If you have been reading my website at endlessroaming.com you would be aware that I have been blogging about previous adventures across the USA, specifically 2012. Ill also write further about other experiences in the USA and other countries. I am currently in Portland Oregon at the moment and thought Id take a little time to write about my Roam about Ireland about 1 month ago, I didn’t get across a lot of the country but really enjoyed where I did travel so read on.
Id been spending a while now in Chester Northern England, the friends I was staying with insisted as being close to Ireland that a trip there was a must do. I visited Dublin 15 years ago never had the urge to go back for a visit, there was no particular reason for this other than it never really occurred to me, so after a brief discussion the following day we were on our way by train to Dublin. The train took a few hours to arrive at the Port of Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales. The weather was nice and warm (the start of the UK Heatwave), the train track scooting along the scenic northern coast of Wales with plenty of beaches, villages, mountains and castles that could be seen on the way.
We arrived at the ferry terminal and were loaded on by a bus, the journey was about 4 hours or so and much like the train the weather was fantastic, something else was a large of amount of Irish Travelers on the ferry drinking what appeared to me to be an excessive amount of beers, most of the passengers had vehicles on the ferry so I suspect there was possibly some drink driving involved. My friend (who is Irish but not a Traveler) reliably informed me that these people aren’t the most sociable group and best to be avoided so we we spent out time between the restaurant area and being on deck for the journey.
For the first night my friends had arranged a hotel in Dalkey, an outer laying suburb of Dublin where the accommodation was relatively cheap compared to Dublin’s city centre. Unfortunately a band by the name of Westlife was playing in the city centre and whatever accommodation was actually available was excessively expensive due to the“Boy Band” playing a concert. I wasn’t particularly concerned about so after check in we headed to a bar for a pint of Guinness, a terrible tasting black syrupy substance with the texture of thickened soup. The suburb of Dalkey is really beautiful and I got a sense the area is quite affluent as the majority of houses are quite large, Dalkey is also on the coast and contains many historical buildings including pubs. After a seven-hour journey by train, ferry and public transport there was no tourism to be had so we went to a pub, had a delicious dinner, drank with the very friendly locals. There seemed to be very few tourists ad I was reliably informed that Edge from the band U2 lives in town and is quite often around these bars. It was a great night and I found myself warming up to Ireland rather quickly.
The next morning I was regretting Ireland due to a throbbing hangover, I parted way with my friends who were heading a different direction and was quickly on another train ride to the town / county of Galway on the Irish west coast. Galway is regarded as one of Ireland’s most beautiful cities and is a major tourist attraction, particularly for people from the USA who were there in plenty of numbers. The city itself has a population of around 80,000, not including tourists, and there are plenty of interesting attractions to look at including the old city which is partly surrounded by historical castle walls. There is the Long Walk along the River Corrib with plenty of small bridges and photo opportunities running through the centre of town onto the multi coloured houses on the bank of Galway Bay. The walk continues around the bay to the beach suburb of Salthill. It was another pleasant day and people were jumping off a diving platform into the bay and having a swim. The walk then continues onto the Irish west coast and the seas seemingly endless expanse.
As with Dublin a major past time is drinking beer and Galway has plenty of places to do it. Indeed almost the entire historical downtown centre is made up of either tourist shops or bars. I met some really good people there and much like Dublin everyone was very friendly. The USA women’s football team (or soccer) managed to win the World Cup, which excited the Americans, and generated some interest in town but not nearly as much as the Gaelic football which was being shown on the television plenty of bars. Gaelic football is not to dissimilar to my beloved game of Australian Rules football so I enjoyed watching this, drinking pints and discussing the finer aspects of which was the better sport, its categorically Australian Rules by the way which is a FACT. When not watching the lesser game of Gaelic football there was plenty of live Irish folk music being played to help with the ambience and Guinness of course. After three nights of walking about town, drinking and laughing it was time to leave, I had organised a car rental a car as I wanted to drive south.
