Galway Girl, all the way!

The Truth comes out when the Spirit goes in

Irish Proverb

Truthfully speaking ;), all I knew of Galway was what Ed Sheeran told me. It wasn’t much till I heard the Johnny Logan version of “Galway Girl”, the peppy number crooned by Gerard Butler in “P.S. I Love You”, to serenade the American, in an Irish pub.

To be honest, that song takes me back to Kenmare or Killorglin or maybe Dingle… basically to all those smaller Irish towns and pubs on our way up to Galway, but not Galway itself.

Galway is a harbor city on the west coast of Ireland, much bigger, vibrant to the senses, musical & whimsical to note. It has everything that a tourist visiting Ireland can ask for. And not in a bad way.

Days can be spent dawdling along the tributaries of river Corrib, taking pictures, picnicking, or simply walking the Long walk, shopping around the Latin Quarters, lauding the buskers on the High Street or at Eyre square, breaking for a meal accompanied by that perfect roast Guinness, buying doodads at the farmers market or just shooing-off seagulls.

Galway is optimally positioned, roughly midway between the towering cliffs of the northern Island and the southern peninsulas along the Wild Atlantic Way. A hurried tourist could get her effort’s worth here, dipping into and sampling the Irish life, whereas, for the leisurely traveler, it is a perfect pit-stop on their long coastal drive.

One can drive straight from Dublin on the East coast to Galway on the west, in about 2hrs. Galway can be added with day trips to the nearby highlights like Connemara & Kylemore Abbey, Achill Island to the north, and Cliffs of Moher to the South.

Since we were driving south to north, we visited Cliffs of Moher in the day and reached Galway by 9 pm, just after most restaurants close for families and open up for the pub hours. Having a little one in tow, we had exactly two options in the vicinity of our Air B&B, an Italian place and a French restaurant. We chose the latter, called the Rouge, which served decent French cuisine and splendid wine.

Walking to our Air B&B, we chanced upon our very first Silent-Disco street party in Galway. It looked spooky as if the crowd was under some magical spell, gyrating to an unheard beat, transfixed & bewitched.

Our apartment was downtown so we could explore without having to venture far. Though we could barely keep our eyes open, the hub-hub from the Irish bar next door was serenading and after putting the little one to bed we sauntered down for some Irish beer and Irish music. This happened to be one of those best impromptu decisions which remain etched on memory.

This Irish Bar was none other than the famous “Crane Bar” and gifted musicians were playing traditional Irish or Irish trad music, a kind of Irish folk music. One has to experience this to believe it. It was transcendental, an experience that was beyond human emotional or spiritual understanding (so the definition goes) or simply other-worldly. Beautiful beyond words. Attaching a small sample below. Do listen. As a culmination to this already magical experience, an Irish lass stepped on the floor with her step-dance moves, rocking the floor with the tap-tap of her block heels.

The next morning, still under the Galway spell, we walked towards the market square, chancing upon a farmers market, my all-time “favorite experience”, eating and shopping our way through the lanes.

We ended up spending more time here than planned. Which was the reason that the rest of the day did not pan out as planned. Kylemore Abbey was something we had put on our agenda, it being a breathtakingly beautiful castle next to a picture-perfect lake, and on top of all tourist agendas. Though us being “us” we had planned to see this from outside, panoramic vistas if you must, and then head to another great adventure which was cycling in Achill island. We love cycling on our trips since we cannot do much of that in our country and were greatly looking forward to this, Achill Island Greenway being one of the most spectacular and scenic cycling routes on this coastal segment (check it out).

Added the abbey on the Google map which was about an hour and a half away from Galway, and set off on a very cloudy evening. Maybe it was the clouds and hence poor connectivity but that afternoon, we lost our way not once but a few times, accidentally taking some long detours that ended up taking us away from Kylemore Abbey. It was already 5 something by now, and we knew that last-cycle rentals would be closing by 6 p.m. Took a tragic decision to skip the Abbey and head straight towards Achill.

Though all was not lost since the drive through Connemara was breath-taking. Had to resist stopping at every bend to take pictures!

Hubby having researched ahead, drove straight to Mulranny Park Hotel for Greenway Bike hire (we did call them in advance, which is a useful habit anywhere abroad) and managed to secure some cycles, just before closing time! This cycling bit was also very important to us as our little one had just learned to cycle a month back and was excited to test his skill in a foreign land on a picturesque track.

Cycling @ Achill Island

Did part of the loop, as an entire day is ideally needed to do any of the loops and should be accompanied by a picnic on the island itself. We needed to head back to Galway, and on the way back, had a quick meal at Nevin’s Newfield Inn.

The next morning we explored the Latin quarters in Galway, the perfect place to get the vibe of the city. Chanced upon the fairly famous Emma O’Sullivan, tap dancing at the square, got serenaded by some more traditional music at Tig Choílí, and had brunch at The King’head Bistro, before saying bye to Galway. Slán!

