After our bout of sightseeing in Dublin and our relaxing day in Connemara, we had plans to head back to Galway bright and early to rent a car in Eyre Square. We hadn’t really planned it in advance, but (rather naively) assumed that we’d be able to snag a car at the centre. We hopped on a 9:15A bus from Clifden to Galway and arrived in Galway’s city centre by 11A. We headed down to the nearby Budget rental centre and waited to grab an available car. Now, you may remember me mentioning that this past weekend marked the culmination of Galway’s busiest week of the year: the Galway races. Apparently the races are a pretty big to-do because nearly everyone we talked to asked if we were heading to check out the event. Of course, if we had known that this was going on we would probably have better planned our bookings, but we had no idea. As you can probably imagine, we were quickly dismissed after we strolled up to the rental desk and asked for a vehicle. Didn’t we know? It was the busiest weekend of the year and there wouldn’t be a car available until Monday. We sat outside and phoned every other rental car in Galway to no avail. Our plan was ruined! Eeek.
Now, this wouldn’t have been an issue had we not had our lives in tow: massive 60+ lb. suitcase, laptop cases, purses… ugggh. We had a momentary freakout and then sped off to the visitors centre where an all-too-kind Galwegian helped us sort out our lives. While our fantasy car rental exploration day was a bit ruined, we had a pretty decent alternate: we got a Cliffs of Moher tour for 20 euro (15 for me with a student discount!), that was going to take us to the Cliffs by way of a number of small cities with a number of photo stops. Bonus? They had room to store our luggage on the bus! Perfect!
The ride to the cliffs was about two hours and we passed through darling towns and gorgeous countryside on the way. After leaving County Galway, we passed through the Burren in County Clare. Apparently, “Burren” comes from Boireann (Irish for ‘stony district’) in reference to the limestone hills and valleys that cover the area. No joke — limestone everywhere!
After passing through the Burren and stopping for some photo snapping opportunities, we made it to the cliffs!
Stellar. Seriously awesome. I was a bit sad that the clouds got in the way of picture-taking, but there wasn’t really much I could do about that. Being that it’s Ireland and the weather is incredibly temperamental, the rain and crazy wind came to a halt shortly after we arrived and made way for semi-sunny skies and white, pillowy clouds. I still don’t understand how the weather can change so drastically in 15 minutes but after living in London for the year, I’ve stopped questioning it.
The skies ended up clearing quite a bit and you could actually see the shadows of the Aran Islands in the distance. S. and I were both a bit sad that our Aran Islands-excursion didn’t pan out as planned, but maybe next time! I tried to snag some shots of them from a distance, but to no avail; they just look like light patches of water.
After hitting up the cliffs, we stopped for lunch at a cute little pub/restaurant in nearby Doolin and grabbed a bowl of seafood chowder (!!) before heading back up to Galway. From there, we had to grab tickets down to Cork to find a place near the airport for our early morning flight. Want to see how the night panned out and check out our five-star hotel? Click here to read about it!
All in all (I’ve said this already), I was impressed by Ireland. Weather aside, I thought the country was beautiful and the culture was unique. I’m surprised to say this, but I would definitely go back in the future, with more time dedicated to each region. This trip to Ireland marked my last real ‘leisure trip’ of the year. Traveling this month officially depleted my bank account and it’s now time to refocus on life and dissertation-writing. I will be heading to Scotland next month but that’s been planned and paid for for a while. While traveling in Western Europe is far from cheap, it is definitely doable on a budget (as most twenty-something broke college kids can attest to).
Check back soon as I recount my journeys and highlight my favorite destinations from this past year!