Wanders with Wit

Ireland in Sixty Hours

A winsome whirlwind of wistfulness with a side of wet weather
Ruins of medieval Clonmantagh Church
The slightly breezy Clonmantagh Church
“Oh my @#$^^&*^%#@#$^!!!!!!!!!!!”
It was like a one woman show with a side of expletives.
 “Arrrrggghhhhhh!!!” I screamed internally, gripping the hand rests for dear life as turbulence dramatically plunged the plane several metres below.
“Aiiiiiiieeeeeeeee!” I then quietly wailed as the plane, which was just metres away from landing on the runway, suddenly changed course and ascended back into the squally sky. A muffled Irish voice came over the loud speaker, assuring us – despite all evidence to the contrary – that all was well.
On the second attempt at landing, the passengers, flight crew and I held our collective breaths as the plane descended, bumping and bouncing around in the gusty winds to eventually plonk onto the tarmac in one piece.
Welcome to Ireland!
“No bags allowed in the standing area. Move down the bus!” A bus driver barked at me on the way into Dublin for unknowingly putting my backpack in the wrong spot. I’d been in his country all of 20 minutes, and already I was causing offence.
I had travelled to Ireland on an impulsive whim after a month-long European jaunt and arrived with no plans other than to cram as much sightseeing of the country, as was humanly possible, into a minute two and half days.
Dun Laoghaire.
Names I recognized from having watched PS: I Love You far too many times. Thanks to that film, my rental car and I hit the highway south out of Dublin, determined to visit the Wicklow Mountains where I ardently hoped to be swept off my feet by a handsome local with nice teeth, robust hair and an accent so thick you’d need a pint of Guinness to understand it.
I found the town of Wicklow easily enough (it was on the water), but where the freak were all the rolling hills and blooming meadows? Had the mountains been temporarily removed for renovations or something? I continued on down the coast to the hamlet of Arklow before completely giving up on finding eminent elevations of any kind.
It was already late afternoon. Rather than head south to Wexford (where I assumed all the fancy crystal was from), I sped off inland in search of somewhere to lay my head for the night – and the rest of me.
As I drove through multiple hedge-lined narrow laneways, dusk was fast approaching, as were numerous road signs warning drivers of potentially snowy conditions and the dire need for snow tyres.“What am I getting myself into?” I freaked out. “What if I get bogged out here in the middle of nowhere?!” At least help wouldn’t have been too far away, I figured, as I practically drove into a hedge to let yet another lead-footed local pass me by.
On the outskirts of Carlow, I spotted a welcoming vision:a gloriously boutique B&B. Hang the budget!I checked in immediately and found myself in a palatial room with such soft furnishings, it took cosy to a whole new level.
I was beyond starving by that point. By the River Barrow was a beckoning pub where my pulse quickened at the thought of locking eyes with a stud muffin of a musician. Instead, the venue was closed for a private function  - which was very PS: I Love You of them.
Fortunately, across the road was a swanky Indian restaurant filled with local couples and families, all of whom blatantly stared at me when I arrived on my own. Was it my accent, the fact that I had no visible friends or my “hangry”, wild-eyed looks of self-conscious paranoia that attracted such attention? Ignoring all the eyeballs upon me, I devoured a complimentary serve of pappadums before speed-eating my way through a vat of delicious dahl and rice.
A spot of Brokeback Mountain soon had me blubbering off to sleep back at the B&B, after which I was greeted with a lavishly hearty continental breakfast in the communal dining room the next morning. Amidst mouthfuls of mushrooms, eggs and fruit (their black pudding was thankfully not gluten-free), I explained to the owners my haphazard plan to circumnavigate their fine country.
Building by banks of River Nore in Kilkenny
An overcast odyssey of oogling
“Whatever you do, don’t go to Limerick,” they warned. I instantly decided not only to avoid Limerick but Waterford where all the actual crystal was apparently from, knowing if I ventured even a toenail into any of its gift shops, I would inadvertently knock everything off the shelves and have to go into hiding for the rest of my life (most likely in Limerick). The colourful, artsy, castle-and-cathedral-rich town of Kilkenny won my custom instead. From there, according to Lonely Planet at least, it wasn’t a long way to Tipperary but it did turn out to be quite a drive to the sprawling metropolis of Cork.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the jaunty seaside village of Kinsale that I realised it had always been missing in my life. With quaint pubs, romantic laneways, a delightful yacht harbour, art galleries, crafty gift stores and more seafood than you could poke a prawn at, I absolutely adored the place! What’s more, the cafés were filled with an abundance of gluten-free gourmet delights. Most fortuitously (for me), Ireland was regarded as Coeliac Central and boasted the highest percentage of gluten-afflicted people anywhere in Europe. My digestive tract and I could not have been more excited!
Gardens & lake at Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle
Blimey! It's the benevolent Blarney Castle
After a spot of lunch, I battled the increasingly relentless rain before reaching the picturesque 15th century gardens of Blarney Castle. A mere 8 euros later – after climbing a claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase – I found myself on top of a turret where a soggy tourist was being guided to lie on her back and kiss the Blarney Stone with her head upside down. I wasn’t too keen on acquiring the gift of the gab, nor anyone else’s cold sores or cooties, so when it was my turn I lent down and touched the stone instead, hoping to be bestowed with the "gift of hand gestures", which would come in very handy on future country roads.
Already it was early afternoon and the grey skies showed no sign of letting up. That didn’t stop me from trying to find the Ring of Kerry though. With 179 kilometres of windswept beaches, dashing mountains and shimmering lakes, I was keen to have a bit of a squiz. However, the clouds and rain had become so intense, I could barely see two metres in front of me, ensuring I’d have Buckley’s chance of seeing Kerry and his/her/their ring. Instead, I continued north to the town of Ennis, missing Limerick by a nose.
There once was a town called Limerick
Of which judgement was always so quick
Of its endearing charms
There were always such qualms
No wonder tourists gave it the flick

