10 Reasons I Will Go Back to Ireland

Sitting in Costello's Travel Caffe, I thought it only seemed right to compose a travel-themed blog.  Seriously.  Why have I never been here before?  I have lived in Portland a long time.  This is almost  inexcusable.  But, I found it now.  Wrap-around canvas prints of photos from around the world grace the walls, there is a "travel special" running via tvs around the space and delicious coffee and food.  I even scored a gluten-free donut!  Trust me, that is not easy to find.  And it was tasty.  So I digress.  Back to why I am going to Ireland, sooner than later, ranked in no particular order:

1. Love. I think about Ireland.  A lot.  I am always trying to figure out when I can go back.  I would probably book a flight in a month or two and just go.  But, that might not be the best financial choice.  Or maybe it would be!  Who knows.  When you love something, or usually someone, you want to see them again and will do whatever it takes.  This is how I feel about Ireland.  I have never felt so connected to another place, not even Portland.  I must go back, and sooner, rather than later.

2. Vikings. Not the real Vikings, but the tv show "Vikings" on the History Channel.  After watching the most recent episode, I decided to find out where it was filmed, because it did not look like Norway to me.  And the majority of the outdoor scenes are filmed in the Wicklow Mountains.  Of course they are!  Somehow it escaped me this is an Irish show.

3. Weather.  I experienced every kind of weather you could imagine.  We had more than one windstorm, lots of rain, sun, sleet, snow and hail.  And I still loved it.  It simply invigorated me and I loved being out in it.  And it was January!  If I loved it this much then, how much more would I love it in the Spring or the Fall?  I intend to find out.

4. Music.  What can I say about this?  The music is just as you expect it to be, wild and raucous.  I found one of my most favorite bands ever, the Eskies, at the Shannonside Winter Music Festival in Sixmiledbridge and Bunratty Castle. That was an unexpected treat, and the Eskies now have a lifelong fan.  When I go back to Ireland, I intend to take in more trad sessions and find out where the Eskies are playing, because I am going.  

5. People. The people in Ireland are wonderful.  First, the accents.  I never tire of them.  Full of joy, used to working hard, very wonderful people.  Every where I went, even though technically I was alone, I felt made welcome by shopkeepers, farmers, servers, bartenders....let alone my host Steph and her friends.  They were so hospitable.  I cannot wait to go back and make some more friends.

6. Scenery. Ireland has it all.  Lakes, the sea, beaches, mountains, rolling hills, rocks and so much more.  If you like to fish, go to Ireland.  If you like to golf, go to Ireland.  If you like to hike, go to Ireland.  I think you get the picture.  I intend to go back and explore Connemara and the various peninsulas, Dingle being first and foremost.  And I intend to drive and explore as much of the Wild Atlantic Way as I can.  I picked it up here and there, but I intend to drive all of it. 

7. Alcohol. I definitely did not drink enough whiskey or beer.  I was driving so much, and I wanted to keep my wits about me.  This next trip I intend to settle into some villages for the night where I can walk to a pub and still make my way home without a car.  Be a little more adventurous at night. 

8. Castles. Almost every single castle across the whole of Ireland was closed for the season, except for Bunratty.  I am grateful I was able to spend an afternoon exploring it and an evening at the Medieval Banquet, but there are so many more I did not get into!  Dunluce Castle in the north, Trim Castle, Slane Castle...I don't know, you get the picture.  I want to go when things are open, not closed.

9. Giant's Causeway. I am still pissed I did not get to see the Causeway.  And the Antrim Coast.  The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, one of the harbors where they filmed "Game of Thrones".  The weather was scary windy.  But, this time, I will go up North via Donegal, rather heading up the Eastern side of Ireland.

10. Daylight. If I would have had even 2 more hours of daylight, I could have got around a lot more.  So, I intend to return when I at least might have a full 12 hours of daylight.  I knew going in January I would only get about 8 hours a day, but I intend to go back when I can explore to my heart's content and still have light well into the evening.

