Shamrocker Adventures - "All Ireland Rocker"- Stops in Belfast, Derry, Galway, Ennis, Killarney. Giants Causeway, Inis Mor, Easter Rising, Cliffs of Moher, small town music sessions and of course the Blarney Stone!
18.04.2015 - 24.04.2015 14 °C
After spending around two weeks introducing ourselves to Ireland through the lens of Dublin City it was finally time to get out and see what else this beautiful country has in store for its visitors. I went back and fourth about renting a car and trying to do it on our own, but when it came down to it I wasn't ready to be that adventurous. The added stress of driving in a new country in combination with the fact that I wouldn't be able to look around to take in all the new scenery in between stops, became the deciding factors for seeking out a tour that took us around Ireland. We found nothing but amazing reviews for Shamrocker Adventures on trip advisor and the seven day tour seemed to have all we were looking for so it was an easy decision to sign up with them. Here is the link if you want to check it all out for yourself after I give you a bit of a run down on all the shenanigans we got involved in (http://www.shamrockeradventures.com).
The tour kicked off on April 18th with a meet up in the Temple Bar district of Dublin. About 20 or so people were gathered outside of the office when we arrived and it was shortly after that we all made our way over to the bus to load up and get on our way. Our tour guide was a young Irish gal named Kim and she fired things up early in the morning by getting everyone to come up to the front of our bus to do introductions. The good old ice breaker to ease the pain of getting to know everyone one by one. Another little game Kim tossed in along the way which allowed everyone to get to know some of the people better was the “late for the bus” punishment of having sing a song for everyone at the front of the bus. It may come as a surprise to some, but it was not for me at all, that Sherry got to share her signing talents on more than one occasion during our trip! As we made our way out of the city and towards Northern Ireland there were lots of laughs as people told embarrassing stories or just straight up embarrassed themselves during their introductions. We had a fairly globally represented bus with Portugal, Mexico, England, Canada, Australia and America. The Aussies were dominating the bus though with around 1/3 of the group being from there - not a bad situation to have on your hands at all - guaranteed good time with Aussies onboard! Surprisingly enough the age demographic was quite varied as well with average age being late twenties. This was a bit of a surprise for us as we were expecting to have to keep up with 19 and 20 year olds all week!
Our first stop was in Belfast and our last of the week would be in Killarney before making our way back to Dublin. I have struggled to come up with a way to explain how amazing our week was while keeping this post short. The trip was everything we thought it might be and so much more. I will knock off a few of the highlight moments but please know that every bit of this experience was great! Our first night we stayed in the far north of Northern Ireland after taking in an eye opening Black Cab tour in Belfast that explained the past, and still existing troubles of the North. We settled into a little town called Ballintoy which had no more than 100 permanent residents. Even though the population was small there were still a couple of hostels and most importantly a couple of pubs within its boundaries. After only knowing our fellow tour companions for just mere hours, we all grabbed some beers, unloaded our luggage at the hostel and began walking the coastal cliffs while sipping away on our beverages, getting to know each other even better. By the time we all made our way over to the local pub there were few strangers amongst us and the good craic was on. The pub, like the town, was tiny and cozy with a small fire burning in the corner and local musicians treating us to traditional Irish music. Locals welcomed us with open arms and it was not long before the 40 or so people in the bar were getting along just the same as if they had known each other for years. The owner of the hostel was even there. He treated us to some brilliant karaoke singing of his own, which was quite impressive considering his distance away from sobriety. The night was capped off with the bar owners wife coming out from the kitchen and passing around little triangle sandwiches (free of charge) to all of the patrons. We were told this might happen and when it did we all felt that at home, small town feeling inside us, no matter how big of a town we may have each come from. Ballitoy had won me over on night one of the trip with its stunning scenic cliff views and its wonderful Irish hospitality - it was hard to imagine that it could get much better then this.
The following morning we made our way west with memorable stops at the Giants Causeway and in Derry which was the scene of the easter rising which claimed many innocent lives. After Belfast we had all started to really appreciate the troubled times in Northern Ireland and it brought a sombre feeling to all of us. When we got to Derry and received our walking tour from Garvin of Martin McCrossan tours (http://www.derrycitytours.com), there was not a single person in our group that didn't have with them a true understanding of just how much pain and suffering took place there. Our tour guide had our entire group hanging onto every last word he spoke. He made us laugh, he made us reflect and he even brought tears to a few eyes during our walk. Kim had told this was what we were in store for and she wasn’t a liar. If you find yourself near Derry do not hesitate to book a tour with Garvin as you will not regret a moment of it. If you don’t believe me then just ask Will Ferrell (yes that Will Ferrell). No he was not on our tour, but Garvin did give him and some of his friends a private tour just a year ago or so, with rave reviews following it.
Some final highlights to mention are our day spent biking around the Aran Islands (Inishmore), sipping on some pints while looking 300 meters down into the Atlantic from Airkins Castle (Inishmore), walking along the Cliffs of Moher, an unforgettable traditional music session in Ennis led by one our tour guides, great beach walks in Dingle, a wacky one man show in the top of an old pub in Killarney and kissing the Blarney Stone to wrap things up. To top all the great moments off we had exceptional sunny weather for all but one day of our trip. The luck of the Irish was on our side that week for sure. As if all the amazing sights were not enough, we had an incredible group of people of on our bus, some of whom we are still in contact with and are making plans to go visit as we speak. Even with bad weather, if you have great group dynamics you will always find a way to have fun. Lucky for us, we had both. Somehow we managed to party into the early hours of the following day almost every night and still drag ourselves out of bed in the morning to start all over. Of course there was always lots of laughter when we settled into our hostel rooms at night. Although sleep should have been the top priority, everyone was still giddy from the nights events. One person would say something and then it would just snowball from there with gut aching laughter taking everyone over. There was even the odd night were I was able to catch up on my NHL playoffs back home, as my new friend Dan from Australia just happened to have the Centre Ice Package which allowed us to watch a couple of games live when we got home from the bars. I didn't care who the teams were, it was just really great to see the best sport in the world being played in front of me again. Who would have thunk it, an Aussie who loves hockey came to the rescue!
When it was all said and done, and everyone was set to go their separate ways, some of us decided we just were not ready for that and so it was time for a couple more Guinness and a BBQ supper in Dublin. We even made plans and hung out one more time with Clare and Elijah from Australia before he headed to France to continue his rugby career and she made the long journey back to Australia without him as her European visa had expired.
So, as I said earlier, I could go on for days about our tour but unfortunately i just can’t do that here. The trip itself is one we will remember for a life time. We met so many incredible people with very interesting stories of their own, which we were fortunate enough to lend an ear to during our time with them. We had so many laughs and what seemed like once in a life time experiences. It was hard to believe it even all happened. Now it was time to finally square away our work away situation and spend a few more days hanging out with Colette and Alan back at our "home away from home" in North Dublin.
Shayne and Sherry