Everyone has their own idea of what an ideal holiday should be like. For me it’s all about being on the road and exploring ‘that’ interesting looking pathway, covered by a promenade of trees, on the right of the motorway, which is definitely not on the itinerary. So when I decided to visit the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (yes they are absolutely different countries) there was no other way to do it, but through a road trip. After a nine-hour long flight to Dublin from India, the first task was to rent a car at the airport and get out of the city before its allure beckons and I ate into my driving time. So I stepped on the pedal and within a couple of hours ended up in the sleepy town of Galway...
The Boutique City
The primary focus of my trip was to cover the coastal route of both the Irelands and what better point to start this journey than from the historic port of Galway. Steeped in history, this town is nothing less than an enigma. Galway is like one of those niche boutique hotels that mollycoddles you and meets your every demand. You want a beach, they have many. You want quintessential Irish pubs, of course they have it. You want lazy music, yes that have that as well. And I am not even asking if you want it... but yes, they do have places that offer a melange of craft beers that you just can’t get over. You can walk across the entire city in less than an hour but the problem is that you will end up gawking at it’s sights so much that the hour gets stretched into days!
Getting Your Wild On
The thing about Ireland is that once you get outside its cities you will feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. To put it in perspective, imagine living in the mythical world of The Lord of The Rings. Every bend on the Irish coastal route leaves you with an open mouth and you invariably end up stopping. I am not much of a photographer. Normally I just breeze through the ways, but the Wild Atlantic Way (that’s what they call their coastal route... must say quite a catchy one) will force you to brake and spend time devouring the sights. My first destination for the day was the lovely Brigits Garden. Over here the Irish folk have created a garden based on its Celtic history and the seasons according their traditional calendar. Though I am not into gardens but the element of Celtic history attached to the flora made it quite interesting. Next up was the Ballynahinch Castle… and it’s here that our Indian connection comes up.
Ranji’s Irish Playground
Who would have thought that an Indian royal would have gone up to Ireland in the 1920s and bought a castle! What’s even better is that the royal was none other than Ranjitsinhji… the cricketer on whose name our domestic cricket championship, Ranji Trophy is named. According to the locals, Ranji and his family used to visit the Ballynahinch Castle during summers and it used to be quite a sight at that time. Dressed in the best of Indian finery it was absolutely a royal sight and the locals of the area used to burst firecrackers to welcome them. Though the castle changed hands several decades back, its royal appeal remains and now it functions as a heritage hotel. Moving forward from Ballynahinch, you should definitely make a pitstop at the beautiful Kylemore Abbey and its gardens. Now Ranji had sent his nieces to the Abbey to be taught by the Benedictine nuns so yeah… there’s that tiny bit of India connect as well.
Switch off the Maps
The best thing about driving around Ireland in the summers is that there is daylight for about 20 hours on the trot. And what happens when there is light… You can see everything. You can see the roads, the landscape and in particular those roads which are nowhere close to your destination. What I would suggest is that you should deviate from your route and go on an exploratory journey to find hidden waterfalls, a clearing in the woods or simply an ancient bridge. Another interesting way to do this would be by cycling on Ireland’s famous Greenway. The Great Western Greenway is a 42 km long walking and cycling trail and covers the distance between Westport and Achill. To add an element of surprise, go off the Greenway and you will definitely end up on a jungle trail that will lead you to vistas and woods of inexplicable beauty.
One place that should be on your itinerary is the Slieve League Cliffs. Overlooking the Atlantic, if you swim straight ahead, you can reach the US soil without a visa in a few years! Best bit about these cliffs is that they are not as well-known as the famous Cliffs of Moher, so you will most probably get the place all to yourself. Try to catch hold of Paddy Clarke at the Ti Linn cafe, Teelin. Paddy is a wiry old gent who used to be a fisherman and now runs this cafe with his wife. He will take you up the cliffs and enamour you with tales about salmon fishing near these cliffs and how livestock used to be left on these mountains for grazing and so on...
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