Shamrocker Adventures – 7 Days All Ireland Rocker

Our latest blog post was a review of the 7 days we spent wandering and exploring the beautiful country of Ireland with Shamrocker Adventures and some of our thoughts on the trip.

We also wanted to share some of our favourite moments and highlights from our All Ireland Rocker 7 days tour. We hope you enjoy our photographs and highlights. And perhaps this will help you when deciding the locations that you want to visit and the experiences you want to have whilst in Ireland.

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Day 1: Dublin → Belfast → The Dark Hedges → Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge → Ballintoy

Highlight of the Day: One of the most memorable part of the day was the Belfast Black Cab Tour. Since we had a large group, we shared 3 cabs and got to hear from 3 different driver guides. We had driver guides from the Unionist and Nationalist sides and thus they were able to share with us the history and 2 different perspectives of the Conflicts. Although they may have different views, all three driver guides shared the same feeling and message of hope.

Overnight in¬†Ballintoy:¬†One of our favourite places – quaint town, beautiful scenery, lovely walks and friendly locals. We also thought it was a great start to the tour since being in a small town really gave us the chance to get to know our group mates. There are 2 pubs in town, a handful of restaurants and a hostel –¬†Sheep Island View Hostel, which we stayed at. We¬†slept in large hostel rooms with many roomies – so it was a good opportunity to bond and make new friends and future travel buddies! You couldn’t NOT meet new friends!

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Day 2: Ballintoy ‚Üí Giant’s Causeway ‚Üí¬†Derry

Highlight of the Day: The highlight of Day 2 was¬†Giant’s Causeway – without a doubt! Admission was already included in the price of our 7 day tour, so we didn’t have to worry about getting tickets or waiting in line. An audio-guide was also included and provided a good background on this UNESCO World Heritage Site and the myths and legends surrounding it. We loved exploring the area and the clifftop walk we went on gave us sweeping views of the Antrim coast and the fascinating basalt columns. A definite must-see in Northern Ireland!

Overnight in Derry: It was nice to stay in a Travelodge hotel room for a change Рa bit of a luxury after living the hostel life for the past couple of days! Especially having a comfy hotel bed each and a bathroom all to ourselves Рmade for a very nice sleep and stay here!

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Day 3: Derry → Westport → Croagh Patrick → Galway!

Highlight of the Day: We took in quite a few sights as we made our way from Derry in Northern Ireland to Galway in the Republic of Ireland. I think the highlight of the day was learning more about Irish history, culture and literature. I think I’m a bit of a geek this way – instead of just seeing something and snapping a photograph, I like to learn the history, the what’s, the how’s and the what happened’s. We saw Ben Bulben, which was a great source of inspiration for W.B. Yeats. After spending some time in Yeats Country, it was easy to see why he loved this area. We also heard many Irish stories, myths and legends – from faeries to the¬†Pirate Queen of Clew Bay. We learned about the role of religion in Ireland and St. Patrick. We also learned about the Great Famine, how it changed the course of history and spent some time reflecting at the National Famine Memorial.

Overnight in Galway: See next day!

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Day 4: Galway → Inis Mór → Dun Aonghasa → Galway!!

Highlight of the Day:

Natalie: We had such an amazing time visiting¬†Inis M√≥r. We lucked out with a beautiful day – blue skies and all! My highlight was biking around the island with our group. Our guide even took us to the world famous “Worm Hole” – which has hosted the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series twice! This little spot is not very well marked from the main road and I know I wouldn’t be able to find it on my own. There was a bit of scrambling and climbing over rocks to get there but… Wow, was it ever worth it! The views from there were stunning – crashing waves, sheer cliffs and the ocean stretching out into the horizon. I almost think this experience was better than the Cliffs of Moher… It was certainly less crowded and allowed for some time to just sit and stare off into the ocean.

Ioana: Also, remember if you don’t bike, you can take a more intimate tour of part of the island on horseback! This was my favourite part of the day and it let me experience¬†Inis M√≥r¬†in a different way! I made a couple new animal friends and learned a new skill all in one day!

Overnight in Galway: Galway is a great location to set up your basecamp for exploring the Western part of Ireland and for¬†taking in the dramatic scenery here. From Galway, you can easily get to the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and Connemara, just to name a few famous attractions on the west coast. Besides adventures in the great outdoors, Galway is also a fun city to explore – with shops, claddagh ring and jewellery shops, restaurants, dancing, music and pubs. We were told it is a fun city because it is a “student town.” But I think that’s only part of it – Galway is just a really friendly, lively and vibrant city, with a mix of locals, tourists and students all enjoying it!

