by water leaking from the ceiling of this cave.
Further into the cave you’ll find mini stalactites and an underground river flowing through the cave.
Up top, a farmland nature trail will appeal the youngsters and one admittance covers both the cave and the trail.
Book your tickets on-line to save 20% http://www.doolincave.ie Tours go out on the hour or half-hour depending on the season. Bring a coat – it’s always cool down there.
I just missed a tour, so I went back out to my Bunk Camper and hung out there for 45 minutes, having a snack and plotting the rest of the day’s activities. That’s one of the advantages of a campervan, you’ve got comfortable seating, places to spread out your maps and tourbooks, and a hopefully a couple cold ones in the refrigerator.
If the weather turns iffy, it’s also a great place to wait out the storms. People get claustrophobic sitting in cars in the rain I’ve noticed. There’s none of that feeling in a campervan because you can get up, move around, use the restroom and even lay down and take a nap.
While you’re still in Doolin, head down to the water’s edge and catch a ferry to the Aran Islands. That’s where we are off to next.
Next article in the Wild Atlantic Way series: Aran Islands
Doug Bardwell, based in Cleveland, OH, writes about travel destinations, photography and tech topics across the country and around the world at DougBardwell.com. Feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions for future stories. To get his stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed or the "Subscribe" button above or follow him on Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. To read Doug’s disclosure notice, click here. For travel ideas in Cleveland and around the world, check his Calendar of Events. To see his travel photo collection, see BardwellPhotography.com.