Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 5: Shopping in Galway

After an amazing day spent on Inis Mór, we were sad to be leaving Galway and the Aran Islands on Day 5 of our All Ireland Rocker tour! Ireland continued to amaze us more and more each day we travelled! Luckily for us, we had a late start the morning following our trip to Inis Mór and could spend a bit of time leisurely exploring the streets of Galway.

Eyre Square

I am so glad that we got to actually explore the city! Galway is truly an amazing place full of character, where old world meets new world charm. Galway is situated in the West of Ireland and lies on the River Corrib between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay. It is in the province of Connacht and is surrounded by County Galway. It is also the fourth most populous urban area in the Republic of Ireland! Not only this but Galway is what they call a University Town. If you’ve ever visited a University Town, you’ll know it is full of energy, excitement and always buzzing, probably because of all the youth populating the area :).

A splendid morning to be roaming around Galway!

Dave (our guide) had already told us that we should use this morning to go shopping for our Claddagh rings (more to come on that) and also to grab a lunch before we hit our main destination for the day.

Kegs, kegs and more kegs! Just sitting outside for another fun pub-filled day!

After eating breakfast at one of the best hostels we had that trip, Kinlay Hostel, we set out to buy lunch before we went shopping. After much deliberation, we got Subway and headed out for a much needed exploration of Galway.

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I was glad we could get a better look at Eyre Square that lovely morning. As usual, and obviously because we had somehow gotten the Luck of the Irish (probably that rainbow we saw 😉 ) we got sunshine following us around!

Eyre Square is an inner-city public park. Clearly bustling already so early in the morning, it was obvious school had started and everyone was about.  As we walked around, we got to take a look at some of the art pieces around the square and learn a bit about its history. We were told the flags in the square represent the original 14 Tribes of Galway. These are the 14 families who dominated the political, commercial and social life of the city between the 13th century and late 19th centuries. They are memorialized here in the centre square for all to remember!

The Flags of the 14 Tribes

Next, we noticed a piece of a wall enclosed in plexiglass. Of course being the architectural nerd that I am, I immediately wanted to learn more. Apparently, this fragmented piece of building is known as the Browne Doorway. This is the ground floor doorway and 1st floor window that came from the Mansion of Dominic Browne and his wife Maria Lynch dated 1627. It is a fine example of Renaissance of Architecture and was moved to the square in 1905. It had previously been used as a Gate into Eyre Square but since then, on the 300th anniversary of the Square, had been enclosed in plexiglass for protection.

Browne Doorway

If you want more information regarding Eyre Square’s history, you can learn more here or here.

History of Browne Doorway

After getting our fill of Eyre Square, we decided to move into the flattering shopping/food district of Galway. Only now do I realize this colourfully beautiful part of the city is called the Latin Quarter and that it is “where Galway comes alive”! We had been to several pubs the 2 nights before and had seen the bustling pub night life. But it certainly looks different in the daylight and during the day it was just as mesmerizing! It was the epitome of old world meets new world charm!

Latin Quarter full of shops and places to eat!

Clearly this city is known for its Claddagh ring history. We were determined to find ourselves the best fitted Claddagh rings for our personalities. There are many different designs that you can choose – based on what suits you best, but the story behind the ring stays the same!

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish symbol of love that was/is given as an engagement ring or pre-engagement ring. Nowadays the ring can be worn whether you are single, engaged or married. There are a variety of legends related to the rings’ origins – this particular one tells of:

“A Prince who fell in love with a common maid. To convince her father his feelings were genuine and he had no intentions of “using” the girl, he designed a ring with hands representing friendship, a crown representing loyalty, and a heart representing love. He proposed to the maid with this ring, and after the father heard the explanation of the symbolism of the ring, he gave his blessing.”

Of course, that is my favourite story but the legend probably closest to historical truth can be read here.

Jewelry Stores all over the place!

The Ring itself was designed in a fashion to illustrate friendship, loyalty and love, all of which should be present in a romantic relationship! There is a specific way the ring should be worn:

  • On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is single and may be looking for love.
  • On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship.
  • On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is engaged.
  • On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is married.