Colourful buildings lining street in town of Ennis
The bustling streets of Ennis
Ennis had curves, colour and charm. Determined not to offend my budget any further, I booked into a private room at the local hostel: a palatial former 18th century gentlemen’s club scenically situated on the River Fergus. I could hardly believe my luck! The private room was as big as the B&B’s and just as spacious, airy and elegant. However, as I started unpacking, a shrill trill startled my senses. A couple of minutes later, it pervaded the room again. I pressed my nose up against the window where, on the street outside, was the world’s LOUDEST automated pedestrian crossing, being observed by the world’s lightest sleeper.
Within minutes, I was back at reception, seemingly the only visitor to have ever noticed the rowdy racket before. With no other private rooms available, I was generously moved to an enormous dorm room filled with multiple bunk beds all to myself - on the condition that I never breathed a word of my new debonair digs to any of the other guests.
“Would you like to join us for dinner tonight?”
Down in the bustling common room, I had shyly befriended some young European backpackers who generously invited me to join them at the local pub for the evening. It was the PS: I Love You moment I had been waiting for. Although there were no live musicians at the traditional tavern, I didn’t care a hoot. I was out and about in Ireland with actual people (whom I resisted the urge to boast about my private room to), and living my best life. I had arrived!
Not long after, so had the morning.

View from lookout at Cliffs of Moher
Scenic seacliffs with hidden puffins
“I'm not paying that!” I announced to no one in particular when I discovered the price of visiting, or at least parking at, the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Pay I did, eventually, and was rewarded with a sharp smack of gale-force winds at the misty, Kate Bush-esque lookout. The 200-metre, 300-million-year-old cliffs were sublimely epic and ethereal but it was so gosh-darn breezy, even the resident puffins seemed a little perturbed.
With a new hairstyle to boot, I hit the road until I arrived at the gorgeous Galway. There was just one problem: I was due back in Dublin to meet a fellow Aussie traveller that evening. Already it was late morning and I was facing a 3-to-4 hour drive across the width of the country. I managed to see only the outskirts of the coastal city, but it was enough for me to be instantly besotted with the place. How I wanted to be a Galway Girl! I lamented the missed chance to see Donegal, as well as Derry and Belfast; in fact the entire glorious countryside of Northern Ireland so rapturously written about in comedian Tony Hawk’s brilliant book Around Ireland with a Fridge. (Highly recommend it.)
A couple of hours into my drive east, I was busting beyond belief. No toilets were available at any of the petrol stations I had come across and, with no towns for what felt like the next 12,000 kilometres, I was in rather a spot of bother. I tried to distract myself by belting out sea shanties but they just made me want to chuck a tanty. I was literally on the verge of exploding when a tiny town suddenly came into view; the pinnacle of which was a charming, country club-style homestead restaurant that boasted ravishing restrooms and a lip-smacking lunch.
They have since been included in my will.

Book shelves of Trinity College Library, Dublin
The loquacious library

(Photo credit: Jonathon Singer - Unsplash)

By the time I made it back to Dublin, returned the rental car, marvelled at the 1,243 kilometres I had clocked up and freaked out about how many tolls I had incurred along the way, it was time to meet up with my friend. Over the next couple of hours, I was taken on a whistle-stop tour of some of Dublin’s highlights including the beautiful bridges over the Liffey, Trinity College (the most stunning library of which was closed for the evening) and the infamous Temple Bar, which my friend refused to enter in order to maintain some kind of reputation. Hiding my disappointment, I pressed my nose up against the pub’s windows, narrowly missing my chance of being the most clichéd tourist in history.
After a fetching sleep in a private room in Dublin’s Avalon House Hostel (that I was allowed to tell everyone about), I boarded a non-yelling bus back to the airport for an early flight out. As I waited for a torrent of turbulence to kick in, I cursed myself for not having made time to pay Bono a visit whilst I was in Dublin. Anyone who had ever even thought about Ireland seemed to have an incredible Bono story and, having been a U2 fan from way back, I would have dearly loved one to acquire of my own.
Sighing, I looked out the aeroplane window as the lilting lands of Ireland disappeared into a craic of clouds and I was soon drawn into a lively conversation with a fellow passenger about my harried 60-hour holiday.
“You didn’t go to Limerick, did you?” he inquired with alarm.
Whether all the ridicule was really just a covert way of generating much-needed publicity for the place, or Limerick really was a honky tonk dive of dismal proportions, I guarantee you it will be the first place I visit the next time I'm in the country. (After Galway, Wexford, Waterford, the Ring of Kerry, the Wicklow Mountains, Trinity College library, Donegal, Dun Laoghaire, Enniskerry, Dublin’s Temple Bar, Derry, Belfast and the whole of Northern Ireland, of course.)