Page 1 of pictures
Page 2 of pictures
We landed in Shannon at 7 AM, a more rustic airport one couldn’t ask for. The customs agent waved us
through with a cursory glance, and I picked up what would be dubbed the Oppositemobile from the
Driving was relatively easy, even on the left side of the road, owing to the prolific use of traffic circles
and light traffic. Ennis, our first destination, was only 20 km or so up the road.
We arrived early in the morning, but our notes said check-in wasn’t until 2 PM, so we drove down to
Kilrush on the coast, where I promptly hit a curb, possibly taking off our front left hubcap.
Back in town and still with time to kill, we toured the Ennis Friary, a ruin in the center of town.
Checking in at 2 PM we discover the owner had actually been ready that morning…we fell asleep until 7
PM, rising to visit a bar and downtown before ending our day.
Previously, during our driving about the previous day, we’d come to a forest preserve north of Ennis
near Ruan and visited it this morning. The forest was wonderful, a mess of moss-covered branches,
ferns and blackberries.
After our midday hike, we drove roughly 1.5 hours to Westport to the north, where we ate at the
Stuffed Sandwich. On the way, we witnessed several unique Irish roadsigns, from the “Sharp Curves
Ahead” to the “Road Flooded” which appeared to be in present tense although no flooding was found.
With some time to burn we headed west to Louisburgh, passing the Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick, the
national famine memorial, and finally drove until we dramatically ran out of land, the road literally broke
into the Atlantic.
On our way back we stopped by the Old Head, marked with a (sand?) castle, which apparently means “beach” and
not castle. People were swimming, but the water certainly looked cold! Dinner was Subway as Jen had grown tired of stores not being open.
We woke to another gorgeous Irish morning (barely a cloud in the sky) and set off to Achill island to the
Our trip took us through Newport, where we were unable to find our road. We set out on N59 instead,
and came to the scenic Nephin road, which we took north through the mountains nearly hitting loose
sheep several times.
Once I realized that it was not in fact a loop (or on our map) I intersected our original road and headed
back southwest to resume our journey. The land had changed greatly north of Westport, gone were the
green plots and stone fences, it was mostly flat brown meadows of peat, stretching away across the
We passed the location of Shell’s future Carrib refinery, and finally came to the island of Achill. There
we encountered free roaming sheep and the wild rubarb (imported from South America) as wicked a
plant as one could hope for.
After I briefly got us lost, we visited the Deserted Village on the north side of the island, an abandoned
settlement. There we met a talkative sheep rancher who told us about the castle that rose prominently
to the north. No roads lead to it, and it was quite a hike, so sadly it went unvisited. We talked for a
good hour on a great many subjects, as I found it very hard to end the conversation.
On our way out, we saw the locals cutting peat for fuel. We travelled back down to Westport, where
the Italian restaurant Jen wanted was open, and had an excellent dinner.
We headed west through the mountains to Cliffden as some clouds finally appeared. We’d nearly
reached Cliffden when we came upon the stunning Kylemore Abbey, a place so beautiful I find it unlikely
that anyone could concentrate on the Bible!
The Abbey was built in the 19th century, in the older castle style, and thus actively used and in good
We visited the lovely walled gardens there, and toured a neo-gothic church on the grounds as well. It
was noon before we left and took lunch in Cliffden and returned for a nap before a planned hike in the
evening (the sun set around 10 PM).
Here we learned this was a bad idea, as even the national park nearby closed at 5:30 PM just as we
Day 1: Ennis
Shannon airport wasn’t the prettiest I’ve ever seen, but I can’t complain about it being too busy. We
were through immigration, bag claim, customs (a walkway with no one in it), rental, and out the front
door inside of an hour.
We made our way to Ennis and loitered for a while. We drove down to the coastline and ate an early
lunch at some wrap and smoothie shop.
Once we drove around the area until 2 PM, we checked into our B&B (Sheldon House) and slept till
Dinner was at a pizza joint, the only restaurant we could find open. It apparently was a holiday that day
in Ireland. We then went to a pub for drinks and ran into the same woman who served us lunch. Small
Matt drove fairly well, only tried to kill us once when he tried to turn right into oncoming traffic.
