Ireland – Monday – Castles, Grocery Stores, and Road Sheep (Part 1)

Our decision to turn in early on Sunday was spot on. We woke up Monday morning feeling nice and refreshed. (Well, except Seth’s shoes. Y’all, our hotel room smelled AWFUL! And if you know Seth, you know he can’t smell, so none of this bothered him.)

We began our day with a stroll through our current city- Galway. Though Seth and I turned in early on Sunday night, Julie and Jonathan didn’t, so they were excited to show off their findings from the previous night’s stroll. This was our first real encounter with the quintessential Irish town. The colors. Oh, the colors. All the heart eye emojis.

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We exchanged some money at a local bank, which just happened to be a former castle. How cool is that? “Gotta go to my castle bank today. No biggie.”

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After our brief tour around Galway, we headed northwest out of town to begin our day of adventure.

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Our first stop happened to be our first “official” castle visit at Aughnanure Castle outside the small town of Oughterard.

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It felt like we had either:

  • stepped back in time
  • walked onto a movie set

I mean, for goodness sakes, it required crossing a moat! I mean, not really a moat, more like a stream that flowed between the parking lot and the castle, but it’s much more fun to think about it being a moat.

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For a mere €4.00 per person, we were able to explore the grounds of this 16th century castle built by the O’Flahertys- a notable lord family of the time and surrounding area.

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The original walls around the castle would have continued right from the round building shown above, making the inner courtyard much smaller than you may think. Also, though the grass is beautiful now, it likely would have been non-existent in the days when the castle was inhabited due to the large amount of foot traffic- human and livestock.
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These stairs were very tight. Unless people were MUCH smaller in the olden days, only one person could navigate them at a time. Even still, they had to be light on their feet.
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We relied on Julie to be our tour guide. She enjoys reading and researching the historical facts and paraphrases for the rest of us.

The “Murder Hole” is located above the front entrance to the castle and would have been used to pour hot oil or wax on unwanted visitors! Also, as you can see in the picture on the below right, all floors were unleveled, so I imagine there were lots of stumped toes.

I half expected a prince to be tending his white horse here.

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Leave it to the guys to find the humor.

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“Draw me like one of your French girls.”

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As we continued out of Oughterard, we made a quick stop to “tour” the gardens of what looked to be a local B & B. Oddly enough, I’m still not certain exactly what kind of establishment we were roaming around, so it’s quite possible Julie and I invaded someone’s space. Ooops? They had a TripAdvisor sticker in the window, so surely that makes it a public place, right?

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Continuing on, we found our first ROAD SHEEP!

So much love for road sheep.

By this time, we had also discovered another theme of our trip- the Irish road system is a terrifyingly wonderful thing.

The roads are very narrow, and it is quite common for bushes along the roadside to encroach on your driving space. Though the roads are narrow and can be quite curvy, the speed limits are much higher than we expected. A narrow country lane comparable to a “county road” or even less, may have a speed limit equivalent of almost 60 mph! Coming from a country that overregulates everything, it was nice to be able to travel at a sensible pace, which we were able to determine. Throughout our entire trip, we tried multiple times to actually do the speed limit and found ourselves terrified, barreling down a snaking road, and trying to figure out how to pay the rental car bill we were about to incur. Instead, we meandered through the Irish countryside at our own pace and took every opportunity time allowed to capture a photo or take a detour.

As we made our way into Clifden, Seth was hungry (naturally), so I offered the suggestion that we stop by a grocery store and grab some picnic type food to have as we continued on. As luck would have it, we approached an Aldi as we drove into town. Though I had heard great things about this European grocery chain previous to our trip, I had never witnessed the glory they lay within those doors. I can’t decide if the fascination we girls experienced was based on the fact that we’re aging or that we’re turning into our mother. Maybe a little of both.

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Possibly a little obsessed with their bacon…

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And some very odd items…
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We were immediately in love. First off, food. Food makes everybody happy, right? But this was different than the gigantic superstores offering everything from over-processed pepperonis to nail polish to which we are accustomed. We strolled down each aisle taking in each foreign (to us) treasure. Jokingly, I grabbed a package of Digestives similar to these. Joke was on me… they’re delicious and now I want to buy them all the time. I can’t wait for my next Aldi trip (there’s one over in Longview, TX!) to pick up some more.

Julie and I were also amazed by how cheap the flowers were! We even bought a bunch of tulips for only €1.50 to have for our picnic, because no picnic is complete without flowers, right?

