We like singin’
We like dancin’
We like drinkin’
and we like writin’

These four truths became more apparent as time went on during a three day tour to see the best of southern Ireland. Throughout the next few days, we had singin’ sessions both on the bus and in the pub, dancin’ sessions on the bus and in the pub, drinkin’ sessions (NOT on the bus, only in the pub) and well, now I’m doing my fair share of writin’.

Nine of us left Dublin on a Wednesday morning, brought together by a tour company appropriately named “Shamrocker Adventures.” Our group was composed of three solo female travelers, a young couple, a pair of brothers, and a pair of college roommates. We laughed the whole way from Ireland’s capital city to Galway as our guide shared bits of history and insight into the Irish way of life.

 

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Gill, our tour guide for the next three days, sat in the front of the bus and showed us all a map of Ireland not two feet high.

“I like to think of Ireland as a big ol’ Koala bear driving a car through the sea” she told us. And if you look with gentle eyes, you too will see Mr. Koala, driving straight toward the Americas.

We cut clear across the country, stopping just under three hours later on the far western side of Ireland. We nine hopped off and set out to explore Galway. “If you pass up this here hill, turn a left and head down the main street, you’ll find the famous Spanish Arch. A last piece of what was once the town’s protective wall, it’s remained standing for over 400 years and is now home to a small museum.

“Make sure to get a picture there.” she told us just before we set off on our own.
The girls of the group decided to follow her advice, and immediately sought out the infamous Spanish Arch.
During our search for the arch, we stopped to ask two elder men for directions.

“Jes that’r way,” they said, “Jes a Left. A few steps, an’ yer there”

Following their directions. we ended up at two slight arches. One was barred, and the other open.

 

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“Must be the Spanish Arch” one of the Shamrocker girls from the morning tour said.
We weren’t sure, so paused a few moments while waiting for other tourists to gather for a photo. Yes, we’d found the famous spot. We immediately broke out in laughter, “All of this for that?” We’d walked so quickly through town, past all the eye-catching stores and street musicians gaily strumming along to find the arch, a decidedly unimpressive sight. Still we struck a pose, just to prove we’d found our way. Quickly turning on heels, we went right back to the city.

Murals and sculptures of Claddagh rings were on every corner in celebration of the symbolic ring’s origins. The ring originated a short distance from Galway’s center in Claddagh, a fishing village across the Corrib River from the Spanish Arch we’d gone in search of.

Gill had told us about the traditional Claddagh ring symbolism and warned us away from purchasing rings for ourselves, as the ring is said to bring bad luck if bought by the wearer. It’s only when gifted that it becomes a meaningful treasure: the heart symbolizing love, a crown for loyalty and two hands representing friendship.

The ring is worn for different ways to represent stages in a relationship.
To wear on your right hand, heart facing away: Single and ready to mingle.
On your right hand facing inward: Dating but not fully committed.
On your left hand facing out: Engaged, vows to come.
On your left hand with the heart facing in: Look away, fellas. I’m married and oh, so in love.

With this tidbit of knowledge, a game of “I Spy” was inevitable during the rest of the trip as I took notice of others’ rings and found them to be much more common than I’d ever before realized.

 

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After posing in front of the Spanish Arch, grabbing sandwiches at a little cafe, and window shopping past the Claddagh Ring stores, we returned to the bus where we were joined by nearly forty more travelers. They all had been on tour with Shamrocker Adventures through other parts of Ireland, and we were to continue along with them for the next three days. Some had first seen Northern Ireland. Others had met two days prior, and had taken that time to cycle around the island of Inis More.

The three groups became one and together we set off for breathtaking views of The Cliffs of Moher.

Between Galway and the Cliffs, we drove through Ballyvaughan in County Clare, a charming town which has earned the attention of Mr. Steven Spielberg for its delectable cheesecake. Gill eagerly showed us the cafe where Spielberg had made a special visit, requesting a fly-by pit stop especially for the cake en route to The Prince of Monaco’s wedding in 2011. (Really! You can read the story leaked by Ireland’s Independent News HERE)

While we didn’t stop for cheesecake, we did stop at two surreal locations for fresh air and long hikes.

 

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Burren is a stunning, quiet area with rocky terrain and tiny flowers popping through limestone slabs wherever they get a chance. It leads directly to the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, ending in stunning black cliffs. We walked along the edge and climbed up and down the cliffs. Adult children on nature’s playground, our stop here was only preparing us for one of the most magnificent of views we’d see during our time together: The Cliffs of Moher.

Not far from Burren, we found the 700 foot gentle giants. A path leads right along the cliff’s edge, and walking (near) to the side,we were able to look down at rocks standing as miniature islands in the sea. Birds swooped below and cows grazed beside us, and with the most rare of Irish weather, the sun shone brightly above.

 

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It was our first day of three traveling through southern Ireland, and it seemed like the sites couldn’t get much better. But who was I to know?

We ended the day in the small town of Ennis with games, dinner and a pint-sized concert at the local pub. Guinness’s in hand, we sang, we danced and we drank as is the traditional Irish way.

 

CLICK HERE to read about Day 2 of our Shamrocker Tour: Dolphins Dogs and Donkeys in Dingle, Ireland
CLICK HERE to read about Day 3 of our Shamrocker Tour: The Blarney Stone’s Gift of Gab

Special thanks to Shamrocker Adventure Tours for the invitation to spend three fan-feckin-tastic days in Ireland on their Southern Rocker Tour. Book your own tour HERE.

This photo gives me empowered energy -The Cliffs of Moher - Ireland - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps - www.MissMaps.com
This photo gives me empowered energy -The Cliffs of Moher – Ireland – by Anika Mikkelson – Miss Maps – http://www.MissMaps.com

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