Ireland. A country that I didn’t want to leave 6 years ago and a country that I couldn’t wait to get back into. Even before going my first time, I had wanted to go to Ireland for a very long time. As a child I was exposed to Irish culture in a few ways and it had left a massive imprint on me, and my brother too. I was bloody looking forward to going to Ireland with mum, as, when I was a child, mum seemed to live and breathe Ireland. It coursed through her veins, and our ears, as the Riverdance soundtrack seemed to be on perpetual repeat in our Lowden sleepy hollow. I remember vividly, silent tears would roll down mums face at the sound of the tin-whistle, or during the credits of another Father Ted episode. Yes, she loved the place, and both my brother Ben and I were super surprised to find many years later that she had never even been! In fact, Ben and I found out, she didn’t even really seem to know much about the place, and she only liked it because of the bloody Riverdance show her and her friend Anne had watched in Perth years ago! It was however, a country that she did hold dear as she is incredibly musical and the Irish love for music is almost second to none out there. It still gives me goosebumps to this day.
Our plan was to tour Northern Ireland, and then hire a car and cart ourselves around a country that is a tiny bit bigger than the Southwest and Great Southern regions combined in a few weeks. Not a massive area by WA standards, but add in windy Irish Roads, and countless quaint villages and pubs and yeh, we sure got around the place!
We began our Irish adventure in Northern Ireland which of course is actually a part of the United Kingdom. Getting here was its own story, with our airline “Flybe”, with the encouraging slogan of “Faster than Road or Rail” not exactly instilling much faith. I mean come on, its a fucking plane. If that is all they’ve got to their name then good luck. Our first flight was cancelled and we were shuffled around the airport like cattle until they put us on another flight! Needless to say I didn’t give them a great review.
The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast, infamous for the “Troubles” between the Catholics and Protestants. In fact, this divide is not really a religious divide, it is purely political. There are those in Northern Ireland who are loyal to the Crown (currently Queen Elizabeth the second). The other side of the divide are those who want to be united with Ireland, and shy away from British Rule. “The Troubles” were an ongoing dispute that resulted in the tragic deaths of . Today, we are told that the people here are experiencing a period of peace not seen for a long time, however, when you talk about it with some locals who have become our friends now, there indeed are still incidents that are linked to the dispute even today. It is not surprising really, when a community is so divided, that just like that, people can forgive and move on. It just doesn’t happen that quickly. And, with the Brexit vote over the water, there is a feeling that this will, like in Scotland, give impetus to the “Re-unification” side and a re-united Ireland may be a distinct possibility soon! Who knows and watch this space.
We did the famous “Black Cabs Tour” and were taken to some interesting parts of the city, that at times in history have been torn apart by bombs and bullets. It is pretty crazy to think about but I guess Europe is covered in places that have been torn apart by war. What makes this experience in Belfast interesting though, is that because this conflict is so recent, today you can still feel it bubbling under the surface. While in a “Loyalist/Protestant” area, we had people yell abuse at our taxi and others seen shaking their heads at our tour driver, who was from the other side of the conflict and, had actually been shot and lost friends during the conflict. It is a very interesting experience and I highly recommend it. I have done the tour twice and, coincidentally I ran into the driver who had given me the tour the first time, randomly in Belfast! Small world. Anyway I have done it twice and I still learnt more doing it the second time.
Following this we took a full day tour up to the Giants Causeway. This is a famous tourist spot, of columns of hexagonal geometric shaped rocks in the North of Ireland. The rocks themselves are pretty cool, and are shaped so basically because of maths. The shape is a common shape replicated all through nature. Think honeycomb in bee hives, ummmmm I cant think of any more right now, but yeh it is maths and nature and lava cooling at high pressure. Cool huh! I think what was better about the whole tour though was the fact that I had got the tour tickets at a huge discount, so going into the tour we were not expecting an amazing tour guide etc, and it really lived up to our expectations! I mean, the first stop, the driver told us “no more than ten minutes, and I mean it, don’t just hang around in the castle or nothin, just go and take your photos and come back” and then he drives off! Ten minutes later he hoons back in his big bus, finishing off a Sub from Subway haha. So you can imagine what the rest of the day was like. He was great though. Was very honest about all of the attractions and gave us plenty of random facts about places we drove past. We also saw a fair few of the Game of Thrones filming locations. They are better in the show in this case….
Republic of Ireland
From the North we finally left the UK and entered the Republic of Ireland. And what an entrance! Taking the X52 bus on a new motorway, there was absolutely no sign that we had changed countries haha, but there were a few excited people watching google maps on their phones and started pointing out the window. So I guess that was the sign. We were to stay in a cute little apartment right in the heart of Dublin on the Liffey River that divides the city. Here we went and had a few Guinness, listened to some great live music by some very funny gentlemen and I surprised mum with tickets to a Celtic music and dance show. And yes, she let a few tears out! Just like the old days at home. So really, we had a great little time in Dublin and it was a really good preview of the drinking and live music to come.
