1YoT: Galway, the Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Moher

After our amazing visit to Northern Ireland, the rest of Ireland had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, Ireland is an amazing place, and we were repeatedly blown away by what it had to offer.

Up next was the Irish west coast. First we went to Galway, where we went on day trips and also recuperated from all our travels up to this point. We had a great time with everything, especially because we stayed at another amazing Airbnb; we were so welcomed by our hosts that we felt completely at home from the first minute we arrived through the entire week we stayed at their place.

To get to Galway, we took the train from Portrush to Derry. This train ride went right along the north coast; it was was one of if not the most amazing train journeys I’ve ever been on.

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From Derry we left Northern Ireland and entered the Republic of Ireland, also known as Ireland. Here we took the bus to Galway; it wasn’t as pleasant as the train but it was still pretty nice.

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First thing in Galway: another Irish breakfast!

Galway is a college town but we were surprised to discover that it wasn’t our favorite city. It wasn’t anything specific, it just had this depressive quality. Still, it was quaint and interesting.

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The day we arrived, an Islamic rally protesting radical Islam marched through the city. This is definitely not what we were expecting, what a strange introduction to this portion of the country!

The outside and inside of Galway’s grandest church. The Jesus crucifix (pictured right) is a mosaic, just like the ones in Ravenna but not as impressive.

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A tribute to Ireland’s Magdalene Women, unwed 18th to 20th century mothers who were forced to live and work in asylums while their children were taken away. This memorial was not placed in a prominent location and was the only one of its kind we saw on our entire Ireland visit.

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More Irish musicians. Ireland has so many of them; it is amazing.

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We had some undesirable weather while we were in Galway, and to get through it we did this. Our Airbnb hosts said that this (tea in front of the fire on a rainy day) more than anything is the quintessential Irish experience.

For our first daytrip from Galway, we went to the world famous Cliffs of Moher. We took a bus along the Atlantic coast to get there.

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Along our journey (and several others throughout Ireland), we saw numerous ruins like this. We later found out that these were the remnants of homes abandoned during the mid 1800s Irish potato famine. 

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A panorama of the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs, which rise between 390 and 700 feet along five miles of Irish coast, are one of the most famous, most visited attractions in Ireland.

Among other things, the Cliffs of Moher are famous for also being the Cliffs of Insanity in The Princess Bride. Inconceivable!

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The Cliffs of Moher span five miles of Irish coastline, and we hiked almost four miles of it, all right along the edge. What a hike!

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A view from our hike. Look at the rock formations! Look at the colors! Amazing.

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Another view from our hike. These are the Aran Islands. We’ll come back to them later.

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Our hike ended here, the former site of a military fortress and current site of a lookout tower (Napoleon destroyed the fortress and replaced it with this tower). Unfortunately, we couldn’t get close to the tower, so this is the best picture I have of it.

Behind the tower is this view, with this strange rock formation down below. I have no idea how this rock was formed.

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And here is Inna as seen from that rock formation. She’s in the center of this picture and hopefully this gives some scale of how big these cliffs are.

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Here’s a better picture of Inna (and me), taken near the visitor center.

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The day after we visited the Cliffs of Moher, we went on our second Galway daytrip. This one was to the less famous but in my opinion more spectacular Aran Islands, which we saw from the cliffs yesterday. The Aran Islands consists of three islands, and we visited the biggest one, Inishmore, twelve square miles in size. 

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Amongst other things, the Aran Islands are famous for their sweaters. I felt one and they were unbelievably soft and warm, great for an Irish winter, where it gets cold.

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Unfortunately, other than the sweater market, none of Inishmore’s best destinations are near its port, and other than tourist outfits there’s no transportation on the island. Therefore, to get to Aran Islands’s best sites, we rented bikes!

First things we noticed on Inishmore: beautiful views and rock walls that were who knows how many years old.

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Our first stop was this weird destination: an abandoned lighthouse next to an even older abandoned house or fortress or something. Who builds a lighthouse next to an abandoned building?

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Not far from the lighthouse was Dun Eochla, a circular fortress atop the highest hill on the island. Historians don’t know when this fortress was built, but they estimate it was somewhere between two and three thousand years ago.

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This is the view from the fortress. Check out that circular stone plateau, what the heck is that?

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Another view from the fortress. Inishmore provided some of the best panoramas I’ve ever taken.

Back on our bikes, and look who we found, watching us ride by.

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A white sand beach? Definitely wasn’t expecting to find that on this island, or anywhere in this country for that matter.

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And we’ve arrived, Dun Aonghasa, the largest fortress on the Aran Islands and one of if not the most magnificent fortresses in the world. Remember those “best panoramas I’ve ever taken” that I mentioned earlier? Get ready for them.

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Here we are inside the fortress. A pretty good panorama but not the best.

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Here’s the view of the island from the fortress. Both shorelines in one shot! The view here was so amazing it was unreal.

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And here’s the view of the Atlantic. That’s Inna sitting there, admiring the view from this fortress atop a 300 foot cliff.

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One last shot from Dun Aonghasa, again looking west. The Aran Islands really are an incredible place.

That finishes our visit to the Aran Islands (minus riding against the wind back to port, not nearly as much fun as riding with the wind to Dun Aonghasa was), finishes our day trips from Galway, and also finishes our Galway trip. But there’s still lots more to explore in this country, up next: Limerick, Dingle, and the Ring of Kerry!

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