Globetrotting: Northern & Southwest Ireland

For a full list of my travel adventures, click here.

IMG_5982As part of my trip to Ireland last week, I also had the pleasure to get outside of Dublin, first for a day-trip into Northern Ireland, and then for a three day road-trip through the Southwestern part of the country. While it’s hard to lump all of these together, it seems the most parsimonious way to explain my non-Dublin Ireland adventures.

For one day, we rented a car and drove up into Northern Ireland in search of the Giant’s Causeway. Now, I may not have had a clear idea of it before living in the UK, but there’s a not-so-distant past in which Northern Ireland and Ireland were in fact one country, but the present situation is that Ireland is recognized as the Republic of Ireland whereas Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom still. This means that while Ireland uses UK plugs and drives on the UK side of the road with UK-sided cars, our cell phones only began working when we crossed the imaginary boundary between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This also meant that we got charged a dumb fee on our rental car for driving into another country, but I desist… I’m working that out with the car company anyway.

IMG_5609We drove up through Belfast, where we had hoped to stop and have lunch and check out the new Titanic museum. Unfortunately, time didn’t permit, and we carried on up to a small town called Bushmills, where the Giant’s Causeway is most closely located. The Causeway itself is a cool geologic formation of Basalt columns, which formed during a period of volcanic and tectonic activity in the area. The columns are interesting because they run vertically out of the ground, and all have either five, six, or seven sides. This makes them look unusual, fake even, and drags droves of crazy tourists and locals alike up into the frigid air along the northern part of the Irish sea, staring out over the water toward the Hebrides Islands in Scotland, and taking pictures of rocks…. I never said it made a ton of sense, okay? But we did drive six hours round trip for it, so I made sure to take a few rock pictures too.

IMG_5738After another day in Dublin, we then struck out Southwest, toward the Atlantic coast. Based on recommendations of a friend in London who is Irish (whom we met for lunch in Dublin, if you’ll remember), we aimed for the towns of Inistioge (In-ish-teeg) and Kinsale on the first day. We ended up stopping in Kilcullen for lunch, Gowran for a photoshoot at the ruins of a 13th century church, Inistioge for an afternoon snack, and arriving quite late into Kinsale for dinner at a great seafood restaurant called Fishy Fishy. Kind of a funny name, but I devoured fresh muscles and scallops and pretended I actually enjoy seafood (I don’t, but you can’t say no at a place called Fishy Fishy).

IMG_5818The next day, the weather turned foul, and we slowly made our way north…. it took a lot longer than expected, but we were still able to do several exciting things. We went up to Blarney and kissed the stone at Blarney Castle, then headed west toward Schull (Schkull) for lunch. We stopped en route to run through the rain and wind to the Drombeg stone circle, which is a Bronze Age stone circle, with accompanying remains of a few former building foundations in the area. It was a gorgeous overlook, not that any of our photos show because of the bad weather. We then carried on to Schull for lunch, where we warmed ourselves by the fire before running back to the car to carry on. We hoped to drive through the Gap of Dunloe, a beautiful mountain pass, on the way to Dingle where we were staying for the night, but unfortunately lost daylight, and arrived tired and damp and ready for a good nights’ sleep.

IMG_5978Our final day on the road, we drove over Connor’s Pass before stopping in Castlegregory for a short trip on the beach. Yes, it was a beach, sand and all, our faces whipped by the wind and our pockets full of shells by the end of the short break. We drove for quite a while, then caught a ferry across from Tarbert to Killimer, which cut about an hour of driving, gave us a chance to stretch our legs, and helped us avoid what our host that morning had told us was a dull drive through Limerick up toward the Cliffs of Moher (our final destination). We drove on, and on, before stopping at a delicious restaurant called Vaughan’s Anchor Inn. It was a place I found on Yelp which turned out to be in the Michelin guide, and was easily our best meal of the trip (including the great French bistro we went to in Dublin, and highly recommended Fishy Fishy). I’ve never had seafood so fresh, including crab legs, seafood chowder, fish and chips, and muscles (I tried everyone’s food!). We came out of the restaurant to see our first Irish rainbow, and after running like a madlady down to the harbor to shoot photos, we got back in the car again and drove to the cliffs.

IMG_5986There, we were rained on (big surprise), but after the storm blew out over the sea, we were amply rewarded—the most beautiful rainbow, which stretched horizon to seashore at the bottom of the cliffs below, was a full 270° arc. It was breathtaking, as was the whipping wind and blue skies that lit the wet faces of the cliffs. It was the most beautiful thing we saw, and easily one of the most memorable things I have ever seen in my life. Man can build some great things, but nothing beats the power of nature for making a lasting impression.

Then, we took a long drive back through Galway to Dublin, crashed in our hotel, and flew out the next day. It was a long couple days on the road, but I really enjoyed the countryside a lot more than the city. I saw so much I would never have seen, met many wonderful and friendly Irish people, had amazing food fresh from the water, snapped photos of sheep and rocks and cows and water and green fields and blue skies. They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing, folks.


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