Ireland, days 11-12: The Cliffs of Moher and Connemara National Park

For some reason, all of us had failed to realise that this hotel came without breakfast when we did the booking, so the next morning our first stop was the shopping centre close to the hotel where we bought meal deals from Tesco. A pretty decent sandwich, drink and snack for €3 is pretty good value!! I picked up two meal deals… one for breakfast and one for lunch. Jan chose to get his breakfast from the place next door – The Gourmet Tart Co. Then we were on our way.

We stopped at Dunguaire Castle, on the south-eastern shore of Galway Bay for photos. Apparantly this castle is thought to be among the most photographed in Ireland.

Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle
Galway Bay, viewed from beside the castle
Galway Bay, viewed from beside the castle

Opposite the castle, we found a ruined cottage that nature was doing it’s best to take over. Much more interesting to me than yet another castle 😉

OK, the picture doesn't look like much... but inside was cool!
OK, the picture doesn’t look like much… but inside was cool!

Then it was on to the Cliffs of Moher! This is where we encountered the only true unfriendliness of our time in Ireland… pulling into the carpark, we noticed a sign saying it cost €6… which seemed a lot just to park! When we got to the ticket window, the woman told us it would be €6 admission per person! We asked what it would cost just to park and were again told “the admission fee is six euro per person.” Well yes, but what if we just want to park? “The admission fee is six euro per person.” Were we dealing with a robot or what?! After being told a third time that the admission was €6 per person (but not whether it was even possible to just park) we decided to just pay up. We then got leaflets that actually told us what the admission was for (the visitor’s centre mainly). Then finally we were allowed to park and go look at the cliffs!

The Cliffs of Moher "experience"... this is what we payed 6 euros for.
The Cliffs of Moher “experience”… this is what we payed 6 euros for.

The cliffs were definitely just as amazing as I’d been told! If you walk to the right, there’s a little tower (which you have to pay another €2 to climb. HA! As if!) and a field of cows. To the left there are more fields. And, of course, at both sides there are cliffs. We went to the right first, took photos of the view and the tower, and us girls saw a puffin!! jan saw it too, but not clearly enough to see that it really was a puffin so he just has to take our word for it. I know it was 100% a puffin though… I saw its beak!

Cliffs
Cliffs
Cliffs and dandelions... me trying to be "artistic"
Cliffs and dandelions… me trying to be “artistic”
The tower that we did NOT pay €2 to climb...
The tower that we did NOT pay €2 to climb…

Apparantly one of the Harry Potter films was filmed here, but it’s one I haven’t seen so no idea. We were also told a few days later that the Cliffs of Moher were used in the Princess Bride, but I didn’t recognise anything so clearly it’s been tooo long since I last saw that film and I desperately need to watch it again!
Jan, K and I then walked back down to where we’d started and took the path to the left. Once you reach the end of the visitor’s area, there are signs warning you that the cliff walk could be dangerous… there are no fences out there to make sure you don’t fall off! But we were pretty sure we could take care of ourselves,  so out we went 😉

Cliffs of Moher 3

Charlie enjoyed the cliffs too...
Charlie enjoyed the cliffs too…

We had a lovely walk, saw plenty of seagulls and also what may have been more puffins – they were quite far down so it’s difficult to tell. Jan said they were like flying penguins, which is actually a pretty perfect description! Whether what we saw were puffins or some toher black and white sea bird, they were fascinating to watch!

That rock on the very left is where the birds like to nest
That rock on the very left is where the birds like to nest

After walking for quiiite a while, we turned back to find the other two guys and get our lunch from the car. We enjoyed our meal deals sitting outside the visitor’s centre, then went in for a look at the gift shop and exhibition. I bought my grandma a gift, purchased a few postcards and tried to get stamps, but they had sold out (the second place – I’d asked at the gift shop in Adare as well and they also said they’d run out!). The exhibition wasn’t that brilliant – none of the buttons you could press actually worked and there was waaaay too much to read! The wildlife photos that were displayed around the walls were good though.

