Read Part One of this trip here!
Sunday, March 19th
Because we traveled to different cities within Ireland each day, we didn’t spend much time in each hotel. We got up a bit later than we’d expected this day, but we needed the sleep, so I didn’t mind. We checked out of the hotel and had a nice brunch at The Fig Tree in Kilkenny. The coffee in Ireland is wonderful, because it’s all very strong — nothing weak for the Irish. After a week of coffees, we’ve figured out that even just ordering a plain coffee means you get espresso grade coffee. I never saw a coffee pot of any kind, it’s always made fresh with an espresso machine.
After lunch, Kayla and I really wanted to stop at Boots, which is just a plain drugstore there, but they have products we can’t get in North America, so we made a quick stop. We also shopped around at the Kilkenny Design Center, which was a top stop on Kyle’s list. Here they sell local pottery, wool items, soaps and the like. They have several of these centers around the country, so at the end of the trip, we stopped in the shop in Dublin and picked up a mug for ourselves and some little gifts for family.
Before heading to our next stop, I insisted we stop at Hole in the Wall. I saw a handwritten sign leading us down a little alley, or “slip,” and had to see this place, because I’d also read about it in Kyle’s travel book. This pub is literally what it sounds like, and is housed in the oldest building in Kilkenny, which was built in 1582. The Hole in the Wall was restored in 1999, and is an incredibly cool little pub. When we stopped by, there were about ten people inside and it was packed to the point that I couldn’t reach over to grab my coffee from the bartender. (Yes, I got coffee because we were leaving for our next stop. I really would have loved to hang there longer, but again, I’ll just have to go back one day.). A man at the bar asked us where we were from, and come to find out, he works for a company based in Lexington, Kentucky, so he knows about West Virginia. When you’re from a small town like I am, you always kind of think no one knows you exist, so this conversation was refreshing and another example of how kind and wonderful the Irish are.
One thing we saw a lot of were these brightly colored doors. On the plane, I’d read in Kyle’s travel book that the legend is that men used to get so drunk at the pubs that they couldn’t find their way home at night, so they had to paint their door a bright color in order to find it. I don’t know how true that is, but I’m going to go with it.
On our way to the next location, we saw an awesome little carnival, which I’m assuming was part of the many St. Patrick’s Day festivities for the week.
Next, we visited Kilkenny Castle and toured around inside for a couple of hours. It is truly remarkable to see. It is full of incredible architecture, artwork and history.
Kilkenny Castle stands dramatically on a strategic height that commands a crossing on the River Nore and dominates the ‘High Town’ of Kilkenny City. Over the eight centuries of its existence, many additions and alterations have been made to the fabric of the building, making Kilkenny Castle today a complex structure of various architectural styles.
The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (c.1146-1219) during the first decade of the thirteenth century. Kilkenny Castle later became the principal Irish residence of the powerful Butler family for almost 600 years. The Butler ownership began when James (c.1360-1405), 3rd Earl of Ormond, purchased the castle in c.1391, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde (1893-1971), presented it to the people of Kilkenny in return for a token payment of £50.
The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969, and many important programmes of archaeological excavation, conservation, and restoration have been carried out there.
We also went to the Rock of Cashel, but missed the tours so we just walked the grounds. This was one of my most favorite things we did the entire trip, because it felt spontaneous and truly magical. The grounds are accessible to the public, so we walked among the green hills full of sheep. There are sheep everywhere you look, and it was so fun to walk around with them (while dutifully watching for sheep poop in the grass).
Hore Abbey is close to the Rock of Cashel, so we walked over there to explore. It is now in a state of ruin, and really cool to see.
Hore Abbey, Ireland’s last medieval Cistercian monastery, was founded in 1272 in County Tipperary, just west of Cashel. It was colonised by monks from Mellifont Abbey and comprised a cruciform church, tower, square cloister, and living quarters.
Hore Abbey, found just outside of Cashel in County Tipperary, was originally a Benedictine monastery. In 1272, the archbishop of Cashel expelled the monks and Cistercians arrived from Mellifont Abbey.
Hore consisted of a cruciform Gothic church, tower, square cloister and living quarters. Today, the church and sections of the east range remain. There are also fragments of the cloister arcade, which is of interest due to its unique positioning north of the abbey.
We walked back to the car, but took one of many wrong turns and got to see a little more of the town than we’d planned. County Clare was the next stop, but we stopped in Limerick for dinner at a place that Kayla and I SWORE was called Cornerstone, but was actually Cornstore.
Once to the next hotel in Clare, Kyle, Chris and I had a drink at the bar. I finally got an Irish whiskey – Green Spot – and had some nice chatting by the fire in the lobby. Because we got there a bit late, the bar area was actually closing up, but the bartender told us to just come find him in the back room if we needed anything else. “Wouldn’t want you to go thirsty,” he said. Seriously – the coolest, nicest people.
