The most recent expedition in the adventure of Irelandia was to the west of the country on a school-organized trip to Galway! We left on Saturday on a bus with the International Student Society and our first stop was Bunratty Castle and folk village. People joke about there being a ton of castles in Ireland, but really, where in America we see trees or more lanes on the side of the highway, in Ireland you see castles- there really are loads of  ‘em! Bunratty, was admittedly, a particularly cool one- I largely accredited the bouncy little Irish tour guide who was absolutely ecstatic about the wonders of the 15th century castle!!

  BUNRATTY CASTLE

Bouncy Little Irish Tour Guide!

We hoped back on the bus after Bunratty (try saying that three times fast!) and headed towards destination Numero Dos- The Cliffs of Moher, the Irish tourist destination short listed for the 7 New Natural Wonders of the world. It might sound rather anticlimactic to describe it but imagine standing on the edge of a 700 foot drop straight into the Atlantic. They were pretty awesome- and allowed plenty of opportunities for Titanic-esque moments, in which many of our American travel partners partook in.

The Windy, the Cold, the Epic- The Cliffs of Moher!

We spent both Saturday and Sunday night in these little white cottages with red trim and red barn doors. There picturesque-ness made up for the fact that the heating in them ran on 2 Euro coins that you had to put in every hour and a half for heating. We were miraculously gifted with a clear weekend in Ireland, which, combined with the rural Connemara locale made for the brightest stars that I think I have ever seen. Other than the light from our cottages, the whole area was pitch dark. I also had to get up at 6:30 to take a shower (6 girls all showering in the morning = limited supply of hot water), so I got to see a heck of a sunrise. The cottages were surrounded by water on both sides, so it really was beautiful.

  CONNEMARA SUNRISE!

Sunday was Aran Island day. Armed with my antimotion sickness bracelets, we boarded a ferry to Inishmore, the largest of the three islands and took a bus tour with our group around the island. The region is primarily native-Irish speaking and the islands are thought to be very “authentically Irish”- our guide pointed out several famous thatched roof cabins and a woman we met in a wool shop told Maura and I how Amy McAdams had been there a few months back to film “Leap Year.’ Inishmore is topped by a nice 2,500 year old fort-Dún Aonghasa , which sits on the edge of cliff and basically feels like the end of the world. The Aran Islands are also home to the authentic Irish Aran wool sweaters, which I found rather exciting… and did a large bit of souvenir shopping! The last place we stopped on the bus tour was at a lighthouse- the Western most point in Ireland- possibly- (apparently our tour guide was out of practice- Irish tourism season just began in March, but he claimed it was the last stop before New York City!)

  CONTEMPLATING THE EDGE OF THE ATLANTIC…

   SHE KNIT MY HEADBAND HERSELF!

After the tour, we rode the ferry back (with some dolphins and seals alongside) to the mainland and back to the Connemara cottages. Monday, I enjoyed sleeping in through the Irish step dance class I should have been in back in Cork, and spent a few hours in Galway city before heading back home. To say any one place is my “favorite” in Ireland feels like a little smallminded- like I’m trivializing everywhere else, but suffice to say the Aran Islands  were most certainly beyond breath taking!

From the top of Dún Aonghasa