From Derry I went back into the Republic, specifically Galway. It’s a little funny; I’ve been near Galway twice, but never been … even though it’s consistently a place that people rave about.
After visiting, I kinda get it. It has the amenities of a bigger town like Dublin, but it’s still tiny and less harried. The city centre has some busy pedestrian streets, and it’s riddled with lovely old canals. The people were friendly and the music was good; it has basically everything people come to Ireland looking for.
Galway was also awesome because I have a friend who moved out there a few months back. It was really good to catch up. I’ll keep in touch!
Uh, stuff! I took a bus tour through Connemara. The highlights were Kylemore Abbey and the ruins Ross Errily Friary, but the whole thing was great. It’s a horrible landscape for farming and raising animals, but beautiful nevertheless. The driver also talked about the effects of the blight in the area. It was a good tour.
Otherwise, I wandered around Galway. Lots of coffee, lots of pictures. A reasonable amount of beer (I went to listen to some trad the first night). Lots and lots of tea, courtesy my host through airbnb (she was lovely). Good times!
Onto Portmagee! Meaning Bus Éireann from Galway to Limerick, then Killarney, then Cahersiveen, and finally a taxi (!!) to Portmagee, a tiny village on the Ring of Kerry. Why would I ever go to such a place?
The Skelligs, of course. Two little islands off the coast of Ireland. From Portmagee (and some other towns, admittedly) you can hire a boat to take you to Skellig Michael and visit the ruins of a sixth century monastery. Unfortunately, when I got there (Tuesday night, I think?) the people I talked to said that they hadn’t been able to visit the island for several days because the sea was too choppy.
I lucked out. 😀 The last boats made the crossing on Saturday; on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday it was closed; on Wednesday (the day I went) the boats were able to cross; on Thursday, it shut down again. The boat ride out lasted an hour and a half. It wasn’t too bad, but I couldn’t imagine what it must’ve been like for the original inhabitants and pilgrims rowing across the open waters. At the landing the boat bobbed up and down three or four feet, making getting on and off more fun than usual. The tour guide said we were the first boat since Star Wars had left the previous weekend, and that when the sea was choppy water would flood across the landing from both sides.
Anyway, the island in brief. Very craggy, with lots of exposed rock jutting out everywhere. There are two peaks, with a grassy “saddle” in between. The monastery is near the top of one peak, on some terraced land protected from the wind.
Here’s the thing: The place went virtually untouched after being abandoned in the 11th century. You can see what it was actually like. Most of the buildings and walls were built using drystone construction; that’s to say, they placed the rocks there without any mortar to hold things together. There’s no source of fresh water on the island, so they had to construct cisterns to catch the rain.
Definitely worth visiting.
After that, I hung out in Portmagee for another few days. There was a nice pub in town. I walked over the bridge to Valentia Island, and walked over and around Bray Head. I might’ve spent a day catching up with stuff I had to do on the computer.
Finally it was time to leave Ireland. I took the taxi-bus-bus combo back to Limerick, then one last express bus to Dublin. One of my friends hosted me (thanks, dude!); I had one last going away party.
Then I left.