How to conquer Ireland in just two weeks
Getting around the Emerald Isle in fourteen days
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.
I had a chance to rest my aching muscles on the two-hour train ride to Dublin the next day. Once in Dublin, we took a quick stroll through St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College, Merrion Square, Temple Bar and across the Ha’ Penny Bridge. And for dinner: the best burgers in the world at Bó Bó’s Gourmet Irish Burger on Wexford street.
The next two days were filled with day tours out of Dublin. The Newgrange Tour by Mary Gibbons covered the Boyne Valley including Newgrange, a megalithic passage tomb and the Hill of Tara, the ancient royal site of the Irish High Kings.
Newgrange was constructed so that each year, the winter solstice sunrise would illuminate the inner passage and chamber. It was thrilling to stand in a structure that, having been built over 5000 years ago, is older than the pyramids in Egypt. Entering the ancient tomb was the highlight of my trip.