Well, what an amazing surprise this place was. I wanted to go literally based on the Terrain layer in Google Maps. It looks like a super interesting kind of circle of mountains situated in the far west of Ireland. And we were not disappointed! This is a truly remarkable part of Ireland, complete with sheep, mountains, glens, and even Fjords! After a breathtaking drive to our BnB accomodation, we had a look at the local town, Clifden. It was s tiny little place, kind of the size of Pingelly maybe? but it was throbbing with pubs, restaurants and shops of all kinds. This is something I love about Ireland. A town could be small but it is teeming with culture, people and things to do and try. The music we heard at a particular pub here was some of the best live music that we heard in Ireland. Sheree in Particular loved the pubs here, and the whole live music thing in General. I think it is partly what makes the country great. For the most part the weather is miserable! But rest assured, you know that that night, a night of Guinness, great food and even better live music await you. No wonder the locals are incredibly cheerful, for a place that doesn’t really get great weather! It is amazing.
So, while we were here, we did a heap of exploring in our car, drove some wonderful drives, saw incredible sunsets and I did a crazy hike up a mountain at 6pm and came down at dark. It was a bit insane as the wind was HOWLING but it was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
Galway and the Cliffs of Moher
Galway is a great little city, and I have been before and had a crazy night out there. This time, unfortunately, a massive storm had come in so we really couldn’t go out – it was fierce!! We did that day however decide to go and visit the Cliffs of Moher. Yes, during the insane storm. Winds up to (and definitely felt stronger than) 110kph were blowing in up the cliffs and it made for an exciting time that is for sure. Check out the photo and video below.
In the above clip, watch Debbie closely in the blue. At one point I am pretty sure she actually got blown away through the arch!!
Our journey around Ireland then took us to the Kerry Peninsula in the south west of the island. On our way though we stopped in at Limerick. Last time I came through here, I had spent a couple of hours at the bus stop, and had assumed that the rest of the city was as shit as what I had seen at the bus station. It isn’t! It is one of the prettiest cities I thought, and mum certainly enjoyed wandering around the place.
The Kerry Peninsula is another beautiful example of Ireland’s natural beauty and it was another place that did not disappoint. We booked an AirBnb here for 4 nights and it was so nice to stay in one place for a while. Mum used the time to relax, I tried to and then Sheree and I decided to go and climb halfway up Irelands highest Peak up an incredible vertical climb called “Devil’s Ladder”. It was an immense climb, and the weather was typically Irish (wet cold and rainy). The views were well worth it though! Plus Sheree decided to go for a dip in the icy water – nutcase!
We spent one morning doing the famous “Ring of Kerry”. I just can’t help but think of a disturbing euphemism there…. but thats my dirty brain for you. The drive was as stunning as always however, by this point in our trip I think we had literally been saturated by so much stunning beauty here that it was hard to really “wow” us! Hard life isn’t it when you have reached a point where seeing breathtaking epic scenery becomes the norm! What really blew us all away though was reaching the Killarney National Park. This is full of Virgin forests, and, given Killarney’s geographical location on the edge of the Gulf Stream, receives a warmer climate. This in turn gives the area a lot of warmth, sun and rain, producing the most magnificent temperate forests you will find on Ireland. It really did blow us away. You can see some photos below
Killarney is still one of my favourite towns in Ireland. It’s pretty, has plenty to do and see but has become extremely touristy in the last few years, or it felt that way to me anyway. The highlights were the pubs, Guinness, we each had our “Favourite” meals here and probably the random street music and dancing that we happened across randomly. The biggest highlight though was the morning that we spent at Muckross house taking photos under the pleasant sun that had come out. It was so nice to have enough time that we didn’t have to worry about moving on the the next place, and could immerse ourselves into the world around us, trying to capture the beauty of the place through a camera lens. Some photos are below and remember to use the arrows at the bottom right of images to scroll.
Cork and Dublin
From Killarney we made our way to Cork where, to be honest I can’t remember doing anything that remarkable. Nandos was a highlight though. Oh yes! we visited the Blarney stone here. The line was massive but it was a grand old castle and was worth the visit. we all kissed the Blarney stone and boy, I can tell you I think I definitely walked away from there with the gift of the gab!!!
From here it was one more night in Dublin, right in the centre again where we all had a celebratory Guinness and one more night watching and listening to some more splendid Irish music. The live music and pub scene really has no match anywhere in the world. We absolutely loved heading into a pub after a day of touring, sitting back with a hearty meal, some great Guinness and top quality music. It really only exists in such a quantity and quality as in Ireland.
Ireland to this day is still one of my favourite little countries for these reasons:
- Very easy to travel by car (they drive on the left!)
- Lovely and good-natured people
- Great pub scene
- Great live music and it’s everywhere!
- Irish Dancing
- Phenomenal natural beauty
- Delicious hearty meals
- Not too expensive
- Every village seems to be full of charm
- and many more!
So from here we took an Aer Lingus flight to San Francisco for a 5 week jaunt in the US of A!! Post coming soon!