A Travellerspoint blog

June 2015

7 crazy days touring all the way around Ireland

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!

sunny 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

Posted by Shewy 09:55 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

Back to Dublin for a "Feckin" good time!

Great new friends, applying to work away opportunities and taking in more of the great sites around Dublin City

all seasons in one day 12 °C

On April 9th we found our way back into Dublin city. We made a quick stop at Isaac’s hostel to pick up our stored luggage, then it was off to the bus stop to catch a ride out to the north-east of Dublin. Even though we were armed with fantastically detailed directions from our host, who even went to the effort of leaving all our keys and instructions to get settled in, at the hostel for us, we still managed to make a few wrong turns before eventually recalibrating and getting to the bus stop. With heavy backpacks on our shoulders and our other free extremities piled up with smaller packs, this detour was less than enjoyable, but “dem’s the breaks” as they say, and there was no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. For some reason I think I was bit anxious about taking the bus, which I realize likely sounds quite ridiculous. At this point in our travels it was somewhat of a foreign public transport for me, with the train or taxi being my preferred choice. Now, had I taken the time to read the signs and apply a bit of logic, I am sure this would not have been such an issue, but I had my mind made up and these buses were not going to be my friend. Sure enough, when we got on the bus, the exact change that was needed to pay our fare didn't go through the machine properly, thus not showing the exact amount the driver needed and so began the battle. He claimed the machine was right, I said we counted out the change before and I knew we had the right amount, then he just got frustrated and said to go sit down as we were holding up the bus - needless to say this fella wasn’t going to be reminding us first time bus travellers of when our stop was going to be coming up and, as predicted, we blew right by it. Luckily the next stop was just a few 100 meters away and the back tracking wasn’t too bad. Chalk that one up as a win for the bus driver man! We settled into our new apartment after following the detailed directions the rest of the way. As it was still early in the morning Sherry went down for a nap, while I got the television up and running for some quality vegging out. No sports channels here either! Damn. So began the "Friends" marathon!

That evening we met our new host Colette when she got home from work. I was in the midst of a cat nap, when I heard two girls chatting in the living room like they had known each other for years. The pace was furious and the pauses were few if there was any at all. I went out and introduced myself to Colette who was sitting feet up on the couch and blazing a conversation with Sherry about gluten free recipes and just about every other thing that Sherry loves. It is funny how and who comes in and out of your life, but I think these two were destined to meet. To say that they were old friends within the first few hours of meeting would not be a stretch. Later in the week we would get to meet Colette's boyfriend Alan who is a great guy and who was in the midst of training for his first Ironman!

Knowing that we had 9 days before we set out on our 7 day Shamrocker tour of Ireland, we set out to make the most of our time in Dublin, while also figuring out what our next move would be after that was over. We came across the website www.workaway.com while doing some research on working opportunities while at James and Jaro's the other week. Work Away is a website where you can create a profile for yourself or as a couple and then in turn apply to posted work away opportunities that are advertised using the site. A work away is an opportunity to complete work in exchange for the basic human needs of food and shelter. Work aways are offered all over the world and consist of lots of different types of work. You could be working at a hostel, doing gardening at someones home, helping a on farm, supporting an eco project and just about anything else you can think of. The plus side for travellers is that you get to save some cash not having to pay for accommodations or food, while the hosts keep their costs low and get to meet people from all over the world. A pretty darn good trade if you ask me. The plan for us was to try to find something that would start in early June and would maybe carry us through the summer. Be damned if we were going to leave Ireland while it was going to actually be warm and sunny! We began sending out applications to places that caught our eye and that shared common interests for both of us. This seemed like a pretty simple exercise on the surface, but for me there was a sense of nervousness as this would be another step into the unknown. The consequences were low in terms of risk to us and yet I still found myself self anxious about where we might be setting up camp for a bit. I guess that is a good sign though, as it means that you are not just sticking to the "same old, same old" and you are taking yourself out of your comfort zone. This usually means that you will be learning knew things and taking in experiences that you had never been apart of before , which is what this journey is all about. Another site that we sent a few applications out through was www.mindmyhouse.com. As the title indicates, people who are looking to be away from their home for varying periods of time, but who do not want to add significant cost to their travel plans, will post opportunities for other people to come and mind their home, animals, plants etc. Again, this is an exchange, wherein, the house sitter stays in the home free of rent, while also tending to the specific needs of the home while the owner is gone. Another great way to experience a country, while saving yourself some accommodation costs. It did seem as though many recommended having your own vehicle so you might want to keep that in mind when looking at places in Ireland.

