Galway, Ireland

Galway is smaller than Cork, and this is immediately apparent. But the city has real charm, possibly helped by its position right by the water. It also feels very safe and friendly.

The first hostel we stayed in, Barnacles Quay Street House, seemed great at first. The problem was that the room we were in was on the first floor overlooking Quay Street, which is full of pubs, which are full of loud drinkers. If you plan to be the one making the noise, then such a room will be ideal for you. If you plan to get some sleep, then make sure you ask for a room at the back of the hostel, away from the street.

Because we'd not been able to book beds in Quay Street for the whole duration of our stay, we moved to Kinlay House for the last couple of nights. Kinlay house is in a much quieter part of town, so it was a welcome break from the awful din of the room over Quay Street.

Galway puts on a parade on Saint Patrick's Day, displaying a long string of themed floats. If you want to sit and watch the parade, either get into a pub on the parade route early, or bring something warm to fend off the chilly March weather.

A short bus ride took us to a village called Oughterard, where we took a long walk past peat bogs and along the lake, and then back to the village to rest with a drink at the pub.

photo: The rugged terrain of Inis Mór, a wall made of stones in the foreground and water invading the fields beyond.
Inis Mór is one of the Aran Islands.

We took a ferry ride to Inis Mór, one of the Aran Islands. We hired bicycles at the ferry port, and set off across the small island on bike. Unfortunately the salty sea air had rusted most of the metal on the bicycles. The bicycle chains were in a bad way, the brakes were pretty weak, the tyres weren't at the ideal pressure, and the gear systems were unreliable. When trying to change gear, the chain leapt off its sprocket and hit the back wheel with such force that it snapped a couple of spokes. My friends enjoyed the bike ride, but I wouldn't hurry to hire bicycles again. Plus, we all got sunburnt on the last day of winter. That'll teach me to take suncream next time I intend to spend time outdoors, even if it is winter.