🇮🇪 January 8, 2022 - A Month In Ireland - Part 2

Written By Amanda

We homebased in Killarney, Ireland for the week so that Tommy could return back to work (virtually). I like to tease that someone in the family has to fund our ventures. Our goal for the week was to explore the town and nearby national parks in the mornings and make it back to our rental home by 1:00 pm so Tommy could work in the evenings (aligning with EST). We hoped this approach would allow us to get somewhat of a taste of “living as locals”, which is always an experience we strive for. Overall, Killarney was a great location to settle down for the week. It ended up being the favorite homebase for all of us! At the end of week we took a long weekend to slowly make our way to our next homebase in Galway, Ireland.

Killarney, Ireland → Killarney National Park → Dingle Peninsula → Camp → Cliffs of Mohr → Doolin → Inishmore (Aran Islands) → Galway

Be on the look out for Part 3 and Part 4 for more tips, tricks, and inspiration for traveling to Ireland! Also, don’t forget to look back at Part 1 if you haven’t already!

Day 9 - Around Killarney & Killarney National Park

Monday morning and officially back to the “real world”. Just five hours ahead and with different scenery! Tommy was set to return to work today at 1:00 pm (GMT). Which would be 9:00 am back on the east coast where we call home.

The first week of our trip (detailed in “A month in Ireland Part 1” was pretty busy and intense. Although returning to work after vacation can be a drag, we were looking forward to a little stability and calm. We liked to refer to this portion of our trip as “traveling” and not “vacationing”.

We got all settled into our rental home the night prior. It was so nice to unpack, do some laundry, sleep in the same bed for more than one night, and for Evelyn to have her own room. Evelyn was also very excited that the rental home had a small backyard which we don’t have at home. She loves to remind us of this shortcoming so I planned to encourage her to spend as much time in her “new backyard” as possible.

After a rushed week of traveling and all sleeping together in the same hotel room we decided to let Evelyn sleep in a bit. Tommy and I were able to sit and enjoy two cups of coffee together as we reflected on the week prior and discussed our up and coming plans for the rest of the week and the trip.

Once we were all up and moving, we headed out to Killarney with the primary goal of getting groceries for the week, seeing a few tourist sights near town, and buying a soccer ball.

When traveling, and the time allows, we try to cook whenever possible to cut back on the expense of eating out. We didn’t have that opportunity the week prior and were ready to give our wallets and waistlines a bit of a break.

During one of our first international trips with Evelyn, we started somewhat of a tradition of buying her a soccer ball from the places we have visited. This served as a souvenir but also something she could play with that we didn’t have lug over with us. A soccer ball encourages her to run and get some energy out when appropriate and can be played with in multiple ways. With our new backyard and more relaxed afternoons, it was the perfect time to find one!

Killarney is a cute little town sitting on the edge of Killarney National Park. All of us immediately fell in love with this town that is surrounded by nature. There are mountains, lakes, waterfalls, a castle, and hiking just a short drive from the city. Killarney has been a popular tourist destination in Ireland for years giving the town a lot of history. A lot of the historical homes, castles, Abbey’s have been acquired and maintained by the park.

On our way into town from our apartment, we made a stop at Ross Castle. We were unable to tour inside this 15th century castle but enjoyed a walk around the outside and its view of the lower lake. Evelyn got to climb around the structure a bit. Climbing is her favorite thing to do!

We then parked our car in town and walked over to the Killarney House and Gardens. This beautiful home is perfectly situated in town but with beautiful mountain views. What more could anyone want? Evelyn and Tommy had a blast playing tag on the grounds while I took pictures of the scenery. The home currently serves as a small museum for the national park. We enjoyed our walk through learning how the surrounding mountains and lakes were foamed, things to see in the park, and the history of the home. Leaving our car in the same lot we walked into town to do some quick shopping

We returned to our rental home for lunch and for Tommy to start work. Evelyn and I took a welcomed three hour nap. I think we were still recovering from the week prior and it was apparent that we needed the rest!

Evelyn and I then spent some time playing in the backyard. The morning hours were cloudy and cold but by late afternoon the day turned out beautiful!

