When you arrive in Doolin, there is one thing you will not be able to ignore: the wind. On the western coast of Ireland, “windy” isn’t a mere adjective used to describe the weather or that helps you fly a kite. In this part of the world the wind is most definitely a noun, and a noun with an opinion and a presence that rarely takes a backseat. The Wind is everywhere. From the ribbons of field grass cutting across the hillside to the dramatic cliffs that dive into an angry sea, where foam collects then scatters with the surge; it is as if the landscape itself were created with the sole purpose of exposing the power and tenacity of the wind.
Now imagine you’re driving through this seaside village in a tiny rental car, stick shift, naturally, on the LEFT side of the road. You’ll later learn that traditional Irish music enthusiasts from all around Europe are huddled in nearby pubs, and that just down the coast lie the striking Cliffs of Moher. But for now your focus lies just a few feet in front of your car, as it bounces along between cow pasture and stacked-stone walls. You veer to the right then begin a steep incline, following directions you hope will bring you to your Bed and Breakfast. That’s when you notice the castle. A simple tower overlooking the valley below, taking a beating from the pummeling rain like it has for ages. As you approach at your slow, trying-to-see-between-the-wiper-blades pace, you notice a peculiar sight: bright yellow ponchos, pulled taught and billowing like inflatable Christmas yard statues atop a roadside fence. Rick Steves, the famous travel writer, is known well in this region for sending tourists on long walking tours and hikes. No doubt this is what we witnessed that day: a couple of past-middle-aged travel enthusiasts determined to complete the three mile hike along the cliffs and see the Doonagore Castle, even if it meant scaling a thin fence on the side of a windy road, taking turns holding on to each other to keep from blowing off the island like a kite.