I picked up my vehicle named of Skoda Fabia (even less impressive than it sounds) and headed south into County Clare, my destination the Cliffs of Moher. Id been told by several people that this was a must do so I arrived at the port and with several other tourists boarded a boat for the hour ride beneath the cliffs. Unfortunately, due to the size of the boat we could not get to close to the cliffs themselves, the view was amazing though. The cliffs stretch 14kms in distance and at its highest point stands at 120 metres, there are also jagged rock formations standing in the water just off the cliffs and its teaming with bird life. Its one of the most visited sites in Ireland and its easy to see why (see images), there is also a coastal walk stretching 18kms across the top of the cliffs but as I had a rental car I wanted to cover a fair distance during the day.
The drive along the Irish coast is almost exclusively single lane traffic and it was somewhat of a frustrating experience. Drivers were going at slow speeds and displayed an unwillingness to overtake each other, drivers also put on turn signals and then did not turn for no apparent reason except to seemingly annoy me. This slow frustrating drive eventually reaching the aptly named Shannon ferry which crosses the River Shannon. The ferry was pleasant and saved me a lot of time as the alternative was to continue to drive east to the city of Limerick and then head west again to County Kerry my destination. Upon reaching the other side I continued my journey the countryside progressively changing from flat and forest to mountains.
On the way I spotted a turn off sign for Stradbally Beach and went to check that out, it was another warm sunny Irish day (not typical Irish weather) so I parked for a few hours and went for a swim and even managed a little sunburn. I finished and headed over the Connor Pass, a mountain range with jagged cliffs, a thin windy road and plenty of picturesque photo opportunities of varying shades of green grass valleys and lakes below. This must be what the 40 different shades of green message is all about, after all it is the Emerald Isle.
I arrived in Dingle for the evening, checked into my hostel and then walked around town. Dingle is a small port village, very touristy with plenty of yachts moored in the harbour. As everywhere else Id been it was surrounded by greenery, quaint buildings and a lot of bars. I headed to a bar that a friend recommended to me, had a delicious meal and some locally brewed beer and then hit up a few more bars. It was a fairly quiet evening so I managed to get a reasonably decent night’s sleep.
The following morning I was up early as I didn’t want to experience Irish traffic and headed along the Dingle Peninsula Loop which I could drive quite fast even in a Skoda Fabia. The Loop is around 50km in distance and there was fog in the air, I could barely view the Irish Islands to the west of the mainland. I was able to drive down onto a beach and it was all quite eerie and lonely at 6am almost ghostly, all very beautiful.
It was then onto the town of Killarney to have a look at another cathedral and then drive to a few of the sites within the area. Being typical with Ireland the town was historical with lots of pretty buildings, bars and greenery. It looked like a lot of fun but as this was my last night and I was flying out of Shannon airport in the north I didn’t get to take advantage of the nightlife. Instead I settled for some tourism, the first stop was Ross Castle which is nestled on a lake in the nearby national park, entry was free and it was very picturesque as I’d now come to expect. I then headed to Muckross Abbey, built in 1448 it had been abandoned a long time ago and included an ancient cemetery. I particularly enjoyed waking inside the abbey and observing an ancient tree that was growing within with four surrounding walls, it looked amazing. Last but not least is the adjoining Muckross House a few kilometres away, the gardens surround the outside were very Irish and the house a mansion, again very beautiful. After finish up I then headed towards the city of Shannon for the evening, nothing particular to report except for a rather lengthy traffic jam but by now Id learnt to let my road rage go.
I’m very happy that I spent 6 nights in Ireland, it was not initially one of my destinations on this world trip and now that I have spent a little time there I intend to head back one day. From the little I’d experienced I now have a taste for it and there is so much more to see. The frustration driving (and expense) did not detract from the amount of fun Ive experienced, whether it’s the Irish scenery, the friendly people, the history and of course the drinking. I suspect if you have visited Ireland then there is nothing original in what I am saying but if you haven’t and you want a good laugh then I suggest book a flight now, you cant go wrong.
If your a loyal reader you know my blogging has been slowing down as I have one month left now on my Roam in 2019. Currently I am in the USA so am planning to make the most of my time while here. Ill be posting some pictures in future updates and will have plenty of time to continue the blog when I return to Australia where I will be staying for a while anyway. Any feedback always welcome….. Sláinte (cheers)