Belfast to Dublin: (continuation from previous blog)
Driving on the M5 from The Giant’s Causeway to Belfast was pretty straight forward, we managed to return our rented car to Belfast International Airport on the dot. From the airport we caught a cab to Glengall St to catch the Dublin Coach M1-Express departing at 5:30 PM. Traffic was very heavy around the city centre but thankfully we got there with just enough time to go for a quick comfort break, our bus was waiting and ready to go bang on time!
Sigh, what a day! Travelling by bus gave us a break from being behind the wheel, time to relax, stretch our legs and have a power nap. Seats were comfy with a reclining button. Bus journey was under two hours, arriving in Dublin City Centre around 7:20 PM. Dublin was cold and busy. Our accommodation for the night was just a few blocks away from where we alighted.
After we checked in at our hotel, it was time for a bite and pint. We found a Chinese Restaurant nestled along Capel St with fairly good offerings in a buffet style, all in all we had a good meal. The area is dotted with grocery shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. We did a little late night shopping to stock up on supplies and bought a nice bottle of Pinot Noir for later, then bed time.
Driving from Dublin to Galway – Dublin:
So long Dublin, for now! We caught the Aircoach Bus to the Airport (Fare €6.00) can be bought onboard, these tickets can also be pre-purchased online for a discount. Our rental car was arranged prior to be picked up and dropped off at the airport. The front staff at Budget Car Rental were very efficient, paperwork done quickly. We waited for the courtesy minibus to take us to the holding yard, which was shared with several other rental agencies. As we had completed our agreement in the terminal, we were able to jump the queue in the booking office and go straight to the car. We did the walk around with the agent and signed off the checklist. You will find most small economy cars in the UK and Europe are manual, automatics are uncommon in this sector, so ensure you can drive a stick shift! Ready to go! The car was a new Skoda which ended up being the most economical car out of all our rentals. First stop was at McCafe for a caffeine fix and some take away bites for the journey ahead.
Driving in Southern Ireland is similar to Australia so again it’s easy to adopt the road rules. We were advised by the car rental to download the M50 Quick Pay App for toll payments on this motorway, they must be paid no later than 8pm the next day or a penalty of €3.00 is added to the toll. Unless you are local and know the outer roads, its pretty hard to avoid this toll as you head away from the airport and Dublin, rather than faffing about we just paid it and kept good time. There are toll points on some other motorway sections so always keep a handful of coins as these are a mix of staffed and automatic booths.
From Dublin, we took the M4 then joined the M6 in Kennigad. This is the motorway that links Dublin to Galway at speeds of up to 120km/hr, we should arrive in Galway late afternoon. Our second stop was at the pretty town of Moate for a break. We took a walk around and visited the old railway station and line, which now forms part of the Dublin-Galway Greenway cycle and walking route. I hope the keeping of the single track might lead to a reopening at some point, hybrid technology could run an environmentally low impact train along this track, and still keep the harmony of the trail.
Some of the attractions are the Egan’s of Moate and Tuar Ard Public Park both located in the town centre.
We continued on the M6 but diverted off towards the direction of Athlone. This town is steeped in history and built on the banks of the mighty River Shannon. Although we only had an hour to spare, we managed to check out Athlone Castle dating back to 1129, walked across Custom Bridge, visited St. Peter and Paul’s Church and spent time admiring the colourful houses and buildings on the back streets. Back on the road at 2:30 PM.
Motorways in Ireland are great, they are very well built, fast and smooth, well worth the small tolls. There were times when we were the only vehicle for long stretches. Are we there yet? Surely when we joined Lough Atalia Road it’s one of the main roads in Galway with stunning water views on the approach. We crossed the Wolf Tone Bridge then headed for Sathill to our B&B accommodation for the night.
Part of the original plan was to drive as far as Cork but time was not in our favour, so instead we visited Silverstrand Beach in Barna. It faces directly onto Galway Bay giving spectacular views out to the Atlantic. Even though it was a chilly evening we noticed a number of swimmers braving the icy waters for a bracing dip. The sun gave us a magical sunset as we watched it slowly disappear beyond the horizon.
