Western Ireland

For Britts Birthday this year we wanted to do something fun that reminded us of our life back in the states. As I had been to Ireland a few times for work without her, I knew it would fit the bill. She also has been interested in the view of the Cliffs of Moher in western Ireland. So that’s what I decided to do for her BDAY, to take her to enjoy the rolling green hills of Ireland one long drive at a time.

Ireland is one of those places that is in my opinion very unspoiled; no matter how many tourists come through, its’ easy to find yourself away from the crowds and alone with your companion or in a small village with everyone speaking Gaelic.

Day 1:

We started our trip by flying from London to Shannon. The flight was only 45 minutes long and cost around 70 Pounds for each of us. Not bad for a weekend away. Once arrived we grabbed our bags and headed the rental car place. I know we have been in fast paced big cities for a long time when even Brittani starts to get antsy with the extended small talk of the Irish. They are incredible nice, and don’t mind slowing the line down to finish their thought.

I was determined to learn to drive stick, and to get comfortable driving on the left side of the road, so why not learn them both at once, right?… Poor Brittani’s knuckles were white for most of the 1 hour drive from Shannon to the B&B we stayed on next to the cliffs. I think I burned out at every stop sign and cursed every rotary as I reminded myself which way was the “right way”.

 

The next day we were up early enjoying our breakfast and drove the 2 minutes up the road to the cliffs. After accidentally burning out after paying the toll and confusing the crap out of the parking attendant we were parking and on our way. As you approach the cliffs all you can see are rolling green hills and a gift-shop built into the side of the hill. As soon as you reach the top of the hill you can see why some people consider it to be one of the most breathtaking views they have ever seen.

The Cliffs drop hundreds of feet straight down into the Atlantic. The green grass grows right up to the edge of the cliffs and there is a small path that you can follow a few feet from the edge. I was pretty surprised how easy it would be to fall off, there is no fence or anything. It’s left up to you, not to fall of the cliff, which seems reasonable. Outside of the views, there isn’t much there. A cow pasture and a few old stone towers that looked like small catholic churches. We spent 2 hours walking a long the cliffs and snapping pictures while we enjoyed the amazing view. It’s one of those places where you simply wont forget what it looks and sounds like, I can close my eyes even now and imagine the crashing waves and the surprisingly strong ocean wind.

We decided to head out and get on the road for a drive up to Galway where we would spend the next few days. I was starting to get the hang of driving so the trip up was much smoother. We drove along the cost and stopped a few times to check out some small villages. We made one stop on the beach and again in a little town called Doolin for lunch.

As we got closer to Galway we started seeing a similar flag on every house, and on every car, there were also a few festivals with the same maroon and white flag littered all over the place. A quick Google revealed that it was the flag of Galway, and people were celebrating the fact that Galway was in the Hurling final the following day. Hurling is a HUGE deal in Ireland, and we made a note to watch the game.

The rest of our day composed of us checking into our Galway B&B, doing some quick exploring of the city enter and grabbing a nice dinner before heading to bed.

Day 2 – 3

Galway has been rated in a few travel magazines as having the friendliest people in the world. I would certainly say that’s possible as everyone we spoke with was very welcoming. Galway is a small city that’s loaded with restaurants and things to do. Well maybe not loads of things to do, but there are a few sights to see, some really nice drives to take, and as I said, PLENTY of places to have a beer and something to eat. As it had recently been Britt and my 2 year anniversary we decided we would get ourselves some cladough rings. We kept things authentic and went to T.Dillon & Sons where the original rings were made. You can see these rings on loads of Irish men and women in Boston as it’s a symbol in Irish culture of Loyalty, Love & Friendship. We chose to go with the silver ones and were soon on our way with a new symbol of our marriage and our travels.

As we had big plans to become Galway Hurling fans for a day, we decided to a take a road trip early so that we could return to Galway in time for the game. So we chose to take the drive north to Kylemore Abbey. Currently used as a home for nuns it was a one point in the estate of a very wealthy family, and a boarding school for children after that. It’s one of the most beautiful holms I’ve seen, I even considered being a Nun for a while on the drive back in the hopes I could live there. We snapped some pictures, enjoyed the view and headed back home. I think the drive home was just as enjoyable as the visit itself. It had been a long time since we have had a chance to take a road-trip and it’s something the I truly missed doing. We bought ourselves some wool hats and blasted some irish music on our journey back to Galway.

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The one thing I always think about when I think of Ireland is how green it is. It is SO GREEN. On all of our drives during our stay, there are more shades of green than your eyes have ever taking in at once. The hills are rolling with one shade of grass to another. Taking the time to take some drives and have a car was something I would HIGHLY recommend. It allows you to escape the crowds and enjoy the tranquility of Irelands colors and small towns were the people are wonderful.

Hurling:

We made it back in time for the game and plopped ourselves down in a bar full of Galway fans. Hurling is a very cool sport because in Ireland it’s not professional. The players are not paid and you can only play for the county you are from. This leads to a very authentic feeling in the towns who are genuinely supporting their own. The Irish have loads of national pride as it is, so if you amp that up by about 10, you can imagine the atmosphere. Unfortunately Galway lost, but it was a good game, reminds me of a mixture of field hockey and lacrosse.

After the game, we snuck off to a seafood restaurant where we had an incredible dinner with the freshest seafood I have ever had in my life. It was incredible!

Day 4:

We woke up early to attend mass in an Irish cathedral which was beautiful. It was very impressive to me to see a building of that style and magnitude built as recently as the 1950’s. Most churches like that are hundreds of years old. After mass we packed up our car and headed across the bottom ½ of the country towards Cork. I had some work to do the next few days so I was lucky enough to convince Britt to stay with me. Another few hours in the car with rolling green hills, some traffic behind tractors and some incredible Irish scones later we were nearly in cork.

Before we dropped the car off, we decided we would try to see a castle, lucky for us Blarney Castle wasd the next exit ahead and we pulled in. Almost completely in ruins, it was still an amazing sight to see. We explored the grounds and took more pictures of the once great home. We climed to the top and were hung backwards over the edge to “kiss the blarney stone”. This is a bit of a tradition that even the likes of Winston Churchill has done for good luck!

 

After finishing up, we dropped the car off at the airport and settled into our hotel in Cork. Cork is very industrial and while it has some very nice places to eat, I don’t think it’s blogworthy and I wouldn’t suggest you travel there for a holiday. After a few days of work, we headed out together back to London with one of our favorite trips ever under our belt. The few things that I will always remember are:

  1. The breathtaking cliffs and the sound of the ocean there
  2. The peacefulness of the long country drives, and the green rolling hills
  3. The incredible seafood
  4. The friendliness of the people.
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