I really wish I had proper hiking gear now. Having hiking boots would make things a lot easier. Still, I don’t regret not bringing my own as they would not have fit in my luggage.
I arrived in Killarney before noon on Saturday so I walked to the nearest National Park entrance. From there I had a short walk to Ross Castle. During this time it was raining quite heavily which was my first hindering weather of this entire trip. After enjoying a few hours of walking I returned to the hostel and slept early to prepare for the next day
Sunday I awoke early to head to the Gap of Dunloe. I rented a bike and pedaled to the base of the Gap and decided to walk up to the head of the Gap. It rained the moment I got to the head of the Gap and by that time I was quite tired so I decided to head back to town. On my way down, the rain was hitting me from behind which I preferred over walking against the rain. Unfortunately that means the rain was traveling in the same direction as I was walking. When I returned to my bike, it was no longer raining which means I stayed in the rain for as long as possible. I realized that if I just waited at the top for maybe half an hour, I could have walked down in relative dryness. At least it would make my lunch even better.
At this point I needed something more to eat than just baguette and sliced sausages. I managed to get back to town in time to catch the Stoke v Arsenal match and ordered beef stew with a pint. A hot meal after a 30km journey was much needed. That evening I went to the store to buy some food for dinner. I found sausage and eggs for about 3 EUR but the real treasure was the limited edition mango passion fruit Fanta I found. It truly is delicious and makes me wonder why Fanta isn’t too popular in America. Even Holland has Cassis (blueberry?) flavored Fanta.
My final day in Killarney I considered a rest day. This means not carrying the DSLR camera that is super heavy. In the morning I woke up with sure shoulders, neck and back due to carrying the camera around the day before. This turned out to be a good decision as my bag felt nearly empty. There were many times I wished I had brought the camera but in the end it was worth it especially because I didn’t have to worry about keeping it dry while biking through heavy rain. That day I biked the opposite way from the Gap towards Muckross lake. I would say I enjoyed both days equally in terms of scenery.
That night I wanted to splurge and eat a hearty meal. I found a cheap-ish restaurant that served Irish food. I ordered the homemade fish pie which taught me that in Ireland, fish=seafood (which for me was a very pleasant surprise). It ended up being a sort of thick, creamy soup with mussels, shrimp and fish topped with baked mashed potatoes with a side of more mashed potatoes and veggies. The Irish do love their potatoes ( not in the least their potato crisps. Which they have everywhere and even a theme park based on Mr. Tayto, the products mascot). The veggies were refreshing as I haven’t had the chance to eat many. In the end, I ate everything except half the side of mashed potatoes and was completely stuffed. After I found an ice cream shop that had Guinness flavored ice cream. Delectable.
I really hope to one day return to Killarney or County Kerry with the one goal to backpack. I wish I could have explored deeper but lack of equipment wouldn’t allow it. It has made me realize how awesome California is in terms of outdoor beauty. I didn’t think Killarney National Park came close to Yosemite in terms of sheer beauty. And here, most of the outdoors are similar: green woodlands, which is quite beautiful but California has variety.
When I arrived in Cork, it immediately struck me as a working class town, similar to my [probably inaccurate] impression of Liverpool with tall manufacturing buildings dominating the skyline with numerous brick buildings along the streets. It immediately felt like a cold city.
I didn’t spend much time in the city itself. When I arrived I was tired from the day before (Aran Islands) so I napped then ate dinner, read and went to sleep. The next full day I took a bus to Blarney to see the castle and it’s surrounding grounds. If course I had to kiss the Blarney stone if I was going to walk all the way up the castle. What was more interesting was the nearby stroll. They had a “druids glen” with all sorts of beautiful flora and comical “legends” I took numerous photos and ended up running out of power towards the end of my time there.
The next day I took the train to Killarney
I enjoyed Galway much more than Dublin. While still being a major city, Galway has a small town feel. It originated as a fishing village so the main town is situated right on the bay. I agree with Tomas, a roommate from France when he says Dublin is just another large European city. Sure it is different in that it is Irish but Galway seemed to have much more character. People are friendlier. Streets are smaller and less busy. One small quirk I noticed here in Galway is that “Are you OK?” is equivalent to “How can I help you?” I find this quite amusing.
The main reason I enjoyed Galway is because it doesn’t feel metropolitan as Dublin did. When I arrived on the afternoon of the 21st, I wandered out to Galway bay. Right in the bay they have huge open fields of green grass where locals can run their dogs. I saw many running or cycling along the paths as part of their exercise routine. For a time, I just sat on a bench in my rain jacket to break the cold wind coming in from the ocean while I watched locals and tourists alike enjoy the favorable weather.
