A week in the Republic of Ireland - exploring the west and east coasts

Tripoto

This is a contuniation to my earlier post A 12 Days Travel Itinerary of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Our desire to visit this beautiful island stemmed from our love of Irish music. This country's music resonates the kind of music that is very familiar to our homeland (Assam) and its musicians. Its friendly people, vibrant youthful culture (being the country with the youngest population in the world), majestic landscapes were additional temptations. We had just about 8 days including days of travel. After much deliberation we decided to divide out stay in two different cities, Galway and Dublin to optimise our plan and include all that we wanted to see and do.

Travel duration

A week to 10 days

Important information

Currency used - Euro € Best time to travel - April to June Tourist information centres 25 Suffolk Street and 14 Upper O Connell Street-City Centre, Dublin / visitdublin 21 Forster Street, Galway City Centre, Galway / discoverireland.ie 3 days exploring Galway, and the Bay and Cliff Coasts

Our first destination was Galway City; colourful, youthful, lively and warm. Ireland's cultural heart, it sits on River Corrib that connects Lake Corrib to the Atlantic Ocean.

Mode of travel - Phase II (Belfast, Northern Ireland to Galway City, Ireland)

► Leg 1 - From accommodation at Belfast to Europa Buscentre at Glengall Street by Uber cab, at £6.61.

► Leg 2 - Pre-booked bus tickets online through Aircoach and Eireagle, respectively. From Europa Buscentre, Belfast to Dublin Airport (2 hours), at £33 (2 adults+1 child) and Dublin Airport to Galway Coach Station (3 hours) at €49 (2 adults+1 child). Discounted rate if booked online. The bus drops you outside Terminal 2 of Dublin Airport. Walk approximately 5 minutes to Zone 13 for your bus to Galway. Alternatively, you can buy your tickets directly at the Europa Buscentre and from the coach driver at Dublin Airport, respectively.

► Leg 3 - Galway Coach Station to accommodation at Fairhill Road Lower 5 by taxi, at €7. You can also walk the 15 minutes distance.

Accommodation in Galway

A spacious, self-sufficient 2-bedroom apartment at 10 minutes walk from the city centre, Eyre Square. Everything close at hand, both the Quay Street and the Latin Quarter, barely at 5 minutes walk had everything we required. It was very spacious for 3, comfortable and ideal to explore the city. Check out Airbnb for your accommodation requirements.

Day 1 - Exploring Latin Quarter and Claddagh Quay

By the time we reached Galway, the better part of the day was over. So, after a late lunch at Latin Quarter, we explored the sights in the vicinity. A leisurely walk along the Claddagh Quay and the Latin Quarter. It was a pleasant sunny day and more than half of Galway's population was out, lounging near the river, enjoying the rare sunny day. With the National Universiy of Ireland, Galway and the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology in the city, the young students' crowd was a sight to behold.

A walk along the Claddagh Quay required quite a bit of manoeuvring around crowds of noisy revellers of varied age groups. We were told by an elderly gentleman that the quay could offer us two distinct experiences, depending on the weather. One, a pleasant silent walk when it is cloudy and grey and the other, noisy and lively when the sun is up and shining. We enjoyed the laughter and frivolities of the crowd that day.

Around the hustle and bustle of the cobblestone streets; Quay, High and Shop streets comprise the Latin Quarter, a pedestrian-only area. Cafes, pubs, restaurants, outdoor dining, street performers, shops and hordes of people; tourist and local, fight for space in this vibrant locality.

After a quick trip to the supermarket for some food essentials, we crossed the street to our apartment for our much needed rest. All refreshed, we ventured back to Latin Quarter in the evening. A different atmosphere, all together. With the sun down, the area was much quieter. We stepped into The Kings Head for a few drinks and live music that our souls were yearning for. We had given the music a miss in Belfast because our day schedules were long and tiring. Over a few pints of beer, we lost ourselves to the haunting melodies of Irish music. We decided to call it a night at around 9:30 PM and headed over to Murphys for some ice-cream. We took our time to select from an array of naturally made ice-creams. The friendly attendant helped me to select a local flavour with sea-salt and; high on beer, music and ice-cream, we skipped back home to a good night's sleep.

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Day 2 - Day Trip to Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren

Pre-booked online, in advance, through Viator. It gave a small discount on each booking. e-voucher is accepted.

Along the Wild Atlantic Way, passing through quaint villages we visited the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher.