We stayed in Galway for 2 nights at the Kinlay Hostel Galway. It was a large hostel, clean and had good facilities – such as the common rooms and spiffy Apple iMacs. It was also very close to Shop Street and all the pubs – which made it easy to get home after having a grand night ūüėČ

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Day 5: Galway → Cliffs of Moher → Ennis

Highlight of the Day:

Ioana: The Cliffs of Moher¬†was what I had been waiting for all along!¬†Arriving at our destination we, again, didn’t have to pay for our entrance as it was included in our tour. This made it very easy for us to get in and start exploring. Needless to say, it was amazing! The grandeur and beauty of the views we saw was too marvelous to explain in words! It didn’t matter which any angle you looked at the Cliffs from, you always got a picture worthy shot. For me, this was probably my favourite part of the entire trip and although this was a very touristy destination, the sheer magnitude of these cliffs made me want to return again! This is a definite “must-visit” site on your tour of Ireland.

Overnight in Ennis: We stayed at the Rowan Tree Hostel in Ennis – we got a lovely large room and lots of space to move around in. After a nice group dinner at the Rowan Tree Cafe Bar, we¬†headed over to the¬†Knox Pub for some traditional Irish music! County Clare is known for its abundance of traditional Irish music spots, and the Knox Pub was it that night! Another definite “go-to” spot when visiting Ennis. After a couple pints, we even learned a bit of Irish dancing – which may or may not have been a success, but was definitely worth a few good laughs and good memories!

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Day 6: Ennis →  the town of Dingle → Dingle Peninsula and the Slea Head Drive → Killarney

Highlight of the Day:

I’ll just let this video show you the highlight of our day!

Overnight in Killarney: In Killarney, we stayed at the Neptune’s Killarney Hostel. It was a nice place to catch a couple hours of sleep after one last grand night out at the Grand! ( <– Just realized what I did there unintentionally and I’m going to leave it that way now!)

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Day 7: Killarney → Blarney Castle → Rock of Cashel → Dublin

Highlight of the Day:¬†On the last day of our tour, we topped it off with a visit to Blarney Castle¬†and an attempt at receiving the Gift of the Gab by kissing the Blarney Stone! Blarney Castle was an “Optional Extra” that we paid for ahead of time, when we booked our trip. Blarney Castle is much more than just the stone, however! Kissing the Blarney stone, hanging upside down from a tower might I add, was definitely the highlight of that day but there are many other sights to see! Give yourself plenty of time to explore Blarney Castle and its beautiful grounds, gardens and waterfalls!

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The last day of our All Ireland Rocker 7 Days Tour flew by as we made our way back to Dublin and said goodbye to our new friends! ūüė¶

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We truly had a great time on this tour and this experience was priceless. We met a really fun group of people on this tour and made some new friends that we still keep in touch with! It is really true that the people you travel with can make or break your trip Рespecially on a group tour like this where you are together pretty much 24/7.

This tour gave us a glimpse of the beautiful Emerald Isle and gave us some ideas for what to see and which places to add to our must-see list for our next trip to Ireland! Do you have anything that we need to add to our Ireland bucket list? Let us know below!

Hopefully our posts and reviews on our All Ireland Rocker 7 days tour have been helpful for you in deciding where in Ireland to visit, what sights to see and whether taking a guided tour of Ireland Рsuch as the Shamrocker Adventures trip that we went on, might work for you.

Next up: Edinburgh! Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© 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 Adventures’ All Ireland Rocker – Final Thoughts and Review

Last September, we went on a guided tour of Ireland – Shamrocker Adventures – 7 Days All Ireland Rocker Tour. We chose it because it sounded amazingly fun, had good reviews and we wanted to learn about and see as much of Ireland as possible, with our limited vacation time and budget!

We loved this trip and are really glad we went with this choice! Here are the details of the trip we went on and also our review and thoughts! Hopefully this will help you if you are thinking about doing a similar trip!

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Dates:
– September 19 – September 25, 2015
– 7 days, 6 nights

Thoughts: Definitely not enough to fully explore Ireland but we felt it was just enough to visit all the major sights, enough to get a feel for Ireland and enough to get a sense of the places we would like to return to in the future!

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Included:
– Tour guide/s and driver/s
– Transportation on a coach bus
– 6 nights accommodations: at hostels, save one night at a hotel (Travelodge) in Derry.
– 6 breakfasts
– Admission fees to Giant’s Causeway and Cliffs of Moher
РBus and ferry ride to/from Inis Mór

Thoughts: It was really nice to have all of these expenses included in the price of the tour. It allowed us to budget better and have a better idea of how much money we would need whilst in Ireland. We also were able to pay this off ahead of time, giving us and our wallets some peace of mind, instead of having to paying the exchange rate and international bank fees or coming home to a huge credit card bill! We also didn’t have to worry about paying for admission fees or waiting in line to purchase tickets for Giant’s Causeway or Cliffs of Moher, which was really convenient.

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Pricing:
– In January 2015, priced at $789 CAD
– We booked with a 15% early booking discount, so we ended up paying $670.65 CAD for our tour
– Current pricing as of July 2016 is $929 CAD

Thoughts: We thought we got a really good deal, considering what was included in the price! It worked out to almost $100 CAD per day, which we thought was reasonable since it included accommodations, transportation, tour guide and driver, various sights and admission fees and most importantly – the EXPERIENCE! We thought our experience was DEFINITELY worth the price that we paid!