After leaving the cliffs, we tried to visit Caherconnell Stone Fort, but they were just closing for the day as we arrived (and had also run out of stamps!!) so we moved on to Poulnabrone dolmen, a portaltomb that probably dates back to between 4200 BCE and 2900 BCE. That is old!! The two photos below were taken by Jan as my camera battery had run out on the cliffs…

The dolmen
The dolmen
Some of the cool limestone surrounding the dolmen
Some of the cool limestone surrounding the dolmen

Once we’d finished taking photos of the Dolmen, we got back in the car and drove back to Galway, where we parked in town and went to find food. We had already agreed that tonight would be pie night, so to The Pie Maker we went… and had an amazing meal for only €9!! LESS than the night before and much, much tastier! Here is my pie which has a filling of sausage in veal gravy. Soooo good!

Pie, glorious pie!
Pie, glorious pie!

I took the photo using my friends camera.
And, in case delicious pies aren’t enough to convince you, here’s the ceiling decoration at The Pie Maker:

Inside The Pie Maker
Inside The Pie Maker

If you are ever in Galway, go here!!!! (If you think I’m enthusiastic now, you should have heard us advertising to everyone who came in after us! Some pies had run out after we ordered and she’d put a new batch in the oven, so she was telling people it would be about a 20 minute wait. We were sitting there saying “It’s totally worth the wait! Definitely hang around!!”. Haha). For dessert, Jan, K and I shared the rhubabrb and ginger pie, which was YUM!! I would have loved to trie the pistacio fudge pie, but I couldn’t have managed a whole one so we decided to share and went with one of the “safe” options (too much lactose in a fudge pie).

After our delicious pies, it was off to another pub – Sehan Ua Neachtain. I have no idea what that means or how it’s supposed to be pronounced, but the pub is just fabulous! You go in and it just looks like a small bar, but then round the corner is another seating area, then there’s another bar, and near the toilets are little individual booths where you can sit privately with your group. My words cannot do it justice and unfortunately my camera battery was still dead so no photos. There also seemed to be a decent mix of tourists and locals in there, and they did a decent range of beers as well. I had a local beer (Nimmo’s) and then tried an Irish cider, produced in Cork. After our drinks, we went and picked up the car then drove back to our hotel.

The next day, after picking up our meal deals from Tesco, we drove north of Galway to the Connemara National Park. It was another hinking day, but this time not in the rain.

Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park

We did the blue trail (easy) then the red trail, which involved climbin Diamond Hill…. and in some places it literally was “climbing”… up a staircase of stones! It was a sunny day as well, and I was very glad of my suncream! Annoyingly, the sun kept coming at me from the side and below, rendering my hat useless. Every time the breeze was blocked by part of the hill I thought I might die from the heat, but eventually we made it to the top (“we” being the girls – the three guys had raced on ahead!). The views from the top were worth the climb:

The view from the top
The view from the top – I have no idea why all my pictures are so cloudy… I swear there was sun!!
More of the view... the building you can see across the water is Kylemore Abbey
More of the view… the building you can see across the water is Kylemore Abbey
Of course there had to be a CHarlie photo at the top...
Of course there had to be a CHarlie photo at the top…

We also saw this adorable puppy up there, and the equally as adorable little boy who was accompanying him. (Oh, and there was also an adult with them of course ;-))

Gorgeous puppy!
Gorgeous puppy!

Later, we saw the puppy tied up outside the visitor’s centre crying for his owners. Awww! Naturally I had to go over and give him a stroke.

The visitor’s centre was interesting. We found out that peat had been formed from people burning charcoal for fuel… and that peat itself is now endangered due to its being used as fuel itself!

The guys wanted to go for some more hiking at Killary Harbour, one of only three glacial fjords in Ireland, but I decided I’d already had enough hiking in the sun for one day and K didn’t want to hike up a mountain, so we split up. Jan stayed with us girls, which surprised me as I thought he would have wanted to hike…
We parked the care in Leenaun (also known as Leenane), a village on the shore of Killary Harbour.

The harbour
The harbour – see, I told you there was sun that day!

