The West of Ireland

30 Sep

As I boarded the bus headed for the West of Ireland I had no idea what to expect, but as the ride wore on, the scenery began to look more and more like the stereotypical Ireland. We passed burnt-red bogs and rolling green fields crisscrossed with stone walls. It took us three hours to get to Galway. When we arrived we set up shop in a hostel called Snoozles, a short walk from the city center. The city was like a toned down version of Dublin. It was a full-blown city with great night life and music, but it had a small town feel. 


The next day we learned that we would be headed to the Aran Islands. We took a ferry to Inis Mór, the biggest of the three islands. The group then piled into two buses for a tour of the major landmarks on the island. As we drove I was astonished to see how empty the island was. Small rock walls crisscrossed all over the island making up hundreds of small square fields. I learned from the tour guide that before the great Irish Potato Famine, each field was inhabited by one Irish family. Each family would grow potatoes on their land in order to survive. It was hard to believe that a whole family could live off an area so small. It was almost eerie to driving through such a desolate area that used to be so densely populated. Our first stop was the ancient monastic settlement of Na Seacht dTeampaíll (The Seven churches).  The site contained the ruins of two small churches and some domestic buildings. Like many other sites in Ireland, the settlement was a center for monastic learning and the blending of native Celtic religious beliefs with the Latin Christendom of the European mainland. Our next stop was the prehistoric fort called Dún Aonghusa. The fort was semi circular in shape and was backed by a gigantic cliff that dropped directly into the sea. It was exhilarating to sit on the edge of the cliff and look out across the ocean. The time we spent at Dún Aonghusa was probably my favorite part of the weekend. After having lunch at the base of the mountain, we boarded the ferry back towards the mainland. 


The next morning we left Galway and headed towards the Ailwee Cave. The Cave had been the recent discovery of a farmer who had stumbled upon it by accident. I could hardly believe it when the tour guide told us that the man who discovered it had walked through the entire cave with nothing but a candlelight. After we toured the cave we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. It was hard to appreciate the true beauty of the cliffs because it was so foggy, but it was still fun to walk along the edge on the cliffs listening to the ocean thousands of feet below. There were some points along the walk were we were able to see the ocean far below. It was an amazing experience that I was glad to share with my friends in the program. 


When it was time to board the bus back to Dublin I was sad to say goodbye to Galway. I had an amazing time seeing all the West of Ireland had to offer, and the weekend had been a great bonding experience for me and the rest of the group. 

Ben Goossen


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