Following dinner, Evelyn played a bit in her new room and I reworked our travel plans for the end of the week, cleaned out some pictures, and caught up on email and life. We felt bad for Tommy having to work until 10 or 11 pm (not sure because we were already asleep) but we were enjoying some girl time together.

Day 10 - Killarney National Park

With the weather outlook for the week not looking so good, we were up early to see as much of Killarney National Park as we could before the predicted rain was set to move in. The early morning wake up was a bit of a struggle as Tommy had a hard time shutting his brain off after working so late and attempting to go straight to bed. Tommy and I were also not used to sleeping together in what was probably a double (if not full) sized bed. We found smaller beds are very common in Ireland. We had gotten around it the week prior as we would take turns sleeping with the much smaller Evelyn.

Our plan of attack for the day was to drive through the scenic Killarney National Park to our furthest point of interest and then work our way back. Our thinking being that if we ran out of time the stops we had left to see would be closest to our rental home and we could target them later in the week. That made our first stop of the day Moll’s Gap overlook. It was a very overcast cloudy morning as we drove up into the mountains but that was much better than rain. Driving out towards Moll’s Gap the sun began to peak through and we could not resist the urge to make a quick stop at Ladies’ View earlier than we had planned. Unfortunately, the view from Moll’s Gap was nothing compared to Ladies View. It was also hard to find a place to safely park and walk. This overlook is not as nicely set up for visitors.

Now working our way back to the apartment we made a second stop at Ladies’ View. There was nice easy parking off the road and we felt like we could more safely enjoy the stunning view of Ireland’s mountains and lakes from above. This overlook’s name is said to originate from the admiration for the view given by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting when they visited the area.

As we continued on the route home I made Tommy stop at several small pull offs so that I could pop out and take some pictures of the beautiful area. I was excited to do my first bit of “hill walking” as I climbed over boulders and through brush to get the shots.

Next up, I set my family out on an all too familiar hunt for a waterfall. When researching the trip, I hadn’t run across any information on Derrycunnihy Falls but saw a picture of it in the Killarney House. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am obsessed with waterfalls and once seeing the photo I was on a mission to find it. There was not much information about this falls that I could find online, only the vague description that the trail was 1.5-4km or a half hour to two and half hours. There seemed to be a big difference there! Using google maps as our guide, we assumed the trailhead began at the Derrycunnihy Church. Parking here, we found a nearby trail and started walking. It was awesome to be walking in the woods. The trail was very nice with several boardwalks over grassy areas that I assume can be quite wet and muddy at times. After walking for about 30 minutes, we checked our location on GPS and noticed we were walking away from the falls. We backtracked to our car and decided to drive down the road a bit to see if there was another parking area closer. There was a small gravel pull off on the side of the road that we guessed could be the trailhead. There were definitely no signs indicating that it was. Luckily there was a local there that was able to confirm we were in the right spot and which direction we should take on the trail. We hiked about a mile and there it was! Nothing too impressive, but we had found it!

Our last stop for the morning was at Meeting of the Waters. This is the spot where the lakes of Killarney (The Upper Lake, Middle Lake, and Lower Lake) all come together. It can only be reached by foot or bicycle giving it a feeling of remoteness. On the spot where the waters meet, there is a 16th century bridge Old Weir Bridge. We took the shortest walking route possible, using the car park off N71. We walked down the pediatrician path and took a side hiking trail to bring us right to the bridge. We then rejoined the path and headed towards Dinis Cottage Tea Rooms. Here we had a late morning snack and some coffee. Despite the chill in the air, Evelyn tried out the fresh local ice cream from Muckross Creamery giving it rave reviews! Here I had my first taste of Irish Biscuit Cake and immediately fell in love! I am now on a mission to figure out how to make this at home! After our snack, we walked behind the tea house to get another view of the Meeting of the Waters. It was a very quiet and tranquil area.

