Our trip to Ireland, May 2012: Dublin, The Giant’s Causeway, Rock of Cashel, Cork, The Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and The Aran Islands
Paddy has very strong Irish and Scottish heritage (if you couldn’t tell by his name), and Ireland has always been his dream destination. In May 2012, we finally got to go.
Ireland is a fairly expensive destination, and we tried to do everything as budget-minded as possible. We still spent more money than we thought we would, but it was worth it.
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We flew on a night flight out of JFK airport in New York on Aer Lingus, Ireland‘s airline. After 6 hours, we arrived in Dublin mid-morning, collected our hiking backpacks, used an ATM to get some Euros, and then headed to ground transportation to get a bus to our hotel. The Dublin public bus is the best option if you are staying downtown, and provides an affordable and easy to use round-trip service to most of the major tourist areas. (Taxis are also available, but much more expensive. If you have 3-4 people, it might be cost effective). The man collecting bus fare was very helpful and showed us on the large billboard map which stop we wanted to get off at for our hotel (the stops are are numbered and announced by the driver). The fare was 6 euros one way or 10 round trip, so we each got a round trip ticket as we were departing back to th airport from the same hotel on our last day.
The bus dropped us off pretty close to our hotel, the Harding Hotel. The Harding Hotel is a budget hotel, and was around $100 a night for the days we were there. Weekends are more expensive. We checked in on a Monday, so the rates were lower. The room we got was very large, with two twin beds shoved together to make a king, as well as a third twin. The hotel is a good family option as many rooms have room for three people like ours did, and can be spaced into three twins if needed. It is right next to the Christchurch Cathedral, which is a popular tourist landmark so that makes it easy to find on a map.
Above and below: The Christchurch Cathedral next door to the hotel
We were exhausted, and fortunately our room was ready to check into. We threw our stuff in the corner and crashed for a few hours. The bed was firm, but okay.
Around 2:00, we got up and took a shower and headed down the street towards the Temple Bar neighborhood in search of food. We wandered into a cafe at the Irish Film Institute and ordered some sandwiches and cappuccinos. It was full of artsy film students and the food was healthy, organic and homemade. The barista behind the counter was excited to learn that we were from Seattle and seemed pleased to be serving us our very first meal in Dublin.
After we were fed, we walked around a bit and headed towards the popular Temple Bar area. The Harding Hotel was actually a perfect location, we were able to walk to all of the things that we wanted to see in Dublin, and it’s proximity to the bus stop to and from the airport was a big plus.
Temple Bar had a lot of vintage stores, music stores, and funky little shops, bars, and cafes.
After a few hours, we were ready for some dinner and our first pints of Guinness in Ireland. We decided on The Old Storehouse which was a touristy spot featuring Irish food and live music. It was pretty packed, but we got a table near the door and ordered up some pints of Guinness, seafood chowder with Irish brown bread, and bangers and mash. It was all excellent.
After dinner and a few drinks, we were still pretty strung out from the lack of sleep on the night flight and the jet lag, so we went back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.
The next morning, we woke up at 5:00 AM (jet lag) and eventually got hungry. We ventured out back towards Temple Bar figuring that there would be a breakfast spot open at 7:00 AM on a Tuesday….right? Unfortunately, we found a ghost town. It was also colder than we had expected. Ireland has very similar weather to Seattle, and we planned for rainy days. May in Seattle is usually between the upper 50’s to the 70’s F, so we brought lots of layers and light rain jackets. It was actually in the 40’s F and we were freezing. We hadn’t brought hats, scarves, or gloves. Fortunately, woolen hats, scarves, and gloves are all plentiful (and beautifully made) in Ireland, so I was able to find a good hat and scarf in some tourist shops near our hotel a little later to keep warm with while walking around.
We headed back towards the hotel, where they were setting up for breakfast. We didn’t choose the breakfast inclusive option with our room and we were really glad we didn’t. There were a few breakfast options, ranging from continental to full Irish, and they were all fairly expensive for the quality. We had breakfast there and went back up to the room to figure out our plans for the day.
We lay on the bed willing ourselves to get back up. Our feet and legs were still so sore from walking miles and miles all over New York City over the two days prior (see our New York Post for details on that adventure). We had so many things we wanted to see in Dublin but we couldn’t move.