So! If you do decide to purchase a Claddagh ring when in Galway, be sure to wear it based on your relationship status ;), or you may find a Irish fellow looking to change the direction of the heart!

 

Of course, we had to go into a dozen stores before we found the perfect one in which to find our Claddagh rings. McCarthy’s Jewellery store was the perfect and most affordable place to get a ring!

Obviously the Claddagh ring has been commercialized to the point that almost every store carries a version or another, but not all are of the same quality. If you want an affordable (especially if you are travelling on a budget) and good quality ring, McCarthy’s is the place to go! The store was tiny and offered some of the prettiest and most appropriate Irish designed jewellery I had seen on the trip. I personally couldn’t decide which ring Claddagh ring I wanted, so I opted for a ring made of Celtic Knots to remind me of my trip to Ireland!

My Irish Knot Ring (that I now wear everyday)

Prices are affordable at around 15-30 € and are of 0.925 sterling silver! I’ve worn my ring everyday since the trip and am glad to say that it’s still in the same shape, which speaks to its quality! So, if you want a to take a little piece of Galway home, don’t hesitate in purchasing either a Claddagh ring or some other jewellery piece before you go!


Our morning flew by and having successfully purchased our rings and some souvenirs, before we knew it, we had to return to the Hostel, meet our group, and set out on our next adventure!

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We were sad to leave Galway 😩

Natalie mentioned in her last post that we were leaving our tour guide Dave this day as well and this is a feature of the tour. Because we had more than one type of tour on our bus (5 day and 7 day), we were now leaving behind the 5 day group and merging with another group who was either on a 3 day or 5 day tour.

It was disconcerting to say the least and strange to invade the bus of another group! This was probably my least favourite part of the tour because we had already formed groups and so had the people on the other tours! It’s definitely difficult to connect with another group when you had already done things and seen sights they might not have seen and vice versa! Even so, our new tour guide Gillian was great and definitely made the transition smoother than it might have gone otherwise!

It seemed to be a pattern that every locale we left behind in Ireland made us sad to leave. Galway was no exception. Leaving the bustling town behind, we got on our new tour bus and headed towards our next and one of my favourite, if not my favourite, sites in all of Ireland: The Cliffs of Moher!!

On our way to the Cliffs of Moher!

Stay tuned to see the sheer massiveness and beauty of these cliffs!

Ioana and Natalie
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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 4: Dun Aonghasa

Day 4 began with a biking adventure for me and a horseback riding adventure for Ioana! We would be reunited for our next stop – DĂșn Aonghasa. This popular tourist attraction is a stone fort, that sits at the top of a 300 ft cliff! Archaeologists believe this site has been inhabited since 1500BC.

Whilst we were walking to the Worm Hole, we were able to catch a glimpse of DĂșn Aonghasa off in the distance.

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Can you spot DĂșn Aonghasa? Toward the right side of the photograph, on top of a cliff!

Pretty incredible!

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After the Worm Hole, we continued on our bikes to Kilmurvey Village. Here, we purchased tickets to visit DĂșn Aonghasa.

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We left our bikes behind in the village and continued up to the cliff and DĂșn Aonghasa on foot. It was a climb but the views at the top were definitely worth it! We would definitely recommend a visit to DĂșn Aonghasa if you are exploring Inis MĂłr. If biking doesn’t appeal to you, you can also find your way to DĂșn Aonghasa via mini-bus or pony and cart.

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Check out this view – looking out over the south coast of Inis MĂłr, including the Worm Hole!

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Look at that vertical drop, straight into the Atlantic Ocean!

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We even spotted a friend!

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I love cliffs – but secretly I’m a bit scared of heights! But the chance to sit at the edge of a cliff looking out at the Atlantic Ocean was just too tempting to pass up. So here I am!

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It IS a long way down from up here!

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And, of course, there had to be a selfie to document this moment – sitting at the edge of a 300 ft cliff with your best friend!

