After four full whirlwind days travelling around the southern tip of Ireland I felt a tug at my heart as I watched the sun set over Dublin while the ferry pulled out into the chilly night on the Irish Sea. Up until I stood on the westernmost tip of Ireland in County Kerry and walked around a faery circle I was wondering what I was doing back in Europe and why I was staying here. London, as much as I love it, is not my city and I will only ever be a good friend, I will never belong. The booming throng of crowds and expansive swaths of concrete are alive but they do not resonate with me on that raw primal level that makes you feel connected to the land.
Ireland hummed across my skin, I soaked it up and never wanted sleep.
The journey to someplace is just as important as the adventures had in that place. I’m not overly fond of flying, you don’t see anything and you can’t move, the prospect of a train & ferry trip excited me. Just as the sun slipped down over the horizon my friend SLF and I sped out of London under the cover of darkness. Three trains later at approximately 1 in the morning we found ourselves in western Wales in the town of Holyhead awaiting a ferry that would leave before the sun came back up. We woke up to the first inklings of proper daylight and a sleepy Dublin.
The wind was cold, but the sky was clear and the air was clean. It felt alive.
So what exactly were we doing arriving in Dublin at half six in the morning? A tour. Growing up I always scoffed at tours, lots of old people riding around on a bus, herded around like cattle. But in recent years with the rise in popularity of gap years and young people hopping around the world tours have transformed. I had stumbled upon Shamrocker Tours through STA and I’d highly recommend them to anyone young (or young at heart!) who wants to see Ireland, especially if you are only 1 or 2 people. Renting a car was going to prove expensive for just two people and we wouldn’t have a local telling us about Ireland. So, a bit sceptical but wanting to see more of Ireland than just Dublin or Belfast we got on a bus with 29 other strangers (+ tour guide & driver).
I found myself jumping into conversations with my fellow travellers. There was little point in not talking to at least some of them as we would be spending all our time together over the next 3 days. The four girls I talked with the most have already connected on Facebook, and if we’re ever in the same place again I’m sure we’d meet up. As we all packed onto the bus sleepy, cold and yet excited our excellent Irish guide moved us through the oddities of introductions. The vibrantly green land sped past towards our first dive into Ireland: The Rock of Cashel.
The Rock of Cashel is a large rock on which a castle sits. The myth goes that the devil himself took a bite of the earth and spat it out, and that is the Rock of Cashel.
Next we wound our way further south to Blarney. The Blarney Stone is at the top of the castle, through an ever narrowing spiral staircase that you nearly have to climb out of. In front of the Blarney Stone you sit with your back to the wall and lay back arching over a hole between the floor and the wall and giving yourself a view of the ground several stories below. The guide inches you back and you kiss the dark stone before being whisked back up. After the head rush and excitement of kissing the Blarney Stone (or possibly just dangling upside down a high up in the air), me and a few others took off to find the faery ring and druid stones before going to lunch. The map was misleading, and the paths went in different directions than we thought they would (hmmm…), but we found most things.
After a very late lunch we found our way west to Kilarney, a town known for its nightlife. We listened to a man named Pa tell us stories and clever (yet very dirty) jokes while drinking Guinness (which really does taste better in Ireland) – both him and us. Then we found ourselves in a proper Irish Disco (pronounced dish-ko) until late unto the night.
More about the rest of the trip tomorrow. For now you can see some more photos here on Flickr.