Current pricing has gone up, compared to when we went last year. However, Shamrocker Adventures always has deals and promotions that you can take advantage of, in order to bring your cost lower. We took advantage of a 15% Early Bird discount for our trip last year. Right now, there is a 10% discount for all trips in August and September 2016. As well, check out this page for 3 other ways to save:

  • the multi trip deal (get 10% off your total when you book 2 or more qualifying trips with Shamrocker Adventures, Haggis Adventures or Busabout)
  • special discount for students, which you CAN combine with the other two deals here!! 
  • special discount if you gather 3 or more friends to go on a grand adventure with you! 

*The above info was gathered in July 2016 when we wrote the article. Check out the websites above for updated details and discounts.

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Extras we opted in for:
– Blarney Castle – $20 CAD (Current pricing: $22 CAD)
– We did opt in for the Black Cab Tour in Belfast and the Derry Walking Tour. We signed up and paid for these when we checked in on the first day in Dublin. Unfortunately, we can’t remember exactly how much we paid, but it might have been around 15 Euros?!
– Current pricing for the Belfast Black Cab Tour is $25 CAD and the Derry Walking Tour is $9 CAD.

Thoughts: It was nice that there were some optional activities – which allows you to choose another activity if the suggested one doesn’t appeal to you. For example, we opted for the Black Cab Tour in Belfast to learn more about the history of the city. Some of our group mates opted to make their own way to Titanic Belfast to learn more about the Titanic instead.  

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Not included:
– Admission fee to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
– Admission fee Dunluce Castle (probably not enough time to fully enjoy it for the short period of time that our group stopped here)
– Activities on Inis M√≥r (for example: bike rental or horseback riding or pony and cart tour or bus up to D√ļn Aonghasa)
– Lunch, dinner and snacks
– Drinks
– Souvenirs and extras

Thoughts: What we (and many of our group mates) liked about a tour like this, is the freedom to choose some of your own activities and meals! If you don’t want to do anything else on Inis M√≥r besides sitting by the harbour to enjoy the view, you can. If you want to save money by cooking your own meals at the hostel, you can. On the other hand, if you don’t want to cook, you can opt to eat out at a restaurant. Our guides had lots of recommendations and were very knowledgeable about all the places we stopped in. Our guides even organized dinners and our own “pub crawl” for us.  You are free to partake in these or do you own thing – whatever you want! We liked that you could “personalize” your trip, according to your own preferences! 

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Final Thoughts:

We would definitely recommend this tour!

We liked the itinerary of this tour and thought it was very well planned. The trip followed a logical loop around Ireland and there was no backtracking or repeating places that we had already seen. Of course, we would have liked more time in some places to explore further but at least this trip gave us an idea of what cities, towns and sights we want to see on our next trip to Ireland!

We visited the major cities and attractions of Ireland and Northern Ireland, like Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, Inis M√≥r, Galway and the Dingle Peninsula. But we also stopped at smaller, quaint places, like Ballintoy, Westport and Ennis. So we felt we got a feel of Ireland, and not just the big cities!

These tours are geared towards the 18 – 35 year old crowd, with its activities and accommodations. But that’s not to say that if you are over 35 that you are not welcome! Some of our group mates were over 35 and I think we all had a good time together!

One thing we didn’t know ahead of time, was that there would be people joining and leaving the tour midway. On the 4th day, we had a new group and tour guide join us. We had all thought everyone on our tour would be together for the whole 7 days, but some left after 5 days. We also lost our first guide and driver on the 5th day, with the other tour guide taking over. Everything worked out well in the end, but we missed our friends who left on day 5 and there was an obvious divide between the two groups. Our first guide even made all of us promise to be nice to the new group… not sure what he thought we would do! But all in all, we thought it was ok and understood why they needed to do this.

There is quite a bit of “adventures and exploring!” We were walking every single day – scrambling up and down hills, jumping over rocks and hiking up and down stairs. So we would recommend bringing some sturdy runners or hiking shoes. Of course, there are always alternatives if you’re feeling tired or if adventures and exploring is not your cup of tea. For attractions like the Cliffs of Moher, Inis M√≥r and Giant’s Causeway, you are given free time to spend as you choose. While we were on Inis M√≥r, I went along with our guide for an epic island bike ride and adventure, while Ioana explored the island on horseback. At the Cliffs of Moher, we chose to take a long walk around the cliffs, but there is always the option to stay in the visitor centre or to sit on the benches outside and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. At Giant’s Causeway, you could take the clifftop walk to the Amphitheatre, or you might take the shuttle bus down to see the spectacular basalt columns making up the causeway. So, even if you prefer to look at the scenery from afar or through the bus window instead of trekking through it, we think you can still enjoy this tour!

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Overall, we give the All Ireland Rocker 7 days tour that we went on: 10 sheep out of 10!

