Downpatrick Head is one of the reasons you must go down every road if you decide to drive the Wild Atlantic Way, there is no indication before you go down this road of the spectacle that awaits you when you get to the cliffs. When you come over the top of the hill, you can see a massive piece of land jutting out into the sea which looks like a giant hand from far away, I did take a picture but it is very difficult to capture with my iphone.
As you approach the cliffs the scenery and views of the beach are spectacular in themselves, again with waves crashing against the rocks at the base of the cliffs which curled around the mainland and beautiful imposing mountain scenery in the background. The beaches were golden with lots of rocky outcrops and jagged cliff edges.
The walk up to the top of the cliffs takes you over a blow hole which has been covered with a grid for safety reasons. Blow holes are formed by landward expanding sea caves that push upwards into vertical shafts; the land on top finally caves in and makes way for the blow hole which can be dangerous if you happen to be standing there at the time. During a storm sea water can be seen blasting from the top of the blowholes. There is a visitor area at the top of the cliffs with a fenced off blowhole.
It is obvious from the way the waves crash against the base of the cliffs constantly that more erosion is taking place, because, as we know nature is a constant moving entity that continually changes everything but some things at a slower pace than others. When you watch the waves rush into the caves underneath the cliffs and rush back out while more are rushing in causing huge high clashes, you can almost feel the changes taking place, which will become evident in the future, not our future, but that of successive generations.
The terrain at the top on the edge of the cliffs is very strange, it is a series of green mounds which look like grass but on closer inspection are clumps of alpine plants covered in a green moss like growth, but look very beautiful.
It is a very spiritual place, as well as being extremely scientific; from a scientific perspective there is a visitor area which has been erected which is part of the fenced area which is around the blow hole, in order to preserve spectator safety as well as enabling the public to see the spectacle. The place was built as a project called “The Spirit of Place” and it was designed and built by Catholic University of America design and architecture students during the summer of 2014.
There is a section under cover with information printed for everyone to read and there was a quote which I loved “Landscape is not an objective area of land or coastline or bounded space; it is perceived individually through the lens of personal memory and depends on the accepted beliefs through which it is interpreted. On Downpatrick Head there are a number of different landscapes with the best example being the contrasting landscape of science and landscape of the paranormal, each interpreting differently the identical phenomena which can be seen and experienced there”.
This quote exactly explains how you feel when you are there! It is an individual experience yet we humans revel in the natural phenomenon which exists at Downpatrick. It will blow you away!!
There is also a religious context, the name Downpatrick derived from the fact that St Patrick founded a church at this point, the remains of which can be seen at the cliff tops, there is also a stone cross and a holy well. It was once a popular pilgrim destination and mass is still held here every year at the end of July which is also called Garland Sunday.
There is a section where Eire 64 is written in stone visible from the air, which denotes Ireland’s neutral stance during World War II.
The magnificence for me exists in the lone stack named Dun Briste (the broken fort) the spectacular sea stack that foretells the fate of more sections of this cliff top as erosion inevitably takes its toll in the coming centuries.
There is a huge history to this place, spiritual or scientific, either way, it is a phenomenal experience. I am going back there before I leave Ireland, it really struck a chord with me, and I feel so at one with nature there. The feeling of the area is all around and I defy anyone to see this place and not feel moved by the spectacle that is Downpatrick Head!! I will return!!