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After a couple more selfies and more cliff photographs, we had to start our journey back! We didn’t want to miss our ferry back to the mainland! (Dave told us we were scheduled to be on the last ferry back to the mainland, so if we missed it, we would be spending the night on our own here – not that it would be such a terrible thing!) So we walked down from DĂșn Aonghasa, hopped on our bikes and headed back to Kilronan Village.

Note: This island is not a flat island! There are hills to cycle up, so expect a bit of a workout! But going the other way, the hills become great fun to cruise down – with the wind whipping through your hair!

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The beautiful views did not end with the cliffs – check this out!

We had some time to spare, so we ventured into the Aran Sweater Market. The Aran islands are also famous for the Aran Sweaters – wool sweaters that were designed to keep generations of locals warm and dry in this harsh environment, by the Atlantic Ocean. The Aran Sweater Market had some gorgeous scarves and sweaters here. Being a bit of a knitter myself, I bought some beautiful Aran wool to make myself a souvenir to remember this trip by! Check out my next post for more on my project!

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And finally, after an exciting day, it was time to leave this breathtaking island behind. We boarded the ferry and headed back to Galway.

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Review: We were very lucky to have such spectacular weather for our day here. I can imagine the island would be vastly different if it was raining or if there was a storm. We definitely would not be able to get right to the edge of the cliffs and rocks – an errant wave might sweep us away! We had an amazing day visiting Inis MĂłr – definitely one of the highlights of our entire Ireland trip. 

We would definitely recommend a visit here, if you are in Ireland. If you have some time, consider staying overnight at one of the hotels, bed & breakfasts, campsites or hostels located on this island. I’m sure the sunsets (or sunrises!) would be a sight to behold! It would also give you more time to roam the island – on foot, on horseback or on a bike. We only visited the eastern and southern parts of the island on our day trip. But if you had more time, you could wander slowly all over Inis MĂłr, enjoying the spectacular views and getting to know the locals.  You might even consider venturing out to the other two Aran Islands!

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After our epic adventures, we were famished! There are many, MANY options for food in Galway. It wasn’t an easy decision to make and we kept changing our minds as we walked up and down High Street. Eventually we settled on one (The King’s Head) and most of us ended up ordering the Fish and Chips!

Since we were in Ireland, we couldn’t miss out on Irish Dancing! So a bunch of us asked our tour guide, Dave, where we could try out Irish Dancing. He told us to check out Monroe’s Tavern – they had Irish set dancing that night (Tuesdays). So after grabbing our now-very-late-dinner, we headed over, thinking we would be late for the dancing! Our trip mates had gone ahead to the Tavern and when we ran into them on the streets of Galway, they said there didn’t seem to be any dancing that night. It was really too bad – but it just means we’ll have to come back to Galway for our turn on the stage!

We wandered back to High Street in search of the rest of our group. We ended up at The Quays, where we grabbed a couple of drinks, tables and got settled in for the night! This was our last day with our tour guide Dave. To our surprise, we found out that our tour consisted of people on a 5-day tour and those of us on a 7-day tour. Dave was heading back to Dublin with those on the 5-day, while we were continuing on with our next guide – Gillian. It was a good night – story telling, sharing adventures, laughs, licking strangers’ faces as a means of introduction… Don’t ask! After a round of late night/early morning hugs, we wandered back to the hostel.

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Those of us on the 7-day tour had the luxury of a later start on Day 5. This gave us a chance to explore Galway during the daytime! While looking for a place to eat this evening, we saw that Galway had many neat, small stores that we wanted to venture into! Dave also told us that Galway is the city to get our Claddagh Rings. So tune in to our post on shopping in Galway for more about the Claddagh Rings!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 4: Inis MĂłr Adventures!

Day 4 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour brings us to The Aran Islands. Located on west coast of Ireland, the islands of Inis MĂłr, Inis MeĂĄin and Inis Oirr take you back in time and immerse you into the traditional Irish way of life. The Aran Islands are also an official Gaeltacht area, meaning Irish or Gaelic is the predominant language here. Many residents do speak English – particularly on Inis MĂłr, which attracts plenty of tourists yearly – including us!