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We had a blast exploring Ireland and Northern Ireland! We learned a lot about its history, its stunning geology and landscapes, and heard some fascinating stories, literature, myths and legends. We took some great photographs and had an amazing experience. We also made new friends that we still keep in touch with – thank you Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram!

Check out this next post for a recap of our trip and our favourite moments and highlights!

Have you been on this trip before? Or another guided trip like this? How did you find it? Let us know below!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© 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 7: Blarney Castle

After six amazing days on the road with our All Ireland Rocker tour, we had finally reached the last day and County Cork!

Day 7 started by leaving Killarney and all of its fun behind us – so we can go find the Gift of the Gab at Blarney Castle.

Blarney Castle, County Cork

I was so excited to finally go exploring in an Irish Castle!


Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold near County Cork. It’s still quite well preserved and was one of my favourite places to visit on the tour. Lucky for us, the entrance fee for Blarney Castle was an optional “add-on” activity that we had purchased ahead of time when we booked our Shamrocker tour. So we didn’t have to pay or stand in line to purchase tickets. If you are travelling without a tour, tickets are¬†‚ā¨12.50 if you order them online!¬†(FYI – the cost was $20CAD when we purchased our tour.)

Its height and stone walls were magnificent and our Irish luck continued – giving us a gorgeous sunny day to explore the castle and its grounds!

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As mentioned earlier, we were here to gain the Gift of the Gab. Similar to every other location we visited in Ireland, Blarney Castle was not an exception when it came to myth, folklore and fascinating stories.

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The most famous being the Blarney Stone, of course. The Blarney Stone is set into a wall below the Battlements, and it has a most unique tradition attributed to it.

There are many different versions as to the story related to the Blarney Stone.

“Some say it was Jacob‚Äôs Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‚ÄėFatal Stone‚Äô, used as an oracular throne of Irish kings ‚Äď a kind of Harry Potter-like ‚Äėsorting hat‚Äô for kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.

When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone was given by the Scots in gratitude ‚Äď and returned to Ireland.” – Blarney Castle

What the people in the region believe is, of course, more mythical:

“Whatever the truth of its origin, we believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys.”¬†– Blarney Castle

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Can you spot the person lying down to kiss the Blarney Stone?

After climbing up some very steep steps, with very narrow corridors, we finally arrived at the top of the Battlements.

Along the way, as you walk up, there are several rooms in their original states that give you a glimpse of what life may have been like in medieval Ireland!

 

 

Once we reached the top, we watched as other people gained the Gift of the Gab and got excited for our experience… There can be quite a wait, so be prepared and make sure you leave enough time to explore the rest of the castle and grounds!

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We also couldn’t help continuing our “gazing off into the distance” tradition while we waited!

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In order to gain the Gift of the Gab, there is an interesting tradition to kissing the stone, as you can see below…

“Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, we are rather more cautious of the safety of our visitors. The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements. To kiss it, one has to lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk. The prize is a real one as once kissed the stone bestows the gift of eloquence.”¬†– Blarney Castle

Thank goodness we didn’t get held by the ankles! But, it was still exciting to be held upside down as you kiss a stone that tons of people had been kissing for centuries!!!

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The view from the top of the tower gave us a chance to see just how extensive the grounds of Blarney Castle were!

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Once we reached the bottom, we decided to explore the rest of the grounds with what little time we had left!

We had two choices of garden – which we, obviously, chose to go in the direction of the Poison Garden ;).

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There were many interesting plants that we were warned to not “Touch, Eat or Smell any plant!”

For any Harry Potter fans out there, the garden actually had a European mandrake! You can pretend you are in Herbology and imagine¬†pulling out a screeching mandrake!!! ūüôā
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Walking along, we just kept getting amazed by the amazing nature surrounding us. We were more than a little fascinated by this tree and its gigantic limbs!
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We also happened to stumble upon a waterfall in a secluded Fern Garden and Waterfall!!! It was so beautiful and peaceful, if you have time to just sit and enjoy nature while you visit, this is the place to do so.
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Walking along, we stumbled upon Blarney House. This is the ancient seat of the MacCarthy’s of Muskerry. The house is still inhabited and at times open to the public, but it was closed when we visited.
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Since the area was so quiet, we figured we should claim the house for our own and again continued our tradition of taking pictures with epic doorways!
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We continued walking and found more gardens! They just kept getting more and more beautiful as we walked along!
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Sadly we didn’t spot any Leprechauns, but we were quite convinced they lived in this magical area!

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While walking around, we also came across what our friend called an Igloo for the Canadians! We had to take a picture in it, since clearly it reminded us of home! A little piece of Canada in Ireland ;).


After wandering for a bit, we finally made it to the Wishing Steps! It is said that the Witch constantly uses wood from the Grounds for herself and as a result she must grant wishes to her visitors!

