This past June we took a 10-day round trip of Ireland. After arriving in Dublin we spent the afternoon sightseeing where we took a tour of the Jameson distillery. Silke was chosen to be whisky-taster and successfully completed the course (I helped a little). We spent a nice evening in Gogarty’s pub before returning to the hotel.

The next morning we joined our tourgroup and headed north  with our tour guide Annalisa and bus driver, Tom. After a visit to the Monasterboice cemetary, where we saw some impressive high-crosses, we drove to Belfast where we drove through the famous Falls road before taking a walking tour of the city center. Before dinner, we walked from the hotel to the Botanic gardens and Queens University. Later we went to a great pub, The Botanic Inn, and enjoyed watching the German soccer team kick Holland’s butt in the European cup.

Day three took us up the northern irish coast where we visited the Giant’s causeway, Dunluce castle and Derry, where we also saw many old and new signs of the political conflict. Later we headed back across the border to Letterkenny in county Donegal, where spent the night after getting lost in a roundabout (insider).

On day four, we took a side trip into the beautiful Glenveagh National Park before heading south toward county Sligo. On our way we stopped at Drumcliffe, where Y.B.Yeats rests. Before going to the hotel we took another side trip to Carrowmore, where we saw some impressive celtic stone circles. Our hotel in Sligo looked very interesting, and we learned later (after departing) that it used to a mental hospital „Saint Columbas Lunatic Asylum“!! Well all we escaped without noticeable damage and I haven’t been writing redrum on mirrors yet…

Day five took us further south towards county Galway. Our first stop was at the Croagh Patrick (Cruach Phádraig), which is a 2507 foot mountain on the coast of Clew Bay. Every last Sunday in July, about 15,000 mostly barefoot climbers ascend the mountain on a pilgrimage, regardless of weather. Unfortunately we had typical irish weather and could only see the pilgrim track disappearing up the side of the mountain into the clouds. Back in the bus, we headed through the rainy but gorgeous landscape of Connemara, where we visited the Kylemore Abbey and took a short hike in the Connemara National Park. After visiting the Galway Cathedral, which is much nicer inside than out, we finally made it to the Lady Gregory hotel at Gort in county Clare. This charming hotel just happened to be hosting a relatively large local wedding party, where we mixed in with the locals to the sound of great pub music and plenty of ale and cider.

On day six we finally got some really nice weather, and exactly when it counted most. First we traveled through the „Burren“ region, a karst windswept landscape of naked limestone and low shrubs – hostile but very interesting. (The Cromwellian general Edmund Ludlow described the Burren as “a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him…… and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.”)  After visiting a stone fort and a portal tomb (Poulnabrone), we traveled back to the coast at Black head. Our next stop was at the cliffs of Moher and the weather was perfect. We took some great photos and enjoyed hiking the (sometimes risky) trails along the cliffside. As we made our way further south across the river Shannon ferry towards Tralee, the weather turned again to rain. We watched the soccer game in an empty pub to finish this otherwise eventful day.

Our seventh day was a round trip on the Ring of Kerry, probably Ireland’s most famous tourist region. We stopped at the Red Fox Inn for irish coffee and halted later in Cahirciveen to see the Daniel O’Connell church (only Catholic church not named after a saint). After several stops along this incredible coastal landscape, we visited the Kissane sheep farm and watched a sheepdog and also sheepshearing demonstration. The route back to Tralee led us through some amazing countrysides of the Killarney National Park.

On day eight we headed back east towards Dublin. On the way we stopped at Cahir Castle in county Tipperary, one of the largest and most massive castles in Ireland and also the site of many movie scenes (e.g. Braveheart). Back in Dublin, we took a guided bus tour of the city’s main attractions with a stop for lunch near Trinity college. After checking into the hotel and officially parting ways with our tour group, we spent the evening at the Knightsbridge bar enjoying traditional irish music and river dance.

Our last full day of the trip we spent touring Dublin on our own. The weather was good and we were able to see all the interesting structures and historical buildings, as well as a visit to the Guinness brewery at St. James’s Gate. On our last evening we went out with Christian and Uli, who we had befriended during the tour. We headed to the Temple Bar area and luckily found a table at The Old Storehouse, where we had some great pub food and even better music (TradIrish). What a great way to finish off the tour.

On the last day we did some shopping while dodging raindrops and later headed back to the airport. All in all it was a good vacation, and we had good weather for irish standards. I would not explicitly recommend traveling by bus, as this has it’s drawbacks, but it is still a good alternative for those who do not want to drive on the left……..


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