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After a fun night out in Galway, we woke up nice and early to eat breakfast at the hostel and headed out to buy a bagged lunch for today. As we would be spending the day roaming around Inis MĂłr, Dave (our tour guide) had suggested for us to take along a lunch. We were careful not to be late – as the bus to the ferry will not wait for us! Once everyone gathered, we followed Dave to the bus stop. A double decker bus was waiting to connect us to ferry terminal at Ros a’ MhĂ­l. This was not a private bus for our tour, so members of the public could also take it to connect to the ferry terminal. The websites here and here has more details – including shuttle bus stops, schedules and the connecting ferries. I believe Lally Tours run the shuttle buses for both of these companies. This shuttle bus took us along a scenic coastal route from Galway city centre to the ferry terminal, making a couple of stops to pick up passengers along the way.

Once we got to the ferry terminal, we boarded the Aran Island Ferries and got settled in for our journey to Inis MĂłr. We were so lucky with the weather! (We think it was that rainbow we saw the day before!) Our adventures, particularly today, would not have been as spectacular if it was pouring rain or if there was a storm brewing. And we probably wouldn’t have been able to make it to the cliffs due to safety reasons – as you’ll soon see!

After a smooth ferry ride (where we may or may not have taken a nap…), we arrived at our destination – the beautiful island of Inis MĂłr! The ferry dropped us off at the pier in the main village of Kilronan. Dave then gave us some options for our day: we could hang out around the main village; hire a bike and follow Dave on a tour of the island; or hire a horse and wagon to take you around! I went with the bike option, while Ioana went horseback riding! Check out Ioana’s adventures here!

The beautiful bay on our arrival

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There was a group of maybe 20 of us who went with the bike option. After we got sorted with our bikes, we took off after Dave and headed away from the village of Kilronan. It was the perfect day for a bike ride – the skies were blue, it was relatively warm and there was a nice breeze to cool us off in between stops! And the scenery was just gorgeous. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road, while trying to admire the gorgeous coastline and the beautiful emerald green fields divided by stone walls.

Our first stop was the Seal Colony. Alas, we did not see any seals but we did get a great view of the crashing waves and the rugged coastline. After a quick break, we were off again!

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Our next stop was a beautiful beach – Kilmurvey Beach. This beautiful, sheltered, white sand beach is indeed in Ireland! Who would have thought Ireland had white sand beaches! Look at that gorgeous water! We took a bit of a longer break here – just enjoying the views, grabbing a bite of our lunches and trying out hurling  – one of Ireland’s native games.

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Our next stop was an exciting one! We were headed to the “Poll na bPĂ©ist” or the Worm Hole on the south side of Inis MĂłr! You’ll see why this was such an epic stop soon enough… We rode our bikes as close as we could and then walked the rest of the way there, roaming over grass and stepping on rocks and boulders. Look at this incredible landscape! Can you spot DĂșn Aonghasa there in the distance?

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I was so excited to see the cliffs and the coast. I also quickly saw that if the weather had been stormy, it might not be a great idea to be clambering over these rocks or walking so close to the edge, where an errant wave might pull you into the Atlantic! Having said that… I have a thing for crashing waves and the ocean – I just find it so breathtaking and calming at the same time. I must have taken hundreds of photos of the waves here… Here are just a select few – so I don’t bore you all to sleep! But they are pretty cool photographs, if I do say so myself!

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And then there is this rocky landscape to take in. It is incredible to think of the geology of the land and also the sheer force of nature that shaped these islands thousands of years ago, and continues to shape this land now, with its wind, waves and water.

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More crashing waves…

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One of my favourites! Glistening water, gorgeous sunshine, the perfect rolling wave and the infinite ocean stretching out to the horizon! Breathtaking!

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And finally – the Worm Hole. This rectangular pool, 100% made by nature, is carved into the rocky landscape. The water levels of this “pool” changes depending on the waves crashing over the rocks and into the pool AND the water coming into and out of the pool from underneath the rocks. Besides being a cool product of Mother Nature, its other claim to fame is hosting the Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition, not once – but twice.