Eventually, we decided on the very nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral which is the main national cathedral of Ireland. It was built in 1220, and today the funerals of presidents and very important Irish citizens are all held there. Some of the flags were hundreds of years old, disintegrating on their flag poles. It is so hard to wrap my head around buildings and objects that are that old.
Next, what do you do in Ireland when your feet and legs are throbbing and you just don’t know what else to do at the moment? That’s right, duck into the nearest pub and have some more Guinness. We ducked into the bar attached to the Harding Hotel, Darkey Kelly’s and had a few pints.
We relaxed for awhile and then decided to venture out for some dinner. I had my eye on The Porterhouse in Temple Bar but when we got there, it was packed and we couldn’t find anywhere to sit. We walked around Temple Bar looking at menus and trying to find a place that was good but also not too expensive. It was a bit of a challenge.
Eventually we stumbled upon Salamanca Fusion on Dame Street, just a couple blocks from our hotel. It seemed to be an Irish/Spanish fusion restaurant and they were offering a weeknight special of an entree and either a glass of wine or a starter for a low price. We tried it out and it was great. We were seated next to an older Australian couple and we had some great conversations about our travels. I had a salmon dish with leeks, mashed potatoes, and a salad (neither of us remember what Paddy had, but it was good). The Irish couple said they had eaten there the night before and it was so good and such a great price that they just came back a second time.
After dinner we got some beers and wine at the convenience store across the way from our hotel and went to bed early as we had a long day ahead.
Northern Ireland and the Giant’s Causeway:
I had read about the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, a rare natural geological collection of hexagonal-shaped basalt columns. I was determined to go there, even though it was out of the way of everything else we planned to see. We booked a day tour from Dublin with Giant’s Causeway Tours, a very long day tour starting at 6:30 AM and returning to Dublin at 8:00 PM. It is a 3 hour drive to Northern Ireland from Dublin, and a 3 hour drive back, which is the reason for the extremely long day.
This was also the one day of our trip that if we had to do it over again, we wouldn’t.
The tour started with a pick up in Dublin at 6:30 AM in a giant tour bus with other tourists. I have blood sugar issues in the mornings and the jet lag had thrown my body clock all off. Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for my motion sickness issue either. I took a “less drowsey” Dramamine and we set out on our way.
About an hour into the trip, we stopped at a very nice rest stop that had a coffee shop, bathrooms, and food. Everyone got coffee and breakfast to go, and we continued on the three hour drive north.
Once we passed Belfast, we began on a nauseating windy coastal road. I ended up having to choose between seeing the beautiful scenery and being nauseous, or letting the drowsiness take over and sleep. I drifted back and forth between both, taking every opportunity to get out of the bus when we stopped for a photo op. The countryside and coast were beautiful, and I tried to make the best of it.
We saw a lot of cows in large, beautiful pastures lounging about on the grass. Not standing, but lounging. We also discovered on this trip that Irish butter is the best butter we’ve ever had in our lives. We think there is a correlation between lazy, happy cows and good butter. I never see cows laying down in the states. (Side note: If you buy Kerrygold Irish butter in an American grocery store, it’s good, but it’s not the same. Sorry, you have to go to Ireland).
We finally arrived at our first real stop, the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. It is a rickety rope bridge to a tiny island on the Northern Ireland coast with beautiful views of nearby beaches and coastline. It’s a little nerve-wracking for those with vertigo or fear of heights, but Paddy has vertigo and he made it across fine. They only let one person go across it at a time.
Next, we were back on the winding, nauseating road to the Causeway. We arrived and had lunch at a cute little cafe called The Nook near the Causeway parking lot. The menu was traditional Irish/British fare and wasn’t bad. Paddy enjoyed his beef and Guinness pie, and while my fish and chips were perfectly fine I was still struggling with my appetite. It came with a side of “mushy peas” which were, well, mushy. Not a lot of flavor. I forced some down while we listed to some traditional Irish music.
After lunch, we had one hour to make our way down the hill to the Causeway, enjoy it, and come back. It wasn’t nearly enough time. We had approximately 15 minutes total at the actual Causeway. While it wasn’t somewhere I would have liked to spend a ton of time at, I think that an hour and a half to two hours would have been ideal. It was pretty remarkable and unlike any natural geological formation we’ve ever seen.