It was nice to get some hikes in that morning. The temperature was absolutely perfect for it. There were no bugs and it was a relief to hike and not have to be constantly worried about snakes. One odd thing I was starting to become more aware of is that along with the lack of snakes, there really aren’t any squirrels either. Squirrels seem to be everywhere back home! A gentleman we talked with in Waterford initially brought this to my attention. When asking where we were from he said he had been there and the most surprising thing to him was how many squirrels we have. It is odd what you take for granted as just being a given. One of the many lessons traveling teaches you! For now though, I was thankful to be without any snakes.

On the path back to the car, we passed several bikers. Biking seems to be a popular activity in the park and would be worth checking out if we had more time.

We returned back to our rental home for another relaxing afternoon and evening around the house. One disadvantage to the location of our rental was that it was located about 5km outside of the city. Three of those kilometers being straight uphill (and then back downhill)! Me doing a quick grocery store run was not possible. This left Evelyn and I a little isolated in the afternoons and evenings while Tommy was working. I was not insured to drive the rental car. The total walking distance would not be too far had it not been for the dangers of walking on the steep and windy road. For now we needed the rest but towards the end of the week we were getting a little antsy waiting around for Tommy in the evenings. Even more so since no rain ended up moving in as anticipated. Ultimately, we kept ourselves busy walking the neighborhood, playing with the neighborhood cats, building fairy houses, and walking through the nearby livestock field.

Day 11 - Killarney National Park

Again, up early to beat the forecasted rain … that never came. Not that we have much grounds to complain, but we all could have used a few more hours of sleep. The late nights, early mornings, and small beds were starting to wear on everyone’s morale a bit.

Our goal for the morning was to visit Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park. Anticipating the impending rain, we found the closest parking and trailhead to the falls (Torc Falls lower parking lot). Had the weather looked better, I would have loved to hike along one of the longer trails in the park to get here. From the parking lot it was a short gradually inclining forested hike up to the beautiful falls. It is obvious to see why it is featured in the parks advertisements more than the neighboring Derrycunnihy Falls. I climbed down to the bottom of the falls and took a few minutes to myself to enjoy the sounds of the rushing water and reset my attitude (and gratitude) for the day.

From Torc Falls, you can easily hike a little less than 5km over to the Muckross House. On a typical day, this would have been the route we would have taken. Again, not knowing what the weather was going to do, we drove.

The Muckross House is a nineteenth century Victorian mansion in Killarney National Park built on the shores of the Muckross lake. You could spend a good bit of a day here touring the home, exploring the grounds and gardens, visiting the farm and nearby Abbey, taking a carriage ride, dining in the restaurant, and shopping at the craft market and gift shop. Unfortunately, we only had time for a quick walk around the outside of the estate.

From the estate, we walked the 1.5km over to the Muckross Abbey. This was a short and easy walk; however, this is where Evelyn’s trip fatigue caught up with her. Our all too perfect little traveler does occasionally have her meltdown moments. To be honest, they probably occur less often for her than Mommy. You would have thought she was on a 10 mile hike uphill (both ways). It didn’t help that along the walk we were frequently passed by carriages (jaunting cars) touring visitors around the grounds. Evelyn begged for us to take one but we just couldn’t justify it for such a short walk. We also wanted to get the most out of our last bit of exercise for the day before Tommy started work.

When “finally” made it to the Muckross Abbey where somehow Evelyn’s energy was restored. It was truely an amazing experience getting to wander the ruins of this well preserved Abbey dating back to 1448. This was probably my favorite Abbey of the whole trip. A lot of the structure still remained and you were able to explore from room to room, down hallways, and even climb up a set of stairs. In the center of an anterior courtyard stands an ancient yew tree which is said to be as old as the Abbey itself. This tree looks like it itself could be the inspiration for the Celtic Tree of Life.

Following a slightly less dramatic hike back to the car, we made our way back to the apartment for lunch and for the start of the work day. Evelyn and I spent the afternoon relaxing, playing outside and exploring more of our neighborhood.

Day 12 - Killarney

Yet again, rain was forecasted for the day. I was getting frustrated planning our week around the predicted rain that would never come. I woke up that morning determined to do something more in the afternoon while Tommy worked than just hang around the house. Rain or shine!