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I had never heard of this competition before and I naively thought it was just… jumping from a ridiculous height into this Worm Hole. I had no idea, Cliff Diving actually meant diving (from a ridiculous height) – like competitive Olympic type diving, until I saw this video. I felt a little sick while watching the video, just thinking someone was going to have a misstep and get injured! Thankfully they were all professionals and there were some incredible dives in there!

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We were told very explicitly that if we wanted to jump in, we were doing so at our own risk. There was also the fact that there was probably poor cell phone coverage there and if you needed medical assistance, you’d probably be waiting a long while! I love swimming and I love the water and I love the waves, but there was no way I would be jumping in!! As you can see below… someone on our tour did jump in.

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With this exciting adventure over, it was time to head back to our bikes. But I couldn’t leave without taking one last photograph:

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Review: If you are here on a Shamrocker tour, I would definitely recommend following your guide on a bike tour. You get to hang out with your trip mates, do some exploring and go on an epic adventure with your new travel buddies!

If you are here on your own, hiring a bike and slowly making your way around the island is also a great idea! You can get a map of the island and follow the roads and paths to leisurely explore Inis MĂłr on your own. Being on your own allows you to take as long as you want along the way – stop wherever you want for photographs, stay as long as you want at the beach and explore the cliffs to your heart’s content. 

Our next stop was: DĂșn Aonghasa – a stone fort on a 300 ft cliff. You just know the views here will be epic! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 4: Inis MĂłr on Horseback!

Day 4 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour brings us to The Aran Islands. Located on west coast of Ireland, the islands of Inis MĂłr, Inis MeĂĄin and Inis Oirr take you back in time and immerse you into the traditional Irish way of life. The Aran Islands are also an official Gaeltacht area, meaning Irish or Gaelic is the predominant language here. Many residents do speak English – particularly on Inis MĂłr, which attracts plenty of tourists yearly – including us!

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After a fun night out in Galway, we woke up nice and early to eat breakfast at the hostel and headed out to buy a bagged lunch for the day. As we would be spending the day roaming around Inis MĂłr, Dave (our tour guide) had suggested for us to take along a lunch. We were careful not to be late – as the bus to the ferry will not wait for us! Once everyone gathered, we followed Dave to the bus stop. A double decker bus was waiting to connect us to ferry terminal at Ros a’ MhĂ­l. This was not a private bus for our tour, so members of the public could also take it to connect to the ferry terminal. The websites here and here have more details – including shuttle bus stops, schedules and the connecting ferries. I believe Lally Tours run the shuttle buses for both of these companies. This shuttle bus took us along a scenic coastal route from Galway city centre to the ferry terminal, making a couple of stops to pick up passengers along the way.

Once we got to the ferry terminal, we boarded the Aran Island Ferries and got settled in for our journey to Inis MĂłr. We were so lucky with the weather! (We think it was that rainbow we saw the day before!) Our adventures, particularly today, would not have been as spectacular if it was pouring rain or there was a storm brewing. And we probably wouldn’t have been able to make it to the cliffs due to safety reasons – as you’ll soon see!

After a smooth ferry ride (where I can’t remember a thing since I tend to fall asleep on any moving mode of transportation), we arrived at our destination – the beautiful island of Inis MĂłr! The ferry dropped us off at the pier in the main village of Kilronan. Dave then gave us some options for our day: you could hang out around the main village; hire a bike and follow Dave on a tour of the island; or hire a horse and wagon to take you around! Natalie went with the bike option, while I went horseback riding! For Natalie’s bike adventures, click here!

The beautiful Bay on our arrival

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Sadly for me, I had never properly learned to bike so that wasn’t an option for the day! Luckily enough, there were some tour mates that also didn’t want to do the biking option and instead we opted to do something a little bit different.

Dave had told us there was the option of exploring the island by horse and wagon! Although that sounded rather appealing, one of our new friends suggested to actually go horseback riding! I had never been horse back riding but, for one reason or another, it seemed less daunting than a bike! Our friend got in contact with the person who schedules Aran Island Horseback Riding and programmed us to go for a ride that afternoon. I was extremely excited seeing as this was something I had never done before and did I mention I love animals!!!

