How I Spent 5 Days in Western Ireland

By Erin MacNeil - 04:00

Way back in 2014 my sister did a semester abroad at the University of Limerick. Great excuse for my father and I to go to Ireland, right? Right. So, we hopped on an airplane and went to western Ireland! Because this was 2014, before I started blogging, I haven't written much about my time in Ireland, and what better time than the present (ie. during the three-year anniversary of my visit)?

So! University of Limerick, right? My father and I stayed in the Castletroy area; I didn't make a lot of the decisions, so I can't really tell you why we stayed where we stayed, but it was in walking distance of the university, and it was a pretty short trip by bus into the city centre. We were also very, very close to Brew Brothers which is the best burger place I have ever been to. We ate there three different times, and we all still talk about it. If you're ever even remotely close to Limerick you've got to try Brew Brothers.

Our first day consisted mainly of doing some touristy things in Limerick city. Our first stop was to The Hunt Museum. They have a ton of really great pieces: art, artifacts, textiles. And their setup is really great, too. They have a surprising amount of things to look at, and you're encouraged to open drawers and that sort of thing. After that we went to King John's Castle. No lie: it's the best castle I've been to. Seriously. They have an interpretive centre which you enter first where you learn about the castle's history, and a bit about the history of the city and country. Once you've gone through the interpretive centre you get to the castle. From what I remember you can't enter the castle, but there is a lot of fantastic things to look at on the castle grounds. Those two stops took up a big chunk of our day (well, that and jet-lag), and it began to rain in the afternoon, so we decided to lay low for the rest of the day.

On our second day in western Ireland we decided to drive around to some nearby castles. I had never been to a castle until this trip, and my father wanted to make sure I saw all the things you're supposed to see when you visit Ireland (he and my mother had visited in the '80s). We first went to Cashel and the Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey (the abbey is definitely worth a visit - you're already there, after all!). After a quick lunch at Granny's Kitchen we made our way to Cahir Castle where there is some amazing stone work and a couple of lovely views. Our final castle was Blarney - you have to kiss the Blarney stone! The whole area is beautiful, and the castle is lovely, but you definitely need to spend a large amount of time there to make the visit worth the entrance fee.

Day three had a lot of walking. We toured around the university in the morning, my sister was studying there, after all! It's a lovely campus, freaking huge, but lovely. They've also got this set of massive flag poles at one of the entrances. My sister called them Harry Potter flag poles, and I'm pretty inclined to agree with that name. We also walked around Limerick a bit more, since the weather was quite nice. We visited the Limerick City Gallery of Art which is filled with some great contemporary art, and then we spent a bit of time wandering around the People's Park - in the sun! I got a sunburn. That evening we also went to see a movie! We saw Pompeii, which I didn't think was horrible, but I was the only one of the three of us with that opinion.

Another driving day met us next. We first went to Galway (#galwaygirl) for a bit, but because it wasn't exactly our cup of tea we left a bit sooner than expected. It seems like a city that needs more than a day to explore, and a bit of a plan, too. It worked well, though, because it wasn't too far away* from the Cliffs of Moher, so we decided to spend the rest of our day there. The Cliffs of Moher are beautiful, and happily we got a beautiful day to visit. When you're there I really recommend checking out their interpretive centre, there's a video that takes you over the edge of the cliff which is brilliant.

And, our final day in Ireland was spent at another castle! To be fair, it is more similar to the Blarney castle and gardens: we went to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Village. It's really cute, I have to say! The castle is nice, the whole grounds is great. There are tons of buildings to explore: mills, churches and chapels, homes. It really does feel like you're stepping back in time. Plus, they had the cutest miniature donkey! I am still in love with that lil' donkey.

When I sum up my experience of Ireland I always have to mention how green everything is. It really gets its Emerald Isle moniker honestly. But, beyond that, it was the beginning of my love for travel, and the beginning of my realisation that you can literally just go places. Ireland is seriously such a great place to see, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Plus, it's a great place to visit when it's late April and you're Canadian and you're just so tired of snow and ice!**

* Keeping in mind that we're Canadian and, therefore, our idea of distance is quite different from that of others
** In the week before I left for Romania in late April 2016 it snowed enough to close schools; the day before I went to Romania it was warm enough to go without jackets and sweaters and be comfortable. When we went to Ireland our flight was delayed because there was freezing rain. Anything can happen in Canada.

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