Day 1 Over the River Shannon
On Thursday, 19 September 2013, we departed the city of Dublin to the west coast of Ireland County Galway in the province of Connacht. As I looked out the window toward an ever-changing landscape, I watched as three hours transformed the charming Dublin cityscape to a lusher, greener panorama. The endless green cascading over the gentle hills seemed like that of a picture – the intense beauty blocked by a glass pane. The sunshine bathed each blade of grass in a glow that made me feel that the beautiful weather was truly due to the luck of the Irish. This was the vision of Ireland always swirled in my mind. This was it.
When we arrived into Galway and settled into our hostel, “Snoozles,” the city felt quiet, deserted almost. It felt like that of a small town, smaller than Dublin. The city centre comprised of mainly a single street speckled sparsely with musicians. The nightlife was nothing of much excitement, but the sites we would see the following days would make up for the disappointment tenfold.
Day 2 County Galway
On Friday, first on our itinerary were the Aran Islands at Kilronan, Inis Mor. During the ferry ride to the island, I hadn’t known what to expect; I only knew that the islands were home of the infamous traditional Irish wool sweaters.
On the island, dividing up plots of green, little stone walls marked boundaries everywhere of varying sizes. These remains of a dark time during the 17th century established the dauntingly tangible reality of the Potato Famine. Due to the famine, the island, originally home to about three thousand people, had its population whittled down so severely, that still today, only nine hundred inhabitants live on the island.
Seacht Teampaill, or the Seven Churches dating back to 8th century. An astounding site, rich in history and religious significance, the site was transformed into cemetery over the years as an Irish token toward preserving their cultural heritage. (Our guide noted half-jokingly that the waitlist to have one’s children buried in these grounds are so competitive that it can be compared to how parents in the States strive to get their children into colleges.). Celtic crosses sprouted from each head of the graves, decorated with rose bushes and personal remembrances. The story behind the Celtic Cross especially piqued my interest as it revealed how closely religion and history are so intertwined in Irish culture.
Dun Aengus, one of Ireland’s most infamous pre-historic forts brought us back in time to the period in which the people that came before the Celts were in existence. The structure of the stone fort set on the cliffs was truly stunning. As there were no railings or evidence of modern contamination, I felt so enclosed by the beauty of nature; I sat on the cliffs hanging over the edge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of meters below.
Day 3 County Clare
As the sun set on Friday evening, it did not seem to rise in the morning as we embarked to the Cliffs of Moher. A thick fog settled over the cliffs, and what was supposed to be a sight even more spectacular than that of Dun Aengus was instead suffocated by a blinding grey.
At the Aillwee Caves, I was awestruck by stalagmites and stalactites, and water formations. We were beneath a large mass of land in a cave once completely flooded and kept secret for thirty years after its discovery.
Before we left the west of Ireland, I had the chance to view Ireland from above, walk clockwise around a Fairy Fort and make a wish and visit so many incredible historical sites that some only see in National Geographic.
– Julia Le