If you want more info about how to go on your own Inis MĂłr horseback riding adventure visit Aran Island Horseback Riding’s Facebook page here!

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Ruins of a Church as we walked to our destination

Walking along, we got some beautiful views of the island, as well as some of the ruins that remain from times passed. Once we reached the house where our guide lived, I was even more entranced by Inis MĂłr. It’s exactly the type of entry to a house I’d love to own!

Entrance to Aran Island Horseback Riding

After meeting our guide and discussing our levels of experience with horseback riding, we each got a lovely horse. Mine was named Lady and she was the most mellow of the bunch =P!

As we were mounting, we could already see the beautiful views from our guide’s house. I could definitely get used to seeing this every single day!

View from our guide’s home

Our guide walked us around the island and showed us some of its spectacular untouched scenery and glorious beaches. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to record the names but if you do the Horseback Riding tour you will definitely view some of these untouched sites yourself!

Beautiful beach on our ride

Inis MĂłr and the other two Aran Islands are mostly made up of limestone rock consisting of clints and grikes. This makes for a spectacular landscape, in addition to the dry stone walls that are all around the island! Our guide told us the walls were constructed to separate land for farming and is still used as such today!

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Moving along, we got some photo opportunities on the beautiful beaches and I even attempted a gallop on my lovely horse Lady. She was a tad lazy and we never actually did come to a slow gallop, but it was fun nonetheless! The colours of the water and the beaches themselves were beautiful (something I hadn’t expected to see in Ireland) and it was great to get so up close and personal with some of the more hidden parts of Inis MĂłr.

Lady and I posing

Photo Opportunity on the Beach!

We came to learn that the island only has about 840 inhabitants and of course everybody is keenly aware of everybody else! With so much land, the raising of animals is the main occupation on the island, along with the famous production of Aran Wool, which Natalie will talk about in another post! As we trotted along, we got to see more of our guide’s land and met some of his other horses and animals! The scenery continued to be spectacular and of course the fact that it was sunny made the island look even more stunning.

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There are several abandoned houses on the Island making the scenery even more interesting (I sure want this one!)

Lady continued to be a lovely companion and walked slowly enough for me to snap a few pictures of her and the beautiful landscape around me!

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Beautiful Water and Landscape surrounding us

Our horseback adventure was slowly coming to an end and I was sad it couldn’t last longer! It was such a great experience to view the island from this perspective and I was very grateful that my new friend Marissa suggested we do this! As our horses climbed the hill back to our guide’s home, we had to say goodbye and hope we could come back again soon!

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Our Horses taking a well deserved break

I’d definitely recommend this experience if you are visiting the Aran Islands! If you are staying on the island, you can do both this and biking! It is a bit off the beaten path and you can view some sights you may not know to see if you were biking around! I definitely enjoyed it and would do it again!!!

Sunshine, Water, Warmth – what more could we have wanted?!

Our next stop would be: DĂșn Aonghasa – a stone fort on a 300 ft cliff. You just know the views here will be epic! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 3: From Mayo to Galway!

After exploring Yeats Country and Westport, we headed off to our next stop – Croagh Patrick, or in Gaelic “Cruach PhĂĄdraig”. Cruach PhĂĄdraig, which translates to “Patrick’s Stacks”, is considered to be the holiest mountain in Ireland. Thousands of people from around the world make the pilgrimage here every year. Also in the same area is the National Famine Memorial. This wasn’t a long stop but we figured we would have a wee walk up to the base of Croagh Patrick and then head over to the National Famine Memorial.

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We arrived in the village of Murrisk and headed up to the foot of Croagh Patrick, following a path that ran past houses and blooming flowers and gardens.

When we arrived at the base of the mountain and turned around, we were treated to this beautiful view of Clew Bay. With views like these at the foot of the mountain, I can’t imagine the views at the top of Croagh Patrick! Clew Bay is also known for being home of Grace O’Malley or GrĂĄinne NĂ­ MhĂĄille. A fierce, independent and formidable woman, she was also known as “The Sea Queen of Connacht” or simply the “Pirate Queen.” For more on her story, check out this link. She really led an incredible life!

