Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Irish road trip

Old pal Sarah and I met up in Dublin a week ago for a road trip over to the west coast of Ireland. We sort of made up our itinerary as we went along. It's easier to cross from one side of the country to the other than to navigate some of the smaller roads where there's not much (or confusing) signposting, but we managed to stay basically on course. There's an old Irish joke about someone asking for directions and being told, "Oh, you can't get there from here..." It makes perfect sense when you're going around a roundabout for the second or third time and still can't see which exit to take... Ireland is also liberally garnished with castles and abbeys, but we managed to see only one or two.

Sligo and Galway were points of departure for many of the famine ships that left Ireland in the mid-1800s. The towns are pretty, with lots of flower baskets and colourful buildings. I had three runs: from Sligo out along the river in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Isle of Innisfree (which we later spent over an hour trying to find in the car); and, in Galway, along the seafront at Salthill and beside the canal path in the centre of town.

Benbulben is a very beautiful mountain that dominates the skyline near Sligo. It must be stunning when frosted with snow. We checked out some megalithic tombs that predate the Egyptian pyramids by a thousand years, but were unable to appreciate them in any real way. It's difficult to imagine them as anything other than a few mounds of rocks in a green field. Sligo is Yeats country; we visited his grave, which he shares with his wife, George.

One day we drove around the Connemara peninsula, which is bleak and stony. It's quite beautiful.

I would like to spend some time out on the Aran Islands one day...

We couldn't be within cooee of Tipperary and not go there. We had lunch in a bit of a dive of a pub on the main street (all the cafes were closed down) before heading back towards Dublin to spend the night with old friends of Sarah's in their rambling country cottage that has its own 500-year-old castle ruin and two gorgeous dogs, Shadow and Holly.

Thanks, Ireland. It's a grand place, as the locals say...

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