Finding myself with a spare week but no spare friends I set out to explore the west coast of Ireland and having never really adventured for more than a day on my own, thought it would be a good challenge to go it alone. My plan was to walk along the coast, wild camping as I went so I could hike for multiple days. Neither of these things were new to me but I’d never camped alone and I wanted to see if I could.
So I packed my sleeping bag and stove, the bivi and tarp I’d borrowed from friends and my trusty go pro and set off across the country in search of tall cliffs and dolphins. I started my Irish venture in Galway and stocked up on food, water, coffee and camping gas before hopping on a bus down to the Cliffs of Moher.
The cliffs are on the must see list to any tourist or traveller and they do not disappoint. Standing 200 meters above the ocean with a sheer and jagged drop to the battering waters below, they are fierce and mystical but buzzing with life in the shape of the thousands of sea birds which nest on the dark rock. After some time admiring this nature wonder and feeling my heart race when someone decided to take a selfie at the very edge, I continued on, along the coastal path and walked 8k to Doolin, the nearby harbour village. My pack was weighing heavy on my shoulders and I’d noticed it slow me down by the end of the walk.
At Doolin I found a pub to have dinner in and once I had left remembered I had forgotten to buy matches for my stove. Damn it! Luckily Doolin has a few pubs so as I walked through town I popped into another and a kind bar tender gave me a pack for free. I saw that as a good sign and continued into the now dusk evening. I knew I wanted to get down before it got dark and although it wasn’t late, the March daylight was drawing to a close. As the light was fading and the air cooled I couldn’t help but notice my mood change. As I walked along the country lane, the land started to turn quieter as it does when the night is drawing in. To some people this sort of stillness is peaceful but I didn’t feel at peace. I could feel the anxiety starting to simmer in my stomach as the light faded.
It was time for an internal pep talk. Today had been amazing. The sun had shone on the cliffs and I’d been blown away by the beauty of this wild coast, not once feeling scared or lonely, so why was now any different? It’s the same place whether it’s light or dark. But not in this mindset. I was scared, I was tired and I was running out of light. I needed to get off this, what seemed like, never ending road and away from the fields of livestock. I definitely didn’t want to share my bed with cows. As I continued to walk I was on edge and every noise was making me twitch. To add to this, I was getting annoyed at myself for being scared. It was perfectly safe out here but my mind was in a totally different place. So great, I’m 28 and I’m still afraid of the dark. Just get a grip.
But I couldn’t do it, I knew that if I had just one person with me I wouldn’t be freaking out like this, it was so frustrating but I couldn’t talk myself down. This wasn’t fun anymore. In the end I made the decision to turn around and walk the hour and a half back to Doolin in the now pitch black, still scared out of my wits, with this stupid heavy bag with all this stupid kit which I wasn’t brave enough to use. I felt defeated, and truly disappointed with myself. I was supposed to get to the edge of my fear and keep going, I was supposed to wake up in the beautiful wilderness with nothing but Atlantic coastline and fresh coffee. But I’d failed.
Things don’t always go to plan
The next morning I woke up to pouring rain on the hostel window and a low blanket of clouds, and was a little bit pleased I wasn’t in my bivi. I took on the day with a fresh head and walked the route I’d planned to take if I’d camped out. I even got a lift from the awesome hostel owner, to where I’d got to the night before, so I didn’t have to retrace my steps. I walked all day in the absolute lashing rain and loved it. I took myself to a beautiful empty beach and watched the waves crash on the sand. I felt so comfortable and happy to be by myself. It irritated me that the night could have such an effort on my mindset, to the point I couldn’t get past it but it was still daytime and I was going to make the most of this adventure even if it wasn’t the one I had planned. I decided not to try camping out again on this trip and just enjoyed the rest of the week exploring the coast and staying in hostels. I had to let myself off for not overcoming the challenge I’d set and accept that I wasn’t ready for it. Maybe I will be at some point or maybe I’ll just leave wild camping to when I have company.