A Woman Abroad // Ireland
Eire’ll be back.
A small island with a big heart and boy do they know it. I’ve never met more consciously humble individuals in one place. I spent four months in Ireland during what I am told is the worst time of year; Winter. Days were short and the rain rarely ceased. It was cold, perpetually damp and windy. Sunshine was revered and rejoiced by you guessed it, a pint. I spent most of my days in Cork, the second largest city in Ireland, located in the Southeast corner of the island.
Cork is busy, it’s bustling with college students and the local airport and train station make it a hot spot for Stag and Hen Dos (the Euro version of Bachelor/Bachelorette parties). Cork likes to party. And so do I but I often found myself searching for the quiet, remote Ireland I was certain existed.
So I did. My favorite thing about Cork was the ability to take a short bus ride and see an entirely different landscape. The first trek I made was to Ballycotton, a small fishing village right on the coast. It was a miserable day. I hiked 8km on slippery and jagged cliffs, through farmland and down the one road that takes you to the center of Ballycotton; where I ate at the one cafe and had a Beamish at one of two pubs. The bartender, a gruff older man inquired as to why I came to Ballycotton. I said, “A friend told me it was beautiful so I thought I’d see it for myself.”
His reply “Aye, rocks an’ water.”
The esteemed Blarney Castle is close by too. I went on an off day in mid-January and the place was so empty I walked right past the Blarney Stone. It wasn’t until one of the men sitting at the top of the castle (who was jamming out to Beyonce) asked if I wanted to kiss it.
“Teh Blarney, love. Wouldjah lie ter give it ah kiss?”
It wasn’t until May that I made my way to the West coast. Starting in Dublin, Rachel and I looped South and eventually crossed over and in to Northern Ireland. My favorite thing about Dublin? Howth, another small harbor village. It’s serene. It’s cute. And most importantly, it’s quiet. After even just one night in Dublin it’s easy to understand why anyone would like a day out of the city. The music pumps and the pints flow until the wee hours of the next day.
The West Coast’s gem is the Ring of Kerry. It’s overrun with tourist busses these days which make the narrow and windy roads just that much more intimidating but the views are worth every pinched turn.
Continuing North to Galway, you can catch a morning ferry to the largest Aran Island where you will find thatch roofs, stone walls, stone walls and more stone walls.
I even spotted a furry friend on the bike ride.
Then en route to the (far) North we stopped off at the Cliffs of Moher, a towering monstrosity of cliffs that are safest to look over if you lay flat on your belly. It was there I crossed paths with this man who thought it better to jig a bit every few steps along the safer, fenced in parts just outside of the tourist office.
I didn’t know that I had crossed over until I saw petrol prices labeled in British Pounds. It was much too quick of jaunt up, we stopped off at Giant’s Causeway, where once again the Irish have a secret with only folklore to explain it.
The decision was made to spend the night in Bushmills so we could take the “Other” Whiskey Tour and as luck would have it we wound up having pints with Kenny, the Master Distiller. It wasn’t until the following morning we realized we were in the company of Whiskey Royalty. We had missed the tour the night before and decided to wake early for the 11am. Our lovely guide took us into the belly of the whale when a smiling face looked up at us and waved. “Aye! Gurls! I seeyas got ‘ome alrigh.”
Ireland is what you make of it. For too many it’s just a weekend of binging in search of “heritage.” But as I always will, I implore you to look deeper, sit longer and discover what you will.