After the week of exploring northern England and Scotland, we were looking forward to Ireland. I hadn’t been before and was eager to see some of the great scenery and meet some interesting locals along the way.
Our first stop was Dublin, where we found an Airbnb in a Georgian Terrace in Dublin 4 which was awesomely close to the city proper and very well-stocked with maps, guides and resources. Our first night in Dublin just saw us wander up the road and find ourselves a pub for a cheeky cider and some tucker. This set a precedent we chose to make standard practice – I can tell you now that we ate in pubs every night in Ireland. It seemed the done thing, to be sure.
Tuesday we went a-roving on foot, armed with rain gear and maps galore. We walked up through St Stephen’s Green and traipsed around the green space, before striking out for Trinity College. Trinity’s famous library eluded us – standing in line for over an hour struck us as a poor use of our time at that point. Instead, we explored the ivy-covered campus buildings, and the surprising sculptures placed seemingly at random around the grounds.
We then made our way to Temple Bar, exploring the tiny (and very touristy) laneways. Empty but for tourists and photographers at this point, it was a nice wander into the older part of Dublin (though you wouldn’t know it for all the neon). We then crossed the bridge and walked east, out towards the open water along the riverbank. We found the Convention Centre, a stunning building that was hosting a Cattle Convention at the time (who knew there were such things?) and walked up towards a harp-shaped bridge, crossing over just before the river mouth hit open water and exploring some more of what felt very much like Dublin’s Barangaroo. We saw lots of tech company headquarters in timber, glass and steel warehouses – we thought of dropping into Airbnb and asking for some vouchers but decided instead to eat lunch by the water.
We then walked back along the river, passing Temple Bar and ending up out at Phoenix Park, after a quick stop at the museum for tea and restrooms. Phoenix Park was huge – I’m getting to love the green spaces more and more as we walk around the cities! Sore feet began to get the best of us though, and after heading back to change, we ended up going out for dinner again at Temple Bar, then wandering back via an ice-cream shop to home.
Wednesday we picked up our car at the airport and drive out west. We wanted to dodge the big roads as much as possible and see some small towns, and we stopped for lunch at a little pub called the Blackheath Inn. When we went in, there was a couple drinking together while then stared at their phones, and an old bloke propping up the bar who looked at us like we’d stepped out of a flying saucer. We ended up getting tea and sandwiches from the bar-lady and watching some Irish politics before jumping back in the car and heading off again.
We hit some rain on the way to Clifden, so much of our drive in was shrouded in mist and very focused on staying on the single lane roads as the buses and lorries passed by! We found our Airbnb, run by a lovely and very enthusiastic lady named Vivianne, who made us feel very welcome straight away (tea by the heater, no less!) and let us get settled in. By then, the rain was abating, so we headed into town to watch the football at a pub, which was definitely a tradition of our trip so far!
Thursday we drove around County Galway, exploring the new Wild Atlantic Way touring road, including the Sky Road section near our accommodation. After that, we drove out to Connemara and climbed a local hill called Diamond Hill. I’m not great with heights at the best of times, although I invariably forget this until I’m most of the way up something and look down! So Diamond Hill was more of an adventure than we expected. The trail at times devolved into a goat track inlaid with wet rock steps, and once we entered the cloud layer, it became an exercise in staying on track and keeping your footing! The views and the experience were both incredible, although it’s in my brain as an experience recorded in hyper-awareness and accompanied with the sound of me trying not to freak out too much!
Once we reached the summit, we took a more casual route down the back side, looking out across the rolling green hills as the cloud layer rose a bit.
We then drove around to Kynemore Abbey, which started life as a gift from a devoted husband to this wife nearly two hundred years before! It was chock-full of tourist buses and difficult to justify the cost of a ticket to look at the inside, so we kept on driving after a brief stop for some photos.
We drove some more of the coast road, then backtracked at low tide to Omey Island, which is accessible on foot when the tide’s out. We got there to also find that’s the only time it’s accessible by car as well, and amused ourselves watching people drive their cars across the sandbank before the water came back in! It was equal parts entrancing and bleak, but definitely worth the trip!
We ended the day at another pub, with great food, and then found one that was showing the football, to watch France beat Germany in the semi-final.