I love autumn — this much you know is true. But, as the days get cooler and my life transforms from the laid-back days of summer to the hustle and bustle of fall, I jump at the chance to escape. When I moved to Ireland for my Master’s program, it took maybe two weeks of grad school before the Scholar and I were desperate for a reprieve. And just like that, a trip to Galway was born.
Because we only had a long weekend and a very limited budget, we chose to stay in Ireland — Galway was an easy choice. We booked a last minute roundtrip bus fare and a room at Snoozles Hostel. Then, we happily left Dublin for our three-day getaway.
The Perfect Day in Galway
One of the biggest draws of Galway is its proximity to some of the best sites in Ireland – the Aran Islands, the Burren, Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher. We signed up for the dreaded, embarrassingly touristy bus tour, because without the luxury of renting a car, it was our only real option. Yes, we were the youngest people on the tour. Yes, it was mildly awkward when our bus pulled up to the pub and we filed out along with all the other foreigners for our “traditional” Irish meal of ham and potatoes. But HEY, we were on a budget. I was determined to cross some of these places off my list, no matter how.
Stop #1. The Burren
Besides the cross-country drive from Dublin to Galway, this was my first true glimpse of the Irish countryside. It was breathtaking. Miles upon miles of stone-fenced fields were scattered with sheep, whose backsides were spray-painted different colors. This is so the local farmers can identify their flocks.
Stop #2. Poulnabrone Dolmen
This is Ireland’s Stonehenge. Underwhelming, maybe. But, if you really stop to think that this was constructed over 5,000 years ago, it will really blow your mind.
Stop #3. The Cliffs of Moher
Standing on the Cliffs of Moher, overlooking the Atlantic, literally took my breath away. It was the first time I realized there was a whole world of sites like this to see. The Scholar and I spent two hours walking up and down the small path along the Cliffs, talking and taking pictures. Was this really my life?
Stop #4. Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire will always have a soft spot in my heart. I had seen Versailles and The Louvre and the grand palazzi along the Venice canals. But this was my first, real deal, medieval-looking CASTLE. You can actually book dinner reservations here and have an authentic knights-of-the-round-table-style meal. Hokey, yes. Still beautiful.
Stop #5. Coastal Road
On our return to the city, we drove the coastal road along Galway Bay. Though it’s not technically a stop, it has to be included. When we passed a particularly pretty inlet, our bus driver pulled over and let us take pictures.
Stop #6. Galway City
We returned to Galway just in time for dinner and a night out at the pubs. Because we spent most of our money on the tour, we grabbed cold sandwiches and spent the rest on the important things — endless pints of Guinness.
Maybe its because Galway was my first trip outside of Dublin, but this day remains one of the most special and memorable days of any of my travels. I would have never chosen a bus tour, but it ended up being the easiest (and cheapest) way to see some of the best sites Ireland has to offer.
castles & coastlines,