Observe that this is not in his notes. Dusk was 10 PM.
Day 2: Westport
We woke up early to our first of many Irish breakfasts: 2 sausages, 2 strips of bacon, 1 egg, cereal,
orange juice and tea. We then set off for some hiking through the Burren in the nearby town of Ruan. It
was a nice hike through a forest by a small lake.
After our hike we set off for Westport, which was a ways north of Ennis. We didn’t really stop along the
way, the country was mostly uninteresting. The speed limit was 100 KPH, I think we managed 60 on
those insane rural roads. Not that driving through Galway city was much better.
We arrived in Westport in the late afternoon and ate lunch at a sandwich shop. We then checked into
our B&B (after mistaking someone’s private residence for it due to poor directions). After this we drove
down the coastal roads in the rural hillsides until we wound up at a breathtaking rocky shoreline. After
(slowly) making our way back to the main road we hit a beach that had cold looking kids swimming on it
and went to Subway for dinner. Again nothing else was open.
Day 3 Westport, Achill Island
Another day, another 1000 calorie breakfast. We decided to spend the day in Achill, a small island to
the north of Westport.
We took a slight (intentional) detour outside of Newport and ended up driving through the countryside
for over an hour.
The terrain in this area is rocky, mountainous, and very, very brown. The only agriculture was sheep
production and we nearly offed one or two of the little buggers because they ran right in front of the
We ate lunch at a bar at Achill Sound and toured the postcard pretty coastline. We encountered a castle
ruin and climbed down (and back up) a sizable hill to the cliffs. There wasn’t a soul around but the
We stopped at a gift shop back in town, then set off to a set of ruins simply named the Deserted Village.
It was there we met a friendly sheep farmer and we talked to him about everything from local history to
politics, local and US. He was an interesting gentleman and I will never forget him.
We were with the sheep guy for a better part of an hour, so when we finally returned to the car it was
time to return to Westport for dinner.
Restaurants finally decided to open…but not until 6. We passed the time by doing some shopping. We
picked up shirts for Mom and Sparky and a tie for Sam, and a picture for our house. Dinner was an
excellent Italian meal. We ended the evening watching CSI.
Day 4: Cliffden
The next town was Cliffden, back down the southern coastline in the Connamera region of County
Gallway. The drive was especially nice and we stopped at an abbey along the way. On the abbey
grounds was a very nice Victorian walled garden, a neo-gothic church and a maloseum. The abbey itself
was an old castle and still in use.
We arrived in Cliffden around midday and went to lunch. Then we checked into our B&B and a nap.
While we’d slept the clouds had rolled in and it had started to drizzle. Matt wanted to go back to
Connamera National Park, which we’d passed on the road that morning. I wasn’t really in the mood for
a hike, but he insisted and off we went. We drove all the way down there…and it was closed for the
evening. As we wondered what the point of closing a park before dark was, Mat unilaterally decided he
was going to go down this narrow side road to find a trailhead. He thought the little hiker sign meant
that there was a hiking trail down the road. I tried to explain that the trail was the road, but of course
he didn’t listen to me. The road dead ended at a broadcast tower, no trail in sight.
We turned around and headed down the Sky Road, which was a very pretty drive, even in the rain.
There was a temporary traffic jam when two cars on opposite sides of the road decided to stop and
catch a baby sheep and throw it back over its fence.
After our drive we headed back to town for dinner. It was a steady rain at this point, of course when we
had to walk. We went to a Chinese restaurant that we’d spied earlier when we were in the area for
lunch. The food was pretty good and we ended the meal with truffles and ice cream.
Day 5: Aran Islands
We had to be at Rosaveel by noon to make our ferry to Aran, a set of 3 islands off the coast. Our
destination was the largest island, as it was for half the tourist population of Ireland.
The ferry was greeted by a dozen tour busses and horse buggies, and there were two places from which
to rent bikes. We opted to walk to our B&B, about 2 miles away.
We decided walking took too long, so we asked for a pair of bikes to be sent up. These bikes were
terrible. They were rusty and the gears were all screwed up. So we set off on the day’s journey, with a
stop to the island’s only grocery store for 20 euro sunscreen, which was applied.
