This should be my last wrap up of my trip to Ireland. After touching down and spending a day in the seaside town of Howth, then a 6 bar drinking tour in Dublin, take the train to the western town of Galway, it was finally time to man up and drive a car sitting on the wrong side of the car and driving on the other side of the road for the next 5 days. This part of the trip is pretty random, as I didn’t have any specific plans. All I knew is that I had to be in the town of Shannon to catch my plane over to Scotland and visit a friend for a day on a specific day. The rest? Pick a place to drive to and go and (as it happened a few times), take some random detours and end up in places I had no clue existed and met some amazing people along the way.
Below is a map of Ireland where I circled in red the area where I drove. I headed up from Galway to the north west and drove along the coastal (and way too freakin tiny) road up until Keel then back towards the east to the Charlestown area, back south through Cong and in Galway for another day, then spent a few days along the south western coast and landed in Ennis for a few nights before going to Shannon. Yep, a lot of the country left to discover, so that means that I’m due for a few more trips.
So when I say that the roads are tiny, I mean it. A few times there was a bus of tractor coming down the road and I had to move over to let him pass. Granted, this could of been my unsure tourist self not wanting to scrap my rental and a real Irishman would of just continued along the road at full speeds, but considering that I am along the coast and in some instances just a few feet from a nice drop into the ocean, better safe than sorry me thinks.
When you are driving in the country, you don’t have a huge choice in where you can stay overnight. Thankfully I wasn’t there in the busy season so I could often just drive up to a place and get a room. There were a few instances where I had to drive out of the city as there was absolutely nothing free, but them are the ropes! Just get in the car and drive somewhere else. Towards the start of my drive, I stayed in a really quaint B&B (they are the norm along the roads) which was right outside of the town of Clifden. The owner was originally was Germany and we had some great chats about travel and the world. The breakfast in the morning was just insanely good. All the food was fresh and cooked amazingly.
View from my room on a rainy day.
Made a touristy stop at Kylemore Abbey and went inside to visit. Bad choice. While the grounds are beautiful, the inside was packed with people pushing to get a better photo of one of the 4 rooms that are setup. I spent a whole 5 minutes in there before I left and just walked the grounds. There are still nuns who live and practice in the Abbey, hence the majority of it being closed off.
Was made this leg of the trip for me was the drive. The things you see from the “main” road are breathtaking. I can only imagine what you can find if you start venturing off road (might do that with my next trip!). Random stops in random pubs allow you to meet some fun people, or in some instances, be totally ignored by the pub-goers already there. The following are a series of images made throughout the drive, mostly between Galway and Westport.
I remember one morning when I was staying in a hostel / house / some place with a bed near Castlebar, I woke up around 5am or so, looked outside and actually saw some blue sky!! First time in a few days since I had seen the sun. The inn keep was awake and starting to make breakfast. I paid up quickly and while I rushed back to my room to grab my gear and clothes, the inn keep actually rushed to put together a little “to go” breakfast for me (apples, oranges, bread,…). I just love Irish people.
I would love to tell you where each of these places were, but more often than not, I had no clue myself. I’d either be using the GPS or just following random signs for things that weren’t GPSable (which was quite a bit). They were all in the north east area of the red circle on the map. 🙂
I guess the sun got tired of showing it’s rays and the rain thought we actually missed it….which was fine by me as the grey added a bit of drama in the images of the Abbey
One of my most stops in Ireland was the Cliffs of Moher. They are 214 meters high (approx 700 feet) and span over 8 kilometers right along the Atlantic Ocean. These things are insane and the amount of tourist buses in the parking lot confirms that. I had done a bit of reading and found that getting there in the afternoon is the best time for photos (around 2-3 pm) as the sun will be lighting up the Cliffs and give some awesome detail and texture in the rocks. Problem is, it was raining. And at times, raining hard with low visibility. But as I had seen in other days, the weather can change really quickly. So I hoped that the luck of the Irish was with me and things would clear up when I got there. Made a few stops along the way to visit ruined castles
Below is a photo of the parking lot when I got near the Cliffs. Didn’t really clear up to my liking
Wonderful FOG! hahahaha. The girl at the gate told me she couldn’t let me in as visibility is next to none, the rain was getting more intense, and they didn’t want people walking along 700 foot high cliffs. She felt really bad. But this is where traveling without a plan is great. I drove back down into the town of Ennis, hit up a pub and randomly chatted with this great father and son who were traveling around Ireland, slept there overnight and made my way back to the Cliffs the following day.
Keeping in mind that I wanted to be there in the afternoon, I had to kill off some time (and a slight hangover). The barflies from the night before suggested I check out Loop Head. It is another series of seaside cliffs, not nearly as high as the Cliffs of Moher, they are around 30-40 m (approx 100 feet). The cool thing is that they are lesser known and they are unprotected. So you can wander as you want, even up to the edge of the cliffs. I was an awesome moment of the trip, very serene as there was no one there but me.
As I was walking around the cliffs of Loop Head, I started to see some grey skies. Crap, another storm coming. And I really wanted to check out the Cliffs of Moher and was not going to let another storm ruin my chance.. It was about 10:00 am or so and I had about an hour’s drive through remote farm areas to get there. So I said my goodbyes to the waves of the Atlantic and headed out.
I think it wasn’t meant to be. Trying not to drive too fast, I was going through the winding roads and then as you see in the movies, a calf decides to jump in the road! I mean really, with all the driving I did in the last 4-5 days, not once did this happen, and it has to happen now?!? So what did I do? I took a photo
As I slowly moved forward to get by the calf, I looked over to my right and all the other cows were giving me the evil cow eye
…Continued driving trying to keep ahead of the storm…
I did make it to the Cliffs finally, although it was still early and the sun wasn’t in the right place. Ah well. At least this time, I could get out of the car and wander around. There is a section that is safe to walk around then there is the other section that is less protected, close to the edge and where they tell you not to go but where everyone goes. Definitely going to head back here, in the afternoon, on my next trip.
See… in the afternoon I would of had all the rocks nicely light up … Was still breathtaking to be there. Made me put away my camera for a while and just enjoy the place.
That pretty much wraps up my trip! While I was there for photos, I was also there to have fun and explore and on some days, I just put my camera away or shot images with my iphone. I headed off to Scotland after to meet a friend and I don’t think I even took my camera out once. Time and place for everything.
Can’t wait to go back, but there are so many other places to travel to before.