Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Ireland holds a special place for me - it's where my mother was born and came from, and it is where many of my cousins live.
There is something very special about Ireland - for a tiny island it has so much history and places to visit. It is dense given its relatively small size. From the 'Ancient East' to the 'Wild Atlantic Way' on the West coast - there is history literally around every corner.
A tradition has started with one of my cousins who takes us out for one day each trip for an expedition that has included caves. Ireland is made of limestone and has some amazing caves with some of the biggest stalactites and stalagmites in the world. From Mitchelstown Caves in Tipperary to Doolin Caves in County Kerry and Aliwee Caves in the Burren. Each is a fascinating walk through geological history.
The river Liffey in Dublin - the water is black as it comes from the Wicklow Mountains and filters through the bog, which is pitch black peat giving the water in the Liffey a decidedly Guinness-like appearance.
Mitcheltown Cave in Tipperary - about an hour south of the Rock of Cashel. Mitchelstown Cave is a limestone cave near Burncourt, County Tipperary, Ireland and became the first cave in Ireland to be developed for the public in 1972. The guide we had was fantastic - knowledgeable and a lot of fun. The cave is enormous - a lot of fun to go through, though it does require some maneuvering around corners and low ceilings.
The Wild Atlantic Way
Check out some of our videos travelling the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) on Ireland's West coast here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcH2nqliObaRHPIWqWOxX8A
The West Coast of Ireland has some of the most dramatic cliffs, mountains and valleys on this island. One of our favourite hostels ever is Abbeywood House in Westport, run by Susan and Guillaume. It is an old monastery turned in to a hostel with private rooms as well as some small dorms. Susan and Gillaume have always been so fun to stay with - both of them are very welcoming and gracious; a place we highly recommend (https://www.abbeywoodhouse.com/).
Abbeywood House: dining hall (in the old chapel)
Abbeywood House: a tip we'd provide is get an upstairs floor if possible - great view of Croak Patrick (where St. Patrick banished the earth-based religions (aka 'snakes'))
Abbeywood House: view of Croak Patrick (with the built-in zoom on my point-and-shoot Sony camera - paid $350 at the time here in Vancouver)
Abbeywood House: main floor - www.abbeywoodhouse.com
Abbeywood House: room #7 upstairs - it was a chilly night, but the room and bed were toasty warm
Along the Wild Atlantic Way you will find the town of 'Cong' where the old Maureen O'Hara / John Wayne movie, The Silent Man, was filmed. It is a cool little place with the Monk's fishing house - they were quite smart those Monks - built an opening in the floor to fish during cold stormy weather (see video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVMb_ju86b0&t=4s).
Cong, County Connamara: Monk's Fishing House
You can check out the video for Westport and Cong here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVMb_ju86b0&t=4s
This is another of those places we return to every chance we get. Galway has over 1000 years of history, and there are still parts of the town in existence from almost that long ago. The Spanish Arch was built in 1584 but is an extension of the 12th century Norman -built town wall, which stretched from Martin’s Tower to the riverbank. Over the years we have witnessed a type of gentrification of Galway - the local shops and independent eateries giving way to corporate conformity, which is quite sad. The main part of the old town is still pretty good, but the streets just outside of the old town are changing, and within old town it is losing some of its charm. Places we used to love to stop in at to eat are now the same eating establishment we have here in Vancouver. The homogenization of the world by American business is killing culture, unfortunately. That said, there is still enough local enterprise happening to make Galway well worth the visit. Another favourite eating establishment is McCambridges (no, not a play on another 'Mc' restaurant) - it is the name of the owners (or was, not sure the McCambridges are still involved). McCambridges has been a restaurant in Galway, in this location, since 1925; family owned and run - downstairs from the restaurant you can purchase cheese, coffee, wine and other charcuterie items.