Monday, August 10, 2015

Ireland Vacation!

We returned yesterday from our vacation to Ireland!  We did a lot of active things, like we always try to do on vacations.  If you burn a lot of calories, you can enjoy more vacation food!

Here's a breakdown of our trip:
  • Saturday, Aug. 1: arrive in Dublin.  We immediately traveled to the very northern tip of the island, to the Giant's Causeway area, which involved: bus from the Dublin airport to Belfast, train from Belfast to Coleraine, and taxi from Coleraine to Bushmills, where our B&B was located.  After all that, we were pretty much exhausted.  We got a very good dinner at a local pub, and went to bed!
  • Sunday, Aug. 2: hiking!  We hiked/walked from our B&B in Bushmills up to the Giant's Causeway.  Once we viewed the Giant's Causeway area (which was amazing), we hiked along Causeway Coast Way for awhile.  It was chilly and rained on and off, but the cliffs and coastline were spectacular.  Since we had to hike all the way back to our B&B, we didn't go as far as we might have liked to.  Our distance for the day totaled 14.02 mi in 5 h 14 m, according to Run Keeper - it consistently measured a shorter distance than my husband's GPS app.  After the hike, we traveled back to Belfast by taxi and then train.  We got into Belfast around dinner time, so we walked around the city a bit and got dinner.  I have to say that Belfast didn't impress me - it seemed gray and dirty (reminding me of Naples in Italy); maybe I was too tired and it was too rainy for me to appreciate.  It was a long day!
  • Monday, Aug. 3: We traveled from Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Lahinch, on the west coast of Ireland.  We took a bus from Belfast to Dublin, then the Luas tram in Dublin to a different train station, then a train from Dublin to Limerick Junction, then another train from Limerick Junction to Ennis, and then finally a bus from Ennis to Lahinch.  What a day of travel!  At least we didn't miss any of our connections.  The most annoying part was that we had a 2.5-h wait in Ennis for our bus, and there was really nothing to do there.  We stayed at a B&B in Lahinch.  It was a bit far from town, so fortunately one of the B&B owners drove us to a pub for dinner.  The pub was right along Galway Bay, so we got to watch the surf and the waves crashing into the pub windows.  The weather really deteriorated while we were at dinner - it got VERY windy and rainy.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 4: We had our first day of hiking the Burren Way, with arrangements made by Hillwalk Tours .  They arrange a hiking path, provide maps and route notes, and set up B&B accomodations for each night - they even transport your suitcases from one B&B to the next.  Great!  Fortunately the rain ended pretty soon after we got started with the hike, but it was extremely windy ALL day - sometimes it was hard to stand upright!  We hiked along the coast line again, along the Cliffs of Moher up to Doolin.  The scenery was fantastic!  This was our biggest day of hiking, with a distance of 19.13 mi in 6 h 45 m from Lahinch to Doolin (I got 45,000 steps this day!).  We would've been a little shorter and faster, but there was a mistake in the route directions, so we spent a little extra time and walking while we figured it out.  We stayed the night in another B&B in Doolin, and walked to a pub for dinner.  It took me forever to warm up after the hike!  I had worn my rain pants and coat as windbreakers for the day, but I still got really chilled.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 5: This was our second hiking day through the Burren.  Unfortunately it rained ALL day, getting heavier as the day went on.  We were all wrapped up in our rain gear, but even it got soaked by the time we were done.  This was a very miserable and cold day, and since the rain clouds really cut down on visibility, we didn't see much of the scenery, either.  We hiked 11.96 mi in 4 h 5 min from Doolin to Fanore.  Fortunately this was our shortest day of hiking.  We stayed at another B&B - the owners very kindly hung our wet gear near their wood stove in their farmhouse kitchen so everything got dried out.  Again, it took me forever to get warm.  We walked to a nearby pub for dinner.  By that time, the rain had stopped, and we actually saw a very nice sunset.
  • Thursday, Aug. 6: This was our last hiking day in the Burren.  It was a beautiful day, mostly sunny and warmer, with no rain!  This day was mostly through the rolling Burren hills, which are mostly these weird-looking limestone layers.  We also stopped by Newtown Castle, which is at the Burren School of Art.  We hiked 15.62 mi in 6 h 5 min from Fanore to Ballyvaughan.  Ballyvaughan was a pretty "big" small tourist town, and the B&B was quite nice.  We walked to an Italian restaurant for dinner, which was excellent.
  • Friday, Aug. 7: We traveled from Ballyvaughan to Dublin.  First, we took a bus from Ballyvaughan to Galway, then a train from Galway to Dublin, and then the Luas tram to the city center.  We got into Dublin in mid-afternoon, so we decided to visit a couple tourist attractions.  First, we went to St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was not as impressive as I'd expected it to be.  Then we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells exhibition; this was reasonably impressive, but a bit overpriced, in my opinion.  Then we walked around the city a bit, going by St. Stephen's Green, Christchurch Cathedral, Trinity College, the Bank of Ireland, and Dublin Castle.  Things were closing up by then, so we couldn't really go inside anything else. We went to a very good steakhouse for dinner - it was our 16th wedding anniversary!  Then we took the Luas to our hotel, which was unfortunately pretty far out of the city.
  • Saturday, Aug. 8: We headed back to Dublin early in the morning to catch our bus tour of the Boyne Valley.  We don't usually do group/bus tours, but when we were planning, we figured that by then we'd be pretty worn out, so it would be OK (and we were right!).  We visited these sites:  the Hill of Tara, Loughcrew, Trim Castle, Beckvit Abbey, Monaster Boice, and the town of Drogheda.  These were all pretty interesting sites, for various reasons.  When we got back to Dublin, we had a yummy dinner at an Italian restaurant.
  • Sunday, Aug. 9: We flew out of Dublin and came home!
Overall, it was a busy but fun trip!  It was too bad that we had so much time spent just traveling between different locations, but we don't necessarily expect to be back to Ireland, so we wanted to visit everything!

Unfortunately, the hiking did take a toll on both my husband and me.  One of his knees is really bothering him.  The last day of hiking really bothered both of my Achilles tendons, although I didn't really feel it as being exceptional until later that night and the next day.  Even today, a few days later, they are still sore, but better.  The problem was probably caused by a fairly long, fairly steep uphill section we had on our hike on Thursday.

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