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In order for the Witch to grant your wish, you must walk down the steps backwards (some even say with your eyes closed) while only thinking of the wish you want granted. If you can do that, then it is¬†guaranteed that your wish will come true! Of course, it’s easier said than done…image

This area is also home to the Witch’s Kitchen, Sacrificial Altar and Waterfalls! We won’t spoil all the stories for you, so you will just have to go and find out more about these ones on your own ;).

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Continuing our walk, we came upon our first STANDING STONES of the trip РThe Seven Sisters!!! I was more than a little bit excited, because of COURSE I had watched Outlander and figured this was my first chance at finding the stone that would take me back in time and to Jamie Fraser (YES, wrong country, but, I had to try).

To know the story behind these stones, you will have to visit Blarney Castle yourself!

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Blarney Castle, County Cork

After attempting to find Jamie Fraser, we had to take our leave from Blarney Castle – without having seen everything on the grounds! There are so many more parts of the grounds that we didn’t have a chance to explore, so we will definitely be returning to Blarney Castle and County Cork in the future!

If you want more information and to plan your own visit to Blarney Castle, you can do so here.

After grabbing a quick lunch and some souvenirs from the extensive Blarney Castle gift shop, we got back on the bus and started our journey back to Dublin :(.

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On our way back, Gillian continued to point out historic sites and we made one last stop at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary.

We first stopped at the side of the road, to catch a glimpse of it.
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“The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the¬†kings of Munster¬†for several hundred years prior to the¬†Norman invasion. In 1101, the King of Munster,¬†Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the¬†Church. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of¬†Celtic art¬†and¬†medieval architecture¬†to be found anywhere in Europe.¬†Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.” – Wikipedia

And then we made a stop at a carpark near the bottom of the Rock of Cashel, where we could stretch our legs and explore a wee bit. Unfortunately for us, the structure was being restored at the time and we didn’t have enough time to actually go up and visit the Rock of Cashel. We did manage to wander down a road and catch another angle of the Rock of Cashel – the side without any evidence of construction!

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

If you want to find more information about the Rock of Cashel, you can do so here.

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Near the carpark, we came across the¬†Br√ļ Bor√ļ sculpture. This amazing sculpture represents the traditional music, song and dance that is attributed to¬†Br√ļ Bor√ļ, the Irish Cultural Movement. The fluidity of the sculpture is amazing and definitely encompasses the passion that the Irish have for song and dance!
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Of course we tried to recreate the sculpture ourselves. It turned out much better than I thought it would!

The Br√ļ Bor√ļ Dancers, County Tipperary

Unfortunately, quickly after this short stop, our Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker tour ended :(. We arrived back in Dublin and had to say goodbye to Gillian and many of our new friends – although we would reunite with one of our new friends in Edinburgh on our Haggis Adventures tour!

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It was a whirlwind of a tour! Having hiked, walked, taken 1000’s of pictures and seen so many beautiful sights, we were lucky to have been part of such an amazing tour group with some pretty amazing tour guides!

We found a new love for Ireland! We left part of our souls in the Atlantic in Coumeenole, so we know we will be returning to this amazing country that is filled with such vibrant culture, rich traditions and mythical stories sooner rather than later!

Stay tuned for more of our adventures from last year with our next stop: Scotland!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© 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 6: Slea Head Drive Part 2

Let’s take you back to the West Coast of Ireland and finish off our day on the Dingle Peninsula

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After leaving our souls behind at Coumenoole Beach, we continued on the Slea Head Drive Рleaving the Sleeping Giant behind.

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The Sleeping Giant – pretty cool, eh?

Our next stop was Clogher Head (Not the same as ‘Clogherhead’ in County Louth!), where we had a nice view of the crashing waves, the beaches and the Three Sisters peaks in the background. Even though it had become stormy-looking, we didn’t mind it one bit! In fact, I thought it added to the atmosphere and the scenery.

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This would probably look completely different on a sunny and calm day! But I kinda like it stormy! ūüėČ

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Spotted some misty islands out there… Not sure which ones they are, though!

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After enjoying the scenery, the stormy clouds and the waves, we piled back onto the bus for our next stop.

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Next up was Inch Beach – a beautiful long stretch of sandy beach. If there were no clouds and it was bathed in bright sunshine, you would probably think this was somewhere tropical. But nope, this is Ireland and the Atlantic Ocean!

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The beautiful view that greeted us as we stepped off the bus…

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Just gorgeous – the sun even decided to make an appearance!

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As the sun set against the backdrop of clouds, it made for some pretty special photographs!

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And just like that… our adventures on the Slea Head Drive and the Dingle Peninsula were over. But we got some awesome photographs and memories with our travel mates out of it!

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Review: What a spectacular drive this was! ¬†The Dingle Peninsula and the Slea Head Drive are definitely worth a visit! The amazing scenery and the feeling of being immersed in nature on the Wild Atlantic Way¬†is just amazing! We would love to return and spend more time here – maybe do some camping and hiking in the area. Although I don’t know if I would be brave enough to take on these winding and narrow roads… ¬†To be honest, I would also probably get distracted by the gorgeous scenery and forget I was driving…

If driving is not an option, there are various guided tours that leave out of Dingle or Killarney Рso that could work. Some people will hire a bike and cycle the Slea Head Drive! That would be a pretty cool adventure and workout! 

