Day 1: Galway
As we drove from Dublin Airport to Galway, I couldn’t help but think Ireland looked a lot like Wisconsin. The colors, terrain, cows… It all seemed too familiar. I posted to Facebook, “If Ireland is like Wisconsin, is Irish cheese a thing?” Yes. Yes, it is.
Upon arrival in Galway, I walked down to the Barnacles Hostel, stored my bag, and crossed the street over to the food festival. After sampling shortbread, hummus, soup and balsamic vinegars, I crossed the bridge and followed the path along the water as the wind bit my face off.
I warmed up in the hostel and socialized in the lounge a bit before going to The Crane Bar for some Irish music. This place made all my Irish dreams come true. The bar had two levels. The music was upstairs and I believe it started at 21:30, if I recall correctly. When I arrived around 20:00, everyone was gathered downstairs putting back their first few pints. As we waited for the doors to open to the music hall upstairs, some young men would fearlessly sing of love or country. My heart nearly stopped as I listened to their power and passion. I never thought I would experience such reverence in a bar. Everyone was silent as they sang, something that is not always true when instrumentalists are playing.
The Crane Bar was my favorite venue for music that week. I think people really went there for the music. Other bars had music but the music was either not as traditional (which is what I was personally after) or the environment was more about the bar than the music. That’s fine. Just know what you’re looking for.
Day 2: Aran Islands – Inis Mor
You can book your tickets online in advance, but I booked my tickets the morning of in their office near the main square. The return coach fare was 7 euros. The return ferry journey was 25 euros. I had about 5 hours on Inis Mor. I chose to rent a bike right off the ferry. I think it was 10 euros. You pay a deposit that you get back when you return your bike.
I don’t think I had been on a bike since Seychelles a year before. My rear hurt all day… and for several days after. That said, it was the best way to explore the island. I took the low road on the way to Dun Aonghasa and the high road on the return to the port. I would have liked to see more of the island, but I feel satisfied with what I fit in the day. At the end of the day, I stopped at Joe Watty’s pub for fried goat cheese with a cranberry topping and a small salad. It. Was. Amazing.
I can’t tell you how many times I stopped to take pictures. I’d laugh and say, “This is stupid beautiful.” Very few pictures, if any, captured the beauty of Inis Mor. There is a lookout point to observe a seal colony. Sadly, I didn’t have enough zoom on my lens to catch a decent video, but the water was lovely and the seals were playful.
The entire island is covered in stone fences.
There is a stunning white beach about halfway to the fort.
Finally, Dun Aonghasa sits on cliffs that resemble the Cliffs of Moher but with far fewer tourists. The view is stunning, as was watching the rain approach. This would have been a great spot to have a drone camera.
After I walked down (you can’t take a bike up to the fort), I treated myself to rhubarb frozen custard. It was perfection.
When I returned to Galway, I stopped at Teffes to catch more live music. One of the musicians was in the group I had seen the night before. Another was quite the flirt. One young woman wanted a picture with him. A picture led to a dance and many fat kisses on her cheeks. She obviously thought it was funny at first, and it entertaining for the rest of us, but she didn’t seem to know when to walk away.
A young man joined the ensemble a bit later. Significantly younger. Maybe younger than me? He had an Irish hand drum that he played like a talking drum with multiple pitches. He was very skilled and it added a flavor to the music I hadn’t expected. It sounded like in Indian drum, so I was sure to ask him if it was really Irish.
Day 3: Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
I was really blessed with great weather the majority of the week, but I had PERFECT weather the day I went to the Cliffs of Moher. I went on the tour with Galway Tour Company. I believe it was 25 or 30 euros.
On the way to the Cliffs we stopped at Dunguaire Castle, a charming setting in a bay. Next, we drove into The Burren, a national park with a limestone landscape. Honestly, this was the part of the tour I wish we had stopped at more places for pictures. As you approach The Burren you see how massive the territory is, which you can’t even begin to capture from a bus window. In The Burren we made one quick stop at the Poulnabrone Tomb which housed bones from 5,800 years ago.
Our last stop before lunch was at Kilfenora Cathedral to see the the Celtic Crosses. We were there for about half an hour. I would have preferred to spend that time in The Burren, but that’s part of going with a tour.
Lunch was in Doolin. It is the last little village before The Cliffs, so it was quite busy, but managed well and I’m sure we were fed better and faster than we would have been at The Cliffs.
We had two hours and it wasn’t enough. I could have easily spent three of four there, especially in such glorious weather.
As tired as you may be from the day, be sure to stay awake during the drive back to Galway. If you sit on the left side of the bus you’ll have the view of the water. If you sit on the right side you’ll have the view of The Burren.
Next stop, Killarney.