To really get the sense and beauty of Ireland, you must venture out of Dublin and drive through the country. Through the rolling hills and vast plains of endless greens, farther than the eye can see. To venture past herds of cattle, horses and sheep grazing in their pastures and every so often the glimmer of a castle still standing or remnants of those once belonged to clan leaders. That is true Ireland, and if you’re lucky enough to spend a full week with your own car, oh there is so much adventure to be had!
So many friendly and warm people to meet, different towns to experience, different pubs to revel and grab a pint to “sláinte!” Even with our short three day trip in Ireland, we still got a real sense of what that experience could be.
Our excursion to the Cliffs of Moher was about three and half hours from Dublin, for some that may feel too far away, but for me, someone who absolutely loves long drives, it wasn’t long enough. Ever since I was little I loved car rides; sitting in the back, my mind wandering to all that quickly surrounded and then passed us by, my eyes working furiously to catch and admire everything they could! And nothing has changed since. I’ll get behind the wheel with no problem, driving for hours just to immerse myself in another environment, even if it’s in a moving vehicle unable to get out and physically explore.
But of course I love to be a passenger, because then I can truly let my wanderlust soul embrace the moving beauty of nature. We may have been in a coach bus amongst other travelers from all over the world, and yet this was still one of my favorite drives. I had the permanent face of a giddy little girl, and there was no wiping that smile off my face!
There was so much natural beauty that it made me fall more in love with Ireland, and gain that persistent itch to go back in the future to adventure through it all — without any set schedule!
Our drive to Cliffs of Moher was cloudy, but once there the sun came out and the remainder of our day and drive were beautiful! Our following stop was to Burren National Park, and our amazing tour guides Sara and Tara gave us the stunning treat of driving along the coast of Wild Atlantic Way passing alongside the quaint and lovely towns of St. Brigid’s Well and Liscannor.
They are beautiful seashore towns, still picturesque despite the powerful and intense winds which are native to these popular summer holiday destinations. I was enamored and in love with every darling little home we passed; small and cozy I imagine, and absolutely lovely with numerous windows! I mean with such stunning coastal views, how could you not have more windows than walls! Even with strong winds preventing trees from growing, gardens were beautiful and lush, exactly what you’re picturing a tiny English garden to look like.
After such a lovely, and quick drive from the Cliffs, we arrived at Burren National Park. This stop unfortunately wasn’t one long enough to do some exploring, there were only a few moments to take in as much as we could of this lunar-like landscape before continuing on.
Ohh but if I had the time, you most likely wouldn’t see me until the next day or two — I would be hiking and camping through this unique park!
Wild winds roared, bringing the fragrant salty sea into the air — filling it with strength. I was in awe of Burren’s vastness, even in that small corner of the park.
Burren National Park may not be an Irish destination you may have heard of before, and its certainly not what you may have in mind when you think of a “National Park”. There are no pine trees and dark deep forests, those powerful winds prevent this rocky landscape from growing any trees. In fact where almost no vegetation grows — Nature prevails and thrives in its own way. The park is perfectly fitting of its name which comes from the Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. The Irish are simple folk, but their natural wonders are anything but!
Spanning over 3,700 acres there are plenty of woodland hiking trails, cliffs to climb and of course native animal friends from lizards to my favorite, the otter! Sure there aren’t endless growing trees or flowers to admire, but for my fellow nature-geology-lovin’ friends, you’ll find major habits unique to the Burren to explore; Limestone Pavement, Calcareous Grassland, Petrifying Springs and Fen just to name a few of the nutrient rich species. Now you see why I’d get lost for days here!
And you know what I felt standing atop this perplexing rocky terrain; stillness. My mind was quiet and calm. It was simply soaking in everything around me. While others posed for pictures or tested their limits of danger seeing what the coast looked like below — I was bursting with peace!
Our time was so short in Burren, and you may have guessed accurately that I didn’t want to leave, but in truth I never left Burren National Park, that peaceful stillness is with me now.
And so onto the charming harbor city of Galway we went!
There’s a reason Galway is a favorite of anyone who travels there, and why I was told by a friend as soon as I booked this trip that I would love Galway. They were right, I fell in love with Galway….just as Ed Sheeran had fallen in love with his “Galway Girl“ hah 😉
Galway immediately gives you a welcoming hug. This very walkable city is filled to the brim with old-fashioned Irish Pubs and plenty of great seafood restaurants of which all have their version of fish and chips, and of course live Irish musicians playing their beautiful melodies. Galway is a great culinary city, hence why you’d need a few days just to get though all the amazing food!
The city’s 18th-century Eyre Square and famed Latin Quarter, which still showcases parts of its original medieval city walls, is also home to many cafes, boutiques from traditional to bohemian cool, antique shops and art galleries lining the winding alleys with so much beauty!
I didn’t take many photos because while time was also short, I really just wanted to experience the liveliness of Galway without any distractions, aside from the drizzle that had quickly rolled through.
It didn’t matter if our time was short, there was no way we were leaving Galway without filling our tummies with food. We were in the mood for something on the lighter side, to naturally pair with some much needed coffee. As the drizzle became rain, we thankfully found a darling emerald green bakery. For the life of me I could not remember the name of this bakery, until I did some investigating, zoomed in on the picture below to discover that it was Griffin’s Bakery. Only to my sadness after looking it up, this Galway institution built in 1876 sadly closed. I’m honestly upset like local would be losing one of their hometown staples, but I’m so lucky and happy that we got to experience this treasure!!
Remember how I mentioned Ireland is well known for having multi-level pubs and restaurants, well this was another one! The first floor was tiny, only fitting the bakery counter that were filled with mouthwatering pastries and racks of freshly baked bread. But as you climbed the winding stairs, you encountered new nooks to cozy yourself. Most of its original architecture and decor was still in tact; the tiny stalled bathrooms that’ll convince you everyone was short back in the day to the beautiful iron fireplace we happily sat next to.
I ordered a warm and delicious bowl of soup, which was paired with yummy thick-cut Irish bread and my cousin smartly ordered a warm apple crumb tart. It was heavenly!
There is no denying why Galway is often referred to Ireland’s most charming city. It’s certainly a city you must stay and experience over a few days! Because we quickly learned that although there is an undeniable liveliness to this city, Galway is really not a city in which to hustle — rather it’s one to enjoy and relish in all the wonder that surrounds River Corrib and Galway Bay!
Oh man, do I wish I could book a ticket right now to go back and truly experience these beautiful Irish wonders!
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