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Michael’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 07 May 2009

Location: Various, Ireland

MapLast weekend was the first weekend in May, and as such is the May Day bank holiday long weekend in England, so Charlotte and I decided to go away together, and Ireland seemed to provide something new for me (Charlie had lived there for a while a few years back) and cater to both our budgets.

Straight after work on Friday (half day Friday’s, God love ‘em) Charlie picked me up and we headed straight to Bristol airport. By early avo we had picked up our red VW rental car and were driving from Shannon to Limerick. Checked into the hotel and soon headed into town for the evening. We found ourselves at Doolan’s Irish Pub, tucking into a Guinness and reading up on the artist playing in the Warehouse at the back of the pub later in the evening – Mick Flannery. Quickly we decided to stick around and see the gig, but first we needed a feed. With a 45 minute wait, and the show starting in the same time, we decided to look elsewhere for a feed and ended up at Bruschetta Bar not too far away, getting a good seafood feed.

The Mick Flannery gig was great – unfortunately at the end of a long week, and a slow acoustic set, I was falling asleep standing up! The tired’s had kicked in and I struggled to stay awake at the end of the set, but the final song “Rise Up” still stands in my head, with the rest of the crowd echoing Mick’s words through the small intimate venue. At the end of the show, I picked up a CD (needed some fresh car tunes) and we caught a cab back to the hotel.

Saturday morning we got up at a relaxed pace and with a Subway breakfast in hand, drove to the King John’s Castle on the banks of the Shannon River for a quick wander around the King’s Island area. After getting a few happy snaps, we jumped back in the car, and drove out of town on the main road, lined with Munster Rugby flags... appropriately as we were in the home of Munster Rugby, and they were playing in the Heineken Cup semi-final later on the day. As we drove out of town, we passed the home stadium of Munster rugby before heading north-west to the Cliff’s of Moher.

The Cliff’s of Moher are a beautiful stretch of cliff’s looking out over the North Atlantic Ocean. At over 8 km long, and towering to 210 m above the sea level, they truly provide an inspiring panoramic view. With clear views, we could see all the way to the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. Wandering north to the tower, we jumped the fence and headed further along the cliff edge. Despite the well worn path, safe was the last thing I felt as the wind rushed past and the 200 plus meter drop loomed below. Eventually we came to a massive flat outcrop, with a solid rock ledge that allowed the visitor (though not supposed to) crawl to the front edge and peer down below.

Walking then to the south end, again despite fences, and this time a sign, the public were eager to explore as much of the coast line as they could. After wandering around there for a while longer, we headed back to the tourist centre, grabbed an ice cream, and continued the journey north. The next stop wasn’t too far up the road at a small town called Lisdoonvarna for a late lunch before making our way into Galway.

After checking into Abbey Lodge, our B&B, we headed into town for a rather touristy dinner. Ireland’s quickest growing city, it is still small enough to get around easily, and feel welcome, but the city knows how to party! The town was overrun with stag and hen’s parties, the majority of them rather Irish sounding, and not full of English people on a cheap weekend trip. After a dinner in An Pucan, a touristy yet authentic Irish pub off Eyre Square, the main square in the party district of Galway, we wandered around looking for some good craic. Eventually we went into a pub to have a couple of drinks waiting for the night life of Galway to show up, and ended up staying there almost the entire night, having a great time. We did venture out to a night club somewhere for a while, but quickly got bored of the 18 year old crowd and headed back to the original pub on Eyre Square. Once last drinks had been called and we’d been asked to leave around 1 am, we headed into a 70’s American club that was hot, sweaty and full of people trying to get a last couple of drinks in for the night. We stuck round for a brief period, before heading back for a well deserved sleep at the B&B.

Sunday morning we dragged ourselves out of bed for breakfast and decided to wander around town before setting off. We walked into Eyre Square to see it in the light of day before heading down the Corrib River Walkway towards the Spanish Arch. The back streets were quiet and windy on Sunday morning, and after getting our fill of Galway morning, we wandered back past the City Hall and dog race track to the B&B to pick up the car and head onwards north to continue the road trip.

Sunday was spent largely in the car. We headed north-west along Laugh Corrib towards the Connemara National Park. It was a starkly contrasting landscape to what we had driven through the previous day along the coast, with low lying lakes and hills spotted all over the place. With the weather getting foul and the roads windy, the driving was slower going, but the views made up for it. And funnily enough, the MJ tunes and our woeful sing along efforts also made time fly by. Eventually we arrived at the ring road around Connemara National Park and headed north. The Connemara National Park is well known for The Twelve Bens, the 12 towering hills within the ring road. On the way to our destination of Letterfrack, we stopped briefly after crossing a lovely stone bridge to double back and look across the small lake to Kylemore Abbey – picture perfect.

We arrived at the pub in Letterfrack where we would be spending the night, and with time to kill as our room hadn’t yet been made, we drove to the base of Diamond Hill (one of the Ben’s) and decided to go for a bit of a walk. Totally unprepared for climbing a large hill with regards to clothes or supplies, we decided to take the middle of the three possible routes, taking up to a clearing half way up the hill. It was a leisurely walk, with a few steep climbs along the way, but as we approached the top of our chosen route, the heavens opened up and let pour. Luckily it didn’t last too long and the sky cleared to reveal a beautiful view of one of the lakes below surrounded by more of the Ben’s.

Back down the hill we wandered through town and checked into our room before heading into the pub to consider what to have for dinner. Whilst waiting for our meals we broke out the cards and poker chips (at the bar) and played some friendly poker between ourselves, much to the bemusement of fellow patrons. A couple of massive meals, a couple of Guinness, and a really tasty dessert had us content. We rounded out a busy Sunday with a few games of pool on the table hidden in another part of the bar before returning to our room. Seems sleepy towns make me sleepy.

Monday morning we woke up to some horrible weather, thankful that it had held off till the day we were leaving. A 90 minute drive with a quick stop for breakfast had us at Knock airport, and by late morning we were flying back to Bristol, absolutely stoked with the weekend. To finish off a great weekend, we stopped in Bristol city centre for a tasty Yo Sushi! lunch.

That officially brought to a close the exciting activities of the first May long weekend...