Tag Archives: Galway

New heights in Eireann

photo 3Today we had a “phenomenal tour,” as Sean Finnegan would say. He, and our bus driver Frank, did a fine job motoring us over the Irish countryside. We set out for the Cliffs of Moher, spectacular 700 foot high walls above the Atlantic. This was not scheduled on our tour as it is weather dependent. Although the skies were a bit gray, the visibility was good enough to take in excellent views, as the photos clearly show. We hiked up like “real Irish people” rather than going on the sidewalk from the parking lot. We were on more of a cow path, complete with nice Irish cows.

The views once we arrived to the top were spectacular and made me feel very small. We did not lay on our bellies and look over, though some around us did. Sean clearly warned us about the danger of doing so. We also saw a huge sea cave that was in Harry Potter 7, Part 1. The cliffs themselves were also featured in The Princess Bride (“The Cliffs of Insanity”). Pretty cool.

We ventured on for a lunch stop next to the Bunratty Castle. (We saw LOTS of castles today, many of which looked a bit “broken down,” as our nieces stated.) It was a nice stop with good food (all of which is very excellent here, though a bit heavy…lots of potatoes, which we learned today are mostly imported from Cypress and Spain as the farm ground here is too valuable to waste on potatoes!).

Dungeon w/ prisoner @ Blarney Castle
Dungeon w/ prisoner @ Blarney Castle

We departed for County Cork, specifically the Blarney Castle. Reed and I visited three years ago, so we knew what to expect. You climb many, many stairs up a narrow, winding stone staircase to the top of this mid-15th century castle. Then you wait in line to lay on your back, grab two iron bars, lean your head back, and kiss the stone in the wall. The Irish believe this process gives one the gift of gab or eloquence. We all kissed it so we will see what happens! (Abbie already has the gift, so she said perhaps it will work in reverse for her!)

We separated from our California group as they were staying in Cork for the night. We headed back to Dublin on the 7:20 train from Cork via Mallow and Limerick. Then we went by bus to Trinity….it was good to be “home,” which is also my folks’ home for the next few days until we head to Scotland. Our students are a bit weary and may be taking the day off from their placements tomorrow, which I approved of. It was a very busy weekend…we saw a lot of this small, green island, and feel much better acquainted with her (called Eireann in Gaelic, my namesake).

Aran Island Expedition

Sunday we spent a day on the largest of the three Aran Islands off the coast of Galway. I was too tired once we finally settled back into our hotel last night to blog, and this morning we head out soon, so this will be a bit brief (though there are lots of pictures to share!).

We took a bus about 20 miles to the ferry port, and then we rode the ferry about 45 minutes to the island of Inishmor. It is a lovely little island, about 8 miles long and 2 miles wide. Our guide was local and full of wit…lots of zingers. :) I could imagine him and Uncle Jeff in some sort of battle of one-liners!

Dun Aonnghus
Dun Aonnghus

We visited a few sites on the island, including a 2500 year old fort, Dun Aengus. This was probably the highlight, as it is perched atop a 300 foot cliff on the edge of the sea. If you google it, you will see pictures of people laying on their bellies with their heads over the edge looking down. Yes, some in our party did this as well. It was quite a hike up the rocky path to get to the fort, but it was well worth it.

We lunched on sandwiches, soup, wraps, and fudge at a nearby cafe and enjoyed the sunshine. We reboarded the minibus and went to the Seven Churches, a monastic settlement dating back to the 8th century with the remains of some 11th century Celtic crosses there too. Only two of the churches are in tact, and it is still used as an active cemetery with new headstones mixed in with the old ones.

We had a little time for refreshments before getting back on the ferry and heading to Galway. The kids, Reed, and some students passed the time playing “slappy hands” and “zip bong”…extreme silliness! It was a nicely paced, though long, day. Sean Finnegan was with us but he let the local guides have the spotlight. Tony stayed behind to take one of our students to the doctor as she has been dealing with a rash on her hands (diagnosed as hand, foot, & mouth so we all are taking precautions to keep healthy while helping her recover).

We got the kids fed and settled in for some gaming time, and the four of us went out for dinner. The busy Shop Street was less crowded, though still fairly lively for a Sunday night. We ate at The King’s Head, an historic pub we had learned about the day before on our walking tour. Mom had her first mushy peas and fish & chips, so she is adapting well to the local fare! Oh yeah, we snuck in some gelato too, but don’t tell the kids. :) Onto Cork and the Blarney Stone today before returning to Dublin…we will go by the Cliffs of Moher if the weather is good, so fingers are crossed!

Galway Getaway

This morning we departed Dublin by train for the roughly two-hour journey west to the seaside town of Galway. About 60,000 full-time residents live here, but it swells on weekends when many come for a getaway. We found that to be true this weekend, especially with the arts’ festival in town. The gentle rocking of the cross-country train was quite pleasant…we felt rather European. :)

We settled into our lovely hotel and got lunch prior to departing for waking tour #2 by Sean Finnegan. He is a wonderful, knowledgeable man, but boy has he got the gift of gab (I wonder how many times he has kissed the Blarney Stone and been touched with its eloquence?)! The kids stayed behind in the hotel, which was a good thing as it grew rather long (again). Still, I really enjoyed learning about this once fishing village with quite a trade route to Spain. It is even rumored that Christopher Columbus was inspired to sail west to the Americas by experiences he had in Galway!

We had a group dinner scheduled at Monroe’s, a famous Galway pub (there sure seem to be a lot of famous pubs in this land). We have joined up with a student group from Fullerton, CA, so we are quite a spectacle going around, all 30 of us! Reed stayed on longer with the students to listen to traditional Irish music…I returned to our hotel with the kids and my folks. We have a ferry to catch to the Aran Islands in the morning, so we are looking forward to another new adventure, this time on the sea.