Ireland & Northern Ireland
Doolin to Galway
April 1, 2007
President: Glenn "Wally" Faunce
2923-E Olney-Sandy Spring
Olney, MD 20832
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To Galway Miscellaneous
Poulnabrone Dolmen - The Burren
I woke up at 6:00 AM to write my journal and download pictures then took a shower to get ready for the day. I woke Matt up to have breakfast at Cullinan’s and which we had at about 8:45 AM. We were immediately met at breakfast by a truly annoying couple from Alexandria for breakfast. They were just way overbearing. They saw me wearing my Washington Nationals t-shirt which gave away we were from the Washington area. They were just too into helping each other in a loud way. They also tried to sell us on some Irish cereal being the best of all time and that you can now buy in the United States. It was just a block of fiber based cereal. This probably sounds nitpicky and I’m not describing it well but they were just going out of their way for us to notice what cool travelers they were.
Breakfast started at 8:30 AM and we should have been there at that time because it effected the rest of the day. We were supposed to have taken a boat trip to the Aran Islands at 9:45 AM. After showing up and having our traditional Irish breakfast and checking out we had about 15 minutes to drive the one mile to where the boat left. We arrived at about 9:32 AM and the boat had already left. We saw it out in the harbor and it was having a hard time getting out of the harbor. The man at the booth told us the tried to wait for us which cracked Matt up. If they tried to wait why did they leave early? Actually we both did understand. Watching the boat struggle to get out of the harbor was directly caused by the tide going out. He told us they had to leave when they did or they wouldn’t have gotten out at all. It was funny though hearing us apologizing for only being 15 minutes early.
We were given the option of taking the 2:00 PM cruise of the Cliffs of Moher which we said we would take but later decided against. We started driving to find something else to do and came across this huge castle tower above Doolin. When we got to the castle tower there was a sign saying it was private property and to stay out. We figured some rock star must have purchased it for their own spectacular view over the Doolin coast.
The boat operator had told us about Doolin Cave as something to see while we waited and they were closed when we got to the office. This was on the outskirts of Doolin, so having checked out of the bed and breakfast and not having anything else to do in Doolin we headed to the Burren. The Burren is this odd area of County Clare that resembles the face of the moon. It is stark and grey for miles. Basically it is just rock for with a little grass sticking up out of it so you also see cows grazing between the rock. This is all in a fairly hilly/mountainous area so you can see for miles and miles. Occasionally there is an open field of grass but mostly it is grey for as far as the eye can see.
The drive to the Burren was very challenging. The drive consists of switchbacks up and down the mountain on very narrow roads. We actually missed the turn off to the Burren and ended up in Ballyvaughan before we turned around. Francis and I had stayed in Ballyvaughan on my first trip to Ireland. It’s right on the coast and you could really notice how far the tide had gone out here. We stopped to stretch for a bit and took some pictures of a huge sail boat that was completely out of the water and balancing on it’s two fins beneath the boat. The tide must have gone down 10-15 feet in this area for the boat to be completely out of the water.
We left Ballyvaughan to go back to the Burren turnoff to head to Poulnabrone. Poulnabrone is a standing tomb in the Burren that was built in 3000 BC. The tomb wasn’t that big but big enough that you had to wonder how they had constructed in over 5000 years ago without any heavy building equipment. It was very impressive and stuck out on the Burren since the area was so stark.
It took us quite awhile to make it a very short distance to the Burren from Doolin so we decided against heading back to Doolin and just make our way to Galway. The distances aren’t great in Ireland but you have to figure twice the amount of time you would normally think of to travel between places. The roads are mainly 1 lane and if you get behind a slower driver it’s almost impossible to pass them. Another factor is the signage in Ireland is less than perfect. There are many signs that are posted after the turn and by the time you read them you don’t have the opportunity to actually make the turn.
We made a stop in Kinvara and had a pint each in Keogh’s and Conole’s and arrived in Galway at about 3:00 PM. I had no idea of where the hotel was and there were two turn offs that had signs indicating hotels in the area. We knew whichever we took it would be the wrong one so we took the first exit and wandered aimlessly through town looking for the Courtyard. Galway is a fairly big town but I had gotten used to driving on the left hand side of the road by now and had no problems. We finally asked someone if they knew where the Courtyard was and it was actually on the road we were on about a half mile away. We arrived at the hotel at about 3:30 PM and checked in. Since I was up at 6:00 AM I was pretty tired. Mostly because the driving is fairly exhausting since there is very little cruising. You have to be alert to the crazy road at all times since they are so narrow. Also because we were still a little jet lagged, anyways the old men took a nap until about 7:00 PM.
The hotel is only about a half a mile from the downtown section of Galway. We wandered down to the Eyre Square section and stopped in at McSwiggan's first then The Hole In The Wall Pub next to it. I got the usual acceptance from some of the locals who are amazed at my size. The bartender joked that he would need my identification. They gave us some suggestions on where to go tonight but they don’t help when you don’t really know where you are and where the place they are telling you are.
From here we went down a pedestrian street towards the waterfront area called The Spanish Arch. There were a bunch of college students hanging out juggling and drinking and there was a soccer game going on in the main portion of the area. We walked through then back towards a bridge at the end of the area. The soccer ball at this time came our way and hit me in the back of my feet. Luckily for me Matt is now a soccer coach for the Tilden Middle School Timberwolves. Unluckily for the soccer game he is not a very good soccer player. He turned to kick he ball back and missed the game by quite a good margin. The ball headed past the goal keeper by about 15 yards to the left and headed out into the main street and traffic. Matt apologetically threw both hands in the air and said he was sorry. His terrible kick ended the soccer game. To make things even worse was we were at the bridge looking at a swan swimming on the water when the goalie walked by and told Matt, “Don’t Jump”. I thought it was very nice of him to make Matt feel like it wasn’t worth ending his life by jumping off the bridge because of one errant kick.
We had a pint of Guinness at The King’s Head whose staff had either t-shirts of an old King of England or Elvis Presley. From the King’s Head we went over to Eyre Square and had a pint at Garvey’s, Fibber Magees and Richardson’s. We had a nice conversation with an English girl who was bartending at Fibber Magees. She was a college student studying philosophy. We jokingly kept telling her that she would be a teacher then since you can’t do anything else with a philosophy degree but teach.
It was getting later now so we both had fish and chips at McDonagh’s before having one last pint at Garavan’s. It was about 11:30 PM now so we started back to the Courtyard. We did try to stop for one more pints on the way but when we tried to open the door it was locked. We heard music inside but couldn’t get in. As we turned to leave a head popped out the door to tell us, “we’re closed lads”, before closing the door again. Well we laughed as we walked away since the door being locked had already kind of clued us in to the fact that they were closed. We walked back to the hotel had a beer in the lobby and headed off to sleep.
Continue To Galway To Derry - April 2, 2007
Return to Doolin - March 31, 2007