► Itinerary

1st stop - Cliffs of Moher, Lislorkan, Ireland. Approximately 1 hour to walk along these awe-inspiring cliffs. No Hollywood movie can truly represent the magnificence of these rugged cliffs and the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean. This UNESCO Global Geopark is also home to many rare flora and cliff nesting birds like Puffin and Kittiwake. Too short a time to soak in the beauty of the wind-swept cliffs, the sound of the waves below, the constant calls of the birds flying overhead and the sheer feeling of exuberance. 2nd stop - Inis Oírr (Inisheer), County Galway, Ireland. Headed out to the village of Doolin for the ferry ride to Inisheer. Approximately 2 hours to explore the smallest of the Aran Islands. You can hire a bike or experience the island in a traditional pony and trap. Steeped in the traditional Irish way of life, we were greeted to the sights of fishing boats, their nets and fishermen busy at work. With just 2 hours in hand, we opted for the pony and trap ride at €10 per person, to explore the island. The slow pace of village life enveloped us as we passed by the remains of a shipwreck, the church ruins, the lighthouse, the castle, the historic sacred well and many more sights. Small patches of stone-walled fields interlace all along the island, giving it a striking uniqueness. We stepped down from the trap to walk the narrow pathway leading back to the centre of the village where, we had a wonderful lunch of seafood chowder and fish and chips at Tigh Ruairi / Rory's Pub (recommended by our guide, Peter). 3rd stop - Back to the Cliffs of Moher. Cruised under the Cliffs of Moher, approximately 30 minutes. A great way of viewing the cliffs, standing 700 feet above the sea. The raging wind, the splashing waves, the cold sea-fog and, the human squeals and gasps added drama to the May ambience of the day. 4th stop - The Burren, County Clare, Ireland - A brief stop to admire, on the return back to Galway. Wide expanse of craggy terrain dotted with flora peaking out of cracked grey stones and crevices. 5th stop - Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Galway - Another brief stop to explore the Dunguaire Castle and its interiors. From April to October, you can enjoy locally sourced food and entertainment at the renowned castle banquet, at a cost.

Back in Galway by 7:00 PM. Once again, we spent our time at the Latin Quarter browsing through the few shops that were open and clicking photographs.

► Things to note

Cost - €50 adult / €45 youth (5-12 years) Duration - 10 hours Departure & Return time - 9:00 AM & 7:00 PM, respectively. Departure & Return point - Merchants Road (outside the Kinlay Hostel). A complementary pick-up service from all hotels and registered accommodation providers within Galway city is available if booked a day in advance. Please contact the listed contact number on your e-voucher to book your pick-up. Inclusions - Transport by air-conditioned coach managed by professional driver / guide and live commentary on board (entertaining and knowledgeable). Round-trip ferry ride and entry to the Cliffs of Moher. Exclusions - Food and drinks and gratuities. You can partake lunch at Inisheer, Aran Islands.

► Alternative transport options to the listed attractions in the above itinerary

◆ From Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, Lislorkan, Ireland

By self-driven car, about an hour. By taxi, about an hour, at €90-€110. By bus, approximately 2.5 hours. Bus no. 350 (4 times, daily) shall take you from Galway Coach Station, Eyre Square to Cliffs of Moher Car Gate, at €12-€16. Walk approximately 483 meters / 5 minutes to the Cliffs of Moher.

◆ From the Cliffs of Moher to Inis Oírr (Inisheer) Island, County Galway, Ireland

By self-driven car and ferry, approximately an hour. From Doolin Pier, transfer to a ferry for the 30 minutes crossing to Inisheer, at round trip €20, adult and €12, child (5-15 years). By bus and ferry, approximately 2 hours. Bus no. 350 / 555 (twice, daily) shall take you from Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre Car Park to Doolin Pier at €5-€10. Transfer to a ferry for the 30 minutes crossing to Inisheer, at round trip €20, adult and €12, child (5-15 years).

◆ From Inisheer Island to The Burren, County Clare / Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Galway, Ireland

By ferry and self-driven car, approximately an hour. 30 minutes crossing by ferry to Doolin Pier. Enroute to Galway, stopover at many of the towns to explore the Burren landscape. You can stop in the town of Kinvara to explore the Burren and also include a tour of the Dunguaire Castle. By ferry and taxi, approximately an hour. After the 30 minutes ferry crossing to Doolin Pier, a taxi can take you to one of the many towns in the Burren region, at €60-€75. By bus - Bus no. 350 / 333 travel on this route. Please visit buseireann for information on bus schedules and fares on the Burren route.

◆ From Inisheer Island to Galway City

By ferry and self-driven car, approximately an hour. 30 minutes crossing by ferry to Doolin Pier. Drive back to Galway, another 30 minutes. By ferry and taxi, approximately an hour. After the 30 minutes ferry crossing to Doolin Pier, a taxi can take you to Galway City at €85-€110. By ferry and bus, approximately 5 hours. After the 30 minutes ferry crossing, take bus no. 350 (once, daily) from Doolin Hostel to Ennis Bus Station, at €10-€14. Hourly bus no. 51 shall take you to the Galway Coach Station, Eyre Square at €11-€15. By ferry, bus and train, approximately 5 hours. After the 30 minutes ferry crossing, take bus no. 350 (once, daily) from Doolin Hostel to Ennis Bus Station, at €10-€14. Transfer to the train station and take the train (every 3 hours, daily) to Galway, at €14-€21.

Download the Rome2rio app from Google Play / App Store or visit the website Rome2rio when planning your trips. It is a superb application that provides all travel options, booking information and so on.

My advice is to opt for either self-driven road trips or guided tours in Ireland, to best optimise your travel time and enjoy a hassle-free trip.

