Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ireland: Clare, Galway, Blarney

Let's get right to it, shall we?

Day 4 Itinerary
Pick up Stephen & Aubrey on the red eye
Bunratty Castle
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.
Group reassembled, we headed out to the Cliffs of Moher. What a freaking sight. The day was overcast but clear, so a perfect day for the cliffs. MFD was freaking out back by the wall when Carol was taking these pictures. I was all relax! The last photo is the little ledge we were on. LOL
It was beautiful, both the Cliffs themselves and the surrounding countryside. I was surprised at how blue the water was. I also sort of thought you'd drive up and walk out and be at the Cliffs instead of entering, parking in a lot, and walking up one side and along the un-sanctioned you're on your own dirt paths then back down and up the steps onto the other side with the round little castle.
Off through the dramatic landscape of the Burren to the sleepy little town of Kinvara where we had lunch at the 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.
Forty-five minutes later we were checked into our place in Galway City. We stayed on The Long Walk for three nights through a VRBO rental and it was awesome. The location was phenomenal and I think that was a favorite for all of us. If you've ever seen this photo of Galway, we were on this row of houses towards the right side. If you walk to the left, you go through the Spanish Arch and are in the Latin Quarter with shops and pubs and restaurants and loads of music.
Dad's birthday dinner was at 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.
Day 5 Itinerary
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.
Lunch at O'Malleys and a stroll around Clifden. I found the public library.
More scenic stops on the way back, including MFD and Debbie attempting to befriend sheep.
Sun was full out when we got back, and it was nice to stroll in Galway after being in the car all day. The first three shots are the view when you step out of our door.
Dinner at a local, with some Irish music that was actually covers of 70s and 80s American music so... MFD and Dad and Carol went home and the rest of us stayed out for more music and tomfoolery.
Day 6 Itinerary
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.
Day 7 Itinerary
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.
After a quick lunch up the road next to the Blarney Woolen Mills and a spot of shopping (and shipping for those of us who purchased too much), we were back on the road to Bunratty for the last supper, which we actually ate there at the hotel. The food was excellent. And it was fancy. We were extremely under-dressed. Extremely.
It was a drop into bed dead type of night, and a bittersweet little end to our family trip as Stephen & Aubrey were heading home the next day and we were off to Scotland. More on that Friday.

See also: A day in Dublin, Ireland: The mountains, the sea, and Bunratty


  1. I honestly can't tell you how badly my husband wants to do the trip you just did!! We've been talking about it for a few years and hoping that next year is finally THE year!! Such beautiful history!! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  2. I'm LOVING those cliffs and row houses. I might be freaked out a bit too by the cliffs like MFD! :)

  3. ahhhh i so want to see the Cliffs of Moher - next time for sure. glad you had pretty good weather most of the time. Penneys is my favourite!! such a fun store, and so cheap! I made KC go have a beer while I shopped haha. I like the sound of the way the Irish live. I could get behind that!

  4. I love all your sign photos! Ireland isn't really on my travel bucket list but because I love The Princess Bride so much I really want to see the Cliffs of Moher!

  5. What is the thing about the Blarney stone? I gotta look that up - But I do know about its existence so cool you got to go kiss it.
    What an amazing birthday for your dad. Happy Birthday dad!!!!
    That coffee shop sign made me laugh

  6. Ahh, the castles and the pubs are seriously the best part! (I'm guessing- because I've never been, but I so want to go soon lol)

  7. One of my favorite parts about Europe in general (for the most part) is how you're often on your own and they let you use your own common sense not to fall off a cliff or drown in the ocean. You can roam and wander and explore all the fields and nooks and castles. Great pictures! It looks like you guys had a blast!
    I can't wait to read about Scotland!

  8. Seriously, all of your pictures look like postcards, and you're making it really hard for me to decide where we want to go on our next trip to Europe because this is making Ireland very much on the short list! I'm with MFD that I would have been terrified to be near the edge of the cliffs of Moher!

  9. So many great photos! I especially love the one of the skies over the hills. The department store/grocery store combo sounds great and their work/life balance seems very Latin. America needs to take a hint on that.

  10. The cliffs scenes are amazing but I probably would have been freaking out with MFD. Heights are not my favorite. It is really cool that grocery stores and department stores are set up so close like that. I could totally go in to work later, leave earlier and have much more vacation. Where can we petition for that????

  11. I'm finally caught up on all your posts and this has been my favorite yet!! So many fabulous photos. I absolutely love the shots at the grounds at Blarney- I've only ever heard/known about kissing the stone and all that. But wow! So much more to see there!!

  12. The Irish way of life sounds like something I could get on board with. The Cliffs of Moher look absolutely amazing. Although I'd totally be freaked out to be on the very edge too. But geez. What a way to spend your 60th birthday! Can't beat that!

  13. Ireland is on my travel must-do list so when you have big trips like this, I really appreciate the itinerary breakdowns and restaurant mentions. And the photos are awesome!

  14. What an amazing experience and so fun you all made it to a different country/continent to celebrate your Dad's 60th! I'm hoping that summer 2017 will be our time to make it over to Europe and I'll reference all of your amazing travels.

  15. Any time that a post can use the word "tomfoolery", I'm a fan of it. I enjoy all the photos.


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