The Causeway is at the bottom of a long hill, and there is a shuttle that goes back and fourth between the parking lot and the Causeway for a couple Euros. We realized we had to be back at the bus and weren’t sure we’d make it on the shuttle as there was a line. Walking would take longer. We made it on though and back to the bus in time.
We left the Causeway and made a quick stop at Dunluce Castle, which was built in the 1400’s and eventually abandoned in 1690. The remains are perched precariously on a cliff and legend has it that part of the castle slid off into the sea, taking the kitchen and the servants with it.
Finally, we made a last stop for an hour in Belfast. Since an hour isn’t really enough time to see anything in Belfast whatsoever, we just ducked into Brennan’s Bar for some Guinness and seafood chowder. We met up with a couple Americans from our tour group who were in Ireland for their third visit, they loved it so much. I did get one photo of the Church House in downtown Belfast, however:
We left Belfast and continued the long three hour drive back to Dublin. My motion sickness subsided and I had no problems once we were back on the straight freeway.
Back to Dublin:
We arrived back to Dublin rather exhausted, but figuring we should eat something and check out some nightlife. We were ready for a drink after the long tour day. We tried the Porterhouse again and managed to find one table just emptying up upstairs, but as soon as we sat down we were informed that they had stopped serving food for the night. We stayed for a drink and then moved on into Temple Bar in search of a bar with some sort of food going on. We eventually stumbled into a place and had a few drinks and a nicoise salad.
We ended our night with a few pints at The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland built in 1198. It was small and intimate, and we found two empty seats left at the bar to watch some traditional Irish music. A great end to a long day.
There is one little gem of a breakfast spot that you can’t miss if you’re in the Temple Bar neighborhood, and that is The Queen of Tarts. They have a the most amazing selection of homemade pastries you’ll ever see, and I was able to get some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with some homemade Irish brown bread to go for less money than the crappy breakfast at the Harding Hotel. If we’d had more time, I would have been back every day.
After breakfast, we headed to the Guinness Storehouse as Paddy had to see where this much beloved beer comes from. It was in the opposite direction from our hotel as Temple Bar, but still within walking distance.
We did the whole touristy tour, which was interesting. You don’t actually get to see the beer brewing though, the actual brewery appears to be nearby but the tour is of the Storehouse. Included were recipe cards for foods made with Guinness, and free taste tests. The Guinness bread and Guinness chocolate truffles were delicious. One of the things that makes the tour worth it is the free pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar at the top. The views over Dublin are fantastic. You only get one free pint with a ticket, but some lady gave us her tickets that she wasn’t going to use, so we got two. We must have looked like the drinking type. Bonus.
After the Storehouse, we walked around the local neighborhood near the Storehouse a bit and then headed over to Grafton Street, which is said to be a great shopping street. We found a street with most of your standard big name brand stores that you can find anywhere else in Europe and/or the USA. Most things were kind of pricey, and we weren’t really interested in buying stuff so we went back to Temple Bar.
Above: One of Dublin’s many colorful doors
Below: Views from a bridge over the River Liffey
For dinner, we had made a reservation at The Winding Stair, a funky little restaurant atop a small independent book store across the River Liffey from Temple Bar. The restaurant produces high end food made from locally sourced ingredients, in a cozy and unpretentious setting. It was the most expensive meal we had in Ireland, but well worth it.
We checked out of the Harding Hotel and had them call us a cab over to the Budget Rental Car office on Drumcondra Road where we had reserved the smallest car we could get for the next leg of our trip around southern Ireland and up to Galway. Unfortunately, the Toyota Yaris we thought we were getting turned out to be a large sedan, as the Yaris we reserved had been returned damaged. We didn’t want to drive a manual shift (I drive one all the time at home, but we didn’t want to deal with manual shift and trying to figure out driving on the left at the same time), so we had to wait 2 hours while they frantically called around and eventually borrowed a sedan from another rental company. They did give us a discount, and while very annoying we were happy to finally be on our way.
**Note: renting a car in Ireland is very expensive. We rented one for three days and it was around $500.00 with insurance (get the insurance). This included a full tank of gas, which we would be reimbursed for if we returned it full. A tank of gas was $160.00. Fortunately we only had to fill it up once the whole time, with a little top off at the end. All that being said, however, renting a car is really the only great way to see Ireland, and we would highly recommend it. I don’t plan on whining about American gas prices ever again.
