Hexagonal basalt columns rise up from Ireland’s dark, fertile earth and are battered by ten foot waves from a passing storm. The sun then falls from the clouds and illuminates this magical place, before disappearing into the horizon.
We drove the whole day in what amounted to a crossing of the entirety of the Emerald Isle. That morning we ate a rushed English Breakfast in the beautiful city of Galway and darted north. Ireland stayed true to form and greeted us with heavy air that periodically wept across our windshield leaving the narrow winding roads a dangerous gamble with the added challenge of maintaining on the opposite side.
If you are ever in Ireland, you must absolutely stop in the city of Killybegs. You can’t miss it because your nose will tell you many miles away that you are getting close. It is a fishing village, the largest fishing port in the country in fact, and it has the freshest fish and chips you can get anywhere in the world. The cost is to endure the smell of boats oiled well over the years with millions of pounds of fish that pour off their decks; but it is worth it.
We passed straight through on account that we had just eaten breakfast and because we would be returning after our first stop. It was the Slieve League Cliffs we were after, some of the tallest cliffs in all of Europe. It is surprising that they can be found here, on such a small wedge of land; as if the entire island was turning on its side to reveal its roots from beneath the water. The way to reach them is to drive a narrow path that winds its way like a snake between sparse houses then spits you out onto a platform that appears more a ramp into thin air. The trail known as One Man’s Path starts here and slices the tops of the mountains that rise almost 2,000 feet over the water directly beneath. If it’s windy, don’t attempt it.
Cascading down from this edge of the world, we were pounded by rain but remained undeterred from reaching a true fairy tale destination. As we approached, the sun teased us with the appearance of a rainbow before hiding behind dense menacing clouds. The evening was approaching and the greyness of the day had withered the colors of this beautiful country. We discussed simply diverting to Dublin as the rain pounded the windshield, but when would be the next time we would be here?
Our conversation took place on an overlook with a monster thrashing in the sea beneath. The storm had brought massive waves and we became mesmerized at the size from such a great distance. They rolled in silently and burst into white, eclipsing houses on the banks behind them. This truly spectacular sight encouraged us and we were quickly splashing our way towards our destination again.
The parking lot was empty and we exchanged one last look as the rain poured over us, but we were too close. We slid down the slippery steps and emerged at the geometric manifestation resulting from a delicate balance of forces that gave rise to it. We were at the Giant’s Causeway, massive hexagonal basalt columns that rose out of the water and buried deep into the cliffs. And we were not prepared for what was about to happen.
The grey of the day had piqued our senses to any sort of color, explaining the burst of life with just a rainbow. And now, as we stood at the edge of an impossible rock formation, the sun made its appearance. The storm over our heads was thick but thinned in the distance, and at the horizon where it terminated in a shelf, the sun found its way beneath the clouds. It is impossible to express the vivid colors we watched erupt in this moment, and we could only stand still in complete awe. The rain had stopped now and the 10 foot waves pounded the rock as the entire world came to life in the most fantastic way.
We truly can’t say whether this experience was real or not thinking back on it now, but the photos remain. It was the most spectacular sunset to date and that moment was worth defying every drop that fell in an effort to stop us from attending. It was beautiful, it was more than beautiful and I feel the hair on the back of my neck give a standing ovation every time I revisit the memory.