There are several ways to walk from Doolin to Fanore on the Wild Atlantic Way. I think we picked the longest, toughest, wettest, and most rewarding.
Or maybe it picked us.
Our walk takes us up near the top of Slieve Elva – the highest point in the Burren – with misty views, from the Cliffs of Moher to the ghostly Aran Islands to Galway Bay and the vaguest wisp of Connemara beyond.
We’re In the Rock Shop Tea Room, well south of the Cliffs of Moher, an ironic place to begin a five-day hike around the rock-strewn Burren Way. Buying stones to add weight to our backpacks has no appeal but tea and scones do. And, I won’t kid you, it is awfully cold outside.
No need to rush into this thing.
Besides, my stomach needs to settle after riding the 350 Eireann bus along sinuous, snaky, undulating, rolling lanes for two and a half hours – essentially doing in reverse what we will attempt over the next five days.
At our table, we face the Atlantic and Hag’s Head Point as we sip coffee, tea, and scones. Sooner or later, we’ll have to step out the door and step onto the trail.
A walking vacation in Ireland was supposed to be a birthday present from Rose Alcantara to me a couple of years ago. We both thought that the idea of a 70-year-old man walking around the Emerald Isle was perfectly sound and a touch romantic.
You know: a shaggy old gent dressed in tweeds, canvas spats, a carved walking stick, one of those adorable wool caps the sheepherders wear, a small daypack with wine, cheese, and brown bread. Maybe a pipe.
I envisioned gentle green-carpeted trails beside burbling brooks from which I could snag a trout on a fly rod for dinner back at the lodge. There would be castle ruins, steaming beef stew, leprechauns, sheep a plenty, and fey red-headed colleens waving from windows as I walked through quaint and ancient hamlets.
You know what happened. Because it happened to you as much as it happened to us. And it wasn’t banshees, laddie.