Westport, a Picturesque Irish Town on the West Coast of the Island. This town is fully of colourfully painted row houses with quaint shops and bold murals hidden in the alleyways. There is a series of rivers that flow through the town and there is an abundance of activity.
What a treat West Port was! I almost forgot to grab something to eat I was having such a great time. But I managed to grab a hot sandwich and join the group – eating while we all made our way back to the bus for our next location!
Apparently voted the best Chinese Restaurant in Ireland, it was worth a look and see. Irish food quality I’ve heard has had an explosion of flavors and variety and as someone who enjoys Asian food (and pizza) I had to give it a try. So four of use broke off from the group to give this place a go.
Overall I was quite happy to of tried this restaurant. The food was good and there was still an “Irish” vibe in the service and overall everyone in the restaurant seemed to be having a good time.
It’s day 2 of the Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker bus tour and I (and everyone else) took the 5£ option for a walking tour around Londonderry/ Derry / Legenderry* with Martin McCrossan City Tours. This is the oldest walking tour company in Derry with our host being the daughter of Mr. McCrossan who is officially named “Mr. Derry” for