Europe Gluten-Free Ireland Travel

Ireland: The Land of Abandoned Castles and Churches

 

The sea of green is enough to make anyone want to explore the vast expanses of nature, but the friendly converation will make you want to stay.

Top 5 Observations of Ireland:

  1. Donkey’s are a part of the landscape, and are commonly kept as pets (not used for labor).
  2. The people are BEYOND friendly and helpful!
  3. Gluten free bread (Coeliac bread) is everywhere, literally every single restaurant has gluten free options and bread!
  4. All the sheep have what appears to be different color paint across their back, and I could not get a straight answer from anyone as to the purpose of this.
  5. Abandoned castles and churches are as common as McDonald’s and Starbucks are in the states.

I arrived in Shannon to hospitality unlike any I’d ever experienced. On a few occasions I received slurred directions from drunk Irishmen, that went something like this “You’re going to take a left, then uh, you’ll see another left.. take that, then let me think, then take a left.” Finally, after several lefts I arrived at a cute cottage in Bodyke, a quaint town in County Clare.

I recommend renting a car at the Shannon airport or booking tours that pick you up from your accommodation and heading to the places discussed below.

Things to do around Bodyke…

Venture to Mount Shannon where you can see a beautiful view across the water filled with swans. In the evening, head to Pepper’s Pub for dinner, drinks, and some traditional live Irish music.

View from the top of King John’s Castle in Limerick
Then journey over to Limerick where you can roam the corridors of King John’s Castle (whom you may be familiar with as Prince John the villain of Robin hood). Admire the stained glass windows inside St. John’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Cathedral. In St. Mary’s Cathedral there is a hole in the wall for Lepers called a Leper’s squint, which during medieval times allowed lepers to peek in and “be a part of mass” without infecting others. They could even receive communion through the squint.

Photograph THE iconic Cliffs

Take a day tour to the Burren region where you’ll see astonishing views from atop the Cliffs of Moher (pronounced “more”). You could spend the entire day there just staring off into the horizon with views 700 feet above the ocean at their highest point. On top of the cliffs is O’Brien’s Tower. O’Brien was a wealthy politician in the early 1800’s who built the tower as an observation deck to impress a woman he was dating.

Worthwhile things along the way…

Take a short walk through the Aillwee Cave where you’ll see stalactites, stalagmites, and the remains of an ancient bear (the cave is rumored to be the last bear den in Ireland). Calcite formations in the recesses of the cave are dated to be 350,000 years old!

Then stop for a brief photo at the Doonagore castle.

Doonagore Castle

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the several wedge tombs you’ll pass, which our ancient burial structures older than the pyramids in Egypt!


Get a dose of history

Head to Cobh (pronounced “cove”) where you’ll stumble across the Titanic Museum in the place where the Titanic’s last port of call was at Cork Harbour. The museum still houses the ticket office where the passengers of the Titanic collected their tickets before boarding on the original pier.


Abbeys and Castles

 

Kylemore Abbey

Venture over to Galway where you can visit Connemara, where the unique Connemara marble is mined and then walk around the impressive estate of Kylemore Abbey. A stunning and historical monastery within the Kylemore castle that Mitchell Henry had built for his family in the late 1800s. He also had a Mausoleum built as the final resting place for his beloved wife that you can take a short walk to in the woods. Nearby you can also stop for a photo op at a remote bridge that was featured in the movie the Quiet Man starring John Wayne, which I have yet to see.

Quin Abbey

Walk across the graves of past Irishmen and women at Quin Abbey. Then take a tour into the past at Bunratty Castle and folk park, a 15th century building that you can climb to the top of and still houses several ancient artifacts. The folk park was quite fun and features several old style homes with traditional furniture and people in traditional costume.

Drive to Dublin to see historical sites such as the Dublin castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and take a walk through Stephen Green’s park covered in ponds, swans, and a memorial for those who lost their lives during the potato famine.

Ireland is a lovely place with an abundance of rolling green hills, cows, sheep and donkeys. The Cliffs of Moher were definitely the highlight of my trip and are a must see for anyone visiting Ireland! If you’re feeling adventurous, you should go for a more mobile experience by renting a bike and riding across the countryside.

One of the many abandoned churches alongside the road
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Anna French

Anna is an optimist with pessimistic tendencies who enjoys making a short story long, her coffee black, and watching Friends re-runs. These days you can catch her in her natural habitats wandering through forest roads in her van or hiking to a waterfall or glacial lake.

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