This time, two years ago, I embarked on a solo travel to the Emerald Isle - Republic of Ireland.
I am not a very spontaneous traveller, so I researched the country, studied the map and pinned the places I definitely wanted to see. I booked accomodations in local B&Bs in small towns and cities that I decided to stay in. My idea of travel is to get these basic requirements tick marked so I can reach the place and then get lost in it.
My trip started with an Airbnb stay in Dublin. I stayed there for about 3 days, 2 of which I roamed around to experience the city - museums, bars, streets, parks like the St. Stephens Greens where I almost spent the day.
The 3rd day I took a day trip to Wicklow mountains. Between Mt. Tonelagee and Table mountain, Wicklow gap is the second major pass over the mountains. Movies like Braveheart, Excalibur and King Arthur were shot in this spectacular location.
I passed breathtaking landscapes like the Glendalough or valley of two lakes, the Dominican Black Abbey, St. Kevin's church, etc..
The following day I took off to Fossa in Killerney. Killerney is situated in the southwestern corner of Ireland with its three famous lakes - Lough Leane, Muckross lake and Upper lake. Here, I took a day exploring the Ring of Kerry crossing the Dingle Bay and a stopover in a small village of Waterville. It is said that this was the favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin and his family.
I love going on treks - so I decided to trek the Gap of Dunloe, a 12 km mountain pass on the eastern side of the Kerry's MacGillcuddy's reeks close to Killarney town. It is famous for its rugged scenery, unspoilt landscapes and corrie lakes. It was quite a walk and I didn't think I would be able to complete it but I did.
The trek ended at the Upper lake with a boat ride across the three lakes. It was spectacular.
The next day was spent visiting the Muckross palace. With 65 rooms, the Muckross house was built in the Tudor style in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the watercolourist Mary Balfour Herbert.
After a quiet afternoon in the small town, I took a walk along Fossa way in the Killarney national park. After spotting some Irish Red Deer, I spend some time under a tree just taking in the view of the mountains and the lakes that surrounded me.
The next day, I then took the train to Doolin, a charming small seaside village on the northwest coast of County Clare. Traditionally a fishing village, it is now renowned as the traditional music capital of Ireland. I had dinner at O'Conner's pub amongst traditional live Irish music.
Oh, I was not prepared to see the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher. I had somehow managed to dodge the erratic Irish weather till then only for it to catch up with me when I reached the cliffs. It ruined my plans to walk along the cliffs as the weather turned foggy and it rained down hard.
The next day I took a ferry to one of the three Aran islands. Inis Oirr is the smallest and greenest of the three with a population of just 250 people.
Among the many castles, O'Brien's castle was one the original residences of the rulers of the Aran islands. The castle is a 15th century build, a defended tower house, and is located near the highest point of the island.
On the way back from the Aran Islands I visited the Cliffs of Moher up close and personal by sea. It is no doubt one of the most dramatic cliffs in Europe standing 250 meters above sea level and five miles long.
With this amazing time in the countryside, I headed to a city, this time, Galway in the west of Ireland. Galway lies on the river corrib between Lough Corrib and Galway bay. It is the fourth most populous urban area in Republic of Ireland. Galway's Latin Quarter is on the high street. Full of storefronts, pubs and an array of street performers.
My last stop in Ireland was in Oughterard in Connemara. Set against this landscape is the Kylemore mansion and now abbey. It was originally built as a castle in 1867 as a romantic gift. It has been home to the Benedictine community of nuns since 1920. Spent hours in the Kylemore gardens just absorbing the beauty.
While I was boarding the bus, my eye caught this 'Fairy Tree'. There are many along the roadsides throughout Ireland. Local people still tie ribbons or cloth to the tree as a symbol of their prayers and wishes. They are left untouched because farmers are wary of cutting them down and upsetting the fairies for it would call in bad luck.
I will never forget this country. I met some amazing B&B hosts that went out of their way to help me as a solo traveller and experienced the warmth of the people I met on the streets. It is a beautiful country of beautiful people.