We had parked the car in the carpark of a hotel (with permission!) and decided to go inside the hotel for a cup of tea. We were told we could sit in the loungee (I wish I’d taken a photo… comfy sofas, old books and a real fireplace!!) and she brough our tea to us… with biscuits! Hob Nobs and Chocolate Digestives! So much better than more hiking! It was nice to just sit, have a cup of tea and chat for a while… and the tea ended up being surprisingly cheap as well! So if you’re in the area and fancy a cuppa, Leenane Hotel is the place to go! (Don’t ask me if the hotel part is any good though… we were only in the lounge!).

Once the rest of our party came back, we drove around for a while trying to get to the shore of a lake but only ending up in the driveways of farmhouses, which I found highl entertaining, so eventually we gave up and drove back to Galway. We parked in the town centre again and went in search of food, deciding that as it was pretty much the end of the holiday we would splurge a bit and pick a decet restaurant. We ended up at a place called Ard Bia on Nimmo’s Pier, where we were very lucky to get a place – they said the table was actually reserved that evening but if we could finish our meal in 40 minutes we were welcome to use it until the next group came.

I LOVED the decor… such cute jugs for the flowers, and all the adorable teapots everywhere…

Ard Bia table decorations
Ard Bia table decorations
Teapots at Ard Bia
Teapots at Ard Bia

The food was also really good. I had a starter of courgette and warm haloumi salad, which came with the most delicious bread:

Halloumi and courgette salad
Halloumi and courgette salad

Then I ordered lamb for main, while Jan went for the sea trout. There was a bit of a mix-up with the mains, with the wiatress having written down 3 trout and two lamb rather than vice versa, so my meal was a little late coming. The waitress came over and apologised profusely though, and was so, so nice that I didn’t mind the wait. I forgot to take a photo of my lamb, so here’s one of Jan’s fish instead:

Sea trout
Sea trout

For desert, I had lemon posset topped with raspberries and strawberries. Even though I was technically full, this stuff was so smooth is just slid down my throat. Sooooooooooo tasty! I also tried a bit of K’s raspberry and rose sorbet, which was OMG amazing!! Droooool! This is my dessert:

Lemon posset
Lemon posset

We finished just in time! The people who had reserved our table were just arriving as we paid the bill.
Aaand that was our final night in Galway! We were all too full to even think about fitting any drinks in, so instead we picked up the car and drove to Tesco, which is where I went shopping for the stash I showed you in a previous post.

The next day, we drove back to Dublin to drop the car of and then had one final night in Ireland before flying home… but that’s a story for my next blog post.

Ireland, day 10: Adare and Galway

We’re into the second week of the trip now… day 10, a Monday, saw us on the move again, this time travelling from Killarney to Galway. Check out time was 10 a.m., so we were up bright and early again… although it was closer to 10:30 by the time everything was squished in the car and we were ready to move. We’d decided to take things a bit easier that day and only have one stop en route, for sightseeing, leg-stretching and lunch! That stop was Adare, and I’m so, so glad we went there! The minute we eneded the village I fell in love with the thatched cottages… but first things first…

We had come to Adare to visit the castle (known as Desmond Castle) because it was on our heritage cards. The booklet that came with the cards told us access to the castle was by guided tour only, and to register for the tour we had to go to the heritage centre, so we did. It was 12 noon at this point, and the lady in the heritage centre told us the next tour was at 2. Huh. We still wanted lunch though, and I definitely wanted some photos of the thatched cottages, so we weren’t leaving just yet! First of all, we went into the Holy Trinity Abbey Church, which is right next to the heritage centre.

Inside the church
Inside the church
More of the church
More of the church

The thatched cottages were just across the road from the church, so naturally on leaving the church across the road I went! Just look at the adorableness!!

Adare cottage 1

Adare cottages 2

Adare cottages 3

Once we finished taking photos of the cottages, Jan went back to the car to fetch our sausage rolls and the rest of us headed into Adare Park to find a spot to eat lunch.

In Adare park
In Adare park

These guys came to join us, obviously hoping we would feel like sharing:

Birds
Birds
A bird on a bin!
A bird on a bin!

Once we’d eaten, we continued our walk around Adare village. We found another thatched cottage up the road from the park:

Thatched cottage

I had hoped to buy stamps, but the post office was closed for lunch. The perils of villages.
I’ve no idea what this building actually is, but I liked the look of it, so out came the camera…

Just a house? Or something else?
Just a house? Or something else?