We let Evelyn sleep in while Tommy and I did our best to pack up as much as possible since it would be our last night in Killarney. Before starting work, Tommy drove Evelyn and I into town dropping us off at a local toy store. Here, I allowed Evelyn to explore the toy selection and spend some of her travel money. I encouraged her to only buy toys that she couldn’t find at home. We ended up with a pregnant barbie and a boy LOL doll. To my shock, the boy LOL was very anatomically correct. No wonder we hadn’t seen many at home in the US.

After toy shopping, Evelyn and I walked into town. We stopped and ate lunch at The Shire Bar & Cafe. We were attracted by the outdoor seating because, yet again, the day was turning out to be beautiful. I couldn’t resist the smell of chicken wings, which everyone seemed to be ordering. They were delicious and I was shocked at the large serving for such a good price. We took our time eating lunch and playing with our new toys.

Following lunch, Evelyn and I walked through downtown stopping at a few gift shops. We then headed to Knockreer Playground. The park was very nice with a lot of different play structures. It was busy and you could tell it was popular with the locals. We played here for a little over an hour and then started our walk over to Killarney Brewing Company where we planned to meet Tommy for dinner on his lunch break. At Killarney Brewing, we enjoyed some pizza for dinner and some local craft beer. During our meal, we had to Zoom call into an orientation session for Evelyn’s up and coming school year. A harsh reminder that school was going to start in a matter of days!

Day 13 - Dingle Peninsula

We were fortunate that Tommy’s work had given him Fridays off in July and August as “Wellness Days”. We were ready to take full advantage of the extra time off doing what fulfills us the most - exploring.

We originally planned to spend our long weekend traveling the Dingle Peninsula to Cliffs of Mohr to Athlone and ending in Galway. Our sole purpose for traveling to Athlone was to visit Sean’s Bar, Ireland’s oldest pub. Given that we were enjoying more of the countryside of Ireland over the cities; and the pub experience just wasn’t the same without music; we decided to rework our plans a bit. Luckily, we were able to cancel and then schedule new accommodations at the last minute. Alternatively, we decided to slow our pace of travel a bit between Killarney and Galway, which would allow us some extra time to make a day trip out to the Aran Islands. All this time we had spent driving on the western coast made us long to venture further out into the “wild atlantic”.

We started our long weekend of travel with an early checkout of our Killarney rental home. We were all sad to leave the area and hope to return to do much more hiking, biking, and canoeing. Killarney is definitely our kind of town! Evelyn, who had grown a strong attachment to our home-away-from-home, cried as we pulled away. This also could have been attributed to yet another late night / early morning.

The day started with heavy mist and fog. Not ideal, but it was not actual rain so we were thankful. We just kept reminding ourselves that there is a reason why Ireland is so lush and green. Our goal was to explore the Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head Drive. To Evelyn and I’s delight, the day also included several animal encounters!

Our first stop along our drive was at Inch Beach. We parked at the large lot and made a pit stop before walking out on the beach. I was impressed with how large the sandy beach area was. It was the largest stretch of beach I had seen in Ireland. We chuckled that its name was sort of an oxymoron. We watched several locals parked on the beach pinicing and preparing to go surfing. The fog over the beach and ocean gave the setting a magical feel. This was a feeling we frequently sensed during our time in Ireland.

From there we then made our way to the cute little town of Dingle. Here we walked around some before having lunch. The town’s vibrantly painted buildings added cheer to the misty and gray weather. I suspect this is intentional. We decided on lunch at Harrington’s and of course had the fish and chips! The seaside town setting almost made this a requirement.

In Dingle, we were surprised to stumble across a Camino de Santiago trail marker. The Camino de Santiago is a trail Tommy and I had previously hiked a portion of in Northern Spain. We were shocked to see a trail marker and church here in Ireland! As we discovered, the St. James’ Church in Dingle was a famous departure point of Irish pilgrims sailing to northern Spain where they would then continue to make their way to Santiago de Compostela and the tomb of St. James.

