Day 7: The Scenic Irish Backroads Tourists Never See #HIUK16

When I prepared for our trip I read extensively on the tiny lane-sized roads in Ireland. Locals used travel forums to warn tourists from hiring large RVs. They won’t fit and you’ll miss out on the best parts of Ireland they would write.

I am so glad we chose our little Wicked Campers van after reading this advice because our GPS has been giving us the most obscure directions through the deep Irish countryside. If we had hired a large RV we would have been stuck on the generic highways. With our van we have seen the beauty of Ireland that most tourists will never see.

The reason why our GPS takes us through these tiny roads is because the speed limit is a shocking 100km an hour. I say shocking because the size of these roads are for one car at best and have 90+ degree corners. Not only that but these roads are tightly squeezed between a rock wall or land wall so there’s no way you can pull over if someone is coming your direction. You literally have an inch to the wall and an inch between you and another car when they come past.

If you’re not an expert, and confident driver, this is truly a nightmare. I finally drove for the first time in Ireland today when we went from Galway to Newgrange. The highways are a breezy 120km p/h but then our GPS decided to take a turn into the wild countryside. I lasted all of 10 minutes before I made Addam take over. His skills are beyond anything I can describe in words.

While in Ireland we have been in some hairy situations. At one point we were faced with a narrow, one lane bridge that was so high you could not see if another car on the other side had already started driving over it. We just had to hold our breath and go. We survived!

The Overrated Cliffs of Moher

The advantage to staying in Doolin was that it was 10 minutes down the road from the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs are one of the most visited sites in Ireland so we were grateful not to have to wake up extra early to drive there.

Personally I didn’t find the Cliffs of Moher all that impressive. I’ve seen a few cliffs now and while these might be the tallest, the park itself is kind of boring. We couldn’t really go close enough to take good photos. We stood as close as possible, and the fence was up to our chest if not higher, so we’d have to kind of stand on our toes to take a photo that didn’t include the land in front of us. Addam enjoyed it though and was disappointed that we couldn’t stay longer to do the long hike around it.

Lunch In Galway

Galway wasn’t part of our original plan but after hearing the locals and friends talk so highly about it we decided to take an hour or two for lunch. We are SO glad that we did and next time trip we take to Ireland will include more of this cute seaside college town.

Traffic was a headcache but once we arrived we parked the car in a parking garage and walked over to one of the busiest streets we’ve seen in Ireland. It was bustling with restaurants, gift shops and other vendors. Strings of pennant flags hung above the laneway and old pubs painted in bright colors beckoned tourists to enjoy the atmosphere with a pint or two. The great thing about this lane is I don’t think it’s a “tourist trap” it’s just a really great entertainment district.

We chose to eat the King’s Head – “A medieval pub with a modern day attitude”. They had very delicious food and a cute little courtyard where people could eat and drink in the warm Galway weather.

Addam got his beard trimmed next door at a barber then we hit the road again.

The Newgrange Fail

So every now and then my planning has a hole in it or is outright wrong. This one of those times. I had planned for us to go Newgrange, which is a passage tomb world heritage site older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Unfortunately I misread their poorly worded tour page that led me to believe that we could just visit the site without a tour. Apparently not. Also despite their closing time of 7pm, their last tour during summer actually leaves at 5.30. So by the time we arrived at 5pm there was no chance for us to get in. 🙁 Next time Newgrange.

We weren’t too sad, however, because we had a great time driving through backroads to get to Newgrange. We saw random ruins and castles on the side of the road and listened to traditional Irish music and Bluegrass via a Addam’s Spotify playlist.

Driving To Belfast, The Phone Conundrum and Addam’s Friend Sarah

After our Newgrange mishap we were off to Belfast to meet Addam’s school friend Sarah. She lives in Belfast with her husband and children. (A big change from the likes of Arkansas, Nashville and Colorado!)

On the way there I reminded Addam that our Irish sim cards were going to start roaming when we crossed the border to Northern Ireland. For some stupid reason you can’t just use your Irish sim card in the UK. You can use your UK 3 sim in Ireland though. :/

Anyway Sarah was able to pick up a couple sim cards for us on her way home from work, and so just like that we extended our internet and cell phone access for the rest of our trip. It’s not cheap. £20 each for 12GB of internet and unlimited calls and text. We could have purchased the “All you can eat” package but they had run out at that store. Having access to the internet is non negotiable for either of us and we’d pay a lot more for internet access. 😉

We arrived around 7.30pm in Belfast and met up with Sarah who was kind enough to take us to an incredible pub called Robert (Bob) Stewarts. The service was good, the food was delicious (and surprisingly affordable), and we even got to the meet the owner who was a spirited, funny Irishman. If that wasn’t enough the pub itself was originally established in 1640! We’re hearing these dates so often around here but it still boggles my mind. The British hadn’t even claimed Australia at this time!

After dinner Sarah took us on her very own “black cab tour of Belfast” where she showed us the highlights of the city, the architecture including Queen’s University, City Hall and other historical sites from the “troubles” in Belfast. She was a wealth of knowledge, which is incredible since she’s only lived in Northern Ireland for 2 years. We also got a little sneak peek at the Belfast nightlife, which reminded me a lot of bar hopping in Melbourne.

After a very full and tiring day we treated ourselves to a night in a hotel near the Belfast International Airport.

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