Castles, Cliffs, and Craic!

I arrived at Shannon airport in Ireland almost a month ago!  It definitely doesn’t feel like it has been that long at all, but I think I’m finally settling in here and enjoying Galway.  Classes, my senior design project, living in a new apartment, making new friends and exploring a new city on foot  have consumed the majority of the weekdays. So on the weekends I make sure to get out of the apartment, engineering computer lab, the gym, and the pubs and have an adventure!

The Aula Maxima (The Quad) at NUI-Galway – it is modeled after Christ’s Church, a college at the University of Oxford

Inside of the brand new engineering building on campus – NUIG has the largest engineering school in Ireland

Coming to Ireland, I had no intention of posting pictures on Facebook or starting a blog. My mom made me promise to take pictures and actually upload them (unlike the pictures that remained locked in my camera for 3 months following my trip to China in May!). Once I started taking the pictures, uploading, and sharing them with a few people, a blog seemed like a great idea. Most posts will be pictures, writing long paragraphs that don’t involve technical details of cell seeding protocols or analysis of fluid dynamic experiments is a bit challenging for me…I am an engineer Smile.  But don’t worry I’ll include useless facts (Dad and John I’m sure you’ll love those…) and a few anecdotes along the way!

I have a lot of Ireland posts to catch up on:

  1. Exploring Galway: Salthill and Eyre Square
  2. Trip to Connemara, Cong, and Kylemore Abbey
  3. First Half Marathon and weekend in Dublin!

But I’ll leave those for a rainy day (o wait that is every day!), and start with yesterday’s trip to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. Galway Tour Company has a great deal for students, unlimited bus trips to Cliffs of Moher and Connemara for the price of one adult trip (20 euro). Since I paid to go to Connemara already (post to come soon!), my trip yesterday was essentially free….score!

Two great things about this tour company: They “collect” all passengers at their residence or Bed&Breakfast, meaning no walking 30min downtown in the rain or 8euro taxi ride, and they fill up your entire day with stops and sightseeing (10am-7pm). One draw back, you have to listen to the 90 year old bus driver tell horrible jokes about “his prime” and love making skills of the Irish…awkward.

We did a lot of sightseeing from the bus, many Medieval castles, mountains, rivers, lakes, and lots of rocks! The Burren, which is the part of Ireland we were travelling through all day, is just South of Galway in Clare County and is a large limestone-rock landscape. It was formed by the glaciers in the 2nd Ice Age (they tell you this a million times, the scientist in me would love to see the evidence of this) and all sorts of flora grow in the cracks between the rocks. Anyways, besides lots of rock, there are also a ton of historical castles and churches, here are a few of them.

Dunguaire Castle: The King who built it in the 16th century really isn’t significant, but it was actually a meeting place for the heads of the Celtic Revival (Father’s of traditional “Celtic” Art and Literature) including WB Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.

It was by far the sunniest day since I’ve been here, we were really blessed with great weather—it only rained twice! Haha o how your perspective changes!

Napoleonic Watch Tower

CW and me at a port on our short potty-stop. Public restrooms are pretty much non-existent in Ireland, which proves to be a problem when you are an avid coffee and water guzzler like me!

Poulnabrone Dolmen: Burial site for remains of community, when someone died they would actually allow the animals to consume their body and then bury the bones or ashes here. Excavation in the 1980s found remains of many different people, the majority not over the age of 40.

It was built in by Neolithic Farmers in the Burren over 5800 years ago, making it older than the Egyptian Pyramids and the Battle of Troy!

On our way out of the Burren and towards the Cliffs we passed by Lisdoonvarna, home of the oldest, most well known matchmaker in Europe (or so the story goes…). September is singles month with visitors coming to dance, eat, and meet other singles from all over the world! Guess I should have had more strategic planning and made it to the festival! Haha….Mom you can insert your jokes/desperate pleas here:

As I mentioned before, it was a gorgeous day; barely rained AND we saw the sun! This is in Doolin, where we stopped at a Pub for a traditional Irish lunch.

We didn’t make it for the music or dancing, but the town was really cute and had a lot of traditional Irish art shops. It was quite the craic! (Translation: fun, good time, among like 500 other definitions….)

YUMMMM! I passed on the Irish lunch for my lovely packed tofu, fruits, and veggies but couldn’t resist the homemade fudge at one of the shops! I got the Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate, it was super delicious but extremely rich. Totally meant to get a picture of the selection and sign outside, but all the tourists’ mad rush for the fudge was a bit much for me and I forgot.

I would like to pause to say “yes I did just say tourists as if I wasn’t referring to myself.” Since I have been here for a few weeks now and have my bearings on my general geographic location the majority of the time in addition to being independent in planning/executing “normal tasks” (international and domestic calling, grocery shopping with euro/credit cards, walking around without an umbrella or rainboots and preferably no rainjacket (don’t ask me why…) and finding my way to the “college” pubs) I feel like I’m no longer a tourist in Ireland. I guess it is more that I am a temporary visitor with a little know-how of the Irish culture. Enough of that, moving on to the REAL reason we went on this trip….Drum Roll….

Breathtaking, right? Well this is the only time I think the sun was a nuisance, the pictures don’t do it justice, guess you’ll just have to come visit and see for yourself!

A view of the other side of the Cliffs. Again, they are made of limestone, formed by the Ice Age. Limestone is easily eroded by the wind and rain so the edge is constantly changing. Apparently scenes (don’t ask which ones…) from the 6th Harry Potter movie were shot here (something with Dumbledore) but since I stopped reading HP when the books got too long and Clare had to tell me what was happening in all the movies, I can’t tell you any more details – go Google it.

Don’t make fun of my last picture! It makes me happy, it is something a lot of other bloggers do, I’m pretty sure some company and/or popular blogger started it awhile ago and assigned different poses to other bloggers. So I decided that since it was peaceful and such a calming view, I’d document the moment with a yoga pose too!

Warrior II on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland!

Yes the edge is the edge and I was careful not to get too close!

Well, it was a long, beautiful, and exciting day in the Burren, I’m glad I had the opportunity to go and some company too. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and my side stories! I didn’t plan on writing this much, I expect the other posts to be much shorter.  Feel free to leave comments, I’d love to know someone is actually reading this!

Next up: Recap post(s) on Dublin and the Half Marathon! I’m also going to try to do local restaurant posts if we schedule one for this week.

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About ewittenberg

Senior biomedical engineering student at Purdue University studying abroad this semester at the National University of Ireland -- Galway.
This entry was posted in Day Trips, Ireland, NUI Galway, Study Abroad, Weekend Adventures, Yoga!. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Castles, Cliffs, and Craic!

  1. Mom says:

    I think I need to get in touch with that world famous matchmaker….does she have a website??

  2. Clare says:

    Ellen I’m so glad you decided to start a blog, it’s been great to see (and read…) all about your new international life in Ireland! I especially love your geography/history fun facts, you are truly a Wittenberg! Even in the picture the Cliffs are beautiful and they are definitely now on my must-see-in-Ireland wish list (doubly so with the HP connection…)!

    I’ll skip over making fun of your yoga pose and just say I hope you’re having fun in yoga club. Maybe when you get back to the good ‘ole USA you can start your own! hahaha it’d probably just have two members: me and you haha.

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