Hiking Up the Most Magnificent Cliff in Europe

The Most Magnificent Cliff in Europe: Sliabh Liag

Sliabh Liag, the Gaelic name for Slieve League, is one of the most remarkable destinations in the world. It lies on the Northwestern coast of Ireland and stands at 1,972 feet tall, making it over 1,000 feet taller than the famous Cliffs of Moher. The cliff formations are stunning and date back to the Ice Age.

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To reach Slieve League, you either have to fly into Donegal airport (which was rated one of the most scenic landing strips in the world) or traverse the country roads coming from Dublin. We took the latter route. One important thing to note: the roads are incredibly narrow in this part of Ireland. Drive carefully!

You may park at a sizable lot (known as car parks in Ireland) about a mile (1.5 km) from the top. You can also drive directly to the area pictured above, but then it wouldn’t be a hike at all! That’s one of the great things about Slieve League, it can be as easy or difficult as you make it.

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A Staple of Donegal County

Being part Irish myself, Slieve League has a special significance to my family. My great-uncle used to climb down the cliffs almost every day to pick seaweed from the bay. He would bring it back to the villages for a modest payment. This sort of hike would certainly lie on the more grueling side of the difficulty spectrum.

On a greater cultural scale, Slieve League is the site of incredible ancient wonders. It is home to ancient Neolithic tombs dating back to 4,000 BC. It holds monastic sites that are almost as old as Christianity itself (constructed circa 500 AD). There is also a lookout that was built by the Brits to guard the area during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).

Sliabh Liag is dubbed “Ireland’s Ultimate Sea Cliff Experience.” With its incredible natural beauty, rich history, and mystical atmosphere, I would say it certainly earns this title.

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What to Bring

We ventured to the clifftop in August, where it was a chilly 60°F (16°C). The wind was relentless, as is expected to be on one of the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe. Gusts get up to 60 mph. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as 30°F (-1°C), which feels much colder than it seems up there.

The point I’m getting at: bring a windbreaker. Here’s one we suggest by North Face (click on the picture for more info):

The only other item we’d suggest (besides a sh*t ton of chapstick) is a DSLR camera. With views like this, you won’t want to rely on your cell phone:

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Most photos in this article (including the cover photo) were photographed with my Nikon D7100, which is a great instrument for an amateur like myself. For more serious photographers, you may want to consider a Nikon D750 (check out photos from our previous article, Nine Stunning #NaturePorn Photos). Set the ISO for around 200.

Note: This article does use affiliate links. All commissions are used to support the site.

The Hike

If hiking past the main lookout point (“Eagle’s Nest“), you will come upon One Man’s Pass. The name is more daring than it sounds. One Man’s Pass is over a meter wide and pretty safe. It ventures out to the cliffside where you can see over the two sides. The complete hike from the parking lot may take approximately 2.5 hours.

You will have many views of Sligo Mountain, the Napoleonic lookout mentioned previously, wisps of mist that look like smoke, and scenes reminiscent of Game of Thrones. Every turn and angle is spectacular. You’ll want to grab Life by her delicate wrists and take her up on an eternal dance.

Looking down, take note of this rock formation:

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On the lower left is the chair and desk of an ancient giant. It is said that he would spend his days writing and working, watching the wave crests and keeping his feet bathed.

A Final Caution

Beware of this:

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This raven will not hesitate to pluck your eyes out. Also, we were fairly convinced that it has the ability to cast some gnarly Celtic curse upon your soul. If you see these things, stay away. Or feed it an ice cream cone. Because you can get ice cream up on Slieve League.

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Meditations at the Acropolis

The theme is preservation.

All around us on the Acropolis, individuals are working diligently to preserve their experiences. Photos, videos, the study of surroundings, saying to selves that they’ll remember the moment forever. Beyond the momentary effort to preserve the event, each person is seeking to preserve their bodies, live in good health, keep their souls polished like a silver ocean pearl. The self is important, and the ancient Greeks mention this.

As Socrates provides a discourse to his counterparts in Symposium, he speaks of the wisdom Diotima imparts to him.

“Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and beget children-this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and giving them the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But souls which are pregnant-for there certainly are men who are more creative in their souls than in their bodies conceive that which is proper for the soul to conceive or contain.”

Here, Diotima enlightens Socrates on the soul and its reproductive creativity. Our bodies procreate, as do our minds. A poet makes love to the essence of beauty, gives birth to his odes and elegies, and preserves his soul in this capacity.

What does this have to do with the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens?


“Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


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The Parthenon is a work of beauty and precision. It is considered the most important surviving site of Classical Greece. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his masterful poetic way, stated that “Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone.”

