Still riding a high from the wedding in Wick, we arrived in Ireland for a new and exciting adventure. We landed in Dublin late at night and met up with our friends Danielle and Rianna who would be joining us for our weeks long adventure. We boarded an early train to Galway the following morning where we would spend a night.
Galway is in western Ireland and the 4th largest metropolitan area in the country. Founded in the 12th century, this city is known as the cultural heart of Ireland and for its vibrant lifestyle and numerous festivals. The core of the city is lined with bars, restaurants, hotels, shops and more bars. The streets were filled to the brim with people during our visit and the energy grew as the hours wore on. You could almost feel the collective sobriety of the city deteriorate by 5pm. I had always thought the reputation for the Irish as heavy drinkers was only a misplaced stereotype- well, I was mistaken. From 11am on, every single bar I attended or even peered into was filled with people. Undoubtedly there were many tourists in the mix, but I saw just as many locals in the bars. On top of that, I have never seen more bars in a town than here. So not only were there more bars than anywhere I had seen in a city, but they were all humming. I was astounded. We spent the day bar hopping and wandering the town. It was incredibly charming, with cobblestone lined streets, a river running through the heart of it, and plenty of historic architecture. The lighthearted atmosphere was a fun way to take in our first full day in Ireland.
The next day we rented a car, and after a few hours of car troubles we made our drive through the Irish countryside to Kinsale. It was quite the adjustment to drive on the left side of the road and Rianna was brave enough to be our driver for the entirety of the trip. The countryside lived up to its reputation. Rolling emerald hills as far as the eye could see dotted with small villages along the way with the occasional coastal view out the passenger window. Seeing Ireland must be done in a car because much of the charm is in the small towns as you pass through. We made a pit stop at the Cliffs of Moher which is one of the most visited sites in Ireland with over 1 million visitors annually. The dramatic cliffs rise over the ocean and stand as a symbol of Ireland as well as a sanctuary to more species of birds than anywhere else in the country. After snapping a few pictures, we piled back into the car and drove off on the left side of the road towards Kinsale.
In a combination of car troubles and the detour to Moher, we didn’t get into Kinsale until about 9:45pm. Little did we know, this delay would put into motion a very stressful and strange turn of events.... We had no idea that the hotel we had booked for the next two nights was improperly marketed and actually a bed and breakfast with a live-in owner and a strict 4-7pm check in policy. She was not pleased to see us arrive at 9:45pm and after she berated us for waking her up she showed us to our rooms after we made our apologies. After setting our things down and receiving a rundown of our accommodations, our host began her tirade against us again and started getting very combative and aggressive. It was all starting to feel like the beginning of a bad horror movie so we hightailed it out of there. By the time we were out on the street it was 10:30pm, raining, and the entire town of Kinsale was booked for the night. After a flurry of calls and another hour down the road, we finally settled into a hotel in Cork by midnight. It was a bizarre experience but we weren’t going to let a bump in the road ruin our journey, so we planned on enjoying Cork.
As it turns out, Cork was a beautiful city and the next day we explored the Blarney Castle where we all took turns kissing the Blarney stone and toured the poison garden- filled with a myriad of poisonous and deadly plants. It is said that if you kiss the Blarney stone you will receive the gift of eloquence. Winston Churchill once kissed the stone and many say it gave him the eloquence most essential to England during the dark days of World War II. His inspiring speeches rallied the country around the cause for winning the war when it seemed all but lost. Had we stayed in Kinsale, we would not have been able to tour the Blarney Castle and learn about its legend which is a very substantial part of Irish culture. That for me is the beauty of travel in that things rarely go as planned, but if you keep an open mind you may come away with experiences that far surpass your best laid out plans.
We ended our tour of the Irish countryside with a long drive back to Dublin. I was anxious to see what the famous city had to offer but was sad to return to the quick pace of an urban environment. // Jeff