Leaving Dingle, we started off on Slea Head drive driving in the recommended clockwise direction. We first passed the Dunbeg Fort but due to confusion over where to park ended up at the Famine Cottages. This wound up being a very happy accident! Since we were there (and using their parking lot) we decided to check the Famine Cottage out. After paying a small fee to enter, the very kind man at the gate then gave us some feed for the animals and a bottle of milk. Evelyn and I were so excited as we both love animals. We couldn’t wait to feed some lambs from the bottle! Tommy opted to take pictures and stand guard. Evelyn and I had an absolute blast! We spent most of our time onsite feeding the horses and sheep. One horse was extra friendly with me, nuzzling into my hair while I fed the sheep.

Once we finished with all of our feed, Tommy was waiting and eager to wipe us both doing head to toe with sanitizing wipes. We finally made our way up the hill to the famine cottage. The cottage is a well preserved structure, as most we had seen were unrecognizable ruins. We were provided with an informative pamphlet giving the historical account of the site. Here we got a glimpse into the harsh life a family would have lived in these early 19th century mud and stone homes. It was easy to imagining how rough it must have been during the Great Potato Famine especially in such a remote setting so far from the food relief programs set up in the larger cities.

Following our walk around the famine cottage, we cautiously walked across the street to the Dunbeg Fort. The museum was closed but someone was still there at the sight to take our money. For the price we were very disappointed in what little we saw. There is little remaining of the fort structure itself. What remained was all enclosed by a fence. Definitely not as nice as previous forts we had seen in Ireland and at such a high cost comparatively. We did enjoy the view from over the cliffs out into the ocean though.

Feeling kind of ripped off from Dunbeg Fort, we opted to skip Fahan Beehive Huts. We had already seen a few beehive hunts in Ireland and weren’t sure how these would be any different. We even saw one at the famine cottage which had been repurposed by the farmers as a pigpen.

Driving around the rest of Slea Head Drive, the views from the windy one laned cliffside road were incredible! Even with the fog! We took the opportunity to stop at a few of the pull offs for quick photos. Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head Drive are much like the Ring of Kerry but not as populated, touristy, and congested. On the other hand, the driving is also a bit more challenging and there are fewer points of interest to stop at.

Passing by the West Kerry Brewery we had to make a u-turn and then stop! You don’t see many microbreweries in Ireland so we couldn’t pass it up! We are so glad we made the stop. We enjoyed a beer in the cozy setting with a warm traditional peat fire going. To our delight, we were joined at our table by a friendly cat who allowed Evelyn and I to love all over him. Maybe we still smelled like lamb’s milk.

From there, we took the beautiful drive over Conor Pass. Again, beautiful views even with the fog. We made a quick stop at the Conor Pass Waterfall flowing down the mountain to right beside and then under the road.

That evening we stayed at Camp Junction House B&B. Staying at this B&B was an experience of it’s own! I have never felt more welcomed at an accommodation! I am so glad we reworked our plans and we were able to get a room here as it was a visit we will remember forever. When arriving we were greeted by name by the very friendly owner. He showed a great interest in our family and travels around Ireland thus far. We then very quickly became acquainted with Hugo, the neighbor’s very loving and friendly dog. Hugo let us love all over him and thanked us by showing off his tricks. I have never met such a well behaved dog. I was shocked to learn he was only 3 years old! Again, so glad we found our way to this little B&B. The hospitality we were shown could never be matched!

At the B&B we also met a retired couple who were hiking along the Dingle Peninsula. They too had hiked the Camino de Santiago and we enjoyed sharing stories with them. They inspired Tommy and I who have similar retirement goals!

That night we had a relaxed dinner at The Junction Bar. It was okay food but mostly just conveniently located across the street. The restaurant also had an amazing view out into a pasture with a lone horse and then out into the ocean. Not much to complain about there! Following the meal, I dared to try the Irish Paddy Whisky and determined that Glendalough Whiskey still remains my all time favorite!

Day 14 - Cliffs of Mohr & Doolin

In the morning, Tommy and I enjoyed a full Irish breakfast while Evelyn was allowed to love on Hugo some more. Following a wonderful meal and tearful goodbyes to Hugo we made promises (mostly to Evelyn) to visit again. Evelyn was ready to stay and join the family!