Monday, March 20th
On our way to Galway, we stopped in Ennis for breakfast at Cafe Aroma, where I ordered pancakes and bacon. The pancakes here are more like crepes — very thin and sort of folded together. Interesting and delicious. And again, very strong coffee was to be had.
After fueling up, we made our way to the Cliffs of Moher. This was one of our top things to do in Ireland, and we were all pretty stoked to get there and have beautiful sunny weather. It was still very cold, but the sun was perfect.
The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction with a magical vista that captures the hearts of one million visitors every year and are a Signature Discovery Point in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. They stretch for 8km (5miles), as the crow flies, along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland and reach 214m (702 feet) at their highest point at Knockardakin just north of O’Brien’s Tower. Here you can have a world class one in a million visitor experience.
At the southern end of the Cliffs of Moher stands Hags Head a natural rocky promontory that resembles a seated woman when viewed from the north. In the ancient Gaelic language, the word Mothar means “ruined fort” and a 1st century BC fort stood where Moher tower now stands. Therefore the Cliffs of Moher means the cliffs of the ruined fort and although there is no trace remaining of this two thousand year old fort it has given name to the cliffs which are visited annually by almost one million visitors.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience is located almost midway along these spectacular cliffs and the site is home to an environmentally friendly visitor centre set into the hillside, O’Brien’s Tower – a 19th century viewing tower, and 800 metres of protected cliff side pathways, viewing areas and steps.
Because I wanted to see a little closer, I followed some of the more daring people out and about and hopped the separation fence. There is one point, however, that I wished I’d been on the protective side of the fence, where Kyle insisted on staying for the most part. There is one point at the Cliffs where all winds meet, so as you walk along the trail, the wind literally hits you from every direction. It’s quite scary, but also exhilarating. The wind was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We all laughed through it, and once you get through that spot, the wind lets up a bit. On our way back down, another American girl was going the opposite way on the other side of the fence, trying to get through the windy patch, and we told her to just keep going and it will get better. She squatted down holding onto the fence and jokingly said, “No it’s fine, I’ll just die here.” Hysterical. Kayla and I did some yoga poses near the edge, which Kyle hated, and was constantly screaming at me to get the hell away from the ledge. I was never even that close to the ledge, but he was not having it. Fun times, scaring the shit out of my husband.
My friend and yoga teacher, Jessica, told me that the wind at the Cliffs is one of the reasons for the old Irish saying, “May the wind be ever at your back.” I can’t express how much I love that staying, and how perfect it feels to me in this moment of my life.
After the Cliffs, we just grabbed coffee and snacks in the cafe at the visitors center, and shopped for some little souvenirs and such. On our way to our next stop, we took a wrong turn and ended up in Ballyvaughn, where we pulled off the road and took a few photos by the water. Ireland was full of little mishaps like this that actually lead you to something grand.
We made our way to Salthill, just next to Galway, where we were to stay two nights instead of just one, and this hotel was probably the best of all. We enjoyed the hot tub and steam room there, and the relaxation felt good on our aching muscles from all the walking, hiking, and exploring. We also learned that the EU has some really weird rules about swim caps. You are not allowed to swim in the pools without one, but you can get in the hot tub without one. So thankfully, none of us had to purchase swim caps and/or look ridiculous in them. Although, the little kids in tiny swim caps was just about the cutest thing ever.
After soaking a bit, we all got ready for dinner and took a cab into Galway. Once downtown, we found the Quay Street (pronounced “Key” Street) Kitchen, and had to wait a bit, so the hostess informed us to just go have a drink at the pub across the street and she would come find us when the table was ready. Lucky for us, this was a wonderful little bar with live music and Irish craft beer. Craft beer is a pretty new thing in Ireland, so it was exciting to try some different things. I tried the Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, which is their version of an IPA, and was delicious. The live music was a quintessential Irish experience, and I loved it. One song got stuck in our heads for the rest of the week.
After our drink, we popped back over to the restaurant where our table had just been prepared. This was one of my favorite meals of the week — Irish stew — and the atmosphere of the place was perfect. We made our way to the Dail pub after dinner for drinks, and I tried two different whiskeys there — Yellow Spot and Tullamore Dew. The vibe of this bar was wonderful, and seemed full of mostly locals, which as you now know, is important to me when traveling abroad. We stayed here quite late, just chatting by the fireplace and being silly. We got back to the hotel and Kyle and I had one more drink at the bar there. We like to discuss the happenings of the day when we travel, so we spent some time chatting and people-watching.
Here is some random video from these days of the trip, including our sheep adventure and the awesome live music at the pub.
To be continued.
The last part of the trip will follow in another blog later this week, which will cover the rest of our time in Galway and the last leg of our trip in Dublin.