Easter escape

The easter weekend, a chance to get out of the city and go see some of the more famous sites of Ireland. This time i wasn’t alone either lol makes for a nice change for me. My friend from Germany also decided that she would be keen to visit Galway for the long weekend, and to take in some of the sights. So it was decided that we would bus down to Galway and spend the weekend there doing a couple of day trips. We booked 2 nights into the Kinlay hostel which was convientnly located right in the town square within walking distance to both the bus station and the main shopping centre, not that we were planning on shopping. The hostel was really nice offering breakfast, pool tables and information on different tours which was great. My friend decided to get some on the job experience as a night porter there after a few drinks and a refusal to sleep, the guys were great fun to talk and to hang out with. Thats the great thing about hostels is meeting all the different people from those that work there to others that are staying, wither it is for a few days or just one night to hear the stories of those that are travelling is always great to add to your own experiences i think.

The first day we were in Galway we had planned to go to the famous cliffs of Moher, which were packed. Being a long weekend and a tourist destination i expected it to be busy but i couldn’t believe the amount of people there. We struck it lucky being that the weather seemed to be the only chance of an Irish summer. It was stunning, hot and sunny made for the best photos with each colour standing out making for an amazing background. At the top of the cliffs there is a memorial for all those who have ended their lives on the cliffs which i can see how that is easily done as there is a fence but most people tend to walk on the other side of the fence that is closest to the edge, and as it had been raining something that happens rather a lot in Ireland the place was covered in mud which caused myself and a few other people i noticed to stumble just a bit. Walking along the edge of the cliffs my friend and i noticed a girl sitting down off the edge on a small ledge writing, couldn’t help but notice just how close she was to the edge and how easily it would be to slip, though it looked like perhaps this was her writing spot as she seemed quite content sitting at the edge of a cliff.

The cliffs are around 700 feet above sea level, and consist of mostly namurian shale and sandstone, with the oldest rocks being found at the bottom of the cliffs, and home to an estimated 30,000 birds living on the cliffs representing 20 different species. The cliffs are one of Irelands most popular tourist destinations with around one million visitors in 2006 visiting the cliffs, and its not hard to see why; though a sunny day is essential to totally enjoy the moment.

The second tour my friend and i did in Galway was to Connemara. Again it was a stunning day and the sun was out hot enough to even get slightly burnt though thats not hard for me. Our tour driver even said how lucky we were to get such a day and dropped us off on the side of the road and made us walk up the road so we could appreciate the Irish weather. Connemara is a district west of Ireland comprising of a broad peninsula between Killary Harbour and Kilkieran Bay.

On the way to our main stop we stopped off at the burren national park. The Burren is a karst (Great Rock) landscape in County Clare, Ireland. It measures approximately 250 square kilometres and is enclosed roughly within the circle made by the villages of Ballyvaughan, Kinvara, Tubber, Corofin, Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna. The rolling surrounding hills are composed of mostly Limestone with criss crossing cracks known as “grikes”. Walking over these grikes proves to be more difficult than you think with one guy trying to jump over them only to lose his footing and falling flat on his face. This old tomb offers the mystery of how did they get the top rock on as its rather large and incredibly heavy, once again leaving to marvel and the impressive engineering skills of the locals.

One of the other places we passed were the sites that played an important role during the potato famine. Which while it is called a famine there was actually plenty of food in Ireland for the people but due to being under British rule they were expected to export their food to Britain which left the Irish people with nothing. The hills in Connemara were used for the potato crops which were infected with the blight and to this day you can see where the crops were planted and where they failed, with striations on the hills that can be seen from the road while driving through.

Our main destination was the Kyliemore abby. Built by Mitchel Henry a wealthy doctor for his wife, the castle was designed by James Franklin Fuller. Construction was began in 1897 and took four years to complete. The grounds also include a gothic style church which holds the bodys of both Margaret and Mitchel Henry. Story was that while on their honeymoon the newly wed couple fell involve with Connemara and decided to build their home here overlooking a lake. Kyliemore and the surrounding landscapes are associated with many celtic legends which have been passed down the generations by word of mouth and later on written down. Now days Kyliemore abbey is run by the Benedictine Nuns who came here after their abbey was destroyed in World War 1.

You could spend the day easily walking around the land especially on a nice day. On entrance we decided to head straight to the castle walking along the waters edge where there were a number of people sitting and having a picnic. The castle was massive when you walked up the stairs and got a full view the place, made you feel very small. The castle had two floors that were open to the public and run by the nuns. The church was just stunning to walk around with a marble interior and classic stone gargoyles guarding the church. The abby offers a short van ride up to the gardens which is about a 15minute walk but as our tour time was limited we decided to be lazy and catch the van. At the top of the gardens was a small restaurant where you can happily sit with a coffee and cake overlooking the blossoming flowers. As it was easter they had activities happening for kids which involved finding all the easter bunnies and their eggs, each kid getting a rather impressive egg on completion. We only had time to walk around some of the gardens, one which seemed to be an oak forrest, though i don’t really understand why you would want an oak forrest. The other part of the gardens were kept in immaculate condition and styled and maintained by regular gardeners, with a variety of plants and summer flowers.

It was such a long day but overall impressive, worth going to and enjoying. The bus ride back was spent mostly sleeping, besides one stop at the bogs where the drive gave us a bit of the history of the bogs and gave us a chance to pick it up look at the texture. Apparently when bog is burnt it has a very distinctive smell which many Irish associate as home and those overseas often try to get family members to send them some which they then burn at christmas. The final day was amazing and exciting and both of us looked forward to the bus ride back to Dublin where we could spread out on the seats and sleep.

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