I anticipated my full day trip to Inis Mhór, the largest of the Aran Islands, to be very tiring and how right I was. I had booked a coach and ferry through a company days before. At 9am I had to board the coach in Galway to take me west to Rossaveal where the ferry docks. The ferry to Inis Mhór departed at 10:30am and was fully packed. I would estimate about 150 passengers aboard. I wasn’t able to find a seat which was fine with me as I do not tend to get seasick and my legs work well enough. That morning the sea was not very calm and I suspect it rarely is. Most of the people were doing well not to be seasick but once the ferry turned so the waves were hitting the boat broadside, a sudden rush of people were grabbing puke bags. I felt bad for the crew members that were passing out empty bags and collecting full bags but I guess that’s part of the job. I saw about 10 people puking over the 30 minute ferry ride.
Once on the island I immediately rented a bike (10 EUR) and biked as fast as I could away from the port in the opposite direction of the main attractions of the island. I feel that the photos I took are a better description of my time on Inis Mhór so that will have to wait until I return to Utrecht. In short, I biked and hiked the southern and central part of the island which turned out to be much larger than I expected. I did get rained on once but was able to find cover just in time. Earlier I noticed how quickly the clouds move in this area. Using this knowledge, when I saw clouds far off in the distance I decided I needed to head to shelter which was not a short walk away. Thankfully I made it in time.
At the end of the day I was extremely tired so I slept early. I am now on the coach headed to Cork. I have booked a flight from Belfast to Glasgow on August 30 as it is cheaper than ferry+coach and I booked a coach from Glasgow straight to Portree, a village on the Isle of Skye. That ride is 7 hours long which may be a little annoying but it only cost me 12 GBP and my flight 30GBP. If I did the ferry option, it would have been 60 GBP just to get to Glasgow.
Tomorrow I hope to make it to Blarney to see the castle and kiss the stone. The day after I am heading to Killarney for the 3 nights. I’ll update in a couple days.
I arrives in Dublin in the afternoon of Saturday August 18 (unfortunately too late to catch the Arsenal match) but didn’t do much except walk Talbot street a few blocks. I did pop into a bar to watch Newcastle beat Sp*rs. After, I spent the night figuring out what I wanted to do the next day.
Sunday, I slept in until 10pm and walked to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. The exhibit there, although small is absolutely astounding. The detail put into the illustrations is mind blowing. Unfortunately photos were not allowed so I have no photographic proof I ever went except I snuck a picture of the library. After that I went to the tourism office to book a coach to Bru na Boinne for Monday. Unfortunately they only had seats available for the early morning session leaving Dublin at 9am and returning at 2:30pm. This allowed me to shift my afternoon plans to tour the Guinness Storehouse to Monday afternoon. Immediately after that I wandered the Temple Bar area and found a place to watch the Chelsea v Wigan and the Man City v Southampton matches.
Monday, today, was definitely exciting. I toured both Knowth and Newgrange, neolithic mounds dating before the creation of the Pyramids of Giza. What struck me the most is that these mounds are in the middle of a rural neighborhood with houses directly across the road. Some smaller mounds sit directly in the middle of private farmland used for grazing but remained respectfully untouched. Upon returning to Dublin, I did tour the Guinness Storehouse which was slightly interesting compared to my morning excursion.
Traveling alone definitely has big pros and cons. I am able to do what I want when I want on my own time. However, night time is a little lonely as I cannot justify going to bar alone. Therefore I have been spending nights further planning my travel. I realized I had mistakenly booked my Galway hostel for August 18 and 19 instead of 21 and 22. I thus lost ~30 EUR due to a no show. I have since booked a coach from Dublin to Galway and a different hostel in Galway.
Last night I was researching places to stay in Sligo. I found out that the main reason I want to stay in Sligo is to hike to the summit of Ben Bulben. Unfortunately, access to the mountain is limited to cars with no public transportation putting me reasonably close to the mountain. Also, I may not have the correct gear (read footwear) to summit the mountain. As a result, and due to thee freedom of traveling alone without a full plan, I decided to skip the 2 nights I would spend in Sligo and spend 2 nights on the Isle of Skye as recommended by many. Now my trip looks to be 1 last night in Dublin, 2 nights in Galway, 2 nights in Cork, 3 nights Killarney, 2 nights Belfast, 2 nights Inverness, 2 nights Isle of Skye, 1 in Edinburgh prior to my flight back to Amsterdam.
I may or may not go to the pub to watch United v Everton. We shall see. I love how the matches are in the later hours of the day so I don’t feel weird drinking while watching the match.