Let's get right to it, shall we?
Day 4 Itinerary
Pick up Stephen & Aubrey on the red eye
Cliffs of Moher (1 hour from hotel, allow two hours)
Drive through the Burren
Lunch in Kinvara, see Dunguaire Castle
Check in Galway City, Dad's birthday dinner at Oscar's
Today was the day! My dad's actual 60th birthday. I of course forgot to wish him a happy birthday when we met in the lobby at 5:45 a.m. to leave for the airport. Stephen & Aubrey were arriving on the red eye in Shannon, which is why we cut up to place ourselves in Bunratty the previous evening.
After breakfast, Stephen and Aubrey and I climbed to the top of Bunratty castle. That'll get your blood pumping in the morning. We basically had the castle and grounds to ourselves, save for the chickens and some workers. One woman was making scones in one of the old buildings and fires were laid throughout. Pretty cool.
Pier Head. Dunguaire Castle, in the back of the top two photos, is one of the most photographed castles in Ireland over this little spot of water.
Oscar's Seafood. It was a good spot with very fresh seafood recommended by the people who rent our house out. We had a few drinks after then called it a night.
Connemara Coast Road / Wild Atlantic Way / Connemara Loop
Lunch in Clifden
Let's talk about the weather. This was our first typical Irish weather day - off and on periods of rain, mist, general dampness. All other days we had mostly sunny, unseasonably warm days. We drove the Connemara loop, and by we I mean my dad and my brother, because I was rocking in the back with anxiety about the roads. The roads in Connemara are like, not really roads. Thank God they could pilot them because the scenery was stunning and probably my favorite of the Ireland portion of the trip. Dramatic and wild. I loved it. We were supposed to hit Kylemore Abbey and its walled garden on the way back, but we didn't do that. It took longer than expected on those roads.
Our first stop was a beach right past Salthill, then a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere, and some pull overs where we could to check out the scenery.
O'Malleys and a stroll around Clifden. I found the public library.
Men golf, women shop/lunch
Finally a laid back day with some Galway living, pizza ordered in that was surprisingly awesome, the opportunity to nap, and a night capped off with some traditional irish music and a mystery farter in Taafes. The men golfed at Galway Golf Club in the morning. The women shopped and lunched. We saw a Friday afternoon wedding party come down the Quay and a former NBA basketball star while lunching at The Kings Head. We checked out the Irish department stores - I liked Dunnes, but Penney's discount store is amazing! Peters bought another suitcase there on the cheap. I love how the grocery stores are at the bottoms of department stores. The Irish go into work later, get out of work earlier, have more holiday time, and seem much less stressed out than we do. It's a way of life I could sink my teeth into for sure.
Blarney Castle (2.5 hours from Galway, allow two hours)
Blarney Woolen Mills & Lunch
Bunratty Manor (1.5 hours from Blarney) for dinner & overnight
So since we were picking up Stephen & Aubrey mid-week and wanted to do Blarney all together, we back tracked on this day. Not too bad because it was all highways, which meant I could drive. Hey ohhh. I got us there alive although it was a nail biter through the town of Blarney. We kissed the stone, but for me the star of the show at Blarney is the outer grounds. Really cool and I'm glad we had the opportunity to stroll, even though it was frigid. I'd estimate we spent about 30 minutes in the actual castle, and over an hour and 15 trolling the grounds in the Poison Garden and at the house, and later rambling through the Rock Close in search of the Witch's Stone and the Faery Glade and the Wishing Steps.
See also: A day in Dublin, Ireland: The mountains, the sea, and Bunratty