Galway City & tours

Trip Start Jun 27, 2010
Trip End Aug 19, 2010

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Where I stayed
Laksea B&B

Flag of Ireland  , Western Ireland,
Sunday, August 8, 2010

8/8/2010 Sunday
   Sheila and I packed and got ready to make our next foray to the west of Ireland, specifically to County Galway.  We left Dublin about 11:00 am and got on the freeway system to go west.  I have not mentioned that a lot of our travel has been on the freeways, which are so new that 'Gertie', our Garmin SatNAV,  gets seriously confused because we are driving on roads which are not a part of her data from two years ago.  We have learned to turn her voice (British by the way) off so we do not have to hear her refrain, "Recalculating, Recalculating".  She becomes very happy when we run out of the new improved roads and wind up on the older more narrow roadways.  You almost think that the machine has a masochistic bent as many of the narrow roads become harrowing roads.  Our B&B operator Kathleen, mentioned that the highway coming to Galway from Dublin has cut back the travel time from 4 ½ hours to about 2 hours.  Obviously for us with stops and some misdirection on my driving it took us about 2 ½ hours.  The drive through central Ireland was one of small villages and spotting an occasional castle or abbey ruin and a lot of farm land.  Our B&B is in Salthill, west of Galway but within a 10 to 14 minute walk, depending on crossing the traffic lanes.  
   Once settled in, we walked into Galway to get a late lunch and snooped around.  We marched off with Rick Steves' book to check out his recommendations for food.  He has been helpful to some degree on past trips so we have used him on our travels in Ireland.  We checked out McDoughan's but it was Sunday and they opened at 4:00 pm and we were famished so we went two doors down to an Italian Trattoria and Sheila had a vegetable soup and I had a calzone.  It was ok and the price was reasonable.  After lunch we walked into the center town square to find the Information Kiosk to purchase tickets for bus rides to the Cliffs of Moher and the Connemara tour.   Since our intense drive on the Dingle Peninsula, we have opted to ride buses and let someone else face the improbable task of driving the narrow Irish roadways.  When Sheila bought the tickets we were given an option to be picked up at our B&B which we gratefully accepted.  We found a significant shopping area down town and did some browsing and purchases before heading back to our B&B.  We scouted out the public transit for transport home and caught the appropriate bus, but then had to remember the approximate stop so we did not have to walk further than necessary.  This was accomplished, much to my surprise, in spite of my uncertainty.
   Sheila called Lohan’s Restaurant to see if we needed reservations.  It was recommended by not only Rick Steves but also Kathleen at our B&B.  We set out on foot west in Salthill about an equal distance that we walked into town.  The walk was along the beach front promenade so we got to see beach front properties, hotels, B&B’s along with duplexes and some private homes and an Aquarium.  One section of the walk reminded me of the stretch of beach in San Francisco beyond the Cliff House Restaurant, as many of the multiple dwelling places were set up to get the best ocean view of the Atlantic rather than the Pacific.  (I, Sheila, thought it reminded me of the Malacon in Puerto Vallarta.)  Walking by a casino, we spotted Lohan’s which had another casino next to it.  It became clear to me, after seeing a bus load of seniors charging off the bus and galloping past us to place their bets, that this area certainly aspired to be a Lake Tahoe or Atlantic City.  We entered the restaurant guaranteeing our safety from further trampling hordes and were seated in a comfortable but tight area.  We order drinks, house red for Sheila and a bottle of Erdinger, a German non alcoholic beer that comes in a pint bottle for me.  The reason I am mentioning the size is that in the course of our being served, Sheila got her glass of wine and she got the entire bottle of my beer dumped all over her and a couple at the table next to us.  Sheila was great as she just shrugged and laughed while the young waitress went into panic mode, as the poor young woman ran for napkins and mopped up the area with a chorus of "I am so sorry" to Sheila.  She ensured us that we would not pay for that round of drinks.  We ordered our dinner, but I was concerned because I had not brought my rain proof 'food proof’ jacket.  I ordered a salad and a Monk fish and Shrimp cooked in a butter garlic sauce and Sheila had the Beef and Guinness Stew.  The food was good and we ducked any further splashes and caught the taxi home so we could get our rest to prepare for our bus trip in the morning.

