With the NC500 complete we had a day of R&R back in the Scottish borders at Fraser and Jill’s place. With an extra day up our sleeves we decided to take in a day at the world famous Edinburgh Festival. The Edinburgh Festival is one of the largest celebrations of arts and culture in the world and each August plays host to over 3000 shows in around 300 different venues. The hardest thing about the festival is picking shows to attend! We decided to pre-book one show and then try and go to a few free shows and then wander around looking at street performers. We ended up seeing a show by Robin Boots called Rockomedy – a series of re-worked rock songs and numerous puns (right up my alley), Luke Closely – a Scottish magician/comedian/jazz musician, and last of all Jimeoin – an Irish Australian who has been around for years, and loves making jokes about things in our everyday lives. All three were very good and we had a great day out. One day doesn’t really do the festival justice but it was a good taster and certainly worth coming back for!
The next day we drove to Glasgow for our flight to Dublin. This was my first experience with RyanAir, similar to flying Tiger in Australia. On arrival in Dublin we checked into our apartment – with Jill and I sneaking in a cheeky half pint at the first pub we passed on the walk to our accommodation – “when in Dublin”, was sure to be an overused phrase in the next few days. We also met with a former work colleague of Frasers who was now living in Northern Ireland and was on her way to Belgium and settled in for a few cocktails, tapas and then some wine and pizza in the apartment. The following day, Pete arrived after a being at a conference in Cork, a reunion of sorts with another member of the original TOS in 2012. We spent the afternoon with the obligatory tour of the Guinness Storehouse before meeting up with Hilary, a uni mate of Serena’s from vet school, for a pint in the evening. After a delectable selection of cheeses, snacks and wine back at the apartment and then bidding farewell to the Murdochs in the wee hours of the morning, it was a sad farewell after another amazing catch up. Let’s just hope it’s not too long between drinks! After a bit of a sleep in, Pete and I had another traditional Irish breakfast and more of a wander around Dublin, taking in Dublin Castle, the food markets (and a breakfast apple juice and whiskey – “when in Dublin”), a few other key Dublin landmarks, and a handful of other drinking holes, with their own flavour of Irish live music and colourful characters. We also met up again with Hilary and her parents, Ted and Valerie, for some more Dublin exploring, a light lunch and a handful of Oscar Wilde quotes, topped off with and a decent steak with a few cocktails to round out the day.
With a final day in Ireland left to hang out with Pete, we met up with a cousin from his wifes side of the family, Janet and her husband Cairan. They kindly took us on a bit of a tour around the coastal area south of Dublin including a drive-by the residencies of a few Irish icons – Bono, Enya and Van Morrision, the latter lived “on the right side of the road”. A swim was tempting but we left that to the locals, who braved the rough conditions that were on show. We also made a stop at Ireland’s highest pub, Johnnie Fox’s, for a cheeky pint. Janet and Cairan then served up a delicious home-cooked lamb roast that their son Rory had kindly put in the oven while we were at the pub. It was then on to Galway via a three-hour bus ride and a very late arrival.
My first day in Galway started early with a lengthy bus trip out to Doolin and the ferry across to Inis Oírr (Inisheer), part of the Aran Islands. The bus driver was a classic Irish ‘comedian’ with all the one liners that I’m sure he has used numerous times, particularly jokes about his wife (“the leader of the opposition”). Nonetheless he was very entertaining and gave a fantastic overview of the history as with drove through a picturesque countryside. The pick of his ‘life lessons’ was “If you can laugh at yourself, you’ll live a long and happy life”. Once on the island I was able to wander around at my own pace with to the castle ruins, the lighthouse, and a large shipwreck of the Plassy. The entanglement of rock walls throughout the island were a tribute to the hard work of yesteryear, and the efforts to which people went to try and make areas arable just to survive. To me the island still seemed desolate but captivating in its own way! It was then back to Doolin via the scenic route along the base of the Cliffs of Moher, an iconic Irish cliff line made famous as the cliffs of insanity in the Princess Bride – among other films. The weather had turned somewhat as we cruised along the coast but rough seas and cloud just added to the mystique of an eerie and breathtaking coastline. On return to shore, and for some people to recover from a touch of seasickness, there was time to traverse the top of the cliffs. While the rain had now set in, those of us to brave the conditions were rewarded with spectacular views. Clearly it wasn’t a turn off for a bride and groom, who had chosen the cliffs were their wedding photos. Also a couple on our bus used the opportunity to get engaged. Our bus driver was most excited, proceeding to tell us how a real Irishman proposes. First you take your partner to the pub, feed her (and you) 4 pints, then ask her “would you like to be buried with my people”. Irish charm…..gotta love it! Speaking of pubs, after a walk on the cliffs, we were then treated to a world famous seafood chowder at O’Connors Pub in Doolin and a pint of Guinness, the perfect combination for the day. As we continued back to Galway through County Clare, we were treated to some more spectacular views of the coastline, numerous 10 pound castles, the desolate rocky terrain of the Burren region and even a pod of dolphins. As we approached Galway the clouds parted and we were treated to a beautiful clear view of Galway Bay, a rarity according to the bus driver.
The following day I spent checking out the Galway township and a meander around the bay. Galway township is particularly popular with tourists, and the various shopping strips are lined with souvenir shops and a variety of eateries. The other fantastic part of Galway was the street musicians and buskers that were on show for the entire day, a number of whom were particularly entertaining. In the evening I took in some classic Irish culture, with Trad on the Prom, a combination of Irish folk music and dancing made famous by Riverdance and Michael Flattley. The whole show was first class, with one of the musicians playing 23 instruments throughout the night. I then had to head back to Dublin for the next leg of my journey, so took the scenic route via Limerick. It was pleasing to find numerous limericks in Limerick! And of course after a visit to King John’s castle and reading about the sordid history of the town, I wrote my own!
Limerick’s history is strong,
And tales from the past seem quite wrong,
Seems the Vikings begun, followed by King John one,
But none kept their head on for long.
On arrival back in Dublin, I spent another evening with Janet and Cairan before an early flight to Bergen for leg 3 of the rhombus.
My UK sojourn is complete,
Both Scotland and Ireland, a treat,
The scenery was great, and I drank and I ate,
With the many old friends I did meet.