Ireland: The Burren, Aran Islands, and Donegal
I continued my Irish adventures through Galway, the Aran Islands, and Donegal, among other places.
Remember when I joined what I thought was a soccer team’s Christmas pub crawl in Galway? Turns out it wasn’t a soccer team but a Gaelic football team. I remained in touch with one of the football players and he corrected me about what kind of football team they were when I met up with him in Galway. He also provided me with a place to stay, a means of transport, a cat to play with, and an incredibly fast internet connection which was perfect because I spent the entirety of the Olympics in Galway. My friend was an excellent tour guide and I saw basically the entire west coast of Ireland throughout my three and a half weeks in Galway.
I was surprised to learn that The Burren is not only the name of a bar in Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts. The Burren is the exact opposite of what one thinks of when they think of Ireland. The Burren lacks the green rolling hills with sheep roaming literally everywhere and instead is flat and rocky with “limestone pavement,” which is cracked limestone that covers pretty large areas. My friend and I wandered around The Burren but did not spend a lot of time there because they had to return to Galway to watch the Oleg/Kohei showdown.
The Burren is the least stereotypically Irish landscape and the Aran Islands are the most stereotypically Irish place in Ireland. The three small islands islands of Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer feature a million stone walls, grassy hills, and thatched cottages, and is one of the areas in Ireland where people continue to speak Irish. My friend and I visited the smallest and largest of the Aran Islands and the rough seas left them soaking wet as they arrived in Inisheer. We warmed up in the only pub on the tiny island of about 150 people who have only six surnames between all of them, one of which is Joyce, which is my second name. After consuming delicious scones and tea, we ventured back out into the pouring rain, grabbed some fudge from the Man of Aran Islands Fudge stand, and waved down a horse and carriage to take us around the island. Several times we had to disembark from the carriage and walk up a hill because the horse sometimes slipped on the pavement, which seemed to defeat the purpose of taking a covered wagon ride. My Irish friend and I then took a second ferry ride to the largest of the islands, Inishmore. We sat inside the boat on this leg of their journey and luckily avoided near full submersion. Upon arriving in Inishmore, we enlisted a local to drive them to the ancient fort on the island, which sits on a cliff nearly as high as the Cliffs of Moher.
The driver drove the two all over the island before depositing them back on the ferry dock, where they saw the last ferry of the day untying the ropes to the dock about fifteen minutes early. They sprinted down the dock and arrived at the end of the dock just as the ferry pulled away. I was internally freaking out because if we were stuck on the island overnight I would miss the Olympic women’s all around final. Luckily, the ferry we saw was not the ferry back to the mainland and I made it back to Galway in time to see Simone’s amazing all around win. I may or may not still tear up thinking about it.
Achill Island and Keem Beach
We also did a day trip to Achill Island, where they planned to have a picnic on Keem Beach. Unfortunately the classic Irish summer weather, aka freezing cold and windy, prevented us from picnicking outside and instead wehad a lovely car picnic before heading to Westport for a night of traditional Irish music.
We spent a weekend in Donegal, the most northern county of the Republic of Ireland. First we visited Malin Beg, an extremely small village that has two pubs, one coffee shop, and most likely more sheep than people. We visited both of the pubs and enjoyed traditional Irish music in the second pub, which also included some interesting and somewhat uncomfortable Irish rebel songs. The next day visited Slieve League which are the highest cliffs in Europe. The cliffs are taller than the Cliffs of Moher but the Cliffs of Moher attract more attention because they are straight up and down rather than slanted and are also much easier to get to than Slieve League.
Next we visited Kincasslagh, where we took the only cab in the town to Dunloe, where wehad a nice dinner and visited a few of the bars. We had a very interesting conversation with a few locals, who enlightened us about their hatred for Margaret Thatcher, Brexit, monarchy, and all other things British. The locals began discussing Palestine, which me and my friend took as our cue to call Denis the Cab Driver and request a ride back to our accommodation. During the cab ride, Denis fielded calls from half of the small town requesting rides home and not a single person had to give Denis their address nor their last name for him to accept their request for a ride.
The next day the we continued to drive through Donegal and visited the Poisoned Glen, Glenveagh National Park, and the most northern point in Ireland before beginning the long drive back to Galway.