I escaped New England’s sticky, humid summer for three trade-off months exploring Ireland. As part of a student tour group, we had a local guide, bus and bus driver (a capsule of vast knowledge with a James Bond-esque edge), and we toured the rugged corners of Ireland and its beauty.
The Cliffs of Moher billow an astounding 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, serving as a rough, standstill break for the waves that splash its base. Crashing, peaceful bubbling, and crashing again, the waves roll in and out of the cliffs’ rocky bottom, howling to match the noise of the wind. There’s a mist all around, and it serves a question: is it a light rain or the backlash of the crashing waves? It’s cooling. It’s romantic. It’s a calming that juxtaposes the rambunctiousness of the connection of sea and land, a deadly rocking cradle for any foolhardy tourists clicking photos too close to the cliffs’ ravenous gullet.
The cliffs were a situation for the wildly loved film The Princess Bride, dubbed “The Cliffs of Insanity” for all of the films fantastical purposes. Rightfully cast, the cliffs do trigger a sense of madness; a curiosity and an urge that are difficult to suppress if you’re not in total control.
The tour guide did her part to warn us of the strong, pulling waters. With the right gust of wind, slip of a step or pull of a tide, anyone can be taken for nothing into the unforgiving County Clare coast. After her matter-of-fact cautionary advice, highlighting The Cliffs’ tragedies in percentage, the venturesome leader within her came out: “the best sites are by the edges, but please mind your step!” No one visits the breathtaking overhang without the intent to view its limits. No traveler heeds the warning of a roped off, heavily trafficked path leading towards the better part of the rock-face splendor. “DANGER. Hazard Area” and “Do Not Enter;” it all meant very little as I joined the parade of eager cliff-goers.
She watched us edge, peer and gaze in awe with a longing face. Assuming she had had her fair share of ledge shimmying, I thought nothing of it. When a fellow traveler nagged for a photographer she quickly took her name out of the drawing: “I have impulsive vertigo,” she said. Too close to the edge and the hasty adventurer in her may jump, or so she claimed. After hearing of her fate-defying tendencies, I mulled it over and came to the conclusion that she was in fact a true adventurer, because we all choose our own adventures, our own feats.
Too much risk for her may be just enough for me. Too much height for me may be a small step for her. It’s relative, but no matter the caliber, it’s thrilling.
Rolling up and down, the cliffs stretch for five miles, jutting in and jutting out in a winding blur of green land meets blue water. How can such a range of beauty be compressed into one eyeshot, almost too intense for the senses to decipher? It’s Ireland; and it’s beautiful.