The Slea Head Drive is definitely something we would recommend if you are headed to the west coast of Ireland!

Have you driven the Slea Head Drive? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below!

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After an amazing day of adventures and exploring, we headed into Killarney for the last night of our All Ireland Rocker tour. It was too bad we only had the one night in Killarney. There seemed to be a lot in the area to discover and explore – from the Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry, the mountains, the lakes to the historic castles/houses in the area. And of course, we can’t forget about the Traditional Irish music and the pubs!

We stayed at Neptune’s Hostel in Killarney. It was nice, clean and central to everywhere we needed to be in Killarney.

That night, with Gillian leading us, we all trooped over to a restaurant for a group dinner. Then as a group, we wandered over to The Grand, where there was to be live music and a DJ as well.

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Earlier that afternoon…. Gillian had a warning for us: the Checkered¬†Shirt Brigade. She told us of the men in Killarney and their tradition of wearing… you guessed it – checkered shirts, to the Grand. It seems they must know when the backpacking tours get into Killarney and tend to come out in full force on those nights! They seem to have deduced that the ratio of males to females on these tours is a bit off and wanted to “balance” it out ūüėõ (We thought – belatedly, how funny it would be if we also wore our checkered shirts and what their reactions would be! Maybe next time!)

That night at the Grand, we did see some members of the Checkered Shirt Brigade but they didn’t give us much trouble! ¬†There was a cover band that night and after they finished playing, we stepped into the adjacent room, which housed the nightclub. There was lots of dancing and grand craic to be had that night, which was perfect for our last night together!

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Wandering back to the hostel through the quiet streets of Killarney in the middle of the night, with our ears ringing from the music, made us sad that the next day was the last day of our All Ireland Rocker Tour ūüė¶

But! There were still adventures to be had on this last day – as we go in search of the “Gift of the Gab!”¬†Stay Tuned for Day 7!

Ioana and Natalie
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Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 6: We Left Our Souls in Ireland!

Sorry for the hiatus!

It has been a crazy couple of weeks for the both of us – trying to balance life and work. And special events – like my childhood friend’s wedding, which is in less than a week’s time!!! So there have been dress fittings, a bridal shower and lots of cookies being trialed, tossed, baked and iced! And I’ve started moonlighting at a second job, although some might call it my third job… Plus, there’s a ballet performance coming up – so there have been and will be many more ballet classes and rehearsals before this week is done! I feel like I’ve been running around like crazy these past 2 weeks!

AND THEN…

We are leaving on a jet plane in less than a week’s time – headed for Dublin and then onwards to beautiful Italy! We’ve barely had any time to plan this trip! So we gotta get on that pronto… Starting next Wednesday, check us out on Instagram for more of our Italian adventures.

But enough of that! Let’s take you back to the beautiful Emerald Isle!

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After a spot of lunch, a visit with Fungie and a wander around Dingle, we piled back onto our bus and embarked on our next adventure exploring the Dingle Peninsula on the world famous Slea Head Drive.

The circular Slea Head Drive, starts and ends at the town of Dingle. Heading out of Dingle, I stared out of the bus window and tried to memorize the amazing scenery passing by… beaches, cliffs, ocean and waves – each more beautiful than the last.

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And then came the hairpin turns… We were told that tour buses do the drive clockwise. I don’t imagine it would be much fun to have two tour buses facing each other and trying to edge past one another on these tight narrow roads – much less if they were on one of those hairpin turns! So it makes sense to have a set direction. However, this presents a conundrum for other drivers… Do you go clockwise and follow behind these tour buses? Or do you go counterclockwise and end up facing these tour buses head on – and possibly need to navigate your vehicle backwards on these narrow roads? Which adventure would you choose?!

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Besides the sharp turns and the cliffs, you’ll also want to watch out for… SHEEP! Or as they are called: Suicidal Sheep! Gillian, our tour guide, warned us about them. Look at how nonchalant they are – just perched there and munching on grass, without a care in the world. Don’t they know that one wrong step could send them tumbling off into the water?!

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Check out that cute little one in the left bottom corner – just photobombing!

We also spotted some beehive huts on our drive. A beehive hut is also known as cloch√°n. What a remarkable structure to be able to withstand the rain, wind and storms off the Atlantic.

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We also drove by some ruins – perhaps from the Great Famine, we were told.

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We got a chance to step off the bus for some fresh air and to admire the gorgeous view.

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So peaceful and quaint!

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And some lovely neighbours too!

Once we were back on the Slea Head Drive, we spotted the Sleeping Giant!

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Can you spot him?

