Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Driving Ireland

We've enjoyed a nice week driving around the land of sheep, castles and beautiful landscape. We flew into Dublin, rented a manual Nissan Micro, and drove into town to our pre-booked Brewery Hostel. Jason had to get used to driving on the left side of the road and driving left hand stick again (he had done it once before in Tasmania 4 years ago). Other than having to be reminded to position the car correctly in the lane, everything came back to him.

We spent the next morning walking around Dublin, visiting Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and O'Connell Street. And no, we didn't go to the Guinness Brewery as neither of us are big on the dark stuff. :)Then we hit the road for a few hours, heading to Galway on the west coast. We avoided downtown and went straight to the Salthill Caravan Park to set up camp and eat dinner. We relaxed in the laundry/sitting room, which had electric kettles for us to make tea in the chilly evening.
We headed further west driving out to Gorumna Island only to find that all of the signs were in Irish and that our map wasn't very helpful (not very detailed and was in English). We think that we made it to Gorumna Island but it is hard to say. We drove over some cool narrow causeways as we drove from island to island but the scenery wasn't quite as spectacular as we were hoping. We drove back through Galway then headed southwest to The Burren area along the coast. It was a beautiful drive through coastal towns and hills to the fantastic Cliffs of Moher. The lighting could have been better, but the cliffs were stunning nonetheless. We finished off the day by driving to Killarney to find a place to camp. We caught a great view over the lakes of Killarney National Park for dinner and sunset then found a caravan park in Killarney which was closed, but they took us anyway.

We drove all the way through Killarney NP the next morning and had a nice little hike past a waterfall and a lake and enjoyed some great views. Then we took the scenic drive around the Ring of Kerry to the west of Killarney. We started on a small windy road over the Ballaghbeama Pass then continued along a nice coastal drive. The sheep in this area were often not contained and we had to slow down every time we passed them on the side of the road (or on the road in some cases). Jason had to deal with Nicole's constant "awww..." followed by a mimic "ba-ah-ah" every time we passed some adorable lambs. We camped at a beach-side caravan park on the southwest corner of the Ring then carried on to Cork the following day.

Cork is said to be the 'real' capital of Ireland, according to the locals. It seemed quite similar to Dublin, except that the people drink Murphy's rather than Guinness. It was a Saturday, so we decided to stay in a hostel and have a night on the town. We walked around town in the afternoon, watched a movie in the early evening (In Bruges -- quite funny), then had a few pints in the bar district. It was nice to have a night out. But at the same time, we realized that Ireland is really just a more expensive version of home, and it made us miss home a little.

We took a scenic drive out of Cork, visiting Cork Harbour and the town of Cobh (where the Titanic last set sail), then continued up country roads from Youghal (pronounced y'all) to Cashel and on to the medieval town of Kilkenny. After driving past a couple of cathedrals and posing in front of the castle, we found ourselves a hostel and had some dinner. We had planned on camping, but after driving through a couple of bouts of hail and seeing that the temperature was dropping to -4C overnight, we decided against it. We ended up at another hostel in a room with 4 Canadians and a couple from north California. We met up with the Canadians at the Pumphouse bar across the street where a live band was playing. The bar was closing at 11:30pm though, so we moved on to another pub that stayed open till almost 1am. The Canadians were from Guelph, so it was nice to talk about home and the differences here in the UK.

We slept in a little then went back south a bit to Kells Priory, the ruins of a priory dating back to the 1200s. We were able to walk around the whole area, getting some nice pictures of the ruins and even some nearby sheep. We carried on back to the north and stopped by the hostel we intended on staying at. There was no one there so we ate lunch and brought their cute cat, Ted, in out of the hail to play with us. :)

After lunch, we drove through Wicklow National Park to the small scenic town of Glendalough. We took a walk around the Lower Lake to see Upper Lake and Glendalough's stone tower. It was raining when we arrived, it cleared right off while we walked, and then it began to rain again by the time we got back to the car. Quite fortunate! The hostel we stayed at was a very nice little place off the beaten track with a fireplace, good kitchen, and wireless internet. We made ourselves some bangers and beans for dinner. :)

And that concludes our week. We drove back to the Dublin airport again and caught our Ryanair flight back to London. It turns out that we were lucky to have opted in on the full insurance on the car because they found a scrape on the car where someone must have hit us while parked. Otherwise, we had no problems with the car and Jason quite enjoyed driving again. We're back in London for a couple of days and then we carry on to Morocco!

Pics: Dublin | Galway & The Burren | Killarney & Ring of Kerry | Cork | Kilkenny, Glendalough & Around


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