By Leah Caldwell, Brookes Moscow
I went on a beautiful and winding road trip in Ireland, which I would recommend to anyone with a few days or even better a few weeks. Ireland is a warm and friendly country and it would be easy to get lost and end up somewhere with friendly people and great craic (the local word for ‘what’s happening’).
So it all started with a visit to a friend in N. Ireland. I decided to rent a car and head south. I took the M4 west from Dublin to the coast. This was an amazing drive through the centre of Ireland, with sheep and cows grazing in the fields and the occasional medieval castle keep in the centre of the country. I took this route all the way to my first stop about 4 -5 hours later, when I landed in ‘The Burren’ on ‘The Wild Atlantic Way’.
The Burren was barren and beautiful. Green moss which covers the ancient limestone deposits that formed on the island millions of years ago is everywhere. The road leads to steep drop offs with violent waves crashing into the rocks and shore below. This area is often visited by surfers and has some of the biggest waves in the Atlantic, so say the locals.
Next, a short ride south to the Cliffs of Mohair, which were truly magnificent. I went for a walk along the ancient path leading along the high cliffs. Some of it is closed off now and rebuilt 5 meters or so back for safety reasons but you can still walk on much of the trail.
I decided to stop near here at a town called Doolin, which is famous for it’s views and it’s traditional Irish music festivals. There was everything such Irish towns are famous for – a few B and B’s, a hotel and 4-6 pubs all with live music in the evening. Often there are 35 sessions of live music a week in Doolin during the summer months. I was there in the winter, which is off-season but was in luck, with 6 sessions playing on the Sunday night. People were friendly and often went from one pub to the next depending on which session they were most interested in. The food was great – lots of fresh seafood and other traditional Irish fare.
I left early the next morning for Killarney, which has a national forest, and my plan was to do some hiking. I travelled about one hour until I arrived in Kilrush where I took the fairy across the Shannon to Tarbert. The journey only took 20 min and cost about 18 euros but saved quite a bit of time and the view was worth every penny. The road from Tarbert to Killarney took about one hour. I decided to head straight up Torc mountain waterfall via the Muckross house. This old estate is now a part of the national park and has beautiful gardens and an abbey. If hiking is not your thing, there is plenty to do at the Muckross house and in the town of Killarney too. I enjoyed the long walk after the car ride, and it was only 2 and a half hours from Doolin to Killarney but in Irish terms that is considered crossing the earth.
I rode from Killarney to Blarney in about one hour and fifteen minutes where I stopped for the night ready to attain the ultimate goal and dream of almost everyone as far as 325 million Americans are concerned. Even the great Ronald Reagan has visited Blarney castle to get the gift of the gab! So early in the morning I crossed the beautiful gardens and climbed the long winding stone staircase to the top where I hung upside down and kissed the stone. This stone’s origins are from Scotland. It was a gift to Dermott McCarthy who helped the Scots at the battle of Bannockburn during their fight for independence in 1314.
Next, a quick stop in Midlton at the Jameson distillery to see how Irish Whiskey is made and distilled. This was truly informative, and the whiskey flight at the end wasn’t bad either! I left Midlton and drove up the M9 back to Dublin in about 3 hours where I stopped for the night and spent the next day trying to decide if I liked Jameson or Guinness more at the amazing Guinness storehouse. This was a fantastic tour about the history of Dublin as well as Guinness and I highly recommend it. Great view from the top too. I also went to St. Patrick’s cathedral, which dates back to 1191 and is Ireland’s tallest and dedicated to its patron saint.
This was a great short journey and took just three days. It could easily be extended and either places be visited or more time spent in each of these amazing places. I will return to Ireland again and again and would not be surprised if I’m not the only one who realizes how much it truly has to offer. Not all who wander are lost! Happy travels!
Leah Caldwell, is a class teacher at Brookes School, Moscow