Part Five: Galway to Dublin

Kissing the Blarney Stone is something that everyone should do once in their life. Along with the million other people who have already done it. But don’t forget to bring your GermX.

The next morning we headed into Galway city, where a man in a bow tie played the fiddle whilst balancing on a precarious tightrope. I stared in admiration. This city was weird in all the right ways. It was a quiet, crisp Monday morning and the streets were just awakening. The sun lit up the colors on the narrow brick lane streets and we wandered along as shop keepers hurried past to open their stores for the day’s trade. My stopped in at a small, trendy coffee shop for a delicious caffeine hit and meandered along the streets with our takeaway cups. Thirty minutes later the streets were teeming with tourists and they had begun to form circles around the street performers. As good tourists do, we wandered through the souvenir shops and bought the compulsory leprechaun stuffed toy and a gift for friends at home.

We continued our trip south, stopping briefly at Father Ted’s House from the popular TV series. I can’t say I have seen too many episodes, but the house was unmistakable. Fortunately, Google maps delivered us right to the gate after searching “Father Ted’s House” in the search function. A sign at the gate informed us that the house was a private residence and we were not under any circumstances to drive in. We were one of three vehicles that stopped to gawk and photograph the house and I felt for the poor family who had to endure the regular stream of  tourists. But I can only assume that they knew what they had signed up for. I would have enquired, but we weren’t allowed in.

Father Ted's House

Off we rattled down the winding, stone-bordered Irish roads, often going down to one lane with tall, imposing trees reaching down to engulf the road. It seems that any road that wasn’t a highway was a tiny meandering lane. It was beautiful, peaceful, and quintessentially Irish.

The next stop on our road trip was the Cliffs of Moher. We passed what was obviously the free car-park that allowed you to walk up to the cliffs, rather than parking in the €6 tourist car-park. Given the car-park was full, we continued on and pulled into the paid car-park. Whilst we are always on the lookout for the cheapest option when traveling, I don’t mind contributing when it goes to the preservation of natural beauty. The visitors center was included in the entrance fee, so we made sure we got our money’s worth by staring intently at the museum artifacts and trying to suck in as much knowledge as we could. Unfortunately I’m from the Internet generation that has limited capacity to retain information (thanks Facebook).

Once we finally made it to the cliffs they were spectacular. It’s hard to conceptualize how significant the cliffs are, until you see a tiny bird nesting halfway down the cliff and realize it is a very large seagull.  The rock layering, with an array of color, was clearly visible and stretched all the way to the sky, like a stack of pancakes in an American restaurant. We wandered along the cliff tops, admiring the view from every angle. There was a fence along the walkway, but once you got to the end of the tourist-zone you could continue on the trail without a fence between you and the steep drop to the churning sea below. Many of the socially-connected, younger generation were taking selfies as they leaned back precariously off the cliff. I wasn’t surprised to see a plaque remembering those who had fallen. This is the true cost of the epic selfie.

Cliffs of Moher

That evening we stayed at the Adare Camping and Caravan Park. It was fairly quiet and we got a spot at the back on our own. In the evening sun, we fried steak and had a glorious dinner. The campground even had a spa pool, which we lay in as the sun set around us. It was a peaceful retreat.

The next day we headed for Blarney Castle. I had been here once before when I was a small eight-year-old. On that occasion I was too scared to kiss the Blarney Stone and as a result have never been blessed with the infamous “gift of the gab”. I was determined to rectify this. We waited in line for 45 minutes as we weaved our way up the castle stairs to reach the moment of glory.

The man who assists in the kissing process was an older gentleman, who I’m sure was there 22 years ago on my last visit. He churned through the kisses systematically and before I knew it, I was next. There was a visible wet patch on the stone, which I guess is inevitable after more than a hundred years and a million wet, germy lips touching its surface. I grimaced at the thought, realizing that I was essentially sharing bodily fluids with all the people around me. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to resist, as the little old man had me in his grip and assisted me in reaching the stone. I closed my eyes and kissed the stone, like you might if you were kissing a relative on the cheek who didn’t shower as often as he or she should. I immediately pulled out my bottle of GermX and applied it to my lips. Hopefully the GermX doesn’t go as far as penetrating my newly acquired eloquence.

Blarney Castle

We then headed south to Kinsale, on recommendation by a friend. We had trouble finding a place to park, and the town didn’t have much to keep our interest. Wandering the town, it was apparent that it had a long history of being a port town and I was particularly interested in the ghost tours advertised. Unfortunately, we weren’t going to be there for the night, so we weren’t able to go on the tour. Less than an hour later, we jumped back in the van and headed for Tree Grove Camping Ground, just on the outskirts of Kilkenny.

After a rainy night, we headed into the town of Kilkenny. We walked around the Kilkenny Castle (not going inside as it cost more money than we were willing to part with) and wandered the streets. Before we realized what was happening, we found ourselves at the Smithwick’s Brewery. It was technically pre-midday, but given we were on holiday we decided it was acceptable to have a beer (or three). We tried the tasting platter and sampled the famous Kilkenny beer. It was as delicious as one would expect from a world-class Irish brewery.

Kilkenny Tasting Platter

With that, we drove the last stretch of the highway to Dublin and delivered our fine piece of machinery, Monsters, back to his home. The ten days flew by much faster than I would have liked, but it was certainly ten days that I would not forget.

Click here to check out the rest of Europe.