Spend any amount of time in Ireland and you’ll discover the Irish are brilliant storytellers. Folklore and true tales have been passed through generations and if you have an open ear, hear these tales from your taxi driver, new pub mates, random folks on the street, and of course, your tour guide. I explored Southwest Ireland with Paddywagon Tours and discovered how they serve up a heaping bowl of fun storytelling to complement the Emerald Isle’s stunning scenery.
Was traveling through Ireland’s countryside as amazing as you see on television or in magazines? Yes, and then some. Perhaps my appreciation for the Irish countryside hails from the Irish lineage running through my blood.
“Do ye have Irish in ya?” Mike the Paddywagon Tours guide asked me. “I can see it in ya,” he said after I confirmed what he already knew. Maybe he asked everyone else in the group but I’d like to think my Irishness shone through as I ventured into a land my great-great-grandparents hailed.
As luck would have it, the day I departed Dublin with about a dozen others on the tour, the sun shined and it turns out of the 10 days I spent in the country, that was the only sunny, rain-free day. Of course, I can’t shun Irish rain. Without it, the Emerald Isle wouldn’t be so green year-round.
The day’s primary destination was the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s most visited natural attraction, but Mike, who was also the driver, made the most of the sunshine by ensuring we saw as much of Southwest Ireland as possible. This is typical of a Paddywagon Tours itinerary. They offer set tours with some flexibility depending on the time of year and weather conditions.
Along the way I saw a thatched house in the process of being re-thatched. Okay, this intrigue may be like a European visitor pulling to the side of a Florida road to view an alligator, but seeing this up close and personal was pretty nifty.
Other sites along the way included a walk around the 16th century built Dunguaire Castle. The tower house, which overlooks Galway Bay, was built by the O’Hynes clan in 1520. Today, the restored castle reflects life from the 16th century through today. Although I didn’t get to taste it, I’m told April to October, the castle offers an amazing banquet with locally sourced food.
Wishes were made at Pinnacle Well in Ballyvaughan, County Clare. A spring fills the stone basin which was built in 1860. Visitors to the well are invited to fill their water bottles with the fresh water, too.
The Paddywagon guide narrated the entire trip with mostly lighthearted tales but when it came to discussing the Great Famine, it was done with deepest respect. The time between 1845 and 1852 was a dark time in Ireland. Under British rule the country experienced disease, emigration and mass starvation. More than one million people died and many were buried in mass graves.
Today, famine cemeteries dot the Irish landscape and while driving through County Clare, we briefly stopped at one. The cemetery was eerily beautiful with its dark, weathered limestone headstones, some were Celtic crosses, standing out against the vibrant green, rolling landscape.
Before reaching the famous Cliffs of Moher, we stopped at Doolin Cliff, or the “Baby Cliffs,” for spectacular views of Doolin Bay. The sun shone brightly that day and the blue sky was sparsely dotted with cotton ball-like clouds. How could it get any better?
With lunch, that’s how. Doolin Bay Seafood Chowder at Fitzpatrick’s Bar made for a hearty meal, served with a pint of Guinness, of course. The cream-based chowder swam with bits of seafood and potato.
Angels didn’t sing, but perhaps it was a whisper from my great-great-grandmother I heard when arriving at the Cliffs of Moher. I felt so small looking at the awesomeness of the cliffs and looking down, way down, to the Atlantic Ocean below.
The Cliffs were topped with a base of green grass with some of the taller grasses beginning to turn a golden color. These taller grasses danced in the Atlantic breeze while I soaked up the scenery. Holding up the grass were the massive jagged cliffs with layers of colored rock formations in shades of grays and browns. It looked as though a dull, serrated knife was used to carve them out of the Irish mountainside. The sky was still robin egg-blue with kisses of white clouds.
It didn’t look real.
Like other tourists, I took the trail to the left and hiked along the ridge of the cliffs. Unlike other tourists, I was compliant and stayed on the proper side of the fence, others opted to walk between the edge and stone barrier. Nope, I wasn’t going to risk tripping and falling over the edge. There’s too much yet to see and do in this world.
I stopped and soaked up this amazing beauty once reaching the pinnacle. I was very, very lucky to be there on a sunny, bright day.
Drinking in the enormousness of the scenery made me appreciate my place in this world. In the grand scheme of things, I’m a small speck thankful for opportunities that have come my way and thankful for what’s to come.
After my brief, personal epiphany, it was time to round ’em up and head to the host accommodations for the night, via the Killimer Ferry to Dingle. I slept like a babe in Inspiration Lodge, which states it’s the only thatched-roof B&B in Ireland. I’m not sure if it’s true but it is sweet. Accommodations are basic, rooms include bathrooms, breakfast is hearty and WiFi access was spotty.
Next door is a Hostello operated by Paddywagon Tours. I took a peak and accommodations were spacious, the common area was large, kitchen was clean and WiFi was reliable.
The Randy Leprechaun Pub is onsite with basic food, pool and evening entertainment. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn Irish dance steps from a local. Not like Riverdance, but something more traditional.
What a perfect day, but not the end of my adventures in Ireland.
Let Me Tell Ya About Day Tours World and Paddwagon Tours
Driving in another country other than Canada is something I can’t even imagine. Yes, I may globe-trot solo but I have my limits as to what I’ll do. Thankfully, most other countries have tourist-friendly transportation options and during my trip to Dublin last fall, I put my trust in Day Tours World, a company that coordinates tours in about 200 top travel destinations around the globe, which connected me with Paddywagon Tours to introduce me to an Irish world beyond Dublin.
Although Paddywagon picks up clients at certain Dublin hotels, I opted to meet the tour company at the Dublin Discover Ireland Centre on Suffolk Street. From there, I joined others for a magical journey through rolling green countryside and gobs of storytelling to Southwest Ireland.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Day Tours World and Paddywagon Tours. They have not reviewed this post and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links in order to support my traveling habit and maintain this blog.