 

 

The Day That Wasn't.

**This was written last night, the 28th**

I am disappointed to say I never made it to Giant's Causeway, but I did find Dunluce Castle, on my host's recommendation at the guest house last night  I thought I was going to get blown off the cliff! Me and the Micra, over we go.  Didn't happen.  I actually made it all the way to the Visitor Centre, paid the admission fee, and then found out it would be a 25-minute walk to the Causeway.  Not happening in this wind.  I did find out "Dracula Untold" was filmed at the Causeway. I guess I can go online and look at pictures.  

 

Sometimes you just gotta heed the signs, and today was one of those days.  The weather was crazy!  You could see the storm blowing in across the Atlantic.  Snow, wind, rain, sleet, breaks of sun...you name it.  I have never been out in wind like that.  I thought I lost my hat (found it later in my hood), almost lost my phone and I thought I lost my lens cap for my camera, which was somehow in the leg of my pants.  

I don't know what was going on, but I was not about to risk it any further and decided to get the hell out of there.  I stopped in at Bushmills, did not do the tour but did come back with a bottle of reserve whiskey only produced for and sold at the Distillery.  I just wanted to get out of there before I got stuck.  And I did.  I headed South through Antrim, bypassing Belfast.  I had no desire to go to the city whatsoever.  In fact, I don't think I have any desire to go back to Northern Ireland.  I would only maybe want to see the Antrim Coast, but I don't know if it's even worth that.

My destination point today was Slane.  Yesterday on my way through County Meath to Bushmills, I promised myself on the way back I would stay over in Slane.  There are many more historical sights I wanted to see that I missed on my way up in my haste to go North.  And, the weather was looking very sketchy so there was no way I was making it back to the cottage today.  

Before I went to Slane today, I took a slight detour over to Drogheda and ended up on an inlet of the Irish Sea.  I'd been North to the ocean, so why not East to the sea.  I found a rock beach littered with shells!  Whole shells, not all busted like at home.  I picked up a handful to take home while I spent a few minutes walking around in the sunshine near the water.  I needed the break after coming down from Northern Ireland and just wanted to get to the sunshine and the sea.

 

I ended up checking into the Conyngham Arms Hotel, right in the center of Slane Village. I had no reservation but they had rooms.  And what a room!  Gorgeous bed, two in fact!  A Nespresso machine, and even robes.  My room looks out over the main street of the village.  If you ever come to Slane, do yourself a favor and stay here.  Oh, and breakfast is included. 

Before dinner I was out walking around, walked down to the Boyne River, around the gate to Slane Castle, and took more photos of random things.  Snow was falling on and off, and I decided if I got stuck here, I would be totally fine with it.  I'm always experimenting with and learning about taking photos.  So, I always get some weird shots, some especially weird shots of the church bell tower tonight.  I have discovered I really like wandering around taking photos in the dark.  Yup, I'm weird.  As I was taking photos, the church bells rang to let me know it was 6pm. I stopped and paused to listen. It was perfect.


At dinner I had great conversation with one of the servers, Moira.  Dinner was incredible!  Grilled chicken breast with kale and garlic tiny potatoes in a red wine mushroom sauce. Delicious!! So when you travel alone, you are never really alone. Last night and this morning I had tons of conversation with the owners of Fin Mac Cool's guest house.  It's so fun to sit and listen to people.  I think their lives are so interesting and being with them enriches mine.

It's still pretty early, but I think I might turn in.  Lots of driving in the last few days.  And, there are quite a few more things I want to see before I go back to the cottage tomorrow.  Slane Hill, Battle of the Boyne, Kells, the tombs at Loughcrew....lots and lots and lots.  We'll see how far I get.  Luckily, breakfast is at half-seven tomorrow, so I can get an early start on my day.  I'm going to try and see if there's a way I can get in to see the Slane Castle.  Apparently it's become quite the concert venue.  If it's not open, maybe I'll just have to find another way in, through the woods or something.  Where there's a will, there's a way...