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Looking out at Clew Bay

Croagh Patrick has been an important historical site for thousands of years. The pagans were said to have gathered here to celebrate the yearly harvest. It is said that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, fasted at the summit of Croagh Patrick for 40 days. Since then, people from all over Ireland and the world have made the pilgrimage here to climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick. Most pilgrims visit on Reek Sunday and some even do the climb barefoot.

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Saint Patrick, holding a shamrock

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After spending some time admiring the view from the base of Croagh Patrick, we headed back down to visit the National Famine Memorial.

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The Great Famine occurred between 1845 and 1852, during which the potato blight devastated potato crops all over Ireland and Europe. Because of various political, ethnic, religious and social reasons, Ireland was hit particularly hard by this. It is estimated that over 1 million people died as a result of the Great Famine – from starvation, malnutrition related conditions, infectious diseases, fever and others. Furthermore, at least 1 million others emigrated from Ireland, destined for countries like Australia, Canada, United States and Britain.

Besides the cost of human life and drastic decline in the population of Ireland, the Great Famine had great implications on the history of Ireland, eventually contributing to the conflicts between the Britain crown and the Irish people who sought independence and home rule.

The Great Famine also damaged the cultural fabric of Ireland. The western part of Ireland was hardest hit by the Famine. This area was also the cultural heartland of Ireland, where the Gaelic language, customs and traditions had been the norm. So when the Famine decimated the population here in the West, including County Mayo, through death and emigration, Irish culture suffered.

There are Famine memorials across Ireland and across the world. This National Famine Memorial in County Mayo is a poignant one. The “Coffin Ship” tells the story of the thousands who sought to flee Ireland and the Great Famine on these “coffin ships,” only to end up perishing due to the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

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The Coffin Ship

The National Famine Memorial, meaningfully situated in the shadow of Croagh Patrick

We made one more stop before heading into Galway – the Erriff River.

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Doesn’t this look like Guinness?? 😉

These next two photographs are so moody and atmospheric with the clouds creeping over the mountains, yet calm, still and serene. I don’t think I would ever get tired of views like this – kinda reminds me of Scotland as well and exactly the scenery we were hoping to see this trip!

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As we turned back onto the road, we were graced with a beautiful rainbow stretching across the Irish skies. The luck of the Irish would be with us for the rest of our trip!

Arriving into Galway, we got settled in our hostel – Kinlay House Eyre Square Hostel. This was a larger, dormitory style hostel – much different from our quaint little hostel in Ballintoy and our hotel room in Derry. We enjoyed our stay here – Kinlay House has clean rooms and facilities, breakfast in the mornings and was in the heart of Galway city. This would be our home for the next two nights. It was nice to be able to unpack a little, instead of packing up right away the next morning! After picking our roomies for the next two nights, we headed out in search of dinner. After wandering around Eyre Square and we ended up on Eglington Street – at the Cellar Bar. It was a nice restaurant/bar and we had a nice dinner getting to know our new friends.

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When we first got to Galway, our guide Dave asked our group whether we would like to join a pub crawl. None of us felt like getting too crazy that night, so Dave was nice enough to organize his own pub crawl for us! First, we hit up the Tigh Fox Trad House where we had our first “Irish Car Bomb” and were treated to some “Trad” music or traditional Irish music. We then hit up the Taaffes Bar and the Quays, the latter of which we would revisit the next day!

Galway is considered by some to be the cultural capital of Ireland and boasts a reputation of producing successful traditional Irish musicians. Much like Dublin, the sounds of trad music and craic (Irish: fun and good times!) spill out of the pubs and onto Galway’s Shop Street. There’s just something about Irish music that makes you want to tap your feet, clap and sing along – even if you have no idea what the words are! (I may or may not be inspired to learn the fiddle now – anyone care to teach me?!!)

After emerging from the packed and heated pub, the cool night air was so refreshing. We made our way back to Eyre Square to our hostel and called it a night. Day 4 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour was going to be a good one – we catch the ferry to explore one of the Aran Islands: Inis MĂłr. Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
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