Everything I’ve been taught about mediation and wisdom from Eastern perspectives sharply contrast the sense of self-preservation discussed above. In Buddhism, all emphasis lies on the release of ego and self. “Liberation” is a term used amply, and self is used to refer to a kind of collective consciousness. Atman, the Sanskrit term used for soul in Hindu philosophy, refers not to the individual soul housed in a single body, but as a transcendental spirit beyond one’s own physiology.

Though this contradiction exists, I can’t help but feel a sense of inspiration bearing from both viewpoints.

During one flight from Phoenix to New York, I sat in silent contemplation with my head down for a great duration. I came to an interesting realization, a thought I had never really fully considered before. It was an idea that lies both in feeling and thought. It was the idea that many opposites and dualities in knowledge exist simultaneously, in a paradox we often reject. People often feel that they are right on an issue. If you’re pro-life, you believe in one end of a spectrum and spend the rest of your life confirming this belief. Or, you confirm another belief continually. We live in constant confirmation, and holding two opposite beliefs at the same time is a sort of rarity.

Of course, I’m not even close to being one of few who have realized this. Even Socrates himself constantly challenged and questioned his own positions to get closer to fundamental truths. But this idea is necessary for harmony, for seeing a world that is full of opposing beliefs, for connecting, for enjoying.

We preserve temples, ideas, and art. The Parthenon should certainly be protected for as long as we can hold on to it. We should also live in health to stay in health.

We also realize that theres is an end to all things, and that (quoting Led Zeppelin here) “all that lives is born to die.”

Hopefully all people experience this harmony of duality at some point in time. The realization that preservation doesn’t rival liberation/detachment, it complements it. It’s an essential thought, and certainly one to consider at a sublime place such as the Acropolis.

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Yachting in Greece

You wake up to the sound of cicadas as the sun rises. The morning glow begins to illuminate the hillside and you take off to the south of Athens. Fueled with coffee, you begin to anticipate the oceanic day ahead.

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Cruising the sea is one of the greatest ways to see Greece. Not only does it give you great panoramic views of the many coasts and islands, it’s friggin’ fun. Whether it’s a romantic getaway with your loved one or a big social partaking, you will appreciate the experience, and you will be better for it.

Of course, no Greece cruise is complete without the ouzo.

Another nice touch is wine from Lemnos. It’s pretty dry, robust, and flavorful.

A Greek yacht excursion obviously costs much, but valuates high. You get what you pay for, and you get a lot. Be sure to negotiate before chartering, ensure that the wine/beer/ouzo is unlimited, and make sure there’s shuttle service included. If you have everything you need, you’re bound to have some wild times. Take, for instance, front-flipping off the back plank:

Control Your Adventure

Yachting has a controllable level of adventure travel to it. You can lay back with the ouzo all day if you wanted to, and relax casually while you trail past the islands. You can get off the boat, swim to one of the secluded islands, and go cliff-jumping. Our group leaned toward the more daring excursion, and jumped 140 feet off the jagged rock edges. The captain wasn’t too thrilled, but I’m sure it formed unforgettable memories for some. The Wedding Therapist and I stayed in the middle of the adventure continuum. Though we ventured off the boat with a snorkel mask and dove off the plank, we left the cliff-jumping to others.

You don’t need much to be prepared for a Greek yacht ride. Here are some travel tips, however, to get the most out of your day trip:

    1. Take the Dramamine if you need it.

      This is pretty straightforward. The yacht ride can be a little rocky, so if you’re prone to motion sickness, I definitely suggest bringing the Dramamine for good measure. 

    2. Use trekking sandals, as much of the land in Greece is rocky.

If you’re venturing off the boat and onto the islands, consider hiking sandals. The land is rocky and full of rough foliage. For both men and women, I’ve heard many great things about KEEN sandals. They’re built to last, they’re comfortable, and are sure to protect the feet.

For women, you have this option:

And for the guys:

3. Take this immunity formula 3x/day beforehand to ensure good travel health.
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Airports, airplanes, hotels, buses, trains, hostels…what do these all have in common? They’re all full of people spreading their pathogens. You should absolutely be fortifying your immune system to reduce risk of getting sick on vacation. I use this and a multivitamin supplement.

4. Bring sunglasses that look good, but you aren’t attached to.

Chances are, your shades will be fine. However, I still wouldn’t take chances with expensive designer sunglasses. Here’s what I brought:

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I got those aviators (the “Desert” model) from SunglassWarehouse. They’re stylish, resistant to scratches, and only cost around $13. They’re even cheaper with code “SAVE15.”

