Part Three: Galway
(continued from here)
Galway Day One: After flying back into Dublin, B and I rented a car and began our adventure. We were going to drive to Newgrange, visit the old tomb/monument, then continue onto Galway for our first night in our bed and breakfast.
B was incredible with driving on the windy roads that make up Ireland and driving on the other side of the road. With me as his co-pilot, what could go wrong?
Driving in Ireland*
*please ignore my commentary
We amazingly found our way to Newgrange without any issue (despite not having directions. Or a gps. Just a little ole map that wasn’t very detailed and simply listed Newgrange as somewhere in the vicinity of some other roads). When we walked into the visitor center, we learned that the only way to view the tomb is by guided tour, and the next tour that had openings would be two hours later. So we faced a decision – do we wait for two hours, take the guided tour, but not get into Galway until 8 p.m.? Or do we skip the tour and head to Galway immediately, getting in by dinnertime? We ultimate decided to forget Newgrange, and find our way to Galway. Slightly disappointed, we got back on the long, windy country roads and were a few kilometers away when I couldn’t help but see a large mound in the distance. Could it be? No .. it was! I couldn’t believe our luck – the tomb was far away but we could see it! We pulled over and took a few pictures, feeling satisfied that our trip wasn’t a complete detour.
We made it into Galway, checked into our bed and breakfast (and found homemade scones and jam waiting in our room!) and then walked into the town to check out some of the shops and restaurants. Most shops were closed, but we were able to enjoy dinner and drinks at a local pub and then some of the best live music of the trip at a nearby pub, An Pucan.
Galway Day Two: We woke up early, headed down to breakfast, and both B and I enjoyed a traditional Irish breakfast – cheese, scones, brown bread and of course eggs, different types of sausage, and ham. Then we got into the car with the goal in mind to hit two nearby landmarks – the Kylemore Abbey and Croagh Patrick.
After driving an hour or so through more windy roads, and nearly running over a few sheep, we were at Kylemore Abbey. I couldn’t help but catch my breath as we drove closer – it seemed like out of nowhere, this castle in the hillside, upon a lake appeared! Kylemore Abbey is an old castle, now an Abbey, with a really interesting and romantic history that I won’t share with you here (you can read about it instead on their website). In short, though, the guided tour of the castle and the gardens (they’re walled and beautiful – like the Secret Garden!) was great – and we even got to stop by the chapel that was built by the former owner in dedication to his wife after her death. I told you – it’s romantic!
After visiting the grounds and catching the beginning of a free concert by an American choir in the chapel, it was time to head to our next location – Croagh Patrick. I was a little nervous – Croagh Patrick is a large hill that people climb, some barefoot, to get a beautiful view of the Irish countryside. It was the same mountain that St. Patrick supposedly climbed before he chased all the snakes out of Ireland and therefore is the site for many religious pilgrimages. The climb isn’t easy, however, and the weather had turned cold and rainy – not my idea of ideal mountain climbing weather. When we got to the base of the mountain, it was still rainy and so foggy that we couldn’t see the top of the mountain. I kept my fingers crossed, bundled up (pants, sneakers, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, windbreaker and gloves for July!), ignored the sign that warned us not to climb in “wet and foggy days,” bought a walking stick and began the ascent.
The first part of the climb wasn’t too bad. The grade wasn’t too steep, the rain had slowed down to a drizzle, and we passed many families and children also making the climb. Then, after climbing for an hour or s, the conditions worsened. It started raining, heavily (I swear it was wet snow), and the climb got much steeper. The walking sticks came in handy, as not only was I soaked, but so were the pathways so it was like climbing uphill through a rocky stream. Only a few people passed us, and the people on their way down didn’t even look happy. I remember reading online before the trip that the climb can get difficult, but it’s worth it when you see the people on their way down, hear their words of encouragement and ask them about the view. So of course, I asked a few people. While one couple did offer some nice advice, “Keep going! You’re almost there!” The answers I got were, “Ugh it’s not worth it,” and “Turn back now!” and “We got to the top and saw nothing. Just rain and fog.” Definitely not encouraging. B and hiked for at least another hour, soaked, until the incline became nearly vertical. The walking sticks did little to help as we climbed the wet rocks – two steps up, one step sliding down. Finally, realizing there was definitely no view to be seen in the rain/fog, and soaking wet, we decided to turn around and make the 2 hour descent. Do I wish we had made it to the top? Absolutely. But I wish it had been sunny, and there was nothing we could do about that. Exhausted, that night we enjoyed our last meal in Galway and returned to our bed and breakfast early, so we’d be ready to go for our next drive to Doolin.
The next morning, B and I woke up early, enjoyed another great Irish breakfast with Irish cheese and pastries on the side, did some walking around Galway, and hit the road for Doolin! (to be continued …)
Part one of this post, our Dublin trip recap, can be found here.
Part two of this post, the London trip recap, can be found here.