As you may know, I recently got back from an amazing trip to Europe. It was a graduation gift from my parents and the three of us headed out to London and Western Ireland for 10 days to see the sights. You can see my post on my London adventures here.
After our last day in London, we packed up and woke up early to get to Heathrow airport. We flew over to the Shannon airport and picked up our rental car. Yes, we three crazy Americans were driving on the tiny roads in Ireland. Not only are the roads tiny, but, in case you weren’t aware, they drive on the other side of the road. That was an adventure. Well, the plus side was that somehow our rental got upgraded and we ended up driving an Audi for the few days we were there… not bad at all!
We had a whole day in Ireland once we landed, so on our way to the B&B, we stopped at Bunratty Castle. To be honest, it wasn’t the best castle and we were a bit disappointed. And it was not an easily accessible castle. The staircases are tiny and steep, anyone with issues walking would really struggle (not to mention people who get claustrophobic).
BUT, while the castle was a bit sad, once we started to walk around the grounds a bit, it was absolutely amazing. The gardens are just beautiful, there are animals everywhere, people playing music around every corner, and tons of little houses set up like they would have been back in the day.
It was really cool to see and I’d definitely recommend it as a stop to get out, stretch your legs, and get some fresh air.
The next day we were up bright and early and heading into Doolin to catch a ferry to the Aran Islands. It was an absolutely miserable and rainy day. It was so windy that we were falling over, so rainy we could barely see, and the waves were so high we were getting seasick before we got on the boat. Yeah, that was fun.
After a horrific journey, the three of us landed on Inishmoore: seasick, hungry, and not wanting to get on a boat ever again. My mom and I did recover a bit and managed to get on a bus (with a crazy tour guide) and take a look around the island. My dad however was really sick and we left him behind in the main little village to recover. I think he said he found a hidden beach with a little stone bench under a bridge and fell asleep. I’m really not sure though.
All I know, is that once we had shaken off the seasickness, the island was absolutely beautiful.
The next day was really spent exploring County Claire. It’s just a beautiful, underrated part of Ireland and there are so many amazing landscapes. It’s strange how one minute you’re on the coast and the next in the middle of the woods, or there’re just fields as far as the eye can see.
First stop on our road trip was the Burren. We went to the little welcome center first and went through a rather creepy exhibit on the history of the Burren. I’m sure most people won’t find it as creepy as I did, but it was so dimly lit with ominous music playing, and almost hidden mannequins of the types of people who would be living at the Burren all going through horrific struggles. I thought it was creepy…
There was an old, restored church next to the welcome center that we looked around.
Then we jumped in the car and went to the Poulnabrone Dolmen which is a standing stone monument burial site thing. There’s got to be a better way to say that, but it gets my point across. It was really cool. The landscape was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and the stones were so powerfully placed. I would really recommend going there if you’re in the area, it’s worth walking around.
We then drove over to the Caherconnell Stone Fort. It’s one of the circle forts in Ireland and is so cool. I’ll just show you pictures rather than talk on and on about it, but seriously, go to this fort. It’s insane.
We also stopped at the Burren Perfumery and you can see my post on that here.
After the Burren we started driving down the coast. We stopped at some beach along the way that was just beautiful. The sand was a bright orange and the sky was just a deep blue-grey, these pictures don’t even do it justice.
Our last stop was the Cliffs of Moher. It’s definitely a tourist trap, but if you go after 4:30, it really quiets down. Some of the paths were really sketchy and would be really easy to fall off of, but besides the looming chance of falling to your death, the cliffs are breathtakingly beautiful.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan (and I mean FAN) you might remember that scene from The Half Blood Prince where Dumbledore and Harry are going to get the first Horcrux and they have this one shot outside these enormous cliffs. Yeah, that’s the Cliffs of Moher. They’re so cool that Voldemort hides part of his soul there. Definitely worth the trip.
Anyway. The next day was our last day of Ireland adventures and we didn’t actually have anything planned. We found a brochure at our B&B for some caves and a falconry place. When we went to Germany several years ago we had some fun times at a falconry center there (a vulture ran away, my dad was drooled on my an enormous bird, it was great times) so we decided to try another one.
I’m so glad we decided to go because it was actually a really lovely facility. We were there first thing in the morning so all of the people were still cleaning out the cages. This might have annoyed some people, but it meant that all the birds were awake and active and ready for their breakfast.
They had a lot more owls than most falconry places, so I was really excited.
We walked around the facility, watched one of the bird demonstrations, and then took a little hike through the woods to the caves. I hate caves. Absolutely hate them. So we just had some lunch, admired the view, and went back to the B&B.
That night I went out with some friends (I go halfway around the world only to find one of my childhood friends bartending at a pub our first night) and my parents went to the Doolin Folk Festival.
The next day we drove back to Shannon, reluctantly returned our Audi, and started the long trip home.