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Published: December 27th 2017
Our last trip led us to Ireland, moreover to three main regions: Galway
and its surroundings (a lovely, very charming city), Inch Beach
on the Dingle Peninsula (great place to relax and calm down) and Dublin
(either you love it or you hate it...).
It all started on a crazy Friday in August. Directly after handing in my Bachelor Thesis at Friday, August 12, we went to the airport. Finally holidays after six stressful months of work 😊 Checking in, passing several security checks. I was a bit hungry so I bought salami sausages and ate one. What was not in my mind: can I take it to the airplane with me in my hand luggage without getting trouble when landing in Ireland? Nervous. But nothing happened, no checks or anything at the Irish airport. At around 8 pm we landed in Dublin but a bus trip was still ahead of us. So we grabbed our luggage, went outside, searched for the bus and finally found and reach it just before it departed. The bus actually was already moving when we ran there and waved our hands. Great luck for us, the bus driver stopped and let us in. Then,
three hours later and having passed the whole country from East to West, we arrived in Galway and walked another 1/2 hour in the rain to the Corrib Village at the National University of Ireland campus (NUI). Galway
, the city and its surrounding, really pleased us. The city has a lot to offer: the Galway Hooker
(as a sculpture and for real), historic buildings like Lynch Castle
or the Spanish Arc, the very nice and modern Galway City Museum
, the water front, the Docks, Hutton Island
, and the Claddagh Ring shops. A lot of street artists made a walk through the city a cultural highlight. Of course there are also natural sights like Lough Corrib
. Unfortunately my shoes did not survive the walk to the latter one, the soles of my shoes fell apart. Of course, Galway is a good point to start different trips to the surroundings. A lot of local or national travel agencies (e.g. Galway Tour Company) offer them, e.g. to Connemara National Park or to the Cliffs of Moher, at a quite descent price (~20 € to 25 € per trip). So we booked both trips. The first one was to the Cliffs of Moher,
and because it was the first day of great weather with a lot of sun, a lot of people decided to go there. Our bus driver, Tom, was actually supposed to pick up people at the hotels in the morning and bring them to the bus meeting place, and then have the day off. But, as there were so many people who wanted to visit the Cliffs, he had to change plans and transport all of us to the Cliffs. Unbelievable, how buses can even pass each other on that narrow Irish streets! We saw the fear in the car driver's eyes when they spotted a bus on the opposite lane :O But we also saw two cars which scratched each other because they somehow did not manage to pass each other. Some of the main tourist sides where on our way: first of all, of course, the very recommendable Wild Atlantic Way
(a street all along the west coast of Ireland), the fishermans village of Doolin
, the Cliffs of Moher
(up to 214m high! and from the edge the stone wall goes straight down), the Poulnabrone Dolmen
(5800 years old), the Burren
(moon like landscape), and Dunguarre Castle
the bus driver, told us some stories which I try to sum up in the following bullet points:
- Gaelic is (still) the main language in Connemara
- The sheeps are marked either according to their belonginess, when they were delivered a medicine, when they are pregnant... we heard several explanations why that happened.
- The Galway hooker is a traditional fishing boat, fishermen used it in the Galway bay.
- The phrase "Lynch justice" may origin from the Lynch family in Galway and the defenestration of Lynch's son which happened in Galway.
- The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring showing a heart with a crown and depending on the direction of the two the wearer is either looking for love, is in a relationenship or engaged or married.
- There are quite some Fairy Forts south of Galway, which were first used as huts/ houses to live in an are now partly overgrown by fairy trees/ brambles. Due to the superstition or belief in fairies landlords do not remove the brambles in order not to disturb the fairies.
- Another thought about Fairy Trees (e.g. next to the Killary Fjord):
if one has a bad phase in life, one can put a item at the tree and he/she will feel better (and the life will get better).
- A "holy ground" was the name for a pub or a brothel which were the first places some boatmen visited when they came home from a long journey.
- The phrase "raining cats and dogs" may origin from the farmers thatched roofs. These roofs were usually frequented by birds that picked out insects (and parts of the roof), so farmers used cats and dogs on the roofs to chase the birds away. After their job was done the cats/ dogs jumped from the roof onto the street and therefore it looked like it was "raining cats and dogs".
(No guarantee for correctness, I only cite the bus driver.)
