Tag Archives: western ireland

In the West of Ireland

30 Sep

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.

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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.

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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.Image

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.

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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.

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Day 4

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.

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A Dolmen

– Julia Le

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The Western Front – Abdulla Al Khalifa

16 Sep

First week of studies was finally over and then came the trip that we have been waiting for, western Ireland. I have never been to the west and thus wanted to research what we would be visiting. I did what everyone else would do, Google “western Ireland pics”. What I saw was green fields, rushing waters of the Cliffs of Moher and some castles. I immediately burst with joy at the beauty of the pictures I’ve seen and was filled with excitement to see these pictures with my own eyes.

After a 3 hour bus drive we arrived and stayed the night, eager to head out next morning. The morning came and soon we were on our way on a 1 and a half hour bus drive to the port. Soon it seemed that the trip would all be compromised of boring bus drives. However, the countryside scenery lifted my spirits with its wonderful majestic beauty. Once we arrived at the dock we embarked on the ferry on our 45 minute drive to the Aran Islands. The weather was not on our side though and it was a cloudy and foggy day with limited visibility. Yet, we hoped on the shuttle and ventured towards Dun Aonghusa fort. Entering the ruins nested upon the cliff was a wonderful sight for all. We rushed to peer from the edge of the cliff and gaze at the raging waters below.

The following day we headed out on our second journey to see the caves and the castle. This part of the trip was mediocre. The caves were small and held only a couple stalagmites. I’ve been to the grottos of Lebanon and Italy and there I have seen far larger caves with huge needles and far larger waterfalls. Following the caves we headed off to Dunguaire Castle. The location of the castle was amazing, surrounded by water and fields coupled with the wonderful weather seemed like a great thing to see following the disappointing caves. However, the castle itself was pretty small and was more deserving of the title “tower”. The interior was all renovated in the 1950’s after it was lived in by a British noble. I may be a bit spoiled by castles after seeing the huge forts in the south of France and in Germany. This tower seemed closer to the Chateau we rented as a summer home in the Pyrenees Mountains.

We finished this trip early and headed off to explore the vibrant city of Galway. It was similar to Dublin with its shopping street where we explored up until the coast and back. It had amazing street performers and seemed to host a lot more young people than I’ve seen in Dublin. It was a nice urban retreat from the wilds of the countryside.

The final day of our trip was to visit the world famous cliffs of Moher, This has to be by far the favorite part of the 3 day trip. This natural wonder needs to be on the top of everyone’s list when visiting Ireland. Its hard to describe he feeling one gets when seeing the cliffs for the first time. It was amazement combined with awe and a hint of fear. Standing on the cliffs looking out towards the Atlantic Ocean whilst hearing the waves crash against the cliffs. The smell of salt in the air and feeling like you are on top of the world. It was a thrilling experience of peace and tranquility that made up for the disappointment of the day before and tied up this trip wonderfully.