Irish Eclectic

Irish Journey, Day 7: The West Coast, Bunratty and on to Galway

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Irish EclecticBy Brian McGowan

On a Tuesday morning we say farewell to Sneem and the waters of Kenmore Bay, and embark once more, with the ultimate destination of the day being Galway, “City of the Tribes” and gateway to another area of the Gaeltacht.

We pass once more through Killarney, now heading northeast on the way to Adare, billed as the “prettiest village in Ireland.” On the way, the evidence of Ireland’s improved economy abounds. Each town shows signs of expansion, with outlying fields given over to attractive residential development.

Also in evidence is a move toward alternative energy sources, most dramatically revealed in massive wind vanes that seem to dot more than a few ridgelines as we pass through the Mullaghareirk Mountains. The latest available data (2021) reveals that Ireland meets 35 percent of its electricity demand through totally renewable wind power, more than twice the rate for the European Union (15 percent) and more than three times over the United States (10 percent).

Adare lives up to its reputation, and after a brief “stop and shop” we push on through the bustling city of Limerick, and cross to the north shore of the mighty River Shannon, which flows 224 miles from its source in County Cavan to the broad Shannon Estuary and the wild Atlantic Ocean beyond. It is the longest river in Ireland, and drains approximately one-fifth of the entire island.

A little past noon we arrive at the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most magnificent sights not just in Ireland but in all of Europe.  Rising straight out of the Atlantic to a height of almost 700 feet, these sheer cliffs stretch on south for five miles, and provide habitat for countless thousands of sea birds. Quite different, however, from a visit 20 years earlier, when one

could crawl out on a slab of rock and look downward those 700 feet, or walk within inches of the sheer drop. No more of that; for now, safety first!

A well-designed visitor’s center gives a wealth of information about these black shale and sandstone heights, and a welcome respite from descending skies of grey and a misty rain.

Back on the road, we pass through storied towns like Lisdoonvarnagh, Corofin, Inchiquin and Doolin, all places where traditional Irish music reigns supreme. A planned stop to visit the Burren, a lunar landscape of wild wind and flowers, seems to go by the wayside, as we make a mad dash to get to Bunratty Castle, where a mock medieval banquet awaits. We ironically arrive an hour early, with plenty of time to spare, and cool our heels with refreshments at Durty Nelly’s, a local watering hole.

Bunratty, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, is one of those places I had sworn never to go to. Once there, however, I scold myself for my derision of anything “touristy.” It is great craic (Irish for “fun”), with song, dance and good cheer in abundance. In the midst of this revelry, a somewhat random member of the audience is obliged to sing an Irish song. A few verses of “The Jug of Punch” sets him free, and he is mercifully returned to his wife and fellow travelers, with raucous cheers from the multitude of revelers.

It’s dark out when we finally make our way out past the castle gates, and we alight once more on our bus, blessed by dim lights and full bellies, and catch a restful drive to our ultimate destination – Galway City. It has been a full day, and is well past 10 p.m. when we finally arrive at our hotel, the Maldron, a 10-minute cab ride from the city center.

There will be no clocks set for the morrow, when we will spend a full day exploring the Republic of Ireland’s third largest city. And why is it called “The City of Tribes?” Stay tuned for the answer in a future article!

Longtime Pleasantville resident Brian McGowan was born and raised in the Bronx and is a second-, third- and fifth-generation Irish-American/Canadian, as his immigrant ancestors followed several paths to the New World. Reach him at He is the author of two books, “Thunder at Noon,” about the Battle of Waterloo, and “Love, Son John,” about World War II. Both are available at

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