Ireland with Manya

Agent Name: Manya
Date: May/June 2013
Places Visited: Dublin, Galway, Village of Adare, Blarney and Kinsale

Castle RuinsThe Emerald Isle is stunning! It’s green, lush and welcoming. History and present day co-habit nicely and add magic to this wonderful country. 2013 is the year of the Gathering with a multitude of festivals and events planned all year long throughout the country. My arrival on May 18th coincided with the Rugby Heineken Cup finals, between Toulon and Clermont Auvergne (Toulon won the match 16-15).

Dublin is home to ancient castles, narrow cobble streets, prestigious universities, parks, museums, and also to new and shiny twenty-first century architecture. To see it all is impossible when you only have 48 hours, but with determination and a Hop on Hop Off bus pass, you’ll get a glimpse at the major landmarks around the city. Not to be missed is the Book of Kells at Trinity College Library, the Museum of Modern Art, Jamieson Whiskey Distillery, the stunning St Stephen’s Park, as well as Dublin Castle. And of course no visit to Dublin is complete without the mandatory stop at the Guinness Tower, where you will be rewarded with a perfectly-poured pint of Guinness at the end of the tour.

Time permitting, walk along the banks of the Liffey River to discover the many bridges that crisscross the city, and especially the Samuel Beckett Bridge, a harp shaped white structure named after the Irish poet/playwright. There is an unlimited supply of pubs for good fun, food and traditional Irish Music.

Manya - surprise 2

Our next stop was Galway on the West Coast of Ireland. Getting there was easy and inexpensive by bus. For only 11 Euros, CityLink bus will drop you off in the centre of Galway, thus avoiding you the 3 hour drive on the left side of the road. Located on the West coast of Ireland, Galway City has retained its traditional heritage, with Gaelic widely spoken even amongst the young generation. Eyre Square in the town centre is the hub for entertainment, restaurants and strummers day or night. I loved the brightly painted storefronts, where you’ll find everything from arts and crafts to Irish woolen-ware and jewellery. Galway is the perfect departure point for a visit the stunning Cliff of Moher to the south and the Burren to the North.

Driving in Ireland is challenging. Use caution and rent an automatic car if you can, to ease the pain of left hand side driving. It was very scary to get to the Cliffs of Moher on a misty, foggy day, when the local traffic was pushing us on to drive faster and faster. Speed limit is 110km/h on these treacherous small, unmarked Irish Roads! The Irish countryside is stunning. No pictures can give the Emerald green colour any justice. You must see it to believe it. We passed fields of grass marked by stone walls around them, where healthy cows and lazy sheep grazed to their hearts’ content.

Further on, a worthwhile stop is the lovely village of Adare in County Limerick with its thatched roof cottages, and the prestigious Adare Manor where I spent the night. Every detail in and around the Manor is exquisite: the 230 acres of green grounds, boasting an 18 hole golf course, the very large suites, the attentive staff members, the exquisite food, I really felt like a princess for a day.

A stop at Blarney Castle should be included on all itineraries to Ireland. Kiss the famed stone and you’ll acquire the gift of Eloquence. While not sure if it’s true, I proceeded to walk up the 85 narrow stone steps to find out! It took more than 40minutes to reach the top due busy day, but the view from there is well worth every minute of the cold and windy climb of that day. It is a very scary experience! You lie down on your back, and reach backwards.

Once you realize that the space between the top of your head and the wall is a big void straight down to the ground, you grab on to the 2 nice Irish lads on either side of you and quickly kiss that stone goodbye. Whatever you do, do not look down!

blarney stone

From Blarney, a 20 minute ride on the two-lane well paved roads took me to the lovely seaside town of Kinsale. It is such a gorgeous place, with brightly painted houses, quaint little shops lining narrow streets, pubs and the sea. I would strongly encourage you to take a walking tour to truly discover the many treasures and the history of this charming little town. Oh, and if you like seafood, this is the place. And regardless if you’re a golfer or not, you must drive the 10km to the spectacular Old Head Golf Course: “from the eons of time, spectacular beyond belief” says sign on the clubhouse, however you have to see it to believe it. It’s absolutely stunning! Build on a promontory, extending its way several kilometers into the Atlantic Ocean, with steep cliffs on all sides I couldn’t imagine that golf could be played on such terrain. But on the clear, cold and windy day of my visit, I witnessed it with my own eyes. Simply amazing.

Sadly on the 5th day of my short visit, I had to bid farewell to Ireland with a silent promise to come back another time. I take with me the memories of an amazing landscape that photographs could never do it justice, of a warm and proud people, with thousands of years of history behind them, of an amazing small island full of music, poetry and magic! After all, Shaw, Becket, Wilde, James Joyce, and many more, all came from there. And who could forget the charm and the fun of the multitude of Irish Pubs everywhere!

A few notes:
– If you rent a car, do rent an automatic car instead of manual if you can. Driving on the left side of the road is made a lot easier. More expensive but well worth it.
– When renting a car through Auto Europe, buy full insurance and insist on presenting your insurance papers to the rental company. In case you’re given a hard time, call Auto Europe 24 hour customer service help line.
– Plan your itinerary ahead of time and map out exactly where you want to go. Buy an updated map of Ireland before leaving. Some of the maps purchased there had the old roads on them, and added to the limited time I had.
– Pubs have excellent food and reasonable prices, besides providing the most fun entertainment.
– WiFi is available almost everywhere for free!
– Wool products, Irish Whiskey are some of the products to bring home As well as the multitude of the pictures of the green grass of Ireland!!