This was a combination vacation and working trip to firm up some of the details for our upcoming Hiker’s Tour series. We brought the usual collection of foul weather rain gear and fleece jackets but didn’t need any of them. 10 days of blue skies and warm to hot temperatures (up to 31C). I wish we could promise that for all of our hiker’s tours but this kind of weather without interruption is uncommon for Ireland. We traveled around quite a bit, focusing on County Wicklow and County Kerry for outdoor attractions and some great hiking. We also spent a little time on a personal quest visiting the house my grandmother grew up in and finding a great craft brewery in the town my great grandfather was from.
During the trip we vetted some absolutely stunning B&B’s and will be working with the owners to book for our guided hiker’s tours.
The hiking in County Wicklow was outstanding but an equally great memory for me will be hiking the 3 highest peaks in Ireland in Macgillycuddy’s Reeks in Kerry. Some other favorites included a visit to the monastic city and hikes around Glendalough, hikes along the ocean cliffs south of Cork, and an awesome tour of Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. It’s very busy during peak season, but well worth the time to visit and learn about “tower house” life. There were plenty of other highlights…and all good!
Here are some random observations from our Ireland Experiences:
Food and drink:
- A full Irish breakfast every day is a lot of food.
- Food in Irish pubs and restaurants comes fast and hot. It is also quite good. But the fast service stands out and some of these eateries were quite busy.
- Guinness is everywhere; we already knew that. Coors Light also seems to be everywhere … wasn’t expecting that. We drank a bit of Guinness…and some excellent local craft beers along the way.
- Plain coffee is frequently called “Americano”. Coffee is ubiquitous, but you can still get a cup of tea.
- Liquor is served in bars in strictly controlled measures. One measure isn’t much. It’s about 1 finger; a pinky finger. Make it a double.
Hiking and Outdoor recreation:
- Ireland is a great “outdoor recreation” country. Bikers, hikers, and kayakers everywhere…and so many great places to go. I chatted with a few members of a Dublin hiking club that had a sizable group on a hike in the Wicklow Mountains.
- Ireland’s nettles cause the same rash as New York’s nettles do. The rash also disappears just as quickly. If you are sensitive, long pants and gaiters are good for more than just mud.
- Livestock are everywhere. We waited for a herd of cows to be moved across a road by the farmer.
- Sheep are along just about every road and field outside of the cities. 90% of the sheep I have seen in my lifetime, I saw in one day of hiking in the Reeks, including some near the top of the highest peak.
- Wild deer are also a problem in some areas and scarce in others. We didn’t have any close calls with wildlife or livestock with the car, but the owner of one of the places we stayed wasn’t as lucky.
- Sheep farmers get a lot of exercise. They probably walk a lot more than the walkers who traverse their lands.
- Getting used to driving on the left side of the road doesn’t take long.
- Getting used to being a pedestrian where people drive on the left side of the road takes longer (which way to look first).
- Getting used to single-width country roads with two-way traffic and blind turns takes the longest.
- The narrow lanes mandate courtesy. It’s probably safer than it would be if they were just a little wider.
- The “M” (motorway) designated roadways are modern limited access highways; in fact they are all newer than the ones we have in the states. Most have tolls with booths staffed by polite toll takers. There is also an electronic (barrier-free) toll system called “eflow”.
- 20 degrees is a fairly typical July day. 30 is close to as hot as it gets. 20C is 68 Fahrenheit and 30C is 86 Fahrenheit.
- Speed limits: 50 kilometers per hour is about 31 miles per hour. 80 kph = 50 mph, 100 kph = 62 mph, 120 kph (top speed on motorways) = 74 mph
- 4 litres equals about 1.06 gallons. That means a litre of Diesel fuel at 1 euro 40 (1.4 euros) equates to 5 euro 28 per gallon…which at recent exchange rates is over $6.20/gallon. Auto-diesel is cheaper than petrol (gasoline) at most filling stations. There are a lot of diesel cars in Ireland.
- Street addresses containing equivalent information to the standard US postal format are hard to come by in many areas. But if you google “the big yellow house ballinasloe”, you’ll see directions and a photo of the house where my grandmother grew up over a hundred years ago. Go figure. It is currently for sale.