Luke, Jess and I caught the overnight ferry from Liverpool to Dublin and slept from about 10:30pm until 4:30am. It was a rough crossing, which made it more fun (for me anyhow), feeling the boat crashing up and down, but it also meant less sleep. Luke had a room to himself and somehow managed to sleep through all of it, lucky him!
We drove off the ferry at about 5:30am, which meant very little traffic to contend with around Dublin. I felt the most awake so I drove up to Sligo. Here’s a map I have prepared to show our trip around Ireland. Please admire my use of lines and arrows and the star to denote our start and end point. Pretty good, huh?
We’d decided on a stop in Sligo as Jess will be performing in an historical musical set in Sligo so she wanted to have a look. Also we had an enormous number of hours to kill before we could check into our accommodation in Galway.
Sligo is a medium sized town and it’s pronounced SLY-go, not Slee-go as I’d first thought and which, if I could make a suggestion to the local people, sounds nicer. Sligo sounds a bit like something you’d find if you hadn’t cleaned your drains for a while.
Anyhow, Sligo the town was actually quite nice. It didn’t feel too touristy and didn’t give us any indication of the startling numbers of American tourists we’d encounter everywhere else. I mean, there were still lots but not impenetrable scrums blocking every doorway.
We signed up for a walking tour (actually Jess did almost all the Ireland booking and organising of everything, partially because she was the one who’d wanted to go there and partially because Luke and I were reaching booking-fatigue after months of travel). The tour started in the Information Office and the guy taking the tour had a pleasingly loud and deep voice and looked rather like the BFG.
The tour went for about 3 hours, which was on the long side for a walking tour, but I can honestly say that, when it finished, that I had learned a lot about Sligo and it turns out that Sligo has had quite a few interesting things happen in its history.
Sligo’s (and perhaps Ireland’s) favourite son was WB Yeats. Neither Luke, Jess nor myself are particularly into poetry and even though I’d heard of Yeats previously I knew almost nothing about him. Throughout our stay in Ireland his name came up over and over again and nearly everywhere we went there were exhibitions and memorials to his life, everyone and everywhere claiming to have had something significant to do with him. I almost wished I’d read up on him beforehand because he was such a recurring theme.
Sligo has a tiny museum that doesn’t have much in it. Currently there’s an exhibition on a woman who led the suffragettes, which was interesting, but the thing I liked most was a huge brown lump with a placard that said ‘BOG BUTTER’.
Apparently people used to store huge (the size of a decent foot stool) chunks of butter in bogs. Bogs have a highly acidic, cool, oxygen-free environment that perfectly preserves all kinds of things. We’ve all heard of ancient people being exhumed from bogs but butter? It made me wonder whether they had forgotten where they put it or left town without it. The butter that has been found can be hundreds of years old and modern people have been experimenting and found that peat bogs can preserve food just as well as a modern freezer for periods of up to two years! Fascinating, I say.
Because I’ve left my blog updates for over a week I now can’t remember a huge amount of what we did in Sligo (obviously the bog butter stuck in my mind) but I assure you it was a nice town. We spent our afternoon taking a drive up the coast (the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’) looking at the scenery, which was lovely, and then our last stop was the huge Glen Car waterfall. We caught a bit of rain that day but were all equiped with decent raincoats and the sun did come out here and there.
We left late afternoon to head to our Airbnb accommodation just outside Galway near the tiny village of Gort. Another terrible name for place that looked fairly inoffensive.
The next day we headed into Galway, after hiding in our Airbnb all morning watching the gale force winds of Storm Ali. The winds were so strong that they blew an unfortunate woman off the side of a cliff while she was in her caravan.
Galway is a pretty town. Many Irish towns are very pretty and colourful because of a government initiative in the 1050’s called ‘TidyTowns’. We have something similar in Australia but ours is mostly focused on reducing litter. In Ireland it is much more broad and encourages people to keep their towns appealing on every level. Part of the initiative was to encourage people to paint their towns bright colours.
While in Galway we did a number of things and if you go to Galway I recommend you do them too!
We had a walk around and Jess bought a tin whistle. Also we noticed how very many book shops there are in Galway – an impressive number!
We spent a few hours in various pubs listening to trad music and also watching buskers deal with drunk people who then came into the pub and got told off by the bar tender.
The Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher
Early on our last day we drove to Doolin, where the ferries to the Aran Islands leave. There are three main Aran Islands and we chose to go to the furthest, which is also the largest. It took two ferries to get there. The first looked like a normal ferry and the second one looked like a a fishing trawler. The weather wasn’t great, which meant sitting inside the stinky ship rather than out in the breeze.
On Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands we took a bus tour to see the sights. Our bus was small and there were only five of us on it. Our driver was a local who spoke Irish first and learned English at school. He had obviously had issues with people not understanding his astonishingly thick accent because he repeated everything four or more times. Also there wasn’t actually all that much to see. There were lots and lots and lots of stone walls surrounding tiny fields. Any areas that hadn’t been laboriously cleared of rocks were knee-deep in them. It was truly astonishing that anyone continued to live there, it was such a harsh and barren place.
After returning to the mainland we took a quick boat ride along the coast to see the towering cliffs of Moher. I had not realised they were the ‘cliffs of insanity’ from The Princess Bride. What with the rain and spray we didn’t end up with much of a view or any decent photos, I think I’d prefer to do the walk along the top on a sunny day.
On our last night we attended medieval banquet and performance at Bunratty Castle. We went to the late sitting at 8:45, making it quite a long day but the show was great and the food was plentiful. Lovely singing and music with humorous interludes in a genuinely ancient castle.