Our goals for the day were to make our way north to see the Cliffs of Moher and stay the night in Doolin.

First, we stopped in the town of Adare to see the traditional thatched roof cottages. They were neat to see but there were less cottages to see than I anticipated. Also, they were very commercialized. Housing stores and coffee shops instead of being people’s actual homes. We did catch sight of Adare Desmond Castle sitting beautifully on the Maigue River. We would have loved to explore more but it was closed.

Along the way we made a stop at Clare Abbey. Our visit was much like many of the Abbey ruins we had previously seen throughout Ireland. We did however enjoy exploring the ruins for free as we stretched out our legs from the car ride.

Next, we arrived at the famed Cliffs of Moher. We had finally made it to Ireland’s “must see” attraction. As we paid and pulled into the car park my initial reaction was shock at the amount of people we saw. Nothing like what we had experienced touring the National Parks in the United States but definitely the most amount of people I had seen at a tourist destination in Ireland. When we arrived, it was beautiful and sunny with no rain in the forecast. I was anxious to get to the top of the cliffs to take some pictures. First, we stopped by the visitors center and cafe for a light lunch. After looking at the menu and prices we decided it was better to hold out.

We made the climb up the cliffs with several other tourists passing by a few accordion players set up playing for tips along the way. Once almost at the top, literally out of nowhere came a rain shower. Rain dumped down, soaking us! Now that we were up the hill and at the cliffs, there was nowhere we could take cover as we just continued the climb to the top in the rain. Luckily, the rain shower was short but it did successfully soak us all.

Once at the top, we took in the view over the cliff out into the ocean. We were able to see the Aran Islands and several boat tours leaving from Doolin. We climbed up O’Brian Tower for a similar view but impeded by the tower’s walls. Making our way along the cliffs, we began to notice what appeared to be another rain shower coming in from across the ocean. Not as impressed with the sight (compared to the Cliff’s of Kerry) and the amount of people, we decided we didn’t want to get rained on again and headed back to the car.

We arrived into Doolin a little earlier than we had anticipated but we were eager to relax a bit for the evening. We booked a family room at the Rainbow Hostel Doolin. The accommodations were sparse but it was the only thing that I could find so last minute. Given that it was a Saturday night and we learned that the town is very popular for hen parties, we were fortunate to find accommodations in the town.

We were able to walk down the street to McDermott’s Pub. It was obviously very popular, given the amount of people there so early, and we did not have reservations. They luckily allowed us to stay as long as we vacated the table by a certain time when it was reserved. That allowed us just enough time to play a few games of Pass the Pigs and [UNO](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uno_(card_game) together and enjoy the “pub experience”. When things were starting to get a little competitive (and we may have made Evelyn cry - oops) we put the games aside and had a delicious early dinner. As we ate, several hen parties began to flood in. Turns out, local hotels offer hen party packages and the area is popular for day tripping to the Aran Island. After dinner, we hung around outside the pub where we FINALLY got to hear some live Irish music! We listened for a little over an hour and Evelyn danced the whole time! Evelyn had us all entertained with her own take on Irish step dancing.

Day 15 - Arian Islands & Galway

After a good night’s rest, we were up and ready to pack our last day of summer vacation full of adventure!

We started the day with a very short walk down the street from our hostel to the Doolin Café to grab some to-go coffee and a delicious “biscuit”. These are not the biscuits we are used to at home in the southern United States but more like what we would call scones. They were delicious and filling all the same! The cafe looked, and smelled, like an amazing place for a sit down breakfast but we opted for more sleep over a full meal. We also had the option to cook something in our hostel had we been prepared.

We drove down to the Doolin pier and arrived in just enough time to park in the main parking area. This was good because there looked to be a good bit of walking from the other lots. Usually we like to walk but I was focused on conserving Evelyn’s energy for the day ahead.