5. Pack the sunscreen.

You’re on a boat in direct sunlight all day. Even if you don’t burn easily, have a little protection!

 

You’re going to be getting up early for this, so another suggestion is that you get plenty of rest the night before. A couple of more travel tips:

  1.  Try to power-nap as you adjust to the time difference/jet lag. Don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes during the day. If you want to be awake and alert for your excursions, try to get your body adjusting to the new rhythm.
  2. Use natural sleep aids to rest at night. I don’t like pharmaceutical sleep aids at all. I don’t even use melatonin. But a natural sleep formula lets your body settle into rest without putting you into an hours-long stupor. Natural herbs like passion flower and lemon balm are great for this, and are significant components of Desert Willow Botanicals’ Stress/Sleep formula. Passion flower is clinically implicated to calm the mind and assist with better sleep cycles (this article talks a bit about this).

Enjoy the ride

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You are the Earth’s audience. Every mark of beauty and every occurrence of joy is an invitation to your own personal bliss. This is why I feel excursions like this are worth it. It does require saving up your funds, but it’s a much better purchase than buying a brand new game system or Armani jeans. It does help, of course, when you have a large group to split the cost.

The service we used was Hellas Yachting. And (I can’t help myself here), it was “Hellas” good. The crew was fantastic, the food was fresh, and the ouzo was abounding. The chance to see Greece from the sea was amazing, and brought us up to “baller” status.

So, even if you can’t do an excursion like this, I hope some of the information and traveling tips were helpful. Whether you’re taking on a yacht cruise, just enjoying the beach, or sticking to the tour bus, here’s one final suggestion: enjoy the ride.

 

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Here Are 4 Travel/Adventure Books Worth Checking Out

I sometimes see books as a “hold-me-over,” a supplement to enjoy until I get to my next adventure.

Here’s a diverse list of four. One’s a novel, one’s a light reference, one’s a thrill guide, and the last is sort of an anthropological text.

All book purchases through this page go to supporting the site (each title links to the Amazon page). Your support also comes from booking hotel deals through the following link:

Hotels.com is a great way to find last minute deals if you need to get away. Check out the Vegas deals in particular.

The Reading List

On The Road

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk—real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

Way before “wanderlust” was a trending hashtag and blogging was a concept in anyone’s head, Jack Kerouac was exploring the continental United States and sharing his travels on paper. This novel expertly captures the beauty and vastness of two beautiful countries (U.S. and Mexico).

America was already settled in the 1950’s, but Kerouac’s unique lens and wild fervor was a brand new angle. In the novel, he meditates on adventure, appetite, the sanctity of human life, and the magnificence of jazz music. A truly beautiful memoir, this book is an essential work within the Beat Generation canon.

LonelyPlanet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures

“We live in fortunate times. The world is more accessible than ever before.”

This is a light, fun read. Some of the adventures are aspire-worthy, experiences to live and long for. Take, for example, #302: Mountain Biking in Chi Phat, Cambodia. The description mentions the “backdrop of mountains, waterfalls and, if you’re lucky, grazing elephants” that you’ll cycle past. Some “adventures” fall flat. I’m not really sure how remarkable paddle boarding in Wisconsin is. Nonetheless, the book is a perfect antidote to any sort of “traveler’s block” or stickiness you may have.

The World’s Most Dangerous Places

“And remember, the most dangerous thing in the world is still ignorance.”

Robert Pelton is a bad ass. He’s a writer and interviewer who has risked his life more times than you can comprehend. Pelton has spent times in places where journalists were being evacuated. This book explores the war-havoced depths of Chechnya, some of the notoriously gang-infested streets of Colombia, Uganda, North Korea, Sudan, and many more. The only common criticism of this book is some of its outdatedness.

Tibet

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“The people of Tibet, even today, can be best understood through an understanding of their past…”

In this revealing book by Thubten Jigme Norbu and Colin M. Turnbull, a vast history and fascinating culture is taught. The writers detail Tibetan history, religious beliefs, customs, food, and various subcultures.

Tibet used to be a grand enigma, a mystical land cutoff to most visitors. Tibetans, though generous in nature, were extremely averse to tourists and researchers. This book, published in 1970, provided ample insight into the beauty and simplicity of Tibetan life.

Norbu was the eldest brother of the current Dalai Lama. His pride in his culture and his personal transparency make for an enjoyable read. He mentions the secret rituals of Tantra and Bon practitioners, explains how Tibet was once full of fierce warriors, and tells of the complicated relationship between Tibet, the Mongols, and the Chinese.