Endless Ireland

Holidays must end as you know
All is memory taken home with me
—Natalie Merchant, “Verdi Cries”

While I was researching places to include in our Ireland itinerary, I kept coming across comments online to the effect of, “With 3 weeks and a car, you can see all of Ireland.”

All of Ireland? I have no idea what those people are talking about.

A random find in Westport, County Mayo.

Over the course of 3 weeks, George and I did manage to visit a lot of the most famous and beloved Irish destinations. But we certainly didn’t get to all of them.

The Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin.

We had no time whatsoever for the northernmost parts of the country, for example the towns of Sligo and Donegal, or the sea cliffs at Slieve League. As for Northern Ireland (which is part of the U.K.), we never even considered trying to squeeze it into the mix.

We did pay a visit to the official oldest pub in Ireland – Sean’s Bar in Athlone, County Westmeath.

Could we have covered more ground? Sure, if we were “checklist” travelers – the kind who zip from place to place, snap a few pictures, and move on. A lot of bus tours operate at that pace. And most of the suggested driving itineraries I perused online would have required us to check in and out of hotels so often that we would never have had a moment to settle in.

Westport was a great little town to explore at a leisurely pace.
We took in some beautiful traditional Irish music in Westport’s main square.
Live music is a huge part of the Irish social experience.
Not having live music for almost half a year (as part of Covid precautions) really cast a pall over life in Ireland.

Hopping madly from place to place with no time to unwind is just not the way George and I travel. It never has been. We prefer to spend more time in fewer destinations, with fewer hotel changes. That gives us breathing room to venture beyond established tourist sites and shopping districts, to wander through parks and residential areas, and to take day excursions to lesser-known locales.

The lighthouse in Howth, a sleepy fishing village in County Dublin.
Three in a row: your choice of pubs in Howth’s village center.
As we walked along a park trail in Howth, we came to a fork in the road.

Getting off the tourist track and moving at a slower pace allows us to really get a feel for the local life and vibe of each place we visit. Besides, it’s a vacation. It’s supposed to be relaxing, not exhausting. How many times have you heard someone who just returned from a vacation say they feel like they need another one?

We chilled with the cows in County Mayo. (We did not make it to Counties Ketchup or Mustard.)
A relatively new building and a very old one coexist harmoniously in Athenry, County Galway.
Athenry was supposed to be just a quick pit stop for us, but we discovered some interesting history and ruins dating back 800 years.
We also had a delicious pub lunch in Athenry, though in a decidedly less colorful building than this one.

I don’t mean to sound like a travel snob. I realize that for many people, a trip to Ireland may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. And for a lot of those people, a whirlwind bus tour is not only the most efficient way to see a bunch of sites, but also the most economical. I don’t mean to look down on that kind of travel experience. All travel is good travel as far as I’m concerned. See what you can of the world, whenever you can, however you can.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral on a beautiful September afternoon in Dublin.
We happened upon this in Mullingar, County Westmeath.
Croagh Patrick, a popular pilgrimage site in County Mayo.
An abandoned convent in Westport.

But no matter how you visit Ireland, you can’t “see it all” in 3 weeks – or 3 months, or even 3 years. You could spend your entire life traveling around Ireland and you still wouldn’t manage to stroll down every village alley, walk every mile of coastline, meander along every desolate footpath. Ireland, like the world itself, is practically endless. To really see the world – I mean the WHOLE world – would take thousands of lifetimes.

Clever road barriers guard a primary school in a residential Dublin neighborhood.
A park sculpture near the castle ruins in Athenry. I have absolutely no idea what this is all about.
Personally, I would not choose to eat at a place called The Bloody Stream. But I guess the folks in Howth must like it okay.

But even if you can’t ever see the whole world, that’s no reason to stop trying! George and I intend to keep getting out there as often as we can, to discover as much of our endless world as we can. Including, hopefully, more of endless Ireland too.

The interior at Sean’s Bar, which the Guinness World Records proclaims to be the oldest pub in Ireland.
If Sean’s Bar really has been around since 900 AD, it’s obviously undergone some renovations along the way.
Sean’s may indeed be Ireland’s oldest pub, but our friendly bartender, Adam, clearly hasn’t been around that long.
The National Famine Memorial in Murrisk, County Mayo.
The little house on the left, located at 10 St. Alban’s Road in Dublin, holds special meaning for me.
This is the house where my grandfather was born. (Many years ago, George and I got to go inside the house during a brief visit to Dublin.)
Thank God, He finally accepts credit.
More of fairytale Ireland. (Advice for parents: take your kids to Ireland instead of Disneyworld. They’ll thank you when they’re grown up.)
The Dublin Spire.
The Irish are serious meat-eaters. Yet most pubs and restaurants offer vegan dishes too.
Nice bits are all well and good. But what about the naughty bits?
This guy looks like he’s wondering about the naughty bits too.
This, despite a sign that forbids the parking of tractors in front of the abbey. Okay, so the sign is written in ancient Gaelic runes. Not an excuse.
The bridges of Dublin are ready for their close-ups.
I warned you it was endless, didn’t I?
Hang on, just a few more pics.
We’re almost there.
We made it! Can’t wait for the next trip!
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  1. Helen O'Sullivan

    Another fabulous blog entry, Craig! Thanks for reminding me of my trips to Ireland. I can’t wait to get back there!

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      George and I wandered several graveyards during our trip, mostly looking for names that might belong to his family tree. Along the way we saw both your maiden and married names fairly often, and so we frequently thought of you in those graveyards. A bit weird and macabre, yes?

  2. Joan Gavin

    Another wonderful tour! The photos and narration made me feel as if I were there. I loved the subtle and not so subtle humor. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      George and I just need someone to sponsor us for full-time travel. Then I could entertain you with endless blog posts!

  3. Vicki

    Lovely! You’re a talented writer and travelling with you in reality as well as virtually is a lot of fun. Thanks for the great pics and thanks for sharing your trip with us.

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      Thanks so much for your kind words!

  4. John

    So glad Craig and George are on the travel path again….feels like returning to more optimistic times. As always Brad and I live vicariously through your blogs.

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      Traveling again felt so…normal!


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