Today was one of our most exciting adventures yet. We finally explored outside the city, taking trips to the epic Cliffs of Moher and the Irish city of Galway. The weather couldn’t have been better, either, and we have been extremely lucky all week considering the stigma around Ireland’s normally rainy weather (knock on wood). After waking up at 5:45 this morning for the nearly 3 hour drive out to the Cliffs and quickly falling back asleep on the bus, we all received a wake up call from our guide when we arrived at a rest area. Unbeknownst to us, this happened to be the Barack Obama Visitor Center and rest area, a fact with which we figured out when were met by a giant mural painted on the walls after entering through the doors. As it turns out, Obama has Irish heritage in his ancestry from the town of Moneygall. This brought a lot of attention to the small town, bringing tourists from all over the world to see the town in which a U.S. president’s ancestors once resided. While this boost in tourism can bring a great increase in revenue as people from all over the world put money into the economy at restaurants and gift shops, it can also drive business away. The visitor center was pulling tourists away from the humble little shops of the main street of Moneygall, stealing not only their customers but some of the main tourist attractions that reside in the town. To be fair, our tour stopping there also contributed to the loss of money for the local businesses.
When we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, we were greeted by the Atlantic Ocean clashing into cliffs that could reach up to 700 meters tall. It was an awesome sight to behold, and I wouldn’t mind spending some more time there if I ever were to return to Ireland. It was unfortunate that our time was only limited to two hours, but we had to move onto Galway, where the streets were packed with tourists and locals alike enjoying the nice weather. We got to explore the shops and local markets within the city, and it felt like a traditional Irish city in comparison to Dublin’s sprawling modern technology businesses. If I had to make a sales pitch to encourage people to come and visit Ireland, I would focus on promoting the excellent views and culture that Ireland provides. Being a smaller island country, it offers tourists such a wide variety of sights from the cliffs to sprawling cities like Dublin that someone would never run out of things to do or see no matter how long their visit lasts. The country also offers a unique mix of both historic and modern culture that comes to make someone visiting completely immersed within it almost immediately. It is a great country to explore and discover.
Despite the effects of COVID-19 on tourism, the amount of people at both of these locations was shocking, and all 3 tour buses running from the same company were completely filled. I believe that this trend will die down, as it exists in a bubble right now due to the lack of travel people experienced over the last few years, but for now, countries all over the world get to experience a boost from a source of revenue that was completely lost due to the pandemic.
I am super excited to see even more of the countryside and the mountains in our explorations to Wicklow and Kilkenny tomorrow. This country continues to surprise me.