If you have a week to visit Ireland, where specifically to go? These were the thoughts I was having and googling. Apparently the most popular directions are:
- North including a visit to Northern Ireland
- West (Atlantic Ocean coast)
- South (Cork)
We chose the west and the Atlantic ocean. Why? Just because the road along the west coast is beautifully named Wild Atlantic Way and this title is sooo promising.
How to move around: by car
“You know, we are feeding them and they do not know anything about us. And we know everything about them. We watch their tv”. The owner of the B&B where we stayed for a night was talking about the British. I was quite surprised to learn that the territory of Ireland is three times smaller than of Britain and the number of people is twelve (!) times smaller.
When you travel by car it is quite obvious that the country is not densely populated. There are a lot of stand-alone cottages. It is remarkable that all the cottages seem to be very new and modern. I have barely seen any old style cottages. According to the same B&B hostess, the Irish were very poor not so long ago and their houses were cabins. Only recently they started to have really decent houses.
Where to stay
You can stay in numerous B&Bs and hotels. We tried: Bed&Breakfast, hotel in a coastal village, hotel in bigger Galway, strange cabin in the national park (see on the photo), in the most luxurious hotel of a rural town in the center of Ireland.
Out of all of them, the most I liked was our stay at B&B. When I was searching through different B&B I saw some a bit strange photos, not glamourous so to say, but the one we chose we really like. Very friendly, open hostess.
At every place, we stayed we spend one night and if I could turn time back I would not do it. It is too much hassle and packing and unpacking. Ireland is not that big, you can even visit most of the places from Dublin by day trips. Of course, it is not a real road trip then. So I would say spend at least two nights at a place, that would be the best.
So what was our itinerary?
This town has John’s Castle that has everything that a decent museum and castle should have.
Close to Limerick, there is a place where on the different sides of the Shannon river there are two villages Ballina and Killaloe. Beautiful sights and an interesting story about rebellious women who lost access to the river because of the new train track. As a part of the protest, they just lay down on the track. Finally, their protest worked and a special bridge was built for them.
Cliffs of Moher
This is Instagram must have (see the first photo of this post). But! The weather might spoil all the pleasure. Then no beauty and it can be even dangerous. This logically ties back to the recommendation to stay more nights in one place. If you have several days you can choose a day with the best weather for your visit to the Cliffs of Moher.
Our day was perfect, we did not walk all eight km along the cliffs, but we managed to reach a point where they barely any people. And we could sit there alone, on the cliffs and watch the birds and fall asleep in the sun. I was thinking about why we did not take lunch with us so that we could stay longer.
Aran Islands and sweaters
Aran sweaters are named after these Irish islands that are close to the Cliffs of Moher. There are three islands and each of them gives a reason to visit. There boats going back and forth.
The islands are famous for the sweaters and for the fact that they preserved the culture and way of living due to the isolation. Children are sent there to learn the Irish language and during their stay in these language camps, they are not allowed to use English. We visited the smallest island which is inhabited by 249 people.
These islands were used as locations for several movies. For example, the bar from the movie Leap Year and some other scenes were filmed there.
Connemara is a beautiful area with low green mountains, lakes, cliffs, and stones on the coastline. We were not ready for all this beauty and did not know where to go and how to see. But thanks to the itinerary that the owners of the place where we stayed we had a five km walk along the coast. All the French visit Connemara because of the song of Michel Sardou.
Not so long ago (the 2000s) this was a boarding school organized by nuns. Girls from rich families and even Indian princess studied here. Nuns are still living in the abbey, make chocolate, spices, look after the huge gardens. I liked to look at the abbey from the bridge and think about how the lives of former schoolgirls shaped up.
Galway has the best pubs, funny musicians and the two most famous songs with the same title: Galway Girl. One by Steve Earle (this song is also used in the movie P.S. I love you) and another one by Ed Sheeran. Why Sheeran created a song with the same title, but different? His answer was that he tried many other options (Cork Girl for example), but it did not work out.
Ireland seems to be soaked in whiskey. There are a lot of whiskey distilleries that have museums, tours etc. We visited Tullamore Dew on the way back. Even people who cannot stand the smell of whiskey will start to like it a bit after Ireland.
What to bring from Ireland? Well, whiskey cubes from Connemara stones, what else:)
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