All feeling worse for wear we hopped on a ferry to Ireland (spotting a submarine on the way - I'm not sure why, but it was very exciting) and a few hours later we got to Dublin. We had a pretty relaxing afternoon as not much was planned and we were all horribly tired, so it was time for a bit of a lie down until we met up with the newbies. We went on a bit of a city tour in the bus and saw the sights and then that night sampled a few more beverages - but not too many as Dublin was expensive, more so than any other city we have encountered so far, but it sure didn't deter anyone from drinking, the town was practically buzzing with people everywhere!
Then up we went to Northern Ireland to the absolutely stunning Giant's Causeway. I have never seen anything like these rock formations, it was truly spectacular! Thousands of hexagonal shape rocks jutting from the ground at varying heights, creating a kind of wondrous landscape down by the sea edge. It was a stunning day for us to wander around and hop over all the rocks, we all just basked in the warmth as it was the most perfect sunny day we had on the tour (actually only one of the few sunny days we had at all!) but we were only here a short time before heading off to Londonderry.
Here we got a local guide to take us around town and tell us about the troublesome past of Northern Ireland and show us both sides of the town divided by a large fence, once calls itself Londonderry, who are affiliated with Brittan and the other side just Derry who are affiliated with Europe. Even though there has been relative calm here for about the last seven or so years it was only the week before we arrived that there was a bit of a skirmish between the sides when there was a rally and some fire bombs were thrown, the scorch marks were still seen on the buildings (one such building was the hotel we were staying in!) We also went down to the Bogsite (area of town) where the riot that the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday was sung about and saw where all the people were killed, and saw the huge murals dedicated to that day are still larger than life painted on the building facades.
The next day we were off to Galway and the sun that we had so happily basked in for the last day had left us again. Galway is a pretty little town with not really any sites to mention but it does have one of the best places to have shakes! This place will blend up any kind of cake or biscuit or lollies and make it into a shake. I indulged in an apple pie and custard one and I was gobsmacked when they actually pulled out an apple cake and cut a slice and chucked it in the blender along with a scoop of custard! And funnily enough it tasted like apple pie and custard! And it was awesome! I know it begs the question of why didn't I just have some apple pie but come on, how novel it that!
The following morning we had an early start and we headed off to the Aran Islands. Some hardy souls rentedbikes and cycled around the island, however I decided to take the more genteel approach and jumped in a minivan and got a tour around the island, we saw the old churches and memorials to the fishermen lost at sea and then taken up to the base of the fort and cliffs. Here we eased ourselves into the day with tea and scones with cream and jam and then walked up to the cliffs. These cliffs were so high, so very high that we were advised to lie down on the ground and army crawl to the edge as any slip or gust of wind would mean instant death! The view was stunning and it was a cool place to explore without being ruined with barriers everywhere like it would be if New Zealand health and safety had anything to do with it! After we had seen the sights we visited a few gift shops and had a look at the famous Aran Island sweater shop and then had a Guinness while waiting for a ferry back to the mainland.
That night we popped into town to take in a live Irish band which were really good then the next day it was off to Cork. On the way there we stopped at the cliffs of Moher which were actually higher than those on Aran Island but you couldn't actually get right up to the edge, but they were still pretty spectacular, and then it was onto Blarney. After a wander around the nice grounds around the castle it was time to ascend the many steps to the top and then wait in line to kiss the stone. I had read that this was one of the most unhygienic sights to visit in the UK but I thought what the hell id do it anyway! (I think the guy had some disinfectant spray up there - although I'm not sure if he actually used it!?) So I still need to do some more research into the stone so I really am not sure why it is at the top of the castle but you need to bend over backwards and hold on to some railing to stop you dropping through the hole at the bottom and then kiss the stone. I know it is meant to give you the gift of the gab but you would think they would have put it in a bit of an easier place to reach! But I did it anyway and some bloke holds onto you while you lean over the abyss and you edge forward and kiss this mankey looking stone and voila you are done! (But I do have to confess that I did wipe hand sanitizer over my mouth when I was done!)
So after a night in Cork it was off to another whiskey tasting at the Jameson distillery. There we tried a triple distilled 12 year old whiskey which was actually quite palatable when mixed with ginger ale. I found it much nicer than the one we tried in Scotland, much smoother, and not being a whiskey connoisseur myself but it must be the third distillation that made all the difference. Acouple of the guys decided to take any not wanted tasting couples off everyone from the bus and get stuck in... which was funny as they got pretty plastered, well it was funny up until one of them started throwing up on the bus! (even then still a little funny!)
Then we were off to Cobh where the Titanic left of her fateful final voyage. There we went to a museum where we learnt more about the Titanic and other ships that set off all over the world around 100 years ago taking prisoners to colonies and others hoping to make a new life in the new world. Most of the stories about life onboard were pretty horrific and it made you damn thankful that these days we can jump on a plane and be on the other side of the world in 24 hours!
After a night in Kilkenny our final day was spent back in Dublin. We started off at the Guinness factory and gained some insight in the brewing process, and then got to go to their rooftop bar for a cheeky morning Guinness before a free day in the city until our Irish dinner that night. We got taken a bit out of town and fed a great three course dinner and had the Merry Ploughboys play Irish songs to us all night and then some Irish dancers perform. Then one more night on the town for those that had the stamina, which we thought wouldn't really be a late one. However stumbling in at 4.30 proved us wrong and getting up at 6 was mighty hard as we had to be on the ferry early in the morning back to England.
The whole last day was a travelling day where most of us were w***ed and slept for most of it, and then finally got back to London at 7 that night. We managed some dinner and a couple of beers and then exhausted we all called it a night, swapped emails and all retired to our rooms. On the way into the hotel we saw a new bunch of kids all piling out to a bus, fresh faced awaiting the journey ahead, we looked at each other and laughed cause we must have looked all excited like that once, now we were all a wreck! Then we all left to have an early night.