In between setting up profiles and sending out work away requests, we still managed to have heaps of fun while back in Dublin. One day we made a trip over to the coastal area known as Howth. If you are in Dublin this is certainly worth the trek. The DART train will get you straight there and is likely the most economical way to arrive unless you have someone who is kind enough to drive you there. If the weather is right you will want to take in the cliff walks around Howth which offer a few different tracks depending on how ambitious you are. We took the long route, which is the purple track. Give yourself at least 3.5-4 hrs to crack this one off and don't forget your camera as there are beautiful views all around. The Irish Sea is splashing all around you for most of this walk, but don't worry about getting your shoes wet as it you will be well above the waves. On clear days you can even see back across to Dublin city. The Howth hiking tour was the first time since I had been in Ireland that I really felt as though I was experiencing the parts of the country I had dreamt up in my mind. There was no hustle and bustle, we set our own pace, and the ocean air was very refreshing. When we finally made it back to the harbour front area of Howth we made a stop at local pub to warm up with a drink and some food, then it was back off to our AirBnB. If fresh sea food is on your menu Howth is certainly a place to get it served up - mussels, fresh fish and seafood chowder will no doubt cure any cravings you might have. One second noteworthy stop in the city is Dublin Castle. Unfortunately, there is little that remains of the original castle. That being said, we do recommend taking the 8 euro guided tour which takes about 1 hour to do. You will get a chance to see ruins that are close to 1000 years old and get an in-depth historical review of the importance of the Castle. We just happened to have some time to kill while we were waiting out the immigration office lineup and this was the perfect stop. The immigration office is a whole other story I won't drag you through, but lets just say we got our ticket in the queue at 9:00 am, left and toured the city for 4 hours, came back and then waited another 6 hours to have our working holiday paperwork processed! We chatted with an American couple who claimed this to be worse than the DMV! People were literally cheering when their number got called and even the odd "high five" was tossed out as they made their way to the counter. Too funny looking back on that experience. Another stop we made that is worth mentioning is Phoenix Park. Listed as one of the largest recreational spaces in any European city, Phoenix Park (http://www.phoenixpark.ie/about/) is a great place to go for a walk, bike ride (you can rent them at the park), stop for picnic or even go to the zoo! We really lucked out with the weather on the day we went as the sun was shinning all day and it really felt like spring had finally arrived. There are beautiful flower gardens throughout the park and well manicured walkways to help guide you along. We decided to take in the Zoo and we were not disappointed. It kind of seemed bizarre going to a Zoo in Ireland, as nothing about it seemed authentically Irish, but we had a blast. The Zoo is very well laid out and has something for everyone. The variety of animal species is incredible (Lions, Tigers, Elephants, Baboons, Gorillas, Giraffes and so many more). You can easily put in 2-4 hours making the trek around this place and it is certainly time well spent. I remember going to the African Lion Safari near Toronto when I was quite young and this stop made me feel like a kid again. Watching the monkeys mess around, the Lions stalking around their den and the massive Silverback Gorilla holding fort in his area of the park, it was just good old fun. At first when we were talking about going to the Zoo I tried playing it off as though I was too old for the Zoo and that it was for parents and their kids - I was big time wrong and thankfully Sherry persisted (http://www.phoenixpark.ie/visitorinformation/dublinzoo/). One final note on Phoenix Park, which Sherry won't let me get away without mentioning, are the great little tea rooms that are in it. We stopped for some lunch and of course tea, at one of them. We were able to sit out side to enjoy the fresh air while we snacked on our lunch and talked over plans for the park which was really nice.

On our last night before heading out on the Shamrocker tour we organized a night out on the town with our hosts Colette and Alan. The whole week we had been hanging out at the apartment, drinking wine, sharing stories and just having a good craic (pronounced "crack) so it was time to take our talents out into the streets of Dublin. We met up at a pub after they had both finished work on the Friday for a quick pint of Guinness, then it was over to a tapas bar for lots of interesting and tasty treats. The big event for the night was a comedy show and the International Bar was the place where it would all go down. The show started at 9:00 and we might have been just a few minutes late but thankfully we escaped being roughed up by the MC who just pleasantly welcomed us and let us sneak to the back of the room. The room was quite small and it was full with about 50 or so people. A small bar is tucked into the corner of the room and no microphones are required for the comics. Just like a great acoustic guitar performance, this room was intimate and comfortable, the only difference being that you did not want to be in the front row for this show - unless you like being publicly humiliated, then the front row is all yours! We were treated to 3 comedians who came from various areas of Ireland and who were at different stages in their comedic careers. We had an absolutely deadly MC who kept the show lively throughout the night and who even tried to play a bit of a prank on Sherry who had to sneak past him to get to the washroom while he was up on the stage. Luckily for Sherry the guy beside the door was absolutely terrible at keeping the ruse a secret and she was tipped off before she made it back into the room. The entire show was excellent, the Guinness was perfect and the final sprint to catch the last bus of the night back to our apartment was even funnier.

After a great night out with our new friends, it was an early rise to make our way back down to the Temple Bar District where we would catch our bus. The extremely nice part about leaving Colette and Alan was knowing that we had a place to come back to as they offered up the room to us at a "friends rate" when we returned after our trip. This allowed us to pack only what we needed and kept us from having to worry about accommodations when got back. This was especially great since we didn't know our work away situation yet. We had one lined up, but were still waiting for final confirmation on start dates. It wouldn't be until at least the start of June, which meant at a minimum we would need a room for 5 days when we got back. We could have stayed with our new friends for much longer as we had a great time chilling out with them, but it was time to take in Ireland and hopefully meet lots more fun and interesting people from all over the world!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 14:52 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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