Ireland: Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and Dunguire Castle

On our Best of Ireland Trafalgar Tour, we saw the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

It’s windy at the Cliffs of Moher.

The tower is a viewing spot.

Tokens tied to the fence. Are they to mark one’s visit honor the visitors who fell from the cliffs?

A memorial to the fallen.

Cliffs of Moher

We also stopped at a sacred well where St. Brigid baptized people. The Celtic church allowed women clergy. It is believed that the well became holy because of the baptisms performed there. Some credit the well with healing. Brigid’s cross is a square cross crafted from reeds. Believers tie ribbons and bits of cloth to trees over the well in the hope that their ailment will be cured when the token falls from the tree. I touched the water. It was cold.

St. Brigid’s well.

St. Brigid’s well.

In Ireland, golfers are not permitted to use buggies unless they have a doctor’s note. The golf courses are lumpy, wind-blown challenges. Rocky, barren hills known as the Burren are protected from farming and development. These fossil-rich hills have caves and stone-age burial sites. Our guide, Ann, said that the traditional way to eat oysters is to have a dozen of them with Guinness. She mentioned that oysters are an aphrodisiac. “One raises expectations; the other lowers them.”

We stayed in Galway and visited Galway Cathedral and the historic (shopping and restaurants) area.

Galway Cathedral.

Galway Cathedral.

Mark 2:1-12

Galway Cathedral windows.

Galway

Oscar Wilde.

Dinner at Dunguaire Castle was a joy. We drank pureed veggie soup from a bowl, ate bread and butter, and a small salad. The main course was chicken with a white mushroom sauce, served with cooked carrots and Italian green beans with fingerling potatos. We were given unlimited mead (wine made with honey), white wine, red wine, and water. Dessert was apple pie with whipped cream. A harpist played and a couple sang ballads. Given the unlimited alcohol, I was shocked and pleased that all made it down the narrow stone spiral staircase without incident.

We dined at Dunguaire Castle.

At last, we collapse into bed at the Connacht Hotel in Galway.

Ireland: Writers and Architecture and Dublin

Ireland has fascinated me since childhood. I wanted to visit the island inhabited by leprechauns and fairies. As an adult, I am astounded by the impact of Irish writers on the world. Ireland is an island of approximately 32,600 square miles with a population of six million. And yet, where would storytelling be without Bram Stoker, C.S. Lewis, Oliver Goldsmith, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Frank McCourt, Maeve Binchy, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and James Joyce? The list goes on, but these are my favorites.

Finally, I traveled to Ireland. Though I doubt these great writers gained their skill from walking the land or drinking the water, I nurture hope that the influence of this island will rub off on me. Having finished my third novel, I’m enjoying a month off before beginning my fourth. This is a time of renewal and rest.

Handsome and I toured Ireland by Trafalgar bus, jaunting cart, and foot. Here’s how the first day went. The signs at the Dublin airport were in English and Gaelic.

signs in English and Gaelic at Dublin airportFound a Pringles dispenser. Love those chips (crisps).

A Pringles dispenser at the Dublin airport.

The first people we met in our tour group were Nancy and Earl from Ottowa. The bus driver, Pat, loaded up our gear and deposited us at the Ballsbridge Hotel. There, we met our guide, Ann, who narrated a driving tour of Dublin.

Home to 1.3 million, Dublin is the capital of Ireland. It is situated on the eastern side of the country with the Liffey River running through it. Each of the twenty-four or so bridges is different. To learn more about them, see Dublin bridges.

Trafalgar Tour Guide Ann

Trafalgar Tour Guide Ann.

Ann taught us about Georgian architecture. The size of the windows reveals the importance of the rooms. The lower floors had the largest windows and the higher floors the smallest ones.

Georgian architecture showing windows

Windows shrink from the bottom floor to top floor.

The decreasing size of the windows also gives an illusion of height. Homes were taxed by the number of stairs leading to the main door, so the wealthiest had them. In addition, the wealthy had a servant’s entrance door under the stairs. Many of the doors were painted in bold, bright colors.

Georgian architecture with servant entrance below stairs

Servants entrance is below the stairs.

Trinity College

Trinity CollegeWe passed Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is kept. A national treasure of Ireland, the Book of Kells was copied and illustrated by monks. We got to view the document later in our tour.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

We stopped for photos at Christ Church Cathedral. Streets in the trade or guild section were named after the kind of work done there. Cobbler Street, Cook Street…you get the idea. Lastly, we stopped at the Glasnevin Trust and cemetery, where we learned about Irish heroes O’Connell and Micheal Collins. We enjoyed drinks and snacks at the cafe there. Jetlagged and exhausted, we collapsed in our non-air-conditioned room at the Ballsbridge Hotel. The area known as the Dublin 4 postal code is apparently the 90210 of Ireland.

Michael Collins memorial.

Elegant monuments.

Our guide at the cemetery gave us history and lore.

The Gaelic alphabet has only twenty letters. Dublin in Gaelic is baile átha Cliath.