8/9/2010 Monday
    We got up around 7:00 am to have our breakfast and be ready for our pick up for the Tour to the Cliffs of Moher.  We were surprised when a large bus pulled down our street.  We got on fortunately by walking to the bus which had backed up a side street.  I asked if we could get on, as I assumed he was waiting for someone else, and when I told him where we came from he suddenly realized he had gone to the wrong address.  We went to the downtown bus terminal and there transferred to another bus.  As a matter of fact, this morning there were enough people to fill three 52 seat buses for this tour.  We got on the road and the driver Mike began the narrative of our trip.  We set out to enter County Clare and he had snip-its and tidbits to offer about the history and life in Ireland and was quite the chatty Cathy as we drove throughout the day.  I did recognize that there is a lot of common ground between the commentary he offered us and that of Philip our driver for the Ring of Kerry about the history of Ireland.
    As we approached County Clare where the Cliffs are, I (Sheila) noticed in the distance the hills looked like they had something gray on them and it turns out it is limestone, sort of crinkled up sheets of it.  We were told by our driver/guide Mike that during the Ice Age, the limestone was pushed ahead by the Ice and then when the ice melted, the limestone, of course, stayed there.     Our first stop was at an earthen ring, a place where people lived that was enclosed by a natural wall to which they would add more protection against wild animals and enemies.    Mike pointed out a large tree which was at the entrance to the ring fort and said that ththe fairies and little people came to the ring when it was abandoned.  The tree became the magic focus for and that it is bad luck to cut one down.   He proceeded to tell us stories of what has happened when a large fairy tree has been cut down.
The next stop was a portal tomb.  I took a photo of the explanation and if you double click the picture, you can read it.  It was very windy and it was interesting to see it.  
Our next stop was in Kilfenora for a short break and there was a chapel that had either a plastic or glass roof over part of it.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to investigate the place.   The area was known as an area of crosses.  Here is one that was in the TI (Tourist Information center.)
    Then on to the Cliffs of Moher which were spectacular!      Very close to the Cliffs is the O'Brien Tower   The Tower was built in 1835 by Cornelius O'Brien a descendant of Brian Boru, Kings of Thomond, as an observation point for the hundreds of tourists who even then, visited the Cliffs. The tower stands proudly on a headland of the majestic Cliffs of Moher.   
    We arrived back into Galway at 6:30 and went to the McDoughan's.  There were two places to go - the chippy or the restaurant.  We opted for the restaurant and Skip had fish and chips and I had fish chowder.  Both were good.  We went outside and took a taxi back to the B&B.

