Despite having lived on the island of Ireland for the majority of my life, I’d never actually seen its west coast. A couple of months ago a friend and I decided that should be rectified and we got a group of us together and planned a trip. Inspired by Teresa Mannion‘s weather warnings, we planned our Unnecessary Journey across Co. Galway and Co. Mayo, with our first stop in Clare at the Cliffs of Moher. And made sure to drop into conversation that there were ten of us. Y’know, just ten friends, we’re very popular you see.
The drive down was pretty long, about five hours or so. But I came prepared with driving CDs and activity books for my passengers (my car later became known as the car where fun is not permitted and happiness goes to die) and onnthe way we were that excited it didn’t seem that long. Worked our way through Fleetwood Mac songs trying to make them relevant, but after “You Can Gal Your Own Way” we kinda ran out of ideas.
As I said our first stop was at the Cliffs of Moher, which I think was my favourite spot of the trip. The views were just incredible, and the pure size of them was so impressive; it’s always good when you’re walking above where birds are flying. Much to my friends’ delight, I’m the type of person that when they get to a cliff, they have to get as close to the edge as possible they have to look over. So I went a bit overboard (but thankfully not over the edge) posing for photos and the like.
We travelled to Galway city that evening and stayed in a really sweet hostel, and headed out to a craft beer place and made friends with a harmonica-playing English weirdo. We headed off pretty soonish the next day and got back on the road, touring through the countryside and coastline. The driving throughout the trip was brilliant fun- the roads were mental, with fantastic vistas as you careen round hairpin bends with potholes that come out of nowhere. On day 3 our driving was made even more fun by the addition of a cycling race, and on day 4 it was sheep that refused to get off the middle of the road.
The driving was possibly the major attraction of the trip. The Republic had very kindly put up loads of signposts to ensure you needn’t stray far from the Wild Atlantic Way route, and it was very easy to pick up a brown sign and pop off-piste for a bit to see wide beaches or forts from sixteenth century pirate queens and then jump back onto the coastal route. The downside was that poor wee Nimbus struggled a bit with a car full of passengers and all of our crap. The surprise potholes often came with a lovely crunching sound as the suspension failed to take the hit.
The second night was spent in a hostel run by a frenchman we accidentally named Claude, and we had a lovely time playing Werewolf and breaking doorhandles. The place we were staying in was near the Connemara National Park (much impressive, and with a great playground and Ellis Wood) and Kylemore Abbey (looked beautiful but didn’t have the time/money to properly explore it) and after leaving we drove off through more stunning landscapes up into Mayo and out to Achill Island.
Back in primary school, we were divided up into four houses. Think it was around the time Harry Potter was becoming famous, but I doubt that was the reasoning. They were each named after four Irish islands, and I was in Achill. Until the other week, that was the extent of my knowledge on Achill, and I suppose I figured it was a pretty small place, of similar size to Rathlin (another of the houses) but it was actually pretty massive, and had giant mountains, including another claimant to the title of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. We stayed in a guest house with the most welcoming woman in the world and went to a great pub that night, making besties with some Canadian girl who had travelled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and was now essentially trapped on Achill cause she’d run out of money. Still, a pretty great place to be trapped!
On the last morning we headed out to an abandoned village and a brilliant sandy bay, where Legs managed to get a couple more shots from his GoPro for the obligatory Geektown On Tour video. Then we spent like six hours driving back home and the Unecessary Journey came to an end. Teresa Mannion could rest easy.