The Sleeping Giant or the Dead Man (An Fear Marbh) is actually the island of Inishtooskert or¬†Inis Tuaisceart.¬†Inis Tuaisceart¬†means¬†“northern island” in Irish Gaelic.

This island forms part of the Blasket Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Since 1953, the Blasket Islands no longer had any human inhabitants, as it was deemed unsafe to live there. The Blasket Islands are home to lots of wildlife however, including seabirds, whales and dolphins. Even though no one lives on the Blasket Islands anymore, you can take a boat tour and spend a day visiting the Great Blasket Island. We think it would be a grand adventure!

Inis Tuaisceart really does look like a Sleeping Giant, doesn’t it?

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Then Dunmore Head came into view. Some people would argue that this is the westernmost point of Ireland and mainland Europe. What a breathtaking vista! As you may already have noted from our previous posts on Inis Mór, I have a thing for cliffs, the ocean, crashing waves and gorgeous scenery! So I was happy just admiring the scenery, committing it all to memory and snapping away on my camera.

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We made a stop at Coumeenoole Beach. Just one look at it gave me goosebumps Рwith its green jagged cliffs, the smooth sand and the crashing waves coming in from the Atlantic Ocean.

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This next photograph is one of my favourites from Day 6 of our All Ireland Rocker tour. It is rugged beauty at its finest.

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The mesmerizing waves rolling in from the wild Atlantic Ocean – seemingly calm in the distance but gathering speed and force as they crash onto the rocks and onto the beach.

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Look at this gorgeous stretch of beach! Who would have thought Ireland would have beaches like this – certainly not me! (Same goes for Scotland!)

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Legend has it that if you dip your toes into this part of the Atlantic Ocean, the ocean claims a piece of your soul. You have 20 years to return and claim that part of your soul again. We don’t know whether we actually lost our souls here, but we know a piece of our hearts was left behind in this beautiful and wild part of the Emerald Isle.

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Leaving our souls and footprints on Coumeenoole Beach. This is another one of my favourite photographs from today!

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I was so glad we had plenty of time here – exploring the rocks, reflecting and staring out at the ocean and admiring the power of the waves! (See – it’s my fascination with waves and ocean and water showing through again!)

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I would never leave such a gorgeous place without a ballet photograph!

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The lighting at this time made for some dramatic photographs and we just couldn’t help taking a bunch of fun photographs!

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Gazing…

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And the gazing continues…

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I think it would be amazing to make the Slea Head Drive early in the morning and catch the sunrise right here – at Coumeenoole Beach. What an experience that would be! It’s on the list for our future road trip through Ireland! But for now, there was more exploring in store for us!

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Leaving Coumeenoole Beach and a piece of our souls… We’ll be back in 20 years!

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Stay tuned for the next part of the Slea Head Drive!

Ioana and Natalie
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Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 6: From Ennis to Dingle

After a great night out in Ennis, complete with Irish dancing and trad music, we set off for Day 6 of our All Ireland Rocker tour. And it would be a good one! We were off to the Dingle Peninsula to check out the westernmost area of Ireland. Some would even argue this to be the most westerly point of Europe (excluding Iceland!).

We had a bit of a drive from Ennis to our destination. We were glad, since that gave us a chance to relax and check out the scenery that was passing by. On our way, we passed by Bunratty Castle Рa 15th century Tower House. It is now a famous tourist attraction, holding medieval castle banquets complete with a lord and lady, musicians, period costumes and entertainment!

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Bunratty Castle

We also caught a glimpse of some ruins from the highway. I wonder what this used to be and what its history is… I think a road trip through Ireland may be in order – so we can explore small towns, castle ruins and stay as long or as short as we like!

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We also made a stop to take in the gorgeous views of Tralee Bay.

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The green of Ireland still amazes me. We live in the Pacific Northwest, in a temperate rainforest. And we think we get a lot of rain – hence Raincouver… But our green is still nothing compared to the green of Ireland.

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We finally drove into Dingle just before lunchtime.

Dingle or¬†Dingle/Daingean U√≠ Ch√ļis, is a town on – you guessed it – the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Most visitors, like us, stop here before or after the Slea Head drive.

After getting off the bus, we were greeted by one of Dingle’s most famous residents – Fungie the Bottlenose Dolphin! It is said that Fungie has been living in the waters surrounding Dingle since 1983. He is apparently friendly with swimmers, surfers and divers. He is quite a celebrity in town – he even has his own Instagram account!

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Fungie!

We were given some time to stroll around Dingle and to stop for lunch, before the highlight of our day – the Slea Head Drive.

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Taking in colourful Dingle!

Wandering into a cute little stone archway, we came across Danno’s Restaurant and Bar. I settled for one of their specials – the Smoked Salmon P√Ęt√© dish, while Ioana got the clam chowder.

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We still had some time after our lunch, so we went for a wee wander around Dingle. Love the colourful buildings!

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And we couldn’t stop in Dingle without trying Murphy’s ice cream! Their ice creams are made with fresh and natural ingredients, right in Dingle. They even boast using “milk from the rare and indigenous breed of Kerry cow.” How could we not try it?

