A two-week blitz through Ireland
Around the Emerald Isle in fourteen days
The next day began at yet another gratifyingly touristy site, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in County Clare. The medieval castle was jammed pack and claustrophobic (we were there at the height of tourist season) but I’m such a sucker for recreated historical villages and the Bunratty Folk Park was no exception. The living village bestows a glimpse into a small Irish village circa 1900, complete with shops, farmhouses, a school and pub.
After Bunratty, we headed straight to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, looming high above the Atlantic Ocean, then drove through the Burren, a 10-square-mile limestone plateau unique in its own stark rough beauty. We stopped for dinner at Monk’s, a seafood pub in the village of Ballyvaughan, serving delicious mussels and chowder.
After spending the night with friends in the charming and colorful town of Ennis, we caught a bus the next morning to Galway.
We arrived during the last weekend of the Galway Arts Festival, so everything was in full swing. Galway’s streets were alive with street performers and musicians, and we enjoyed the arts festival, including a concert by Maigh Seola, an Irish music group performing traditional Irish love songs.
I really fell for the adorable House Hotel, with its quirky artwork and cute sleeping cat logo. But what I loved most about the boutique hotel was the breakfast.
My first morning in Ireland, I'd had my taste of a real Irish breakfast.Since then, nearly every hotel and B&B we encountered served up the same fried fare, and usually had little else. My boyfriend relished the eggs, tomato and rashers (bacon) he rarely got back in the States, and I was game to try the black pudding made with pig’s blood - once. But already by day two of the journey, my stomach was rebelling, and I rejoiced in the House Hotel’s breakfast of smoked salmon, fresh juices and hot, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth croissants.
The following day, we took a bus and ferry ride to Inishmore, the largest and most popular of the Aran Islands, where we rented creaky old bikes and cycled around the island. Having not been on a bike in almost 20 years, I more than once questioned this decision, thinking I’d have been better off hitching a ride on one of the pony carts. Pedaling up the hills was rough, and I had to walk the bike up several steep inclines. I couldn’t remember bicycling being this difficult when I was 12.
So immersed in playing the tourist, my boyfriend led us into an Irish language school, mistaking it for a tourist attraction, where a bunch of teenagers taunted us in Irish as we bicycled around the playground looking for a way out. We took a breather at Dún Aenghus, a stone fort perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, and I finished the day off buying cream-colored wool scarves at the Aran Sweater Market while Declan had a beer in a nearby pub.