We also came across some scary looking cattle in a field… I swear if we’d got any closer they would have charged us!

"Take one more step and you're dead!"
“Take one more step and you’re dead!”

There was still about half an hour to go before the castle tour, but some people had postcards to write so we decided we would hang around and wait after all. At 2 p.m., a mini bus turned up to take us up to the castle.

The outside of Adare Castle
The outside of Adare (Desmond) Castle

What we were told on the tour was interesting, but the guide did a terrible job of presenting it! I’m not sure whether she was bored or trying waaay to hard to remember what came next, but either way she spoke in a monotone throughout! Oh well, the castle itself and the views of the river and old bridge from the castle made up for it!

Adare Castle

Old bridge, viewed from the castle
Old bridge, viewed from the castle

The river is called the Maigue, which is pronounced May. Makes perfect sense…

The next stop was our hotel in Galway. After parking up, checking in and unloading the car, we decided to walk into town.

I really liked Galway. It is a city, but not a huge city, so it wasn’t horribly overwhelming for me (like London… I hate, hate, hate London!). And the first thing we saw when we reached the centre was water! The River Corrib flows into the sea right near Galway’s city centre. I’m sure I’ve lamented Karlsruhe’s lack of water before, so I was very exited to find out that the sea was right there in town.

Where the River Corrib meets the sea
Where the River Corrib meets the sea

The first thing we wanted to do was find out where the bus home went from. The information from the hotel had been “Eyre Square”, so off we went to find it. To get there, we walked up a street called Quay Street, where most of Galway’s pubs and restaurants seem to be. On Eyre Square, there was part of a building just standing in the middle of the square. It’s called the Browne doorway and is all that remains of a merchants house built in the early 17th century. The house was originally elsewhere, but the doorway now stands on Eyre Square.

Browne doorway
Browne doorway

We found the bus stop, checked when the last bus back to our hotel would be then went in search of something to eat. Personally, I thought some of the places on The Quay looked nice and reasonably priced, but for some reason another member of the group didn’t want to go back down there. He originally picked an “Italian” place that was offering a two-course meal for €10 (hmm, suspiciously cheap!) but we vetoed that on the grounds that every single thing on the menu contained either cheese or cream – no good for our lactose-intolerant friend! I had actually seen some of their “food” on the tables outside as well and was very relieved when the place was vetoed!

We then ended up outside a place called Finnegan’s, which advertised itself with “Eat in a genuine medieval building”. Sound like a tourist trap much? Main meals there were €9!! Again, alarm bells were going off, but by that time I was fed up of trying to talk people out of going for absolutely anything as long as it was cheap, so I went along with it. MISTAKE!!! At Finnegan’s, we ate the only bad meal in the entire two weeks we were in Ireland!! My lactose intolerant friend asked whether there was anything she could eat, and was told even the fish and chips and milk in the batter. The only thing that was safe was apparantly a chicken salad, so she ordered that… only for the plate it to turn up with grated cheese on it. Err… what?! The rest of the sald consisted of a few ingredients (one of which was tinned sweetcorn) thrown hapharzardly next to each other. Some salad!! About 10 minutes later, the hot food the rest of us had ordered finally turned up (why bring the sald first?). The waitress noticed the salad hadn’t been touched and asked if there was anything wrong with it, to which the reply was “Errr, cheese!!”.  So away went the salad to be brought back aaages later no longer with cheese, but also no longer with peppers. Umm, what? My friend then requested the bread that was supposed to come with the salad and was told soda bread had lactose in it – but they did have some little baguette slices if she wanted. Yes, of course she wanted!! There needed to be something substantial to go with the so-called “salad”.

The chicken kiev I had ordered was ok, if a bit dry, but the carrots were definitely microwaved and therefore soggy. Pretty sure the mashed potatoes had been reheated in the microwave as well. I tried some of my kale and din’t like it, but put that down to my hatred of all things cabbage-like. However, afterwards someone else said it simply hadn’t been very nice. Our waitress was friendly enough, but very young and totally clueless… hence the having to be sent back to fetch bread. *Sigh*. All in all, NOT a good experience. But I did warn everyone before we went in! Maybe next time they’ll be willing to pay a tiny bit more for some food that’s at least semi-decent! In summary, if you’re ever in Ireland and find yourself passing Finnegan’s DO NOT go in!! You can get much better food for roughly the same price elsewhere.

