Continuing on from the last Travel blog…
From Wales we took a ferry to Dublin and a long train ride across Ireland to the coastal city of Galway. We arrived later in the afternoon and upon inquiry understood our flat was close by. The Irish are fond of phrases like “it’s just down around the corner and on a bit”, but many of the street signs are hard to find or non-existent. We did find our flat after walking in circles with our luggage from the train station. Somehow it all seemed quite charming, though, must be those lovely Irish accents and fresh air. Later the same day we were greeted with our first rainbow, a foreshadowing of more to come on this trip.
We stayed in Galway for a week, finding it to be a lively city with many street performers, pubs with traditional music and dancing and friendly folk always up for a chat.
My girlfriends and I love to keep busy when we’re away. We always want to see as much as possible. So from Galway we took several bus tours, the first to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The tour started along Galway Bay, with a stop to see Dunguaire Castle and the 5,800 year old Poulnabrone Dolmen (ancient burial site)
Next stop was the cute little village of Doolin for lunch and the quickest shopping on record. This adorable little pink shop is an example of an Irish thatched cottage, an art that does still exist, but is slowly being lost. The pattern along the roof line, like a signature, is indicative of the thatcher, being a pattern that is uniquely his own. This area is also famous for its Aran Island sweaters. Gorgeous, brightly coloured knitted confections of beautiful cabled knit patterns. Several of these came home with me. (Any trip to Ireland requires a 1/2 filled suitcase to make room for these beauties)
The main attraction of this tour was the 200-metre high, 8kms long Cliffs of Moher. They were spectacular, affording stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Aran Islands. We stayed for a while to soak up the natural beauty of the Cliffs, walking and climbing in both directions.
Stops on the way back to Galway were in a vast area known as The Burren, home to 75% of Ireland’s native flora. The landscape is so rocky here it seems almost lunar-like.
The next tour we took was on to Lough Nafooey to see the stark beauty of the hidden valley of Connemara.
Along the way it was common to see abandoned stone cottages, most roofless, all leftover from the potato famine. This one was unusual in that it still had a roof. Stone fences, sheep and rolling green pastures were other common sights.
The main destination of this tour was the romantic site of Kylemore Abbey. It was built by a wealthy businessman, Mitchell Henry, in the 18th Century, out of love for his wife. An enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. Along with the Abbey, there is a monastery, woodland and lake shore walks and a beautiful Victorian-style, walled garden.
But of all the amazing tours we took, my favourite was the largest of the Aran islands (of the famous sweaters) called, Inis Mor. Specifically, an amazing Iron Age fort perched on the top of the highest hill; Dun Aonghasa. You could walk right to the very edge of the 800 ft drop to the Atlantic, and breathe in the history of this ancient place.
There are so many magical, Irish adventures to be had here. There is indeed a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow –
It’s the beautiful countryside and friendly people of Ireland.