I’m back in Brighton after my short break in Ireland. For those of you uninterested in travelogues and holiday snaps, look away now.
Jessica and I flew into Dublin airport on Wednesday where we met up with Jeb and Justin. The airport was packed with the families of Irish soldiers who had been away serving with the UN. It was a bit disconcerting to walk out and face a sea of anxious, excited people. Every time someone in uniform walked out, a cheer went up.
We hopped in a taxi to our hotel. As the one person in our group capable of understanding a Dublin taxi driver, I sat up front.
Once we got to the hotel, I made a call to my good friend Diarmaid. We all met up and went into town to engage in the Dublin custom of "having a few scoops".
This was my first time being in an Irish pub since the introduction of the ban on smoking. It was… different. I couldn’t tell if the subdued atmosphere in the pub was due to the lack of smoke or simply the fact that it was a midweek night.
The next morning however, I noticed a big difference. For the first time, my clothes from the night before didn’t stink of smoke.
After a morning stroll around Dublin, we piled into our rental car and started going in a westerly direction. Navigating out of the city was a little tricky but once we left Dublin behind us, everything went smoothly. Jeb was a dab hand at driving on the left, taking every roundabout with ease.
After a leisurely drive, including a lunchtime stop in Athlone, we arrived in Galway in the early evening. After settling in at our bed and breakfast, it was time to hit the town.
I love Galway. Who doesn’t? It’s a beautiful medieval town with a vibrant social scene i.e. the pubs are great. It’s also home to one of the finest seafood restaurants in the country. That’s where we ate, but not before I had met up with an old friend for a pint in Tigh Coili’s.
Drinking a good pint, listening to some great tunes and chatting with an old friend: it doesn’t get much better than that.
Before the night was over we had sampled the pints in a further two pubs, all of them good.
The next day was mostly spent inside the car. We were a bit ambitious with our plan to get from Galway to Kerry via the cliffs of Moher, but we managed it. Mind you, we did get completely lost somewhere along the way in the middle of county Clare. Still, driving down tiny roads with incomprehensible signs is all part of the Irish tourist experience.
So while the navigating wasn’t great, from a culinary point of view the day was a great success. We drove out to Doolin specifically to go to McGann’s where the Irish stew and seafood chowder are second to none.
After a day of looking at the scenery and castles of Clare, we ended up making it all the way to Killarney in the evening. Being a tourist mecca, finding a B&B took no time at all.
Killarney is where Diarmaid’s family lives so I gave him a call and found out which pub his father normally pops into on a Friday night. I hadn’t seen Diarmaid’s dad in over ten years but when I walked into the pub, he recogised me straight away.
As well as having a good old natter about times past, Diarmaid’s dad also passed on some useful local sporting info to Jeb and Justin. They wanted to go golfing and they had come to the right place. You can’t swing a cat in Killarney without hitting a golf course.
The next morning, having no interest in swinging cats or golf clubs, Jessica and I went for a walk through Killarney national park while the Jeb and Justin hit a little white ball around the countryside.
After walking through the chocolate-box-cover scenery down to Ross castle, we hopped on a horse and cart back to town where we met up with the golfers.
Our driving itinerary for the day was mercifully short. We went on a short and simple drive from Killarney to my hometown of Cobh in county Cork. My mother was happy to see us and took us all out for a meal at the rather excellent Jacob’s Ladder restaurant.
Afterwards we retired to the pub and met up with my old friend Gerard. We weren’t planning to stay long but the Murphys was flowing freely, we had a lot to talk about and there was no cigarette smoke driving us out.
The benefits of the clean atmosphere became apparent the next day. Despite imbibing many pints of Cork’s finest, my head was remarkably clear. My voice, on the other hand, was extremely rough but that was due to the volume of the pub stereo. There are no plans for any legislation on noise pollution in Irish pubs.
It was our last day so we drove back to Dublin, stopping at the Rock of Cashel along the way. We made good time, even managing to get to the Guinness storehouse before heading to the airport for our flight.
One short flight later and our holiday was over. Looking back, we managed to pack a heck of a lot of sightseeing into such a short time. Amazingly, the weather was really good the whole time. I put this down to the fact that I didn’t bring my sunglasses: if I had, it would have rained the whole time.
Enough talk. Here are the pictures.