Glendalough: An old monastic site, this place has church ruins, tower ruins, a river-like thing, and a lake. It’s certainly pretty, but not sure that it merits being singled out as the thing to see. The best part is the elevated wooden walkway on which you can stroll around the lake. And the sheep grazing nearby, with a sign that read something like, ‘Any dogs that worry the sheep will be shot.’ A lot of nervous sheep.
Dunmore Cave: This cave is known for its natural formations and its bloody history. Archaeological finds suggest that when Vikings decided to fight each other for land in the 900s, they stumbled on a peaceful village along the way. The men of the village tried to fight capture, but they sent their women and children into the cave to hide. Unfortunately, the Vikings were not particularly smart, because rather than smoking them out (their intention), they managed to kill all their would-be slaves with the fire they set. The saddest part aside from that story is that the Irish government has rejected any further excavation, despite evidence that a bit of digging could uncover a large chamber.
Kilkenny walking tour (Kilkenny castle and gardens, Black Abbey, St. Canice’s Church, Tholsel, St. John’s Church): I got a personal escort out of the castle (since it was closing), but what we saw wasn’t so mind-bending. The other churches and town buildings were similar to those in other parts of Ireland. But, there were some cute winding streets to enjoy, and some street art worth admiring.
Dunmore East/Tramore: We enjoyed walking along the water here. This is where I tried blaa, a local bread specialty, which seemed like just a fluffy, bleached roll. It’s also where we watched a class of rambunctious kids try out kayaking, paddle boating, and canoeing. Of course we didn’t take bets on who would tip first! Tramore also has a fun skate park, populated by boys on scooters, and a boardwalk amusement park, not unlike the ones in San Diego or Santa Cruz.
Cobh: A small town outside of Cork, and on our map because I found a cheap hotel here. There were some navy exercises happening here, on very large ships; they say this is the second-largest natural port in the world, after Sydney. We skipped the mini Titanic museum, but we did pay our respects to a statue of the local fishermen funded by the US. Since the Lusitania was torpedoed near here, many (American) survivors were rescued and (American) casualties brought in by said fishermen. Sadly, ‘the cause of everlasting peace’ was short-lived, since WWII was not far behind.
Rock of Cashel: They were doing some pretty extensive renovations on this castle, so much of it was not visible behind scaffolding and such, sadly.
The Burren: This area is known for its quantity of limestone rocks and its flora: it contains 70% of all of the flowers found in Ireland, for example. It was certainly pretty.
Galway: A fun city, with a touristy center that has pubs, restaurants, and many street buskers. We particularly enjoyed the covers that Jamie Harrison played while some of us posed with statues and others of us ate caramel gelato. The tourist-ness and cost would get old, but it’s perfect for a few days!
Connemara: Another beautiful countryside area. It has a beautiful castle called Kylemore Abbey, with one of the prettiest exteriors we’ve seen. Then, we viewed the gift shop’s interior photos for free and helped some older French people order pastries.
Achill: We kept hearing amazing things about Achill Island, but all we saw was a swamp and a few hotels. Turns out, we didn’t drive far enough to see their famed white beach, which is where the couple from our next homestay met and fell in love.
Donegal: A pretty area of very winding roads – and therefore much motion-sickness on my part. Perhaps more important right now is the vast quantity of tiny bugs present at night. B was annoyed by them, but, of course, has nary a bite. My ankles and neck look like an experiment gone wrong. That aside, it is a fun area. For example, we stopped at an ordinary road pull-off and ‘hiked’ down to Dunlewey Church, which was beautiful. We also drove out to Slieve League, which are the tallest sea cliffs in Europe, right at sunset.
Belfast: And now, we’re in Belfast. So far, we’ve seen a few pretty buildings and some expensive prices. There are (predictably) few Catholic churches, but we did see an alarming number of birds perched atop a regular apartment building. They fly from one tall roof to another in waves, like a peer pressure illustration for the textbooks. We speed-walked through the area between these two roofs. More to come.