The Wild Atlantic Way Part V: From Galway to Killarney…
WILD ATLANTIC ROAD TRIP DAY IV
We woke in the morning relaxed and ready to go. By now, our daily routine was well rehearsed. We went downstairs, met Brian for breakfast and discussed the day before we set off. We enjoyed another nice morning meal and met Brian outside the main entrance of the hotel where we loaded up the van again to begin what would be our last day with our driver/guide/friend before we switched off and continued on our self-guided portion of the trip.
Alicia and I have both traveled down the coast along the Wild Atlantic Way in the past and were wondering how we could make this trip different from past journeys. I wasn’t really sure out that would work out to be honest but after talking with my colleagues about our previous experiences, they put together a plan that really blew us away. As we left Galway, heading for Clare via The Burren, we were excited to see what Brian had in store.
Since we had both traveled this route, or so we thought, Brian asked us a few questions and then decided which route he would take. He decided on the coastal road, all along the Wild Atlantic Way to our drop off point at Shannon Airport later in the day where we would pick up our rental car. As we travelled down the coast, we were surprised to see how absolutely beautiful the route was. We followed the Clare coast along the other side of Galway Bay, and we could see clearly across to where we had been the day before. We even caught a glimpse of dolphins playing in the bay just beneath us. Brian stopped so we could enjoy the sight, it was as if he had set it up for us.
We continued along the way, stopping periodically to point out some sights worth seeing, from monastic ruins, to 16th century castles and famine villages that dotted the landscape. It was a beautiful drive which culminated in one of Brian’s famous wow moments at the Cliffs of Moher. We had both been to the cliffs on several occasions and they never disappoint as depending on what time of the day and season you visit; the experience is quite different. However, Brian assured us that he had a view of the cliffs that not many get to experience and again… WOW. As we approached Brian’s “secret spot,” which is an alternative entrance owned by a local family, we came to a crest in the drive, and at the peak, was that moment of awe. We were right at the top of the southern rim of the Cliffs of Moher. It was absolutely breath-taking, and I have yet to meet anyone who has experienced that vantage point. We were so happy to see this incredible landmark from a different perspective and we can’t wait to return and to share it with friends and family. We stayed here for a little while to soak it in and enjoy the moment, it was really special.
We got back in the van to continue our last leg of the trip with Brian. After four days with him it would be sad to see him go, he had been such an integral part of our experience, we didn’t want to leave him. We traveled that last leg to the airport still looking forward for the rest of the week and reflecting on all of the cool things we had been able to see and do in just a few short days. The driver-guide experience was an excellent way for us to enjoy our holiday and I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates being able to have a no hassle holiday experience at the hands of consummate professionals. From the initial planning, to the driving and impromptu suggestions along the way and the hotel experiences, everything was perfect so far.
We arrived at Shannon airport on schedule, ready to continue on our own. Brian dropped us off and waited to make sure that everything went ok with picking up the car. He stayed with us in the lot so we could transfer our bags and then we said our goodbyes. I had never done the driver-guide experience before, but I will say it was so personal and comfortable that I will definitely do it in the future. It’s a great way to experience Ireland in comfort and in confidence that you will be fully looked after from start to finish. Thanks Brian, safe travels!
As we pulled out off the car park in Shannon, we were now on our own, well, not really on our own because the team at Specialized Travel Services had helped us plan our route and add excursions along the way. So, we had guidance which was nice and assuring.
Our next stop before we headed off to Kerry was Kilrush, where we had scheduled a meet-up with Irene Hamilton, owner and operator of Scattery Island Tours. Irene runs tours of Scattery Island, the birthplace of her father, one of the last inhabitants of the island. Situated just off the coast of Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary, Scattery was the home of an early monastic site founded by St. Senan which dates back to the early fifth century. When we arrived, Irene greeted us and filled us in on the background of the island. The view of the island itself is that of a picture post card, with the village laid out on the coastline and featuring a lighthouse at the end, it was a view that one would expect or hope to find when experiencing Ireland. We arrived on the island after a short 15 minutes on the crystal clear and calm waters where we were greeted by an official of Ireland’s Office of Public Works named John. We joined John on a walk around the island. He showed us the ruins and explained the history of the sites. It was an interesting tour and a nice way to take a break before jumping back in the car and heading down south. Irene was a great host, and we were happy to learn something new in our travels along the coast. Irene brought us safely back to shore and wished us a safe trip. It was a pleasant stop and a nice way to enjoy nature for a little bit.
From here we got back in the car and headed off just down the road to Killimer where took the car on board the ferry to Tarbert in Kerry. This is another nice way to break the trip a bit as the crossing takes about 20 minutes. Plenty of time to relax and enjoy the ride or as in our case, check the map and see which route we wanted to take into Killarney where we would be spending the night. We plotted our route and waited to begin on the other side of the Shannon. We arrived in Killarney about an hour after the ferry ride and once again were pleased to arrive at yet another great hotel, The Killarney Riverside Hotel. A Select Hotels of Ireland member, adjacent to the Flesk River, the Killarney Riverside Hotel is a Four star Boutique style hotel located on the Muckross Road (near the INEC), a 10 minute walk from Killarney town centre. Bedroom accommodation is of a 4 star standard with phone, TV, hairdryer, tea/coffee tray, complimentary Wi-Fi internet access and a 24 hour room service menu. The hotel is also a perfect base for golf, fishing, horse riding, touring County Kerry’s many scenic attractions and a host of other outdoor activities in Kerry.
We had spent 3 and a half days with our driver guide Brian and then we transitioned to a self-guided tour. This transition was seamless and all we had to do was follow the itinerary that that was provided to us by Specialized Travel Services. We had a concise and clearly laid out plan to follow and each of our upcoming experiences had been booked and confirmed. All we had to do was arrive. It was easy and allowed us to enjoy ourselves without worrying if we had to call ahead or make confirmations, it was all done ahead of time, worry free. We arrived that evening at The Riverside Hotel and fell into bed knowing that we were taken care of and confident that for the rest of the trip, we could rely on the plans that had been arranged for us. We were able to sleep easy that evening and dream about what the next couple of days had in store for us as we continued our journey through Kerry along the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Blasket Islands – Na Blascaodaí
March 21, 22
Visit The Ceide Fields & Downpatrick Head
March 14, 22
Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens
February 7, 22