Travel journal: Ireland

When I joined Becca and Clara on this blog, I suggested introducing wanderlust as a new topic to the site. So far, however, I haven’t had any specific ideas about how to do so. Since I don’t want to let this idea go, I think I just start by posting a “travel journal” about my latest trip, which led me to the wonderful island and country of Ireland.

Day 1-2: Dublin

We drove to Glasnevin cemetery straight from the airport, cause first things first – right? Glasnevin cemetery is the biggest cemetery in Ireland. It opened in 1832 and up to today more than one million people have found their eternal rest there.

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I find Dublin is a very busy, crowded and noisy city. Yet there are so many wonderful places to visit and so much history to devour. Here are some of the sites we visited and which I would highly recommend to anybody when in Dublin:

St Michan’s Church: The current church structure dates back to 1686, and besides from a lovely little churchyard St. Michan’s is known for its vaults, where you can see some 400-year-old mummies. Rumor has it that Bram Stoker visited the vaults several times … Also, George Frideric Handel is said to have played on the Organ Trophy inside the church. Guided tours to the vaults are 6 Euros.

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The Library of Trinity College: The Library of Trinity College in Dublin is famous for the so-called “Long Room” of the Old Library – which is pretty long indeed: It measures 65 metres and is home to 200,000 books! Tickets are 11 Euros and also enable you to visit the Book of Kells exhibition.

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Natural History Museum: This place is oftentimes referred to as “Dead zoo”, for it houses 10,000 exhibits, ranging from animals native to Ireland (extinct and living) to exotic creatures from around the world. The museum opened its doors in 1856, and since then nothing much has changed – preserving the flair of Victorian times, this museum has also been featured in the third season of Penny Dreadful! Entrance is free, the most impressive exhibits sure are the skeletons of Giant Irish Elks.

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Day 3: Leaving Dublin for Galway

On our way to Galway we stopped several times to satisfy our thirst for the beautiful ruins Ireland is so famous for. The first one we stopped by was the monastery of Clonmacnoise, founded as early as 544. Clonmacnoise comprises the ruins of one cathedral, several churches and two rounds towers. I think it is one of the largest (if not the largest) preserved ruin in the country. It is quite popular among tourists, so you better be there early in the day, right after they open up. Entrance fee is 6 Euros.

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Further, we visited Ross Errily Friary, a medieval Franciscan friary. It is open to the public day and night, and I think it is the most beautiful old friary that we visited. I was totally surprised to see that Ross Errily is still used as burial ground for local residents!

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Day 4: Cliffs of Moher

After spending the night in Galway, we drove south to get to the cliffs of Moher, which, at their highest peak, reach a height of 214 metres. We also took a ferry from Doolin to see the cliffs from below! Again, the Cliffs of Moher are really popular among tourists, and you are likely to encounter busloads of them.

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Day 5: Adare, Ennis Friary, and Grange stone circle

On day 5, we visited the ruins of Ennis Friary, an old Franciscan monastery. The ruins are very well preserved, and a new roof has been built in order to establish a visitor centre. Entrance fee is 4 Euros, and the place was not overrun by tourists – which, after visiting the Cliffs of Moher the day before, I welcomed. Since day 5 of our round trip was a Sunday, the old town of Ennis, which seemed lovely, was rather deserted.

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Therefore we moved on to the lovely little village of Adare, known for its thatched cottages and a Trinitarian Abbey. In Adare we had some delicious afternoon tea!

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Last thing we did before searching a place for dinner was stopping by the Grange stone circle, located near Lough Gur in country Limerick. Built around 2,200 B.C., Grange stone circle was by far the oldest site we paid a visit to. It is the largest standing stone circle in Ireland, 150 feet in diameter and enclosed by 113 standing stones. On the morning of Summer Solstice, the sun shines down right in the centre of it, and it is assumed the site served for ritual purposes. It’s really sad that today these stones serve no purpose at all, except delight an occasional tourist like me …

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Day 6: Ring of Kerry

We spent most of day 6 in our car, driving on the Ring of Kerry down to Killarney National Park, just stopping any time we found the landscape admirable (which happened a lot!). I was glad my boyfriend did all the driving, for the roads were all bendy and at times pretty narrow. Also, it allowed me to focus on the landscape, characterised by innumerable little insulars, all deserted and ruled by Mother Nature alone. We took a detour to visit the cemetery on Abbey Island, a beautiful cemetery with a view of the sea.

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Day 7: Killarney and the Rock of Cashel

We got up early and spent the morning exploring Killarney, paying visits to Ross Castle (where we spotted some deer nearby the road!) and Muckross Abbey. After that, we hiked for a little while through Killarney National Park and had breakfast at the Meeting of the Waters, a viewpoint where the Upper Lake, Middle Lake and Lower Lake (also known as Lough Leane) come together. This was such a charming, secluded spot, my boyfriend and I spent our breakfast listening to the twittering of birds, and breathing fresh air. Not a single fellow tourist in sight!

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At around 1 pm we left Killarney for Dublin, stopping halfway for a visit of the Rock of Cashel, a fortress dating back to the 12th century, and famous for its St. Patrick’s Cross. Unfortunately, most of the site was under construction – what a bummer!

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Day 8: Back in Dublin

Back in Dublin, we divided our last day in Ireland between a visit to the Dublin Writers Museum and Mount Jerome Cemetery. The Dublin Writers Museum is situated in a beautiful 18th-century-house! While I found the exhibition quite interesting, I found myself a little disappointed by the book shop, where I expected myself to spent lots of money on some beautiful editions of Dracula or Sheridan Le Fanu’s books, yet only found some rather simple (yet inexpensive) editions … I also hoped for fancy souvenirs like busts of famous Irish writers, but except for some mugs and a couple of pencils the museum shop just didn’t meet my expectations. Still, I would highly recommend visiting this place to anybody with an interest in literature!

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Sure, Mount Jerome Cemetery can’t exactly keep up with Glasnevin cemetery, yet it is also a great place for everyone who enjoys a good cemetery walk. The only thing that quite startled me was the lack of green in the form of flowers, trees, bushes etc. This cemetery, at least to some extent, felt like a wasteland to me!

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I can’t believe it’s almost three months again since we traveled Ireland. Due to our lack of time, we unfortunately didn’t get to see anything of Northern Ireland, which is supposed to be any less beautiful. Well, next time then!

Lisa v. D.

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