Despite having just gathered a wealth of food for a picnic, my travelling companions were hungry right at the moment, so we stopped in at a restaurant located in (from what I can remember) the Atlantic Coast Hotel for a quick lunch. We dined while looking out over what appeared to be only a bog, but actually was the Atlantic ocean. As usual, the food was fantastic.

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I actually ordered off the kids’ menu because I was so excited about the picnic food we had just purchased… Sausages and mash. Why can’t American kids’ menus offer this?!

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We took a bit of time to explore the nearby shops there in Clifden and the best of all, a bakery. (Have y’all noticed how much we like food yet?) We grabbed ourselves “afternoon snacks” AKA croissants, chocolate croissants (or rather, croissant au chocolat), etc. In an effort to really branch out and try new things recently, I also chose a pastries that looked similar to what I would normally call a turnover. Now, while I appreciate a turnover, it’s not normally something I would choose.

Let me just tell you right now… I sat in the backseat of that Kadjar and snuck a bite as we pulled back into traffic. Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious. If someone said right now, “I’ll put you on a plane to Ireland, but you can only buy one thing when you get there and have to turn around and come right back home. What do you choose?” Hands down. No questions asked. I’d choose whatever that turnover thing was. Believe me, I understand how overly passionate I sound about pastry right now, but let me tell you something… I have never tasted anything so perfect in my life. I would move that baker into my house, if it were possible. Unbelievable.

And to round out our short stop in Clifden, how precious is this? Oh, how I love your colors, Ireland!

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From Clifden , we were en route to what I knew would be one of the most spectacular sights. Kylemore Abbey. I knew this, because every time someone asked me about our trip to Ireland, I always had a picture of Kylemore readily available. I had studied it. I had even gone so far as to drive by on Google maps, y’all. I was ready.

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The word “stunning” doesn’t hold a candle to this in person.

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This is truly a “must see” as you plan your trip to the Emerald Isle. Even a bug got a snapshot!

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We headed off to the gardens first, because they were scheduled to close first. In an effort to save time, we almost skipped the gardens, but I’m really glad we didn’t. Interestingly enough, the gardens were much more tourist friendly than the inside of the abbey. The actual walkthrough of the building took less than 10 minutes, because only a few rooms are accessible. Keep in mind that the journey is often more important than the destination, so the €13 or so for admission should be enjoyed just as much by visiting the gardens and spending time around the property as it is for actually obtaining entry into the abbey.

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It’s quite common to see pictures of the rest of the group having left me behind taking pictures.

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I loved the touches of teal everywhere, and they all perfectly matched my outfit!

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And then there’s this guy…

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Because we were there as things were closing, we missed the opportunity to go through the Gothic church on the property. Good thing these sheep were there for the photo op!

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And just when you think we should be winding down for the day, we happen upon more adventures! Unfortunately, I think I may crash this post if I keep adding pictures, so I’m going to have to split this day into two posts. Really, this is so indicative of the long, fun filled days we had!

Until the next portion of this day is gathered together…

Happy travels, comrades!

Jubilant Jennifer

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10 thoughts on “Ireland – Monday – Castles, Grocery Stores, and Road Sheep (Part 1)

  1. Bulldog Travels says:

    Boy, the weather sure looks like it was lovely for you while you were there. Really great shots of those castles. Love the sheep. And love the food photos! Thanks for bringing my heart back to Ireland when it has been overly focused on work.

    • jenniferhbradford says:

      THANK YOU! It WAS lovely! In fact, we only saw about 10 minutes of rain on our entire trip. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed posting these. I do have to keep myself from landing over on Google Flights trying to book another plane ticket. Haha!

      • Bulldog Travels says:

        Gosh no kidding. You and me both. My Dad just sent me a link for discounted airfare to Ireland from the West Coast of the US to Ireland because he wants all of us to go again. And my 10 year old nephew was just telling me that we all need to move to ireland where it is cooler. (106 degrees tomorrow here in NorCal!) Can’t argue with his logic.

      • jenniferhbradford says:

        I don’t think we’ve seen a day with a high less than 100 in weeks here in northwest Louisiana. Also, the closest Aldi is an hour away. Why do I live here again?! Tonight, I’ll be posting the recap of our Tuesday in Ireland. It will include a link for “How to Move to Ireland Once Donald Trump Becomes President.” Hahaha!

  2. Nora // The Art of Exploring says:

    Love that you bought tulips from the supermarket 😀 lovely post! Your road trip looks quite similar to mine, I also got to check most of these places! Ah but there’s so much more to discover, really itching to hit the road again now!

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