Emma O sullivan @The Latin Quarters, Galway
Tig Choílí

Might of the Moher

Whether you’re a world traveler, nature lover, or Harry Potter fan, you might have heard of the Cliffs of Moher.

The mighty sea cliffs are located on the west coast of Ireland, on the Wild Atlantic way and are one of the most visited sites in Ireland.

So naturally it was part of the itinerary on our recent trip to Ireland.

While researching, we came across many reviews and opinions, calling it too touristy and crowded. Now, we the Rajans, steer clear of the crowds and actively avoid any tick marks on touristy, bucket lists. We are nature lovers and like any sensible person would understand, humans and nature don’t go so well together.. too many humans, even less so! 😬

But the cliffs.. or rather the pictures of the cliffs were dramatic, to say the least. We just had to see them.

Rajan’s smashing the Cliffs!

On Further browsing the internet, we got our solution. So if you are a like minded individual/ family, who do not mind a small (or longer) hike, to stay away from the crowds AND get better views, steer clear of the visitor centre. Or, at least don’t let that be your starting point.

Cliffs are about 14 km long and the visitor centre, is about midway on the cliffs, where the masses usually descend. The southern starting point is at Hag’s head and northern end is at Doolin.

So either one can start proximally, at Hag’s head or distally at Village of Doolin and hike up to the visitor centre (where there’s an option of taking a bus or cab back to either ends). The hikes are beautiful and safe… We can vouch for the one starting at hag’s head.. and even our 6 yr old was merrily trotting along. There’s one official Path, totally safe.. and the other, unofficial goat-track, closer to the edge, also safe but one just has to be careful, at places. Wild pink flowers were in full bloom along the cliffs and sea-gull nests, dotted the edges.

The un-official goat track.
Wild flowers in Bloom!

When we started the day, it was downright gloomy with pouring rain, totally a kinda day you don’t want while visiting the cliffs. One should track the weather conditions (for what it’s worth) to ensure there’s no fog around the cliffs, which will make the trip meaningless.

Nonetheless, since we were anyway headed north towards Galway, we started our day, praying for better weather.

The Path.

The friendly gentleman at the reception of Coachman’s Townhouse at Kenmare was very helpful and gave us an important travel tip which saved us a lot of fuel and some hours on the road. So, instead of driving around the strait, via Shannon and Limerick, he suggested we cross the bay in a ferry at Tarbert, barely a 20 minute ride.

Having saved some hours on the road, we reached the village of Liscannor, the closest to southern point of the Cliffs, at about 3.00 pm, while still pouring, but luckily, not fogged-out, took a quick break at the Rock Shop, did some “essential” souvenir shopping and snack-tucking, then drove about 2km to the private parking at Hag’s Head, at a farm, that charges only 2€. Yes, you read that right, versus, 8€ / person at the visitor centre. Need more motivation to park and hike? Then please read on…

Parking at Hag’s Head

Since the land around the cliffs is all privately owned, the tourists who are allowed to visit are expected to respect the locals and close the cattle gates on the path so there is no cattle-trespassing.

Having heard the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather in Ireland, wait for 10 minutes…” many a times, we experienced it first-hand, this day. Parked our car, geared up for the wet and dreary weather, with a woolen cap, rain jackets etc and started walking.

Wet and dreary!
Make sure you close these gates behind you.

10 minutes into the hike and the sun started shining so bright that now I was missing the sun-glasses and a hat!

Bright and Sunny!

There were exactly 2-3 people visible to us at any one time, the weather gods couldn’t be more favorable and the views were jaw-dropping!

It took us about 2 hours at a leisurely pace, clicking a gazillion pictures with the cliffs, the cows and the clouds to reach upto the visitor centre.

Thanks, you guys, for posing!
Sparkling Atlantic water!

To further corroborate our decision to hike, we came across hordes of tourists and tourist buses completely swarming the landscape. We forgot to click a picture of the same, wasn’t thinking ahead for the blog, so here’s one from the web…

Copyright @pat flynn.

We made a mandatory free trot through the shop and decided to book a cab ride back to Hag’s head, as the little one was now completely exhausted. A bus ride would have been more economical but the service had closed for the day.

10 minutes to the parking lot, and we were back- on our forward journey to Galway! See you there!


Click here for the Wild Atlantic Way part 1- Beara

Click here for Wild Atlantic Way Part 2- Dingle & Ring of Kerry

Our 8 days Irish Road-trip Itinerary is here!

Ireland. By invite only.

Wild flowers in bloom along the Cliffs of Moher

For those:

· …who love long breezy road trips along winding coastal roads peppered with sheep here and vistas there.

