Road Tripping with Andrew

Andrew (my younger brother) has been visiting us in Ireland this week, so I took 3 days off work to show him around a bit of the countryside. I’d already seen the south of Ireland when Mum and Dad visited back in June last year, so I decided that this time we’d drive across to Galway, see the Cliffs of Moher and then head up the west coast to Sligo and on to Belfast.

We left on Wednesday morning and just got back this afternoon. We had a pretty good time. Our hire car was a silver Toyota Auris, a fairly small but powerful enough car. It was no match for Ireland’s dirty roads however and by the time we stopped in Gort (~2 hours west of Dublin) for lunch it was already filthy with accumulated dirt and grime from the motorway. This situation didn’t improve over the following four days and by the time we returned it the car looked as if we’d taken it off road for a few laps around a paddock or two. I promise we didn’t!

Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher, which I’d seen before, but I figured they were cool enough that I should show them to Andrew too, judging by his report of it he was suitable impressed. We stayed the night in Galway and I confirmed my impression that Galway is a pretty cool town that I wouldn’t mind visiting again for a weekend before we leave Ireland.

Day 2, we drove from Galway to Sligo, via Connemara which is an area of the country that I found very reminiscent of the Central Plateau of the North Island in New Zealand, very rocky with lots of tussock and various wild animals (sheep, etc) roaming around and thinking they own the roads. It was during this portion of the journey that we missed the road sign telling us to turn right and ended up venturing into Irish heartland where the roadsigns are not in English and the road gets narrower and narrower until we had water on three sides and couldn’t go any further. All good fun.

Every Irish person that I’ve talked to has mentioned Sligo in a disparaging fashion but it seemed like a reasonable place to me from the quick impression that I got. The town centre was reasonably modern and much cleaner than Dublin. From Sligo we travelled on into Northern Ireland, admiring the Loughs (lakes), hills and waterfalls along the way. Much of the countryside around here is similar to New Zealand if you ignore the old buildings and other obvious signs that Ireland was inhabited long before New Zealand started to develop.

Kat joined us in Belfast on Saturday morning after catching the train up from Dublin and we ventured further northwards to the top of the island and along the beautiful Causeway coast scenic route. The weather was pretty standard: rain, fog and freezing wind. In between there were patches of sun and we managed to get some good photos and enjoy ourselves. The highlight of this portion of the drive was visiting the Giant’s Causeway, a set of naturally occuring Basalt columns that form in hexagonal shapes and extend out into the ocean. We also stopped in at the Bushmills distillery for a bite of lunch and took a tour to learn the tricks of the trade. The tour was actually very good, and unlike the Jameson’s distillery in Dublin, Bushmills actually produces whiskey on site and the tour took us through the factory itself so you got the full experience of the smells involved, some of which are quite strong.

Saturday night was spent in Portrush, a smallish port town that had plenty of trendy restaurants and was obviously a popular tourist spot. We were lucky to get a table in a restaurant straight away and then watched the poor girl at the door having to deal with a steady stream of prospective customers who were having to wait up to 90 minutes for a table! We travelled home today along the east coast of Northern Ireland for some more picturesque sea views and then whizzed down the Motorway from Belfast to Dublin in no time at all!

In total we drove 1400km consuming 6.6L of petrol per 100km on average. Andrew has one more day here in Dublin before leaving at an unearthly hour on Tuesday morning (assuming the Irish air traffic controllers don’t decide to strike on that day) for Canada to visit Chris in Whistler.

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  1. Sounds like a great time was had by all – the weather proving reliably Irish!

    Mmm not sure about the rally driving assurances….

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