It didn’t work well. It wasn’t long before I knew I was going to burn and burn badly. The bike ride up
the coast was miserable. The wind was to our faces and frequently gusted to about 30 MPH. The
terrain was extremely hilly and I had to walk up several of the inclines. By the time we got to our first
stop I was exhausted.
The first attraction was the seal colony. We arrived just in time to see the seals sunning themselves on
the rock in mid tide. We took a few pictures and let them be.
Matt insisted on pressing onward to a “castle” that was “only a little bit further.” The castle was a fort
and the fort was at least another grueling hour and a half away. I started getting cold, in addition to
sore, sunburnt, and miserable.
We got to the fort just before it closed. The ranger commented on how red my face was. The site itself
was yet another 20 minute march up a rocky slope. The top of the site included the ruins themselves, as
well as some spectacular cliffs with no guardrails. Matt went to investigate, took two steps forward,
then turned around and told me I was to go no further. I love cliffs, especially those with steep drop-
offs, so I ignored him and proceeded forward. My fearless hero grabbed my waist and started
whimpering. I managed to get him to let me go far enough to get a few pictures before the camera
battery ran out. I still didn’t get a good look, so the one thing I’d wanted to see at this fort I couldn’t.
Matt toured the rest of the ruins and we set back. By this point I was no longer particularly interested in
speaking to him. We ate at the first available restaurant when we got back into town.
The waitress stared at me quite a bit. I looked terrible. We set off around two that day and it was 9 PM
when we finally got back to our room.
Day 6: Doolin
I woke up tired and in pain, but we still had to take the bikes back to town and catch our ferry back to
the mainland. At the only open gift shop I purchased a nice warm merino wool sweater. It made me
feel a little bit better.
I slept the entire ferry ride and was very happy to see our beat up Corolla. Doolin was only an hour boat
ride from Aran by sea, but it took us most of the day to get there by land. We watched Indiana Jones
and went out for a late dinner.
Day 7: Killarney
We had to travel much of the side of the island to get to Killarney, far to the south. We stopped first at
the Cliffs of Moer, which were quite nice that cold misty morning (and they had guardrails so Matt didn’t
In order to bypass Limerick we took the ferry from southern Claire to northern Kerry. We ate lunch at
some town in Kerry that started with an L and also stopped at a show cave. The cave had formations in
good condition but the tour was otherwise unimpressive.
Killarney is jammed to the gills with tourists, so I didn’t warm up to it as much as some of the more
remote places we’d visited.
After a nap we had dinner at yet another excellent Chinese restaurant and had ice cream at Hagen Das.
After dinner we took a walk around the town’s impressive gothic cathedral and the nearby paths in the
Killarney National Park. The forest was quite picturesque and we agreed to return, camera in tow, in the
Day 8: Killarney, Ring of Baera
We returned to the park after breakfast and went on a several mile hike up to Ross Castle and back. The
sun, which had been absent much of the day before, had made its return and I didn’t want to aggravate
my burns, so I convinced Matt to drive around the Baera Penninsula, on a path known as the Ring of
We set off after taking some laundry to the cleaners. The countryside was beautiful, full of mountains,
craggy coastlines and pretty little villages with pastel painted buildings.
It was in one of these that I met Jesse, the most adorable dopey little dog I have ever met. First he
begged before our lunch came out. Then he grabbed some kind of rock and dropped it at Matt’s feet,
backed away, sat down, and looked up expectantly. This didn’t work, so he picked up the rock again and
did the same at my feet. Not satisfied with that either, he picked it up and dropped it on the bench
beside me. I finally got the hint and picked it up. It looked like a piece of coal. I didn’t want to play
catch in the bar, so I handed it back to him. He pranced around the bar with his rock in victory.
When he came back he’d broken his rock in half and dropped one piece at my feet and one on my
bench. I was done eating so I took him out back to throw them. He caught the second one in his mouth
while still carrying the first one. Jesse followed us all the way back to our car.
We had to return to Killarney by 6 for the laundry, and the trip had taken longer than anticipated, so the
last bit was somewhat cut short.
After a brief rest we ate at an Italian/seafood/pizza/steak restaurant. I let Matt chose the wine and he
orders the dessert wine that was too sweet even for me. Dessert was ice cream once more.