There were several ferry companies we could have gone with to make our passage. I just selected Doolin Ferry Co. because I could buy tickets online and they had departing and returning times that would allow us to make a solid day trip. We checked in at the Doolin Ferry Co. and could already tell they had a well organized system. They gave us a map of our final destination, Inishmore, which included an advertisement for a local bike rental company and highlights of the Island.

There are three total islands you can visit in the Aran Islands. Each has their own unique points of interest. After mulling it over for a while I decided on Inishmore (or Inis Mór). Ultimately, this was because it was the biggest island with the most resources and touristy things to see and do. Given that it was our first time out to the islands I wanted to ensure that our options for activities were not limited. Especially if the weather turned bad. The ferry company also has routes that would allow you to see more than one island in a day but your time on each would be very limited.

We were scheduled to catch the 10 am Ferry. Tommy and I found it hilarious that several of the hen parties we had seen out the night before were boarding the ferry. We were surprised how well they all held it together for the boat ride after a night of partying but maybe we could have too if we were a bit younger.

The seas were not as rough as I had expected. None of us are prone to seasickness but I was mentally prepared for a very rough ride after all I had read about the voyage. The ride is said to be rougher from Doolin than it is from Galway. Luckily, it must have been a day for smoother sailing. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wildlife (dolphins, seals, whales) which is said to be a common occurrence as well.

After about a 45 minute ride, we arrived in Kilronan, Inishmore harbour. Our plan was to attempt biking to some sights on the island. I say “attempt” because Evelyn, who just turned 7 years old, is newly independent at biking without training wheels and I knew we would have to remain flexible. Also, the weather has the tendency to change quickly in Ireland, especially when you are closer to the ocean.

There were two companies that rented bikes within walking distance of the boat dock. We went with Aran Island Bike Hire mainly because of their online presence which allowed me to do a little research on what bikes the company had to offer beforehand. Upon disembarking the ferry I felt the urge to rush to the bike rental place. Ultimately, there really was no need. Despite all the people who had the same plans as we did for the day, there were more than enough bikes available. Aran Bike Hire also had a good system that allowed us to select our bikes quickly and go on with our touring.

Due to Evelyn’s limited biking experience, we were interested in a tag along or a tandem bike. The company had both of these bikes available to rent but at 4 foot she ended up being too big for the tag along and too small for the tandem. The only option was for her to try and bike the island on her own!

I was very anxious about this but talked myself off the ledge by rationalizing that there won’t be much traffic on this small island. What traffic there is, will surely be used to all the tourists on bikes not knowing what they are doing or where they are going. I was also under the perception that since we were on an island the terrin should be mostly flat. “Evelyn’s got this!”

As we fitted Evelyn for her bike and let her practice a little, I realized I was incorrect about the amount of cars we would be sharing the road with. To make things even more challenging, we would have to bike on the left side of the road with traffic (versus biking on the right like we are accustomed to). Our left hand would also be used to control our primary break (again verses the right which we were more accustomed to). I breathed deeply through my anxiety and decided we would just give it our best try. Worst case we would return the bikes early.

Our first stop was to the Spar, a local grocery store, for some picnic items. It was packed to say the least. After the bike rental shop, this seems to be the next place all the tourists stop. To get to the Spar we had to walk our bikes up a steep hill along a tight road with vehicles often blocking the way. After the store the hill only continued to climb upwards! So, come to find out, the island was not flat!

Evelyn struggled to get up the hills especially since she did not know how to change gears. Several children, and adults, turned their bikes back in following their attempts to make it up the hill out of town. I was so impressed with Evelyn. We took our time and although she frequently had to get off her bike and continue the walk up, she never quit. Full disclosure, we did get some complaints and looks of “what do my parents have me doing now” but she kept a good attitude and kept moving forward.

At the top of the large hill leaving the town of Kilronan, you have the choice to go right or left. Both routes eventually merge back together near the first major point of interest. Our thinking was we would go one way out and the other way back getting to see the scenery along both routes. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the more inland route (veering left), which we chose to take first, would only continue uphill. The route along the coast remains a little flatter.

