The next few days of our trip proved to be the most adventurous and uncharted. We took off for the northwestern coast of the country., one of the most beautiful and terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. I quickly learned to embrace the unknown and let the day unfold as it may.
If you have never driven a manual car, or on the left hand side of the road, I may not suggest Ireland’s countryside as the place to begin. The majority of our 3.5 hour drive to the coast was complete with roads no wider than a Toyota Corolla, surrounded on either side by a brick wall or a row of hedges. With speed limits of 60-70 mph and cars driving both directions, you might understand how this situation could escalate quickly. Fortunately, we experienced not one head-on collision and I’m certain my husband was at the very least a little excited to feel like he was driving a race car.
Day 3 & 4: Donegal County
Per the recommendation of a climbing friend, we first explored Slieve League, which involved a couple hour hike up a mountainside, surrounded by a herd of friendly and welcoming sheep. The views were gorgeous and well worth the every 5-minute stopping this mama had to do to catch her breath.
The next morning took us on a planned excursion to the coast of Ireland at Cruit Island, where we engaged in some equally terrifying outdoor rock-climbing. For me, it was a test of self-confidence and panic control, with the ocean waves hitting rocks just below me on every climb. What a way to break my outdoor climbing virginity! 10/10. Would climb again. My sister-in-law said, “you know you are pregnant and hanging off the side of a cliff, right?”. Yes, I certainly do! And it was awesome!
Day 4,5 & 6: Connemara National Park
After climbing, we trekked a 4.5 hour drive down to Connemara National Park area where we stayed at a lovely & cozy bed and breakfast; probably my favorite location of the entire trip. It is the kind of bed and breakfast that is nestled at the bottom of the mountains, with a cozy fireplace and a welcoming couple to make you feel right at home. We spent our evenings here simply relaxing, reading and enjoying the quiet of the world around us.
We had one sunny day in this area, with temperatures in the 40s and wind gusts of probably 30 mph. Climbing up a mountain in that wind– not the most efficient. But, that is exactly what we did, spending a good portion of the climb trying to not get blown over.
Our last day in Connemara area, we toured Kylemore Abbey, which was a girl’s school run by nuns up until about 10 years ago. It was a beautiful building with loads of history, built quite literally into the side of a mountain. We braved the wind gusts AND torrential downpours for this one. I was very glad we brought rain gear for this trip. We seemed to be the only visitors prepared for what felt like hurricane season in the mountains….
What we learned these days:
- A Full Irish Breakfast is not complete without baked beans on toast, or black & white pudding (a combination of sausage, oats & pigs blood). Don’t knock it until you try it–it was quite scrumptious.
- Rest stops do not exist on these tiny roads. If you’re lucky, the gas station you choose has an indoor bathroom that is heated, but more often than not, it is outside, cold and only has cold running water. But hey, when you gotta go….
- Donegal County, Ireland is home to some of the best wool around and it is warm and cozy! I am wearing the comfy sweater I bought in one of the pictures here.
- Pastries are light, fluffy, not too sweet and pair perfectly with an afternoon cup of coffee to warm you up on a bone-chilling day– which for us, was almost every day.
- Coffee in Europe is so much better than in America, and every bar & restaurant has a full-on espresso machine. Can we learn something here?
Even though the weather wasn’t prime, we made the most of it, because that is what you do on vacation!