I got a scoop of Irish Whiskey and a scoop of Kerry Cream. Even though it wasn’t a sunny or warm day, the ice cream was just perfect – creamy, rich and flavourful! (We just discovered they have a branch in Dublin! Might need to stop by on our next trip!)

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After finishing our ice cream, we headed back to Fungie and the carpark – excited for our next adventure and highlight of the day. Next up is the Slea Head drive!

Stay tuned for some epic photographs of waves, cliffs, beaches and beautiful sunsets – basically all of my favourite things!

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Ioana and Natalie

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Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 5: Overnight in Ennis!

After the Cliffs of Moher, everyone on our tour was pretty much tired out! Our guide Gillian clearly understood this because we made no stops on the way to our hostel! That night, we would be staying in the town of Ennis!

Lovely River View from our Hostel

Ennis is the largest town in County Clare and the 11th largest in all of Ireland! It is on the River Fergus, which offers some splendid views! We didn’t have much time to actually explore the city, and this is the only downside of being on a tour. You are on a set schedule – which means the you might not have time to explore the cities that you may want to see more of. But as we said countless times before, this is just another reason for us to return to Ireland and delve deeper into its hidden treasures!

As we were arriving in Ennis, Gillian was telling us a tentative plan for the night: get to the hostel, go eat dinner, then head out for some live music and Irish dancing! We were a tad over excited for the Irish dancing since we had been anticipating it since we had been in Galway! Not only this but Ennis and County Clare in general, is known for its abundance of traditional Irish music!

Our hostel for the night would be the Rowan Tree Hostel. It was a lovely escape from some of the smaller, cramped rooms we had stayed in. The hostel was right in the centre of Ennis, so it was close to all the pubs, shops and lovely town sights.

Our room held 8 people but it was airy and large enough so we didn’t feel like there were so many of us sleeping in one room! After unpacking what needed to be unpacked and finally taking a much needed shower,¬†we set out to explore Ennis.

Exploring the Streets of Ennis

We decided to grab some snacks for our bus ride tomorrow and what better place to do this than the local Tesco! If we haven’t already mentioned before, Tesco became the place where we could find good, cheap lunches to take with us everyday! (And delicious cheese and onion Pringles – which we became addicted to and have not been able to find here at home!!)

Walking to Tesco, we saw a bit of Ennis but most stores were already closed, seeing as it was almost dinner time! We grabbed our snacks for the following day and headed back to our hostel. Walking along Francis Street, we saw some lovely sites, like this local Roman Catholic Church built in the Gothic style!

Church of the Immaculate Conception on Francis Street

For dinner, Gillian organized our whole group to have dinner at the little restaurant adjoining our hostel! Who would have thought we would be eating Mediterranean food in a town in Ireland! The Rowan Tree Cafe Bar offered a delicious selection of food at very affordable prices. We decided that since it had been a long day, we deserved a glass of wine! To accompany it, I had the Baked Wicklow Brie – a lovely platter of Brie with Pear Chutney and crusty loaf!!! Unfortunately, I was so hungry I didn’t even get to take a picture of it… You’ll just have to trust me when I say it was delicious ;). Natalie and another trip mate shared a salad and the Pizza Margheritta. It was just as delicious as my Brie platter, I would know I took a bite =D.

After satisfying our stomachs and relaxing for a bit, we made our way to what would be the highlight of our evening!!! Following Gillian’s advice, we headed over to the Knox Pub for an evening of traditional Irish music and dance. As mentioned before, in Galway we had been robbed of the opportunity to try¬†Irish dancing and this night in Ennis would be the night we learned how to do it.

After obviously – having a pint or two, we headed up to the empty part of the Knox Pub so that Gillian could give us a crash course on how to dance like the Irish! Although we were amazingly uncoordinated, it was probably one of the most fun nights on our tour. Don’t let anybody tell you Irish dancing is a breeze… its upbeat tempo and constant need for coordination with your own limbs and everyone else’s, can make you out of breath in seconds!! Of course by the end of Gillian’s lesson, we were all well on our way to becoming experts in the art of Irish dancing :P.

County Clare is known for its amazing abundance of traditional music hot spots, especially in Ennis. Gillian knew this and we were able to sit in a very cozy setting to listen to some live local musicians playing some great trad music! It was amazing to say the least and almost made me want to stay in Ennis and just learn how to play alongside them!

Authentic Irish Music – Live!

For me, that was probably the best part of the trip, getting to meet some excellent musicians and have them take requests from our small group in such an excellent setting as the Knox Pub.

Our evening in Ennis was one to remember, that’s for sure, and although we didn’t get to see much of the town, we know we will be returning sometime in the future to explore further!!!

Up next on Day 6 of our Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker tour, we head to Killarney for the night. Get ready to learn about some “beautiful beaches, sheer cliffs and stunning views!”

Stay tuned!

Ioana and Natalie
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