We left Galway at lunchtime, thrilled to be setting off on the next stage of our journey in the sunshine, and before long we were whizzing through the countryside. As the roads narrowed and the views became more and more beautiful, we found ourselves in the picturesque village of Kinvarra, home to Dunguaire castle perched on a rocky outcrop on the Southeastern shore of Galway Bay looking back at the city. I mean, does this not look like a movie scene? I was half expecting some Vikings to come riding past....
The castle was recently restored and is now open to visitors - its main feature being the 75 foot tower which you can climb for a small entrance fee - and the castle's history is described in detail as you scale the narrow staircase before you reach a pretty awesome view at the top.
From there it was onwards towards County Clare. The terrain started to change before our eyes from rolling countryside to craggy coastline as we approached Ballyvaughan, an enchanting little harbour village right on the edge of the famous Burren.
A quick bit of last minute online research assured us that Monks bar and restaurant was a good place to stop for a spot of lunch - perfectly located across from the pier and a gorgeous sun trap on what had by now turned into a beautiful summer's day.
The food was great (although stay away from the fish platter if they have it - the regular menu items are far better) and we were soon ready to hit the road again. Turning inland we headed through The Burren - a vast (250 square kilometers!) national park. The "Burren" comes from an Irish word "Boíreann" meaning a rocky place and to be honest, that pretty much sums it up!
We stopped off at the Poulnabrone portal tomb - a pretty bizarre thing to see in the otherwise desolate landscape - this tomb is one of over 170 in Ireland and archaeologists still do not know who erected them, which makes it difficult to know or understand why they did it!
But there was no time to hang around and ponder, we still had miles to cover!
We were convinced that the roads couldn't possible get any narrower, but were proven wrong as they became nothing more than hedged pathway (questionable directions from the sat nav didn't help) and we became increasingly thankful for a driver who grew up in the countryside and wasn't phased by cars passing with millimeters to spare!
Finally we caught sight of the Atlantic once again, signaling our arrival into Doolin. I was a bit nervous about the hotel I'd booked as it looked a bit dated and, well, traditional. Safe to say the view on arrival banished any concerns I may have had in an instant and as I recall, the only words muttered between us for the next 3 hours were along the lines of "aaaah maaaa gaawwwwwd it's just INNNSSAAAANEEE out here..."
We sat outside watching the sun sink slowly towards the horizon, sipping cold white wine while recounting story's from the journey so far while I skipped around taking about 5,000 photos, selfies and boomerangs in the magical light (worth it).
Eventually hunger got the better of us and we ventured down the hill into Doolin town centre (made up of a grand total of 2 pubs!) for a hearty Irish stew and a few ales before turning in for an early(ish) night. An unforgettable evening and the perfect start to our adventures in County Clare.
Next up - the Cliffs of Moher! Can you spot them there on the left hand side?