West of Ireland Trip #1

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So back in August of 2010 I went on a trip down the west coast of Ireland with three friends who do not want to be named (so let’s call them A, T and L) going from Westport to Galway city over eight days.

Westport is gorgeous little place, where we stayed in the Old Mill Hostel.

But if you’re planning on being a bit flexible you should probably avoid this place. It requires deposits, there are gender-segregated dorms, you can’t be outside your room in the hostel after 11pm and at €20 a night outside of Dublin it’s hardly cheap. All of that would have been perfectly acceptable if the staff had been friendly (they weren’t) or if the facilities are been good (nope these weren’t either).

After climbing four flights of stairs to get to the girls dorm led by a sulky and suspicious hostel worker who didn’t seem to like students, me and A slumped into a cramped, dark space with three bunk beds pressed against the walls and another single bed plonked in the only remained floor space. The sink in the corner was damn near inaccessible and the curtains looked as though they would bring the whole rail down on your head if you touch it. Still it was hardly the worst place we could stay so we stowed our bags and went to get well deserved showers after our long trip.

Here’s where it really fell apart. We practically had to wade across the bathroom floor to find the communal showers from hell. Two of them didn’t work and they only seemed to have two temperatures “boil like a lobster” or “oh gosh is this the arctic?” The carpets were dirty and the stairs were steep and the beds squeaked.

But if you’re willing to put up with all that (and we did) it actually does have a wonderful central location near lots of nice pubs (while we were there even a fun fair) and you’re a stones throw with a supermarket and a chemist.

Clew Bay is a great sheltered place for sea kayaking. We got in touch with Saoirse na Mara and agreed that for €40 they would take the four of us out for three hours. All we had to do was meet them on Rosmoney Pier at 2pm and they would do the rest.

Well easy, we thought. They gave us directions and everything. Go down the N59, turn left outside town and follow the signs for the sailing club. It only takes twenty minutes. No bother as we set off an hour early….on foot.

My friends I beg of you, always, always, always check that they mean 20 minutes on foot. Beside if they don’t you could be walking for a long LONG time. This was our first mistake.

About an hour in and we were getting dangerously near to running late we start to wonder if maybe we’d gotten something wrong. But we kept going, we’d covered nearly 5km what else could we do? The guide calls me and asks if maybe we’d gotten lost. ‘No no,’ I say, too embarrassed to admit anything. ‘We’re nearly there.’

We weren’t.

Twenty minutes after that. I think I see a short cut across a field. ‘Hey,’ I say trying to sound as though I knew where we were. ‘A short cut.’ The others were unsure but I convinced them that it was the only way and they followed me over the stone wall.

This was our second mistake.

A twisted her ankle coming over the wall so L had to help her walk. I boldly carried on, convinced in my desperation that we were going the right way. Now, there were cows in this field but as a brave and savvy city-girl I was hardly going to blink at a few little cows. Truthfully it was lucky for all of us that T was from a farm and realised that we were in a calving field before one of us got charged.

For those of you who, like me, was not aware this was a big deal. Cows, normally pretty chilled out. Cows in summer with their babies cows around, serious anger issues. So we ran to the other side….where unfortunately for us there was a large river.

So then we ran back again, this time actually chased by some cows and ended up almost exactly where we had started. 7km in we called and the guides (who were very nice and didn’t complain or mock us – much) they came and collected us in their van.

Though we were exhausted and humiliated once we got in the water it was worth every second.

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