2 days in Galway

Our run of reasonably fine weather has run out! We have had 2 full days in Galway and the weather has not cooperated at all – with it raining probably 90% of the time! Lots of cloud, rain, wind and much cooler temperatures. I guess this is more typical of Irish weather!

I had planned to go to the Aran Islands for a day while we were here in Galway, but we didn’t get there – if the weather is bad, apparently it is not worth the trip. So, our first full day we spent exploring the narrow, paved streets of Galway.

Galway_streets_01

We also walked through Eyre Square, the Latin Quarter, saw Lynch’s Castle (which now houses a bank, but is the grandest 16th century town house in Galway), walked down to the harbour, saw the Spanish Arch (built in 1584 to protect the harbour) and did a bit of shopping!

The 16th century Lynch's Castle

The 16th century Lynch’s Castle

Last night we sought some dinner in the town and then found a fabulous Irish pub Tigh Neachtain to enjoy a few drinks and to listen to some live music (it came recommended by the receptionist at the hotel we are staying in).

This pub is small, low ceilinged, with lots of timber panelling and a few cosy seating snugs; there are also lots of interesting historic wall decorations; it is full of character!

Inside Tigh Neactain (before the crowds)

Inside Tigh Neachtain (before the crowds)

We were lucky to get a seat (having tried a couple of other recommended pubs before this one – and they were all packed), but I am glad we sat where we did (I’ll explain shortly). The pub filled up once the band started playing – it was literally standing room only, and you had to push your way through the crowd.

In the corner there is a small space for the band to play and last night we saw Mike and The Scallywags play – they were a 6 piece band made up of a piano player, guitarist, banjo player, a double bassist, a fiddler and a “drummer” (actually played a Cajon – a drum that you sit on to play). Our table was right next to where the band played. Because I was sitting so close, I got to talk to a couple of the band members too – they were great. The music was fantastic and I had a wonderful time! I tried to attached a movie file of the band playing, but unfortunately I have had no success – sorry.

As I said, this is a fairly small pub, and where we were sitting was right next to the band – so close that the fiddle player could have sat on my lap!

Cate_band

Today we took the opportunity to recover from a big night last night, slept in a bit, had a late breakfast and then, because the rain was coming down still, we stayed in Galway, drove around to Salthill (a seaside resort area) and explored a little more in the car.

The tides out at Galway Bay

The tides out at Galway Bay

The River Corrib flows out into Galway Bay

The River Corrib flowing out into Galway Bay

Don’t let the above photos fool you – the rain stopped for a wee while and the sun struggled to come out (it wasn’t successful) and I was able to get a couple of decent photos without getting wet!

Unfortunately, I think we probably missed a great deal of things to do and see in Galway (partly because of the weather, and partly because I wasn’t organised enough)! So, not too exciting today, but a rest and recovery day was probably in order. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will improve as we set forth toward Bunratty and Limerick.

Belfast to Derry/Londonderry

Well, we certainly didn’t have very long to enjoy Belfast; I find it’s always the way! There is never enough time to see all that I’d like to see.

As we arrived fairly late into Belfast we only had 1 day to see and experience this city. Our Sunday morning started with a visit to the St George’s market, followed by a sightseeing hop on- hop off bus tour of the city, which was excellent.

Titanic Belfast buildingAlong the way we went to see the Titanic Belfast experience. This was really very good – and there is quite a bit of interaction you can engage in. The experience takes you through Belfast at the turn of the century and opens your eyes to the living conditions of the people at that time. The exhibit takes you on a tour from the designs and building of the Titanic (you can even take a cable car ride through a simulated building experience), through to its launch and fit out; then through actual displays of how rooms would have looked and descriptions of passengers and crew. Of course following on from its departure from each of the ports it visited you can experience then collision with the iceberg and all the events that followed. Afterwards you can see how the titanic was found and explore the relics on the sea floor via a virtual ROV. This was a really well done exhibit and I learnt a whole lot about the Titanic that I did not know previously.

Ireland_Titanic_Room_01

After Titanic we finished our bus tour and then had a late lunch at a most fabulous old pub – The Crown Bar – which is owned by the National Trust. This easily rates as one of the best pubs I’ve been to. This has beautiful tiles, woodwork and pressed metal ceilings (the food was pretty good too).

Ireland_CrownBar_inside

Today, Monday, we departed belfast without seeing a couple of noteworthy sights, including the castle. Time is our enemy! However, we had a lot of ground to cover today. Our first stop was the dark hedges,

Ireland_darkHedges

Then onto the lovely sea-side town of Ballycastle for breakfast. Ballycastle was the town where Marconi sent his first wireless message from. From Ballycastle we cruised along the picturesque Antrim coast.

Ireland_Ballycastle_01

The Giant’s Causeway was next on our hit list; I had been looking forward to seeing this legendary place. The weather was changeable, with alternating sunshine and misty showers. There are a couple of different walks you can do here and we walked back along one that involved a climb of 162 stairs (it was worth it though – the views were stunning)!Ireland_GiantsCauseway_01

Dunluce castle was our next stop. A ruined castle at the edge of the coastline. I imagine it would have been rather spectacular in its day.

Ireland_DunuceCastle_01

Finally we arrived at the only surviving fully intact walled city in Ireland – Derry (Londonderry). The walls date from the early 17th century.

Tonight we are staying in an 18th century country manor (BeechHill Country House), just outside of Derry, which is just delightful!