Anyway, enough about the crappiness! After we’d eaten, we decided to go for a walk and find the cathedral since we had plans for the next two days and might not havy any more time to explore Galway. Here, have some photos:

The Corrib
The Corrib
Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral

A couple of decided we wanted to actually see some traditional Irish music before we went home, so after taking photos of the cathedral, we headed back towards the pubs. This time, at the top of Quay Street, we turned right and went down a parallel street… which is where we spotted The Pie Maker. and its amazing sounding pies (later to be confirmed as amazing tasting too).

We discovered that we would have to wait half an hour until the first pub started its live music, so we took a walk down to the pier, walked around a bit, took Charlie photos and sat listening to a guy who was playing his guitar to himself at the water’s edge. We also saw swans flying, but I didn’t manage to get a photo of them. It was an amazing sight though!

I couldn't get a picture of swans flying, but here's one swimming...
I couldn’t get a picture of swans flying, but here’s one swimming…
Charlie ponders life's mysteries
Charlie ponders life’s mysteries

Then it was back up Quay Street and into a pub for music. I *think* the place we went to was The King’s Head, which is on High Street – the continuation of Quay Street after the crossing. It reminded me a little bit of an Irish pub called Scruffy’s here in Karlsruhe, except cleaner and with much friendlier staff!! The music was pretty good, and of course they played Galwa Girls! Four of us stayed to watch the music, while the fifth member of our group went off to get some sleep.

Musicians 1

Musicians 2

Att 11, we went to get the bus home, but on finding out we had to wait 20 minutes, we decided to walk. It’ll be fiiiine, we thought. We walked into town, after all we thought. HA! The boys (who have smartphones) took us on a detour that went through the nicer part of town. The houses in that area were really, really nice (and big… and posh!). Unfortunately, the detour took us too far south – there was never a right turn where we needed it – so we ended up walking past where our hotel was in a parallel street then having to double back on ourselves when we eventually found a turning. We did make it back before midnight, but only just!

And that’s all for this blog post. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about what we got up to while staying in Galway…

I’m going to Ireland!

So, now that I’ve finished boring you with ten million posts about Berlin, let me tell you about my next trip…

At the pub quiz two weeks ago, my team came second. Usually, the prize for second place is a pitcher filled with whichever draught drink you desire, but this time was different. The prize was a voucher for a “Lonely Planet” travel guide of your choice. Somebody had the brilliant idea that we could claim our Lonely Planet and then use it for a quiz team holiday. So we left the quiz on Tuesday agreeing that everyone would think about where they would like to go.

Irish flag
Irish flag (Photo credit: RedKoala1)

Two days later, after a couple of discussions with Jan, I had a brain wave. We’d one the pub quiz in an Irish pub, so why not go to… Ireland! I’ve been wanting to go there for a while anyway, to see something more than just Dublin, and it seemed appropriate. Jan thought some people might have already been, but I decided to suggest it to the group anyway. It turned out that nobody had been to Ireland (other than Jan and I, and we’ve only done Dublin… plus I lived in Northern Ireland for 2 years) and everybody thought it was a brilliant idea. I, my friends, am a genius! (Well, not really… I just had the voice of Simba from the Lion King in my head when I typed that…)

We will be going in June, if we ever manage to get everyone to agree on flights! And it’s looking like our main destinations will be Dublin, Kilkenny, Galway and possibly Belfast (Dublin is a must… we have to fly there). Those are just bases for sleeping and storing luggage… there will also be daytrips of course. So now I need your help. Would should we definitely, 100% do in Ireland? Any suggestions for good (and cheap!) places to eat/drink/sleep in any of the four places metioned? Anything that doesn’t appear in any tourist guide but is worth visiting? Our quizmaster is from Kilkenny, so we’re hoping he’ll be able to help with that, but I’m sure some of my readers must have been to Ireland (Tina.. I know you have!)

Here, have a photo I took the last time I was in Dublin… in 2007:

Dublin Cathedral

And now it’s over to you. The comments box is open. GO!!