Paddy volunteered to drive. I don’t know how we made it on the freeway, but somehow he got us there and we were on our way.
**Note: There is a toll on the M50 in and out of Dublin but it doesn’t have a toll booth–they scan your license plate from a surveillance camera. You can pay the toll at most gas stations at an electronic “Payzone” machine. It is about 3 Euros and must be paid by 8:00 PM the day after you use the toll. If you don’t pay, your car rental company will be charged and they will charge you the fine and some hefty administrative costs. You can ask your car rental company about the toll, some will include it in your cost and pay it for you, or they can tell you more about how to pay.
Rock of Cashel:
We drove about two hours southwest from Dublin to the little town of Cashel to see The Rock of Cashel, which is the ruins of a 12th century church and chapel. It was one of the highlights of our trip and offers gorgeous views of county Tipperary from the hill it sits on. The ruins are beautiful to behold, and restoration is on-going in parts of the chapel.
Cork and the Blarney Castle:
After Cashel, we continued another hour southwest to Cork. We had directions to the Avondale B&B, which appeared to be on the main drag, also shown on the map as the N22 highway. Trying to follow Google Maps directions ended up being extremely confusing, as the N22 has several street names that change every few blocks. We eventually gave up and followed only the signs for the N22, and found it with no problem. Miraculously, there was street parking right in front. We parked the car in relief, planning not to get in it again until we left the next morning.
The Avondale B&B has very reasonable rates that include a fabulous breakfast, and extremely welcoming and friendly hosts, Dolores and John. Our room was very small but had everything we needed and the most comfortable bed we slept in on our entire trip.
Cork is a college town, and we wished we had more than one night there. The B&B is in walking distance from everything downtown which was super convenient. Dolores recommended Clancy’s Bar and Restaurant for dinner and it was very nice.
After dinner we walked around a bit, looking for some live music. Unfortunately it started pouring rain, and even with our raincoats on we became quickly soaked and cold. Then we got lost. We finally found our way back to the main road and gave up on going out, as all we were interested in at that point was warm, dry clothes. Paddy was disappointed.
Our primary reason for a stop in Cork was its proximity to The Blarney Castle. We got up early and had a fabulous Irish breakfast, and then Dolores and John sat and talked with us about our plans, giving us directions on the fastest way to get to the castle, as well as suggestions on the rest of our itinerary. We were headed towards the town of Dingle, and Dolores assured Paddy he would find some live music in Dingle tonight, as it was Saturday.
Every guidebook I read said the the Blarney Castle was a giant, overrated tourist attraction so we were expecting a big, crowded, cheesy tourist experience. I was almost convinced that we should skip it, but Paddy was hell bent on kissing that Blarney Stone.
Our experience couldn’t have been further from our expectation. It was a big tourist attraction, but we got there right when it opened at 9:00 AM, and there were very few people. (Going at 2:00 PM in July, however, would probably be an experience more like the one mentioned in the guidebooks.) We really enjoyed touring the ruins of the castle and the grounds were beautiful. Paddy got to kiss the Blarney Stone. I passed on the opportunity.
Gap of Dunloe:
We continued on our way to our next stop, Killarney and the Gap of Dunloe. We arrived in town, found parking, and had a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant. I was really looking forward to the Gap of Dunloe, a scenic country valley between two mountain ranges on the outskirts of Killarney National Park. Most people see The Gap by walking through it or hiring a horse and trap driver (jarvey) to take them through, then catch a boat back to Killarney on the lake. We didn’t have that kind of time, so we drove up and talked to a jarvey driver who offered to take us to the top of The Gap and back for 50 Euros. We had arrived at around 2:00 PM, so most people had already gone through The Gap and were done for the day. We went for it, and the tour was one of the highlights of our trip.
Our driver had a very thick accent, and said he lived in a small house nearby. His father had been a jarvey driver before him, and his grandfather before him. He said his son didn’t seem to interested in carrying it on, though. We really enjoyed talking to him and he gave us a great tour. At the end we tipped him 10 Euros, and he seemed shocked and very thankful. He told us he’d take his wife out for a pint that night on us. I don’t think tips are given as frequently in Ireland as in the states, and more at a 10% rate than the American standard of 15%-20%. Regardless, they are always very much appreciated.
The Dingle Peninsula:
We made it to our destination, Dingle, about an hour away, well before dark and found parking near our B&B with no problem.
We had a reservation at the Lantern Townhouse, a very nice B&B centrally located in town with an internet cafe across the street. The owner Katherine was very welcoming and definitely pays attention to detail. The room was very nicely decorated and quiet, with chocolates on the pillows and a carafe of water and glasses on the dresser.
Below: view from room
Below: street view
We walked around a little bit, and realized that Dingle is a very popular tourist town. It kind of reminded us a bit of our hometown of Friday Harbor, WA. It is also a popular tourist destination for Irish folks, and as we later learned that evening, for Irish bachelor and “hen” parties. The touristy popularity of the town unfortunately means higher prices at bars and restaurants, so budget accordingly.
We found ourselves craving raw oysters like crazy. We looked at a few menus and decided on Ashe’s Restaurant as they had a deal on three oysters and a pint of Guinness. The interior was very cozy and the food was excellent. They even had Tabasco for the oysters. Hot sauce is something we had been seriously missing in Ireland.
After dinner, we started our hunt for music. We didn’t have to go very far before we found O’Flaherty’s. It was packed, but a table opened up soon after we arrived and we snagged it. There was music going on all evening long, and we had a great time.
The next morning, we had a fantastic breakfast at the B&B, including homemade Irish breads, smoked salmon, eggs cooked to order, cheeses, salad, and meats.
We then spent the day exploring the Dingle Peninsula. The Dingle Peninsula is an area where people still speak Gaelic, so many signs aren’t in English. It was truly one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland that we saw, and I would definitely recommend making it a priority on your itinerary.
The weather began to turn that day, and the sun came out. I was actually able to go out in just a light sweatshirt and no hat and scarf. The roads were extremely narrow, and often a nerve-wracking experience driving around a sharp turn on the edge of a cliff only to face a giant tour bus coming the other direction. We made it out alive, though. **Note: the smaller the car, the better.
One of our stops was at Clochuan, or the Fahan Beehive Huts. The date of origin of these ancient stone huts is undetermined, but believed to be built around the 12th century. We also stopped at the Dunbeg Fort, remains of another old ring fort built around the same period.
After a beautiful tour around the peninsula on Slea Head Drive, we made it back to Dingle and were extremely hungry. We wanted something relatively inexpensive, so we found a little seafood basket and burger place called Harrington’s Family Restaurant. It was pretty tasty, despite some bad yelp reviews. After lunch, we walked around town some more and did some shopping.
That evening, we were still craving oysters. We looked around at some other restaurants, but decided to just go back to Ashe’s. The main reason being that we knew they had Tabasco sauce.
We went out again that night, running into a lot more bachelor parties and hen parties at the bars.
After another fantastic breakfast at the Lantern Townhouse, we checked out and started towards our next stop, the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. This involved taking the Killimer/Tarbert ferry, a mild 20 minute crossing. Ferries leave once every hour in the winter, and every half hour in the summer.
Cliffs of Moher:
After the ferry ride, it was about a one hour drive to the Cliffs. The Cliffs of Moher are another huge tourist attraction in Ireland, but parking wasn’t an issue (parking lot has a small fee, FYI) and the crowds weren’t too unpleasant. I’m sure in July and August they are much larger. In any event, it’s definitely worth a stop. Food (sandwiches and simple salads, etc) is available in a small cafeteria near the gift shop.
We left the cliffs and made one final stop at the Dunguaire Castle just outside of Galway. We opted not to pay the 6 Euro fee to enter the castle, we just walked around it and took some photos of the castle and surrounding straw roof houses across the street. It’s a beautiful castle and worth a stop. They also host a medieval banquet every evening that I read was very good and entertaining.
Finally, we reached Galway and found the Budget Rental car office to return the car. We were a bit relieved to not have to drive anymore and be responsible for a car at that point. The rental office was in easy walking distance from our hotel, The Victoria Hotel. The Victoria Hotel ended up being the ideal location for everything we needed–walking around downtown and the Medieval quarter, two blocks from the train station, and the bus for the Aran Islands departs directly in front of the hotel. It was a budget hotel, so it wasn’t fancy but the price was right. We had a huge room with a bathtub, (rare in Europe) a queen bed and a twin, hot water kettle and tea cups. There is a bar and restaurant downstairs that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We settled in and then went for a walk around the Medieval Quarter, which has great shopping.
**Note: I’ve read that the tap water isn’t safe to drink in Galway. Make sure you buy bottled water.
For dinner, we were getting pretty burnt out on Irish food and pub grub, so we decided on some Italian food at the Venice Cafe. The food was great and the prices were reasonable.
The next day we had breakfast sandwiches at a little coffee shop on the edge of Eyre Square, then walked around and did some exploring and more shopping. There is a large shopping center on the edge of Eyre Square as well that has a variety of clothing shops.
The traditional Irish claddagh ring was first designed in Galway, and the Thomas Dillon Claddagh jeweler has been in business in Galway since 1750. Both our wedding rings are claddagh rings, and a claddagh ring can be made of many materials to suit many different budgets. The claddagh design is two hands holding a heart with a crown on it and can be worn different four different ways to show that you are either single, in a relationship, engaged, or married. The heart symbolizes love, the hands symbolize friendship, and the crown symbolizes loyalty. If you’re in Galway looking for a meaningful souvenir from Ireland, a claddagh ring or pendant is a great option.
That evening for dinner, both Tripadvisor and our guidebook had recommended An Pucan, an Irish bar and restaurant that had Irish dancing for entertainment. The restaurant was absolutely packed, with Irish dancing in full swing and a bunch of older ladies pushing and shoving to get to the front so they cold take a photo of the dancers. It kind of felt like a Disneyland version of Ireland, full of the tour bus type of crowd. We opted to find somewhere else to eat. Maybe you might have a better experience.
Getting very hungry and not knowing where to go, we ended up settling for some pizza and a few pints in a sportsbar called Fagan’s around the corner from our hotel. The pizza was decent and reasonably priced.
We ended our night with a few more drinks in the bar in the Victoria Hotel.
Our plan of catching the bus to the Aran Islands ferry in the morning were foiled by Paddy having come down with a brutal stomach virus in the middle of the night. He had it coming out of both ends non stop all night and all morning. We thought maybe it was food poisoning, but it was confirmed as the stomach flu when I came down with it two days after we returned to Seattle. It was a good solid 24 hours of horrible.
The receptionist at the hotel was very accommodating, and booked us in our room for another night. She let us use the front desk phone to call our B&B in the Aran Islands to let them know that we wouldn’t make it that day, and recommended Motilium for the nausea from the pharmacy in Eyre square. Fortuantely, our B&B in the Aran Islands was very understanding and didn’t charge us for the cancelled night. The Aran Islands ferry office was right down the street and they were able to change our reservation to the next day with no fee.
I found the pharmacy in Eyre square and they were very helpful. The pharmacist sold me some Motilium and some electrolyte hydration tablets. The shopping center had a large grocery store in the basement floor, and I picked up some water, instant cream of chicken soup packets, soda crackers, and bananas for poor Paddy.
While Paddy spent the day trying to get better, I spent the day exploring Galway a bit more. We had been totally in love with Galway the day before, but after a couple more hours of walking around, I was kind of bored. I went for a walk down by the harbor and the Spanish Arch, a remnant of the city wall from the 1500’s.
Above: The Spanish Arch
Below: Galway Harbor
After checking on Paddy again and getting him to eat some soup, I did a little more shopping in the shopping center.
Inishmore, Aran Islands:
After a long 24 hours, Paddy was feeling much better and we were able to continue on our way to the Aran Islands. We had breakfast at the hotel and then caught our bus to the Aran Islands ferry in Rossaveal, about an hour away. The weather had really begun to get warm, and we didn’t even need sweatshirts anymore.
The ferry was supposed to be a straight through to Inishmore, the largest and most popular of the Aran Islands. The ferry to the other islands broke down, however, and we ended up making a longer sailing to stop at the rest of the islands. If we ever go back to Ireland, I think that spending more time on all of the Aran Islands will be a top priority. We only got a small taste on this trip, and they were beautiful.
The ferry was crowded full of daytrippers looking to come for the day and rent bicycles (no cars are allowed on the islands except those owned by locals). We crossed the street from the ferry to a little cafe called The Pierhouse for lunch and let the crowds pass by. It was a gorgeous day and nice enough to sit outside in the sun.
After lunch, we went to find a shuttle to our B&B, the Kilmurvey House. We started walking over to where we saw the shuttle vans parked, when one pulled up next to us and asked if we neede a ride. We hopped in and for a few Euros we were driven to our destination in about 10 minutes.
When we arrived, Treasa greeted us and told us that our room wasn’t quite ready yet, but would be in just a few minutes. We sat in the nice front parlor and waited. When we checked in, we were suprised with how large the room was. It was a beautiful, sunny room with hardwood floors and a huge king sized bed. The bathroom had a bathtub with jacuzzi jets and it felt like we had scored the honeymoon suite.
Below: front of Kilmurvey House
Below: our room
Below: view from our room, and the Kilmurvey House interior
One of the best things about the Kilmurvey House is that it is right next to the biggest attraction on the island, Dun Aengus. Dun Aengus is the remains of a prehistoric ring fort dating back to the Iron Age. It was starting to get really warm, so we changed into some lighter clothes (I was glad I got to go shopping in Galway, I hadn’t packed any tank tops, just as I hadn’t packed a scarf or hat) and walked over the Dun Aengus entrance.
It was about 3:30 and the parking lot was chocked full of bicycles of daytrippers. Dun Aengus is open until 6:00 PM, and we knew that the last ferry off the island was at 5:00, so we decided to come back in an hour. In the meantime, we took a walk down the road in the opposite direction. It was beautiful. We really wished we had another day to see the whole island.
The Aran Islands are also known for their knitting and textile skills, particularly for knitting sweaters. If you can afford it, the sweaters here are beautiful and skillfully crafted. There was a sweater store and another souvenir store next to the B&B, and I splurged on a hooded sweater for $100.00. There is also a cafe and a snack shop available next to the B&B as well.
We headed back to Dun Aengus at around 4:45 and there was only one bicycle in the parking lot. To our delight we had the entire ruins to ourselves. It was magical.
The pathway up to Dun Aengus is a bit of a hike, but unless you have a disability or difficulty walking, it’s not too bad. I was a little huffy puffy towards the top, but it wasn’t anything crazy. Just wear good shoes and be prepared for a little bit of a hilly hike.
One of the nice things about Ireland as opposed to the USA, is that they don’t have a bunch of fences destroying the natural beauty of the ruins and the landscape. If you fall of the cliff, that’s your fault, not theirs. Don’t get too close to the edge.
All the dinner restaurants are in town, but Treasa arranges a complimentary shuttle into town and back for guests for dinner. She drove us and another American couple to Joe Watty’s Bar for dinner. The four of us ate together and talked about past trips and our shared love of camping. The food was excellent. Note that the prices are a little higher in the Aran Islands, which is common for most islands in the world as food and other items have to be imported from the mainland.
Treasa picked us up at 9:00 and we caught a gorgeous sunset on the way home. It just went behind the hill when we got out of the car, but I snapped a couple photos anyway.
Back to Dublin (again):
The next morning we had an early (and fabulous) homemade breakfast. Then Treasa’s husband drove us to the morning ferry back to Rossaveal, where we caught the bus back to Galway. The bus dropped us right back off in front of the Victoria Hotel, and we walked around the block to the Train station. We purchased our tickets from the machine in the terminal and caught the next train back to Dublin. The train to Dublin was shorter than we expected, and a pleasant ride. We had a table to ourselves and a man came around selling chips, sandwiches, and beverages.
We arrived back in Dublin and caught a short taxi back to the Harding Hotel which was booked solid and busy for the weekend. Our room this time was smaller but we didn’t need anything big.
We ditched our bags and headed back to Temple Bar for some last minute souvenir shopping. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon, and Temple Bar was busy with tourists. We stopped in for gelato at Botticelli Ice Cream. While eating ice cream we saw several bachelor parties wandering the Temple Bar area, already completely wasted at 3:00 PM and making spectacles of themselves.
After we were done with our souvenir shopping, we decided to check out the other side of the River Liffey, as we hadn’t really explored much over there. We walked around O’Connell Street for awhile and had dinner at an inexpensive kebab place.
We flew back to Seattle the following day, ending a great trip in Ireland (despite the stomach flu).
If we go back to Ireland, we’d like to see some of the north east coast, more of the Aran Islands, and more of Northern Ireland and Belfast. I would also like to see Trim Castle, where Braveheart was filmed.