· …for those who can not have enough of green. Be warned, it’s called emerald Isle for a reason and if too much of wet and wild is not your cuppa coffee… then maybe, hike some place else.

· …for those who love to sweat it out for a view that’s worth it’s while! Full of awe-inspiring hikes, ireland is a haven for adventurers.

· …for those who own a sturdy, smart, Rain jacket. That’s self-explanatory.

· …for those who dig pubs, live traditional Irish music and stout beer. Heard of Guinness? 😁

County Kerry

Why Ireland. We faced this question a bit more than we liked. Well, for all these reasons and more!

Ireland is hugely popular with Americans (since a fair majority can claim Irish inheritance) but it does not seem to be on any major tourist bucket-list for fellow Indians . And Europeans (that I know) don’t see the point, probably as they’re done with wet and green😬.

But hey.. ever heard of Dublin, one of the most trending cities of the world with old world charm and new age shenanigans. Galway, with its vibrant style and epic arts and music culture? What about the dramatic Wild Atlantic Way? No. Ever heard of “craic“…don’t you want to feel it? Or Guinness anyone? Which can never taste as good anywhere, as it does in Ireland!

Not sold yet. Please read on.

Ireland, the island, is divided into Northern Ireland, part of the UK with Belfast as the capital, and the Republic of Ireland, a separate country, with Dublin, the capital city.

Schengen visa does not cover Republic of Ireland, so one needs to apply for an Ireland visa.

A UK visa only permits you to visit Northern Ireland, unless you’ve been stamped with a BIVS (British-Ireland visa scheme, given by default to citizens from some nations including Indians) on which both countries can be visited. All this might change with Brexit.. so keep yourself updated with the latest at your time of visit.

Having said that, boundaries are, as of now, only on paper, or can be spotted funnily on a GPS…easily missable in actuality, since a sign board marks the boundary. Also, you’ll realize you’ve entered UK territory when suddenly the GPS starts talking in miles vs kilometers. 😁

Irish folks, on the whole, are a friendly cheery, relaxed bunch of folks, who will always guide you in the right direction.

Beautiful village of Eyeries on the Beara Peninsula

We had 9 days in Ireland, not much by any standard but since we had plans to be in London already, we latched on the opportunity to visit Ireland, a wish, brewing in the mind for some time!

I wont lie when I say that it was Hollywood that first inspired us to visit Ireland. Being compulsive romantics at heart and suckers for all things wild, we loved the movies, “PS, I love you” & Leap Year, both shot in the stunning Ireland. Movies of course, know no geographical boundaries, jumping from East to West in a wink.

Of course we wanted to see it all. Of course, we were driving around the country.. but distances and time taken on road, don’t mean the same in Ireland, as you will read everywhere. Smaller coastal roads, tourist traffic, sudden fog rolling in, could all alter the variables. And with a young kid, though very tolerant for his age, we couldn’t overdo the driving, push the timing or change cities everyday.

Our itinerary was as follows:

Day 1: London (STN) to Dublin, via Ryanair, arrival 10am, car rental pick up and drive out to Wicklow, a 1 1/2 hour drive, via Lough Tay and short hike in Wicklow to Glendalough. Then Drive across the country, from East to West coast, straight to Glengariff about 41/2 hrs drive, arrival on the west coast). (One might notice that we shaved off the southern part of the island from our itinerary which was tragic but necessary.)

Lough (meaning lake) Tay or the Guinness Lake with its foam head

Day 2: Morning in Glengariff, at the mouth of Beara Peninsula, exploring the Ring of Beara. Arrival at Kenmare.

Day 3: Kenmare for exploring the Ring of Kerry: Did a bit of loop the loop on this day, to avoid tourist buses by taking the longer route and to be on the opposite side of the road as the general traffic. Arrival at Killorglin.

Day 4: Killorglin- Dingle- Kingdom falconry. Sleep at Killorglin.

Day 5: Cliffs of Moher. Drive north to Tarbert- Took ferry across the estuary- drive to Liscannor- followed by a short spectacular hike from Hag’s head to see the Cliffs- arrival at Galway. Serenaded by Galway’s night life!

Day 6: Galway farmers market, drove towards Achill Island via Connemara- biked a bit of the picture-perfect “green way“. Had plans to see the Kylemore Abbey but couldn’t manage with the time constraints.

Day 7: Galway, exploring Latin quarters, saw Emma, tapping to Irish music. Lunch- Drive to Donegal via Sligo- Glencar waterfall on the way- arrival at Kilcar.

Day 8: Morning exploring Cliffs of Slieve League. Drive to Giant’s causeway in northern Ireland. Drive to Dublin.

Day 9: Explored Dublin via walking tour and beer tour.

The Temple Bar in Temple Bar district!

Day 10: Dublin to London.

So much to see, so little time!

See you all on the next post! Drop in question about the itinerary in the comments below. Always happy to help! Slán!