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Day 3 - Exploring the City, things to see and do in Galway

We had kept a day unplanned and decided to use it productively. A city tour as always, a self-guided walking tour. Our intention was not an in-depth sight-seeing tour of the attractions but a casual stroll with stops at places that earned our attention and captured our interest. We wanted to experience the history and culture of the 'City of the Tribes' in our own personal way. This day was unlike the day we arrived; clouds hanging overhead, a drizzle now and then, and the streets empty and quiet. We started early from across our accommodation.

► Itinerary

Salthill Promenade - A pleasant walk, watching the world go by. Starting at the Claddagh, it is an easy walk with plenty of places to rest your limbs if you wish. It offers fantastic views of the city and the Galway Bay. We took in the beautiful sights as well as befriended many locals along the way, it was abuzz with activity. During our time here, we saw the Irish nationals, actively and peacefully, campaigning to re-appeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution - a 1983 measure that banned abortion under almost all circumstances. We were approached, many a times, by both the 'Yes' and 'No' camps; mistaking us for Irish citizens and requesting us to vote towards their respective cause. Latin Quarter (Quay, High and Shop Streets) - "Where Galway comes alive." Everything you need in a city is here to be discovered; shops, pubs, restaurants, historical buildings, museums. What more can one ask for? A pedestrian zone, the three interlaced streets were bustling with activities. Something to offer to everyone; whether you wish to shop, sight-see or generally soak in the ambience over pints of beer. We spent hours, enjoying the vibrant and bright atmosphere here. The street-performers can keep you engaged for hours with their music, dance and magic, as they take turns in specific spots marked for them. Plenty to shop too; modern and traditional. Claddagh rings and Aran sweaters are most popular in Galway. Hubby and I bought Claddagh couple rings at Claddagh Jewellers, a family run business since 1967. Very unique and traditional. Our 10 year old daughter found the Statue of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Wilde very fascinating and insisted on joining in, in their conversation. Spanish Arch - Of historical significance, this 16th century arch was built to protect merchant ships from looting and plundering. It is an important landmark, directly opposite the shore. Eyre Square - In the heart of Galway City, Eyre Square, officially known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park has historical significance. It has been noted that markets took place in this square during medieval times. The green square or park is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike, mostly crowded. It also has a small playground area for children which too, is usually packed on sunny days. You can also find the Tourist Information Centre here, near the train station. The square also displays a few interesting artwork like the representation of the Galway Hooker (traditional fishing boat unique to Galway). The Eyre Square Centre, a shopping mall with over 70 shops and a varied selection of eateries, is a popular and vibrant place to hang around especially, on a cloudy day. Galway Cathedral - An impressive stone building, this Roman Catholic cathedral of Renaissance style also displays beautiful gothic windows and mosaic works. A walk along the River Corrib and Eglinton Canal - With peace and silence for company, we walked along the path between the River Corrib and the canal. Easy, flat walk; nothing spectacular bur relaxing and serene. Ducks and swans swimming about, you can also sit yourself down for a quick picnic in the pretty little garden which, can easily be missed. We happened upon it by chance and had a pleasant time there with just a few young couples for company. Exploring Westend - Across O'Briens's Bridge and a little further away from the city centre, is the delightful district called Westend. Teeming with friendly locals going about their business, it is another vibrant locality. It is dotted with second-hand music and book shops, pubs, restaurants and music venues. Not known to many tourists, it is lively and infused with life of the locals.

Our last evening was a wonderful repeat of the previous two evenings, spent across the many pubs at Latin Quarter. We enjoyed Irish traditional and contemporary music to our hearts' content in Galway. An ice-cream, a different flavour each time from Murphys, also became a nightly ritual.

► Things to note

With another day or two extra in hand, you can actually explore Galway more thoroughly. Visit the Tourist Information Centre at Forster Street for information on walking tours, hop-on hop-off city tours and so on.

Other noteworthy things to see and do in Galway City:

Galway Market - Weekly Saturday market Galway Museum - Focussing on medieval times, the City Museum is located behind the Spanish Arch. Lynch Memorial Window - It is believed that Mayor James Lynch Fitzstephen condemned and hung his own son from this window for the murder of a Spanish youth. Forthill Graveyard - Established in the 1500s it is still in use and is steeped in history. Lynch Castle - Houses the Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and easily goes unnoticed as it is located amongst the many shops and buildings in the Shop Street. National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) - A leading educational institute, you will find a majority of Galway's population, the students in the five colleges here.

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There are few places in this world that carves a special place in one's heart. Galway is one such place, this beautiful and colourful city is a constant reminder of the Ireland we came to love and wish to return some day. With so many places yet to explore we sometimes wonder if we shall ever go back to places that we have ticked off our bucket list. But with family in Galway now, it gives us enough reason to retrace our steps back to Ireland, hopefully soon.

I am finding it difficult to bring this post to an end. My repertoire of memories have spilled over. Yet, I know I must end this so that I can start a new one with fresh zeal.

The next is our time in the east coast, in and around Dublin, Ireland.

Till then....

"May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields." - an old Irish blessing

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