Luckily, there wasn’t as much traffic inland and away from Kilronan. However, the vehicles that did pass were usually huge tour vans shuttling the tourists who opted not to bike around the island. They were definitely NOT cautious of bikers and took up most of the road as they sped past. Both Tommy and I were on high alert and positioned ourselves in a way to protect Evelyn in our little peloton.

Once high up on the plateau, our first stop was to the Wormhole, or Poll na bPeist. I didn’t quite know how to get there or what exactly we were there to see but I knew it was the sight of the 2017 Red Bull Diving Series which sounded cool enough. We again relied on our phone GPS and took a chance.

The road leading to the Wormhole veers off the main road and turns into dirt and gravel. We blindly followed the dirt road until we saw a few bikes propped against a stone fence. We assumed this must be the right place. We parked our bikes and hopped over the fence. There was not a dedicated trail to the sight. We just walked through the fields and over stone gates towards the ocean. It was neat walking through the field and seeing where stones had been moved for cultivation and where they still remained. We saw a few people occasionally along the route and this gave us a little reassurance we were heading in the right direction. Once arriving at the sheer cliff face, where the land literally fell into the sea, we checked our GPS and decided to head to our right for a bit. Finally, we stumbled upon a few people and what I had seen in images when I was researching the Wormhole. It is mind blowing to think about how the organizer of the Red Bull Diving Series got the participants, staff, filming equipment and crew, and spectators out to such a remote location.

Considered one of Ireland’s hidden gems, this swimming hole has underground channels that connect it to the ocean allowing water levels to rise and fall with the tide but be protected from the waves. The shape and edge make it look like a man made swimming pool but it is truly naturally formed. When we arrived, we enjoyed watching two locals jump in from the edge of the pool. Apparently, the tide was out so it wasn’t considered ideal conditions. I’d say the cold weather and ocean waters would make it not the best conditions for me!

After we made our way back to the main road from the Wormhole we then our way to Dun Aonghasa. This is probably the most popular tourist destination on the island. Dun Aonghasa is the remains of several prehistoric forts (from the Bronze Age and Iron Age) sitting on top of a 100 meter cliff looking out over the whole island and out into the ocean. It was quite a steep hike up to the forts especially after all that biking. There is not much remaining of the structures but the views are absolutely breathtaking! They definitely put the Cliffs of Moher to shame. The American in me was surprised that there were no barriers around the cliff’s edge. It is up to you to use your instincts to decide how close to the edge you should get. Tommy and I approached the edge cautiously with a tight grip on Evelyn the whole time. It was a bit of an adrenaline rush and we were grateful to experience the natural beauty, from a safe distance, without barriers.

After we took in the beautiful view, we became increasingly aware of our time crunch and the need to start biking back (quickly) to catch our 4 pm scheduled ferry. Luckily, the return route was flatter and a bit faster. We did take a quick break at the Seal Colony Viewpoint. It was now high tide but we were still able to see a few seal heads bobing out in the water.

We made it back into Kilronan in just enough time to make one last stop at the Spar to treat our very deserving little biker to some treats for the boat ride home. In total, we biked 10 miles. This is the furthest Evelyn had ever biked on her own before! Add to that the elevation gain and biking on the left side of the road. I can’t say she wasn’t bribed and now it was our time to cash in!

Even with as much fun as we had, we were all tired and eager to return our bikes at the end of the day. We felt the day was a success. There were no tears and no broken bones! We hope there will be some more biking tourism in our family’s future.

We made our 4 pm scheduled ferry back to Doolin and started the hour and a half drive to (Galway)[https://wikitravel.org/en/Galway]. We planned to settle into Galway for another week of work and for Evelyn to start her first week of second grade!

Our apartment was very conveniently located by the Docks and included parking. Once unloaded, we were famished and immediately went searching for dinner. I am not one for Italian food but I agreed to try a highly rated restaurant that Tommy found called Venice. Our meal was amazing and I am so glad I put my reservations aside! I asked to go back several more times throughout the next week.

That evening, I was probably the most excited out of all three of us for school to start the next day! I had grand visions of a relaxing week in Galway and what I would do with all the free time I would get to myself!