In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, I’ve finally finished my post about Western Ireland, the last chapter of my Ireland saga! I was so blessed to complete this portion of the trip with two lovely Brits, Laura and Jonathan, who both flew over immediately following their own world travels, bucking responsibility a bit longer, to join me! To Laura and Jonathan I am so grateful! Laura, you always make me smile, and Jonathan, I never felt like I was going to die whilst you were driving. 🙂
Jonathan and I spent a few days in Galway. The first day we actually drove from Dublin over to Galway, which was so beautiful! We didn’t arrive in time to do much but we had an awesome dinner at the Pie Maker (I had the rabbit pie) and caught a bit of live music by buskers out in the town center. We then hit some bars and ran into some of the incredibly friendly locals who let us mash into their booth and attempted to read our palms and give us love advice.
The following day we drove up to Connemara National Park which, probably is incredibly beautiful, but it rained the whole day and was so foggy we didn’t make it too far on our planned hike.
Since we hadn’t hiked as much as planned at Connemara, we were super fresh for the Cliffs of Moher, which were striking. The day was perfectly clear and I even wound up with a bit of a sunburn, which I think it unheard of in Ireland!
We walked along the edge of the cliffs for hours, following the path closest to the edge of the cliff. We started at the visitors center and the castle and made our way all the way down to the next castle and back.
While we were disappointed not to see dolphins, we were able to lay in the sun and watch the sea gulls nesting into the cliffs. (This requires being very close to the cliffs edge, closer than I’m comfortable with generally speaking, so I laid down and scooted forward until my head hang over to look down. I probably looked foolish as hell, but I faced a fear and I’m glad to have done it!)
We drove down to Killarney from the cliffs, along the Wild Atlantic Way, which is a coastal highway. We saw people cycling along this route with their night bags, and if I return to Ireland, I absolutely plan to do this. The views of the sea and the rugged terrain of the coast were enough to completely make you forget that you’ve been pedaling for days.
Upon arriving in Killarney, after some tasty fish and chips, we caught up with our friend Sinead who works locally in County Kerry and recommended Reidy’s. Reidy’s used to be a candy store which was eventually expanded into a county store, and then purchased and converted into a pub. In the front it looks small, but weaves through several rooms, like those of a house, finally emptying into a courtyard full of people crowded around a stage enjoying live music. The band was a brother sister group including fiddles and the occasional break out of Irish dance! We had a blast!
The following day we drove around the Ring of Kerry. Again, I’m so thankful to Jonathan for driving, because the weekend we were in Killarney, the county was also hosting drag races! The Ring of Kerry consists predominately of one lane winding roads, a large portion of which are carved out of the side of a mountain and have a steep drop off the side which proves incredibly stressful when someone is coming from the opposite direction. Thankfully we didn’t encounter any drag races, only the pre-race tailgating and the post-race tread marks.
The Ring of Kerry also includes Killarney National Park, which features Muckross House and Ross Castle. We climbed around the remains of Ross Castle, and strolled through the ample grounds and gardens of Muckross House.
Sadly, the real world called for Jonathan and he left the next morning, but Laura turned up that afternoon to replace him! In the interim, I spent the morning at the Killarney House and Gardens, which provides free tours explaining the history of the house and community, and also has a photo gallery capturing views from the Killarney National Park throughout the different seasons. (If it’s for free, then it’s for me!)
On our last day in Killarney, Laura and I again explored the National Park, but this time with joined a hike through the Gap of Dunloe, followed by a boat ride through the lakes. I 100% recommend doing it this way! There are tours that will pick you up in town and drop you back off afterwards. The hike through the Gap of Dunloe is 2-3 hours depending on how often you stop for photos. (We stopped a lot and almost missed our boat!) The whole trek is paved, which means you never had to look down to watch your step and were free to focus completely on the terrain of rocky mountains, lush knolls, and glassy lakes. There are also horse drawn carriages that will carry you through the pass, but I would recommend walking.
At the end of the trek is a small cafe to grab tea and a snack and use the restroom before embarking on the lake portion of the trip. Thankfully, our boat driver was a Yankees fan, so I distracted him with chatting about baseball and New York whilst Laura grabbed our tea and scones! We then climbed aboard, suited up in our life jackets and tarps, and settled in for the ride.
From the boat we were able to view Osprey Rock, Muckross Abbey & Friars Island, Innisfallen Island, O’Sullivan’s Cascade, Lord Brandon’s Cottage, The Eagles Nest, Upper Lake, Meeting of the Waters, and then finally land at Ross Castle again.
My final stop in Western Ireland was the seaside town of Kinsale. I was adamant that I had to get to Kinsale, because I grew up on a street called Kinsale. (The neighboring streets including Killarney, Galway, and Connemara!) Laura was such a sport, trekking up the coastline for an hour to get to the restaurant called Bulman Pub which was highly recommended and did not disappoint! Walking out of the rain, into the Bulman, was like stepping into what you would want your home to be like: tantalizing smells and a log fire.
Fed, dry, and happy, we proceeded to Fort Charles just up the road and spent an hour exploring. We definitely could have spent more time at Fort Charles, doing a formal tour, exploring, and learning more of the history, but we didn’t have the time. Ultimately, we had to hitch-hike back into town as it was in order to avoid missing our bus! That was my first and only hitch-hike, and while I wouldn’t generally recommend it, I would say between Laura and I and the friendly people of Ireland, I felt completely safe. 🙂 but I probably just gave my mom a heart attack admitting that.