More weak puns as we head into the final leg of our Irish trip
Sunday 10 Jul 11 - Monday 11 Jul 11 18 °C
This was probably our best opportunity to sleep in, because it was the first (and only) time of the trip that we were staying in the same accommodation for consecutive nights, so we didn’t need to pack up our bags nor get going early in the morning.
But that wasn’t what tour guide Tony had in mind, and we were up earlier than usual to meet Shane, our guide for the day’s walking tour in the Connemara. The Connemara is a region in County Galway, a rugged area of history and beauty, where mountains meet the ocean.
Our first walk was up through a seemingly deserted valley, through the rocky landscape, with small streams making their way through the stones that covered the bare earth. Shane pointed out the various plants that are unique to the region, such as the insect-eating carnivorous flowers, and we eventually made it to a small clearing, on which sat a tiny church.
We were told that this natural amphitheatre, with a speaker able to address thousands of people standing in the valley below, had been used by St. Patrick in the third Century, and in later years as a meeting point for Catholics when the religion was outlawed in the 16th Century, who could see the authorities coming from miles away. The Church is still used a few times a year, and large crowds gather in the valley on Easter Sunday.
Then we drove on to Connemara National Park, had some lunch, and began our main climb for the day. After a long trek, and a chat to our fellow travellers, who had come from everywhere from America to Germany to Israel, we got to the summit of Diamond Hill. We were very lucky with the weather, because apparently it rains here 270 days of the year, and we saw clear sunshine, and as a result, brilliant views of the countryside, from the sea and a few inhabited islands to the west, to mountains and towns to the east.
It was a great day – very interesting, educational and tiring, and we saw quite a bit of a lovely area without getting rained on.
But all good things must come to an end, so we went back in the car and back to Galway, where we had another nice dinner (candlelit!) and another early night.
We were up early again for the long drive to Dublin. Although it was one of our longest drives by distance, the motorway ensured that it was certainly not one of the longest, although it might have been one of the most boring.
Our B&B was in the northern Dublin suburbs, and our bubbly and enthusiastic hostess Deirdre gave us the longest welcome speech anyone has ever known, bordering on forty-five minutes and covering everything from reviews of a number of local restaurants to the different types of bubble bath one can put in the spa. You’d have thought we were staying there for six months, not one night.
We dumped our bags and caught a bus into town, wanting to see the sights with the very limited time we had.
Apparently the sites included souvenir shopping, but after that false start we were raring to go, jumping on one of the sightseeing tourist buses and zooming around the city. Our first stop was Trinity College, where we saw the magnificent 1200-year-old Book of Kells, and marvelled at the detail and vivid colour of such an ancient publication.
Panda got a picture taken with the Molly Malone statue, which was a minor miracle given the thousands of tourists surrounding it, wanting to get their photos taken. We didn’t stop at either of the Guinness Storehouse or the home of Jamieson’s Whiskey, but both were tributes to Ireland’s main export*. I was slightly surprised the Liffey River flowing through town wasn’t black with a white layer of foam on top.
- Alcohol may not be Ireland’s main export.
We saw old hospitals, churches, libraries, passed museums and art galleries, but couldn’t really stop anywhere due to time constraints. It was already getting dark, so we got on the bus back to Monkstown, where we were staying. For our last night in Ireland we went to a very nice restaurant, in which we were probably extremely underdressed. But stuff it; we were on holiday.
Our evening’s entertainment was at Comhaltas, an Irish cultural centre. We were expecting a large crowd to watch a professional Irish music performance, but instead were the only ones present at what appeared to be a school concert, with kids of no older than seventeen. But they were all really, really good, and it was a surprisingly good hour, even if it was a little awkward being the only audience members present.
Mum managed to cajole/bribe Matilda into singing one of her Irish folk songs that she’d learnt at school, and they listened politely; though to be fair, she did sing it extremely well. A bit of a walk along the coast finished us off for the day.