8/10/2010 Tuesday
    We got up for breakfast and were ready for our pickup at 9:30 for the trip to Connemara and Cong.  The bus driver was late and we arrived at the bus station after 10:00.  There appeared to be some confusion as we were hustled across a street and down a ways and climbed on another bus.  We found out that there were many more people that showed up to go on a tour so they had to get another driver and bus.  Crazy business.  Anyway, we started out going north of Galway.  It is amazing how fast the drivers drive down the narrow streets and we (especially me, Sheila) just can't watch!  
    We drove on the Connemara tour in the opposite direction, so said the driver/guide Ray, because of a tight turn for a small bridge that he cannot navigate if we went the usual way.  Connemara is considered the Wild West of Ireland; it is not a county but an area.  It is beautiful and different than the Burren.       Our driver pointed out the areas where the peat has been cut out along a Loch. 
We then went to Kylemore Abbey.  It was built by a wealthy Englishman Mitchell Henry in 1860 after he and his wife had honeymooned in the area.  It is now owned and operated by Benedictine Nuns.  It had a beautiful setting on the lough.   The castle now abbey was built with 33 bedrooms but we could only see 4 or 5 of the downstairs rooms.  We walked along a nice path to the church which had several signs showing the flora and fauna of the area.     and the small Neo-Gothic church that was built by the owner 4 years after the castle was built and his beloved wife died.  It was very nice and it was like everything was a miniature of a Gothic cathedral.       One mile west of the main Abbey building is the 6-acre Victorian Walled Gardens, built by Mitchell Henry at the same time as the construction of Kylemore Castle between 1867 and 1871. This garden was one of the last walled gardens to be built during the Victorian period in Ireland and is the only garden in Ireland that is located in the middle of a bog. The garden was so advanced for the time that it was even compared with Kew Gardens in London.  Huge engineering feats were successfully employed to heat the 21 glasshouses that were originally built to house exotic fruits and plants. These glasshouses were heated by three boilers, one of which doubled as a limekiln, and a complex system of underground hot-water pipes measuring 1,538 meters (5,000 feet) in length.  In 1996, the Benedictine Community, who has always used the garden, began restoration works with the help of grant aid, large bank loans and the generosity of donors. To date, two of the glasshouses have been rebuilt along with the Head Gardener’s House and Workman’s Bothy.  The Garden was re-opened in 1999 and won the prestigious Europa Nostra Award in 2002.   Uniquely, only plants and vegetables which grew in Victorian times are grown in the garden today.  We didn't have time to walk around the garden but I did take a few photos.  
    We left and drove to the one fjord in Ireland, the Killary fjord.  It is 16 kilometers, or about 10 miles, long.  It was beautiful and there were many mussel farms in it.     
We stopped in the town of Cong.  It was another cute town and lots of names of Ryan (like my grandson's name.)    The movie "The Quiet Man" was filmed in this town.   It seemed like the driver was impressed with this even though we weren't terribly.  Anyway, we walked across a bridge with large flat stones across it where there was a monk's fishing hut.  The story was that the monk's put a string in the water attached to a bell.  When there was a fish on the line, the bell would ring and they would pull up the fish.   We walked a ways and came out on a view of the Ashford Castle.   The castle was built in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family following their defeat of the O'Connors, the Royal House of Connacht, who are still extant in the person of The O'Connor Donn. The de Burgo's would build several such castles throughout the province, including one on the mouth of the River Corrib around which was to grow the City of Galway, but Ashford would remain their principal stronghold in the vastness of a wild and untamed province. The principal legacy of the native O'Connors is to be seen at the gates of the estate in the form of the magnificent Romanesque Augustinian Abbey of Cong. It is in this abbey that Ireland's last High King Ruaidrķ Ua Conchobair died and from which came the greatest relic of his Court, the Cross of Cong, created to hold a piece of the True Cross and now in the National Museum of Ireland.  After more than three and a half centuries under the de Burgos, whose surname became Burke or Bourke, Ashford passed into the hands of a new master, following a fierce battle between the forces of the de Burgo's and those of the English official Sir Richard Bingham, Lord President of Connaught, when a truce was agreed. In 1589, the castle fell to Bingham, who added a fortified enclave within its precincts. In 1715, the estate of Ashford was established by the Browne Family (Baron Oranmore), and a lodge in the style of a 17th-century French chateau was added to the medieval splendor of the castle.  (Maybe more information than you wanted.....)  Today it is a 4 star hotel.
    From there, we went to the Ross Errily Friary, also Augustinian in the town of Headford.  It was a very extensive but small abbey.   Ray, our driver, took great delight in explaining the various areas of the monastic abbey and dedicated to having us all tgain a perspeftive of their life in this environment.  As mentioned, it was far more expansive than the appearance as we walked up to the abbey.
   We got back to Galway and decided to check out Busker Brownes restaurant.  We had a two course meal which provided a complimentary drink following the meal in the tavern area.  The food was good, but not memorable, as I am trying to remember what we had.  After dinner we caught a cab and much to our surprise it was the same cab driver that we had from the previous night.  He was from Nigeria and told us that he hoped that we enjoyed our time in Galway.  We had asked him the previous nigtht how he knew the streets so well because there are no signs marking the streets.  He told us that it took two months to work and memorize the streets on the map.

8/11/2010 Wednesday
  I (Skip)  got up at the crack of dawn to play golf at the Galway Golf Club, which is less than a mile from the Liska B&B.  I had stopped by the day before and the Caddie Master said that I could get out at half seven.  I was a little early but managed to get off on time.  The first four holes play along the waterfront, which provides a walking promenade along the water. The course was well maintained and had some very long and challenging holes.  I surprised the Caddie Master when I returned having finished the round in about three hours.  The staff and few members I got to talk with all reminded me what a common ground there is with the majority of people interested in Golf.  I got back to the B&B and Sheila and I packed the car for our return to Dublin.
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