Castle Hopping around the Emerald Isle

After an entire week of seven night shifts, I finished my duty early and went out of the hospital full of excitement because the day I was looking forward to has finally come. Together with Ate Joanne, Kuya Mark, Aedan and Ate Kim, we planned a 3-day road trip to the northern parts of Ireland specifically Sligo and Galway City.

Day One

Our first destination on our way to Sligo was a quick visit to King John’s Castle in Limerick City. It was said that King John was the brother of Richard the Lionheart. Here you can enjoy a medieval atmosphere around the castle courtyard where you would get the chance to see a recreation of the battles and siege from the 13th century.

 

The next stop was Markree Castle located near the village of Collooney in County Sligo. This one was definitely the highlight of the day because of its majestic appearance not only from the outside but also the interior aspect of the castle. We intended to take pictures outside because we thought visitors aren’t allowed in the private property but we were very lucky to get an exclusive tour inside the castle as the manager was available to do so. The gothic style castle is indeed not open to the public and viewings are made for guests who plan to rent the place for events like weddings. We were simply ecstatic! After the tour, I have decided that this is my ultimate fairy tale wedding destination! 

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The first day of castle hopping concluded as we checked-in to Clayton Hotel for the night.

Day Two

From Sligo we went south towards Galway today. We passed by Drumcliffe Monastery also referred to as St. Columba’s Church of Ireland. Drumcliffe is known to be the place where poet W. B. Yeats was buried.

Next, is the iconic Ben Bulben in North Sligo. Sometimes spelled as Benbulbin or Benbulben, this unusual rock formation is also known as the Table Mountain of County Sligo. It is said that this mountain was formed 320 million years ago.

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We went further north, almost near the boundary in Donegal, towards Mullaghmore Beach. When we arrived there, we were literally blown away by the strong sea breeze coming from the Atlantic.

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The next destination was a very interesting one. A member of the red carnation collection of hotels, the Ashford Castle in Mayo is definitely deserving of that recognition. Although our visit was short and quick, the place was promising of its 5-star status. With a minimal visitors’ fee of €10, you can roam around the castle grounds where you could find various interesting sorts like archery, equestrian fields, bicycle trails, falconry and more. The place was huge and I think a day around the luxury 13th century castle would not suffice. I’d be sure to come back to this place in the future.

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After the Ashford Castle experience, we visited Kylemore Abbey and drove a long stretch through Connemara National Park on the way to the city center of Galway.

Connemara National Park, a 2957 hectare land, was nothing short of natural bliss and wonder. Situated in Galway, west of Ireland, the vast area consists of scenic grasslands, woodlands and mountains would simply take your breath away because I’m pretty sure it did with mine.

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We finally checked in and spent the night at Oranmore Lodge Hotel in Galway.

Day Three

From Galway City, we moved further down south passing through Kinvara to see one of the most photographed castles in Ireland – the Dunguaire Castle. This is a 16th-century tower house on the southeastern shore of Galway Bay.

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As we neared County Clare, we decided to see another castle. Dromoland Castle, like Ashford Castle that we visited yesterday, is a 5-star hotel and a luxury country club. 400 acres of land and a lake surrounds the castle. We can see many patrons around, most of them playing golf in the area. We entered the walled garden and indeed it was such a sight for sore eyes. Despite the rainy weather, we had fun roaming around the luxurious estate and have our photos taken. This was the 5th castle that we visited during the entire trip.

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The last three days of roaming around these parts of Ireland have been full of pure bliss. I feel truly privileged by God to have had the chance to see these picturesque sights in real life. I used to only dream about visiting these places and it still feels surreal to actually be able to do so. In a more important note, I feel even more blessed to have spent these days with great company. I am in debt to the Bordeos family (ate Joanne, Kuya Mark, Aedan) and Ate Kim for bringing me along with them during this trip.

They say traveling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.

I think I just did.

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