We left Galway behind to proceed to the Dingle peninsula
, more specifically to Inch Beach
. Although all of the busses we took were late, we still managed to catch every single one. Getting to Dingle would have been much easier. The busses to Inch Beach went 2 times a day (Bus Eireann) and 3 times a day (Go
Coach) when we were there. On the peninsula, the Irish weather was totally in control of the situation: it was windy and there was really heavy rainfall during the first days. Bringing a rain poncho, gaiters and waterproofed shoes is not the worst idea. People were first laughing at us because we looked like dwarfs in our rain ponchos, but after the first heavy rain they changed their minds. Anyways, we visited the Killarney National Park
several times: Ross Castle, Library view, Governor's Rock and the Copper Mine Trail on Ross Island (as a combination really nice for a day walking trip in/from Killarney). Another way to get around and see a lot is going by bike, and their are quite some rent-a-bike stations all over Killarney. Our journey took us to the Muckrose Abbay, Dinis Cottage, and the Meeting of the Waters (very idyllic place). Be aware, that cycling around Muckrose Lake is only allowed in an anti-clockwise direction. Leaving Muckrose Lake behind we went 150 meters in altitude uphill to Ladies View (highly recommended)
to enjoy a stunning panorama of the surrounding mountains and lakes. On the way down, we passed the Torc Waterfall. Again (similar to our
kayaking trip in Sweden) we were back at the renting station at 5.45 pm, when the station closed at 6 pm. More than once we enjoyed a warming hot chocolate and a very chocolatey nougat tarte at Cafe Petit Delice on High Street in Killarney. On other days, we went westwards to the city of Dingle and the West Coast. We booked an island tour with the guide Denis, a very knowledgable, white bearded guy. Unfortunately, it was hard to take pictures due to the drizzle and mist. The tour took us along the Ring of Dingle
with the the Stonehouse restaurant - entirely built of stone, the beehive huts, several beaches, Slea Head, old cottages, Coumenoole Strand, Slea Head Beach, Star Wars 😉 and Ballyferriter, and the Gallarus Oratory. Here are some interesting facts:
- Black sheeps are only black during the first year of age, afterwards their color turns white.
- The pinkish covers of hay bales should raise awareness of breast cancer. They are a bit more expensive than the black covers, but the difference is donated for example to breast cancer research.
- To see the Gallarus Oratory, visitors a charged an entrance
fee when using the main entrance. If one uses the other entrance where the pilgrims' path leads, no admission is taken since the access for pilgrims has to be ensured.
- The Ring of Dingle is very narrow, so the inofficial rule is to go clockwise, otherwise you are already marked as an ignorant tourist (just kidding 😉 - but at least the other car drivers who follow the rule, are nooooot very happy about you).
- Just as miscellaneous (has nothing to do with the tour): to get around the southern part of the Dingle peninsula and to go to Killarney, we can warmly recommend the bus company "Go Coach", especially driver Mike. It's effordable, reliable, has better departure times compared to Bus Eireann and the bus driver is just nicer and talkier. When waving at the bus, you are picked up even if there is no bus stop around. We got in and off in front of our B&B every day, so we did not have to walk a kilometer to the next bus stop.
With or without kids, a visit to the Aquarium in Dingle
can be lots of fun at a rainy day.
Famous "window" in Galway...
... where the defenestration of Lynch's son took place.
Especially the penguins and the turtles are lovely. The aquarium staff present several feedings of the animals, the different thematic areas offer interesting facts about the animals living there. Moreover, you pay for the day ticket, so you can exit and enter the aquarium as often as you want. Another landmark is, of course, the kilometers long Inch Beach/Strand
, where surfing, walking or, for the not easily freezing people, swimming are common activities. Not to forget relaxing, the beach is so spacious that there is always a private spot where nobody is around. On our last day, we had also one of our greatest experiences: we did the Dingle Sea Safari
with Jimmy Flannery on the RIB boat (only four persons on the boat, the first year of service). We went out Dingle Bay in the direction of Slea Head and the Blasket Islands. Not only the scenary was fascinating - the western part of the coast line we explored days before by car, but also our amazing guide Jimmy made the trip unforgettable. We saw seals, Risso's Dolphins, several bird species and, of course, everybody's darling Fungie
, a wild common bottlenose dolphin that came to Dingle Bay in 1983.
A great ending for a great part of our Ireland vacation!
After five rainy, but great days we left Inch Beach to go to Dublin. From total relaxation to total stress, I would never do that again. Since I cannot find any note about Dublin
in my travel notebook, obviously Dublin did not thrill us. Maybe it is just me, or I am just ignorant, but it did not compare to Galway in any positive way. For me, too many people, to dirty, a smelly river - yes, either you hate it or you love it. The bus drivers were grumpy and friendly at the same time, when we took a bus from the city center to our B&B. We told the driver the name of the street were we wanted to get off (according to Google maps - but in Google Maps, all bus stops along this main street were entitled the name of the main street, thank you very much X( !!!), he said something and accepted our request. So he went driving and driving and driving, at one stop he suddenly opened the back door but did not give us any hint that we
should get off. So we stayed in the bus. Some stops later we asked him, again, were we should get off, and he told us: "Some stops ago", nice, mmh? But he informed his colleague who went into the other direction to give us a ride for free to the stop where we had to get off. Anyways, with the help of a shop owner (which, be the way, was originally from my hometown, what a coincidence!), we found our B&B, finally. Once in Dublin, the Trinity College, especially the library and the Book of Kells, was a main visitor attraction (of course). Maybe someone can tell me, if it has been worth it waiting in the long line? We wanted to visit the Guiness Store in the Guiness Brewery to buy some merchandise. That was not possible without doing the brewery tour, which we did not want to take. So we skipped this point. Despite the negative parts, I can remember Dublin's post office
- a stunning, impressive and huge building. The second day we went to Howth and the peninsula
, sightseeing and hiking and relaxing. Only a short train ride away, but honestly a gem right next to
the city! The only strange thing was that our hiking path crossed right through a golf court, where we had to follow red flags to not be beaten by a golf ball.
All in all, a very diverse, informative and (in most parts) relaxing vacation! Of course, there are so many spots still undiscovered by us. But, as I assume, that is not a bad thing, since there is much more to explore on our next trip (which surely will follow in the future)! 😊
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