Take two. After having slept in and missing my transport the previous day, I happily made my bus from Fort William, through the beautiful Scottish highlands, to Glasgow. I had a short time there to walk around, and ended up buying some foot odor spray, as my shoes were pretty much rotting away at this point with all the wear and tear, and wet weather I had endured. From there I caught another bus to the Cairnryan Ferry terminal and within an hour I was crossing the narrow strip of sea that separates Scotland from the island of Ireland. I arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, soon after. I caught a bus into the city center. This city of less than half a million people looked tough with the northeastern part looked quite industrial and I noticed many working class style neighborhoods. There was also many parks and green spaces strewn about. At the central station I met another backpacker named Gavan, who was from the Netherlands. He approached me wondering if I knew a hostel in the area, and next thing he knew I was leading him towards one I had heard about. We got to Paddy's Palace Hostel a few
minutes later. After checking in, we met a few other travelers and one super friendly Italian woman who insisted on making us a pasta dinner. A nice way to be welcomed into the city. We all chatted for a while in the courtyard as the sun descended late into the night.
The following day after breakfast, Gavan and me took off to explore some of Belfast. I only had a few short hours and wanted to make it count. We checked out the Botanical gardens and then went into the Ulster Museum, which showcased pretty much everything. I was pretty impressed and learned loads of new info in the process. After that we walked around some neighborhoods and found a fast food shop. We picked up some food and walked to a place to sit down outside in the warm sunshine. Only then did we realize that we didn't receive any utensils. Luckily I had a spork on me, but Gavan decided that he was fine to just dig in with his hands. We headed back to the hostel after that, and I took my pack and headed out to the bus station.
Two hours later, I had
crossed into the Republic of Ireland and found myself in Dublin. My hostel was right near the station. This place was pretty massive and was one of those hostels that proved to be too big, in that there are a lot of people but no centralized chill room and therefore I tend to find it tougher to meet folks. Nevertheless, later that night I met a local Dubliner named Josh. He was staying at the hostel because he was in between apartments and was waiting to move into his next one. He offered me one of his beers and we chatted for a while. Then we headed out to walk the Dublin streets and started in Upper O'Connell street. It was cool being showed around by a local, and unexpected too. He gave me little tidbits of info about his town as we walked along. Then we hit the famous temple bar district, filled with pubs and nightclubs, and very popular amongst tourists. Usually Josh tried to avoid the area due to these pubs overcharging for drinks, but we were both too lazy to walk to another neighborhood, and settled on ordering several pints of Guiness. Guiness truly does taste
better here in Ireland. The night winded down with us getting some fast food and then stumbling back to the hostel.
I went on the free walking tour offered in Dublin the next day. I've done many others in several European cities in the past, most recently in Edinburgh, and was always happy to discover a city this way. Our guide was Conor, and he was as hilarious as he was informative. We walked around for a few hours and checked out Dublin Castle, Temple Bar, Trinity College, and a few other stops. I met a few people during the walk and after our tour was done, we went to a cheap eatery and got lunch. Then I headed back to my hostel to collect my backpack and proceeded to the bus station. I caught a bus towards western Ireland and thought it would only take about two and a half hours. But four and a half hours later I was still sitting on the bus before it finally pulled into Galway. It turned out I hadn't taken the express bus. At least I got to see a lot of the countryside and many towns as we went around
stopping everywhere. I walked the town as I searched for my hostel and went by numerous pubs, stores, stone walking streets, and historic buildings. This was an easy place to walk around in and serves many as a hub while they explore Western Ireland. I relaxed in the hostel for the evening, and used to kitchen facilities to cook up a meal.
I had made my way out here mainly to check out the famous cliffs of Moher, so I started out early the next day to do exactly that. Initially I was going to head out on my own to get there. However, it turned out that my hostel provided a day trip that came out to less money so I decided to just jump on that and save myself some trouble. Our driver was pretty nice and kept us informed over the loud speaker of loads of info concerning the area. We made a couple of stops along the way, with several viewpoints over the Burren region. I went into the Ailwee cave which was discovered sometime in the 40's by a farmer who chased his dog into it. The cave itself was massive and much of
it is still unexplored. From there we got to the main event of the day, the cliffs of Moher which stand 120 to 214 meters tall, depending on where you are. We arrived at the halfway point, by the visitors center. I had free reign for a few hours and walked southward along the magnificent cliffs. I quite literally walked right along the edge at many points. It was definitely a massive drop to the bottom. Plenty of seagulls floated along the wall. I walked a few kilometers down and had great views of the cliff coast looking back. I took off my jacket and sat down in the grass above for a bit while admiring the scenery. Then I headed back the way I came. About halfway I realized that, like a dumb-ass, had left my jacket behind. I ran back to get it, and then had to run all the way back to my starting point to catch the bus before it left. I made it just in time and inadvertently got a workout in the process. From there we stopped at a village named Doolin for about a half hour before carrying on. I got back to
Galway in the early evening and went out to grab a bite at a traditional Irish restaurant called Finnigans. That night I met a few hostel people and just chilled with them in the common area.
The next day I was headed back to Dublin. On the bus there a woman sat by my seat and noticed my Nepal baseball cap. She was originally from Nepal, which cascaded into a whole bunch of conversation about Ireland, Nepal and some stuff in between. A few hours later, I got off the bus at Dublin Airport and took a short bus ride to a town called Swords, a few kilometers north from there. Then I ended up taking a cab to a secluded center that would be my accommodation for the night. I usually never take cabs because of how expensive they can be in this part of the world, but I really didn't know how else to get to this place. And why was I staying in Swords anyway? Well during the weekends, pretty much all the budget hostels in Dublin fill up and this place was the only thing I could find that was reasonable. Plus it was kind
of close the airport so that was a bonus. I wouldn't quite call it a hotel, more like a conference center. It seemed to be a religious/holistic place and I stumbled upon some sort of service as I was heading to my room. The whole vibe of the place seemed...pretty weird. After dumping my stuff off in my room, I ended up walking back into Swords and tried to find something to do. I ended up going to the cinema and watching the latest Captain America movie and it was awesome! I walked back later to my room and fell asleep early.
I was up early and walked back into Swords with my gear. I caught a bus to the airport and then checked into my WOW air flight. Ireland had been short, but it had been a beautiful destination of which I knew there was much more to explore. My trip was winding down but I still had one more destination along the way home...
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