Back in town it’s time to check out the nightlife. Galway is the largest city in the West of Ireland. The Old Town boasts historical landmarks, cobblestone streets, old churches, historical pubs and a diverse range of shops. As we walked along Quay St, we could hear music being belted out of colourful and packed pubs. I could feel my Irish ancestry stirring in my heart, so we headed to the The Dew Drop Inn for an inviting pint of local Red Ale. We moved on for our last drinks at Tigh Neachtine. Although we had a few beers, we couldn’t help but try out some Irish flavours at Murphy’s ice cream parlour. If you’re into jewellery check out the Claddagh Ring shop.
We decided to leave early so we could maximise our time in Galway before heading back to Dublin with several planned stops along the way. Very close to our B&B is the waterfront and the Celia Griffin Memorial Park which is home to The Famine Ship Memorial, dedicated to The Great Famine years of 1845 to 1852. It is a simple yet powerful and solemn reminder of this terrible time in Irish history.
Top sights in Galway are: The Spanish Arch, Galway Cathedral, Eyre Square, Galway Harbour, Wolfe Tone Bridge to name just a few.
Back on the road we chose a mix of Motorway and minor roads to give us some diversity and breaks, we were heading to Silvermines near Dolla. I had been there some 20 plus years ago in a friends Austin Metro via the Holyhead ferry so finding the road to it should be easy right? It took a couple of passes but eventually we found the extremely steep road that takes you up to the viewing park and beyond. Just like the Metro the Skoda managed the hill climb in its stride. The lookout and picnic area are sublime with panoramic views over Dolla, Nenagh and as far as the eye can see. Silvermines have been intermittently mined for over seven hundred years. Weather was also fantastic, solid blue sky over the seemingly endless Irish Emerald green fields.
Last stop before Dublin is Nenagh, the largest town in northern County Tipperary. The town lies to the west of the Nenagh river. Must visits are: The Heritage Centre, Nenagh Castle and the ruined Franciscan Abbey. If the tower is open, a walk to the top is a fascinating lesson in history, it is also deceptively high! Many thanks to the staff for inviting us to go up. We had lunch and coffee before hitting the M7 back to Dublin which took us under 2 hours to cover.
They say it always rains in Ireland but thankfully for the last 4 days we only encountered some light showers, most of the time we had brilliant sunny days. Dublin city centre was busy and a bit difficult to navigate at night but we managed to find our new digs and sort some nearby car parking.
Dublin sets the bar high when it comes to night life. Friday night around The Temple Bar area was deadset packed out. We just managed to squeeze ourselves into one of the many bars. Enjoyed a few bevvies, sang along with a live folk music band then kicked on. It’s hard to find a quiet pub, adding to the noisy scene are groups doing pub crawls which seems to be very popular. Though the street scene was overwhelming, I must say we had a great night out. The cobbled streets, quirky shops, noise, crowds, queues at pub doors and party goers add to anyone’s cultural experience visiting Dublin. Back in our hotel just past midnight for a nightcap of Vino Tinto.
It’s now a lot calmer around the city centre, oh well it’s still early I suppose. We walked along the River Liffey, then to Dublin City Hall, our last stop was at the Christ Church Cathedral. We picked up the car and headed to the Guinness Storehouse. The self pace tour is very informative especially if you are a Guinness lover. At the end you get to try a pint at the Gravity Bar with sweeping views over Dublin. Cost €18.50 per person.
After that we have pretty much covered and ticked off all the places we wanted to visit in the limited time we had, alas the airport the awaits us… On our next Ireland trip we hope to travel to the Southern tip through Skibbereen, Balleydehob, Schull, where my Irish heritage comes from, then to Mizen Head which is about as far as you can go!
Slán a fhágáil in Éirinn!
Dublin Coach parks along Glengall St and not inside the opposite Belfast Euro Bus Centre and they leave on time regardless. Our bus was not fitted with a W/C. Adult fare is €10 one way booked online or onboard.
Car rental was booked through Ryanair. If you book your flight(s) with them you can also avail their discounted car rental prices and special offers.
Hotels and B&B were booked through Booking.com