After leaving England we flew to Ireland, the start of our farewell European trip. We have spent the last week driving around Ireland, starting with 3 nights in Dublin. I actually personally found Dublin a little disappointing. Andre really enjoyed being able to visit the Guinness Storehouse though, which admittedly is the most extravagant brewery exhibition I have ever visited (and somehow, I have visited a lot.)
It was also pretty cool to visit the Trinity College library where we saw the Book of Kells (an extravagantly decorated 1000+ year old copy of the four gospels) and the Long Room. The Chester Beatty library is also worth visiting, although with our limited time frame we restricted ourselves mostly to the old biblical manuscripts – some of them the oldest known copies of that particular book or passage in the world, the oldest of which was dated to about 200AD. We also looked through the Muslim and Buddhist sections, where Andre was pretty excited to see an old set of traditional Japanese armour. We also visited the archaeology branch of the National Museum, which contained many examples of ‘leprechaun gold’ – gold worked by the first people who inhabited Ireland, who were significantly shorter than the following race who turned up to Ireland!
From Dublin we hired a car – which in itself was an achievement, as every hire company’s website claimed not to accept debit cards. We read anecdotes from people who said they’d had no problems using debit cards with Budget though, so we went with them and they accepted our debit card without question. We drove north first to visit the neolithic burial mounds Newgrange and Knowth.
When you arrive at the site, you start at the visitors’ centre where you pay for admission to either the Visitor Centre exhibition, Newgrange, Knowth or all of them. I was a bit shocked that the next available tour to Newgrange wasn’t for three hours, which put a bit of a twist in our plans as we’d planned to get to Galway relatively early in the afternoon to have time to look around. Well, Andre really wanted to see both burial mounds, so we bought tickets for both. I personally would have preferred to see Newgrange over Knowth anyway, so I’m glad we got a chance to see it. There was a trip to Knowth 45 minutes after we arrived, so we got onto that pretty quickly. Knowth is a lot more impressive from the outside than the inside. It has lots of very cool rock carvings on enormous curb rocks around the mound, as well as two entrances, one on either side – it is a double-chambered burial mound. It also has lots of satellite mounds which makes the whole site look rather impressive. However you can’t really go into either of the chambers – the entrance you can go into has one room off to the side which has been concreted up with a few interpretive signs, and there is a gate you can look through into one of the chambers, but that’s it. Newgrange on the other hand, you can actually go into the burial chamber. It reminded me a lot of Maes Howe on Orkney Island, except bigger. It also doesn’t have any satellite mounds immediately near it (the closest would probably be about a kilometre away) and its front wall is covered in white quartz rocks which is quite a striking appearance.
We did eventually get to Galway though, and despite our short time there we both quite liked it. We had a wander through the pedestrian town centre (which was all decked out in maroon and white for the local hurling team which had made the grand final) and along the river nearly out to the sea. The seagulls, marina, sea breeze and what looked like an industrial port reminded us of Townsville. Our AirBnB hosts also gave us some of their Polish goulash for dinner (meals are not expected in AirBnBs, except often for breakfast) which was really good.
On our way out of Galway the next day we swung by the cathedral to have a quick look, but then it was south to the Cliffs of Moher. They are every bit as impressive as the photos look, although I was a little scandalised to be charged 6 euros each for the privilege of walking along them at their most scenic point – though of course in practise the charge really only applies to the carpark, if you were to just walk in there’s no point where you’d get charged. The cliffs were also crawling with midge-like biting insects! We both left covered in red spots (most of which fortunately faded within a day, although we both have a few bites left several days later). We had lunch in a pub in a town just south of the cliffs, where we caught the last five minutes of the hurling grand final which Galway won. I think this is a sport Australia needs to get onto!