The Emerald Isle
After completing our few days in York we knew that the end of the England part of this trip had arrived and we prepared ourselves for the flight into Ireland. We flew into the city of Shannon and were only there long enough to pick up our car from the airport and we beat it out of town, driving a few hours to the city of Tralee which would be our base for a few days.
We didn’t really plan to spend a lot of time in Tralee itself, it was just a place for us to explore the area surrounding area. Many well-known “drives” are in this area and have names given to them such as the Ring of Beara and the Slea Head Drive. Over the subsequent days that we had in the Tralee area, we drove hundreds of kilometres, crossing multiple mountain passes and seeing spectacular vistas around every turn. About the only thing that limited our desire to stop and look at some of these sights was the insanely narrow country roads, often only as wide as a parking stall with oncoming traffic coming inches away from your car with 80 Km/hr speed limits.
While we’ve enjoyed many things in England and Ireland, one of the memories that we will take home is the number of excellent beers that we’ve had in every single location that we’ve visited over the past few weeks. We’ve lost count of the number of local pubs that we’ve visited and sampled a variety of local beers and ciders. One visit stood out for us last Saturday night when we visited a pub nearby in Tralee to listen to some local musicians. On the advice of our host at our hotel, we took a taxi to the pub that appeared to be a local favourite as it was a standing-room-only. We had to walk sideways, working our way past the crowd to order our drinks right from the bartender (as is common in both England and Ireland). This involved shouting our orders to the barman and then lifting full glasses over people’s heads and navigating to any free spot to enjoy our drinks. This process would be repeated several times at night and many times over the entire trip.
A few days after we had left Tralee we were getting close to the city of Galway where we would be for a few days. We decided to drop our car off in Galway, about 3 days early, then planned to take the train from Galway to our final destination of Dublin instead of driving all the way. I’ve got to say that dropping off the car a few days early was a big relief for me as I had done all of the driving in England and Ireland and not having to drive anymore was the best possible decision. I don’t dislike driving but it’s definitely more tiring driving than being a passenger.
The Town and the Island
Galway turned out to be a nice medium-sized city where most everything was within walking distance from our hotel and there appeared to be plenty to see and do just by walking around. By the time we had dropped off the car and made our way to our hotel, we had most of the whole day exploring. The weather turned out to be much warmer in Galway than in Tralee, sunny and about 18-19 degrees and for much of that first day, I was walking around in a short-sleeved shirt – too hot even for my thin jacket.
For the first time since we left London almost two weeks previous, we decided to split up and head our separate ways in Galway, allowing each of us to sightsee or shop or do whatever was of interest. As I often end up doing in these cases, I enjoyed wandering around the city with my camera and capturing some of the sights. The photo of the trees and the church (three photos above) was one of the sights that I stumbled across almost by accident.
On our second day in Galway, we had quite a different agenda planned. We planned to take a ferry to one of the Aran Islands which is just off the coast of Galway. The largest of the islands, Inishmore, was our destination and we suffered through rough seas with the ferry bumping along on the 50-minute voyage. Along the way, the skies were darkening and while we were on the island the rain eventually came down. Hard. It also felt quite a bit colder, closer to 8 or 9 degrees than 18 or 19 just the day before. Short sleeve shirts were replaced with multiple layers of clothing and many people on the ferry were wearing scarves, gloves and thick woollen hats.
On Inishmore, we toured the island but about half the rain really started to come down so it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. There was a hike up to the top of a hill which afforded spectacular views of the cliffs on the side of the island. I was the only one who ventured up to the top and I couldn’t help but think how much better the views would be in the sunshine. Nonetheless, the vistas, even with the light rain, were extremely impressive.
Dublin at Last
After the third morning of our stay in Galway, we caught a morning train and headed completely across the country eastward to our final destination: the city of Dublin.
We’re going to be in Dublin for just a few days and we’ll fly home from here so we’re going to try and pack in as much as we can during that time.
My first impression of Dublin was that it was much busier than I ever imagined. It’s probably just where our hotel was located but right after stepping foot into the street, there were crowds of people on the sidewalk all going about their way. After being in so many small towns since leaving London almost 12 days earlier it was a bit of getting used to being in a big city again.
However, I love big cities and it took very little time to get comfortable and begin to enjoy Dublin’s unique vibe.
When we first arrived in Dublin it was raining again and the rain only got worse that first day. We arrived in Dublin early in the day and we planned to spend a few hours walking around the city before our hotel room was ready. There appeared to be an unlimited number of choices to get some lunch even just within a 10-minute walk and we found a place for some good Irish food.
Over the next few days in Dublin, the weather improved considerably and we enjoyed some sunny weather which made walking around the city and exploring the different neighbourhoods much more pleasant. Dublin had a good mix of pedestrian-friendly shopping streets, restaurants, pubs and parks all within close proximity to our hotel. In many of the restaurants that we went to for dinner in Dublin over the next few days, it was always hit and miss if we could actually get in or not as there were just so many people walking around the streets looking for places to eat as we were. It’s hard to believe that it’s late September with these kinds of crowds! If this is any indication Dublin must have an unbelievable amount of visitors during the peak vacation months of July and August.
One of the really enjoyable parts about walking around Dublin in the evening was just dropping into a random pub for a drink and listening to live music. It was usually enough to just walk by a pub and from the street, you could hear enough of the music to determine if you wanted to go in or not.
The number of people in any given pub was completely unpredictable. In some cases, it would be standing room only with us barely able to get into the door and just a 30-second walk down the street you could easily get a seat anywhere in a different pub.
As I’m writing this last section of this post, all four of us have spent most of this final full day in Dublin taking it easy and preparing for the flight home tomorrow. All of us are feeling a bit worn out and after being on the road for three weeks I think that we’re all looking forward to getting back home on Saturday and getting our lives back to normal.
And Finally …
For me, the London part of the trip will stand out for no other reason than we got to meet with two sets of family. I also love London and could easily have spent 10 days in that city alone.
Over the course of our journey over the past few weeks, we all agreed that in hindsight we could have left some parts of the itinerary out and added more days in places like York. But I never have regrets about these types of learning experiences and it only makes future visits more targeted towards the destinations that we really like.
I thought that I was going to really dislike all the driving that we had planned to do on this trip. In retrospect, it actually wasn’t that bad. It took some time to get used to driving on the left and driving on some of the narrowest country roads imaginable but after a few days, it wasn’t a big challenge admittedly but it was tiring given all the kilometres that we drove.
I’m really glad that we got a chance to see Ireland, a country that none of us had ever been to. Although the weather didn’t always cooperate, we were able to experience a spectacularly beautiful country and get a taste of several different regions of the country from small villages to big cities.
I hope that you enjoyed coming along with us for this Excellent Adventure. All the best.
By now I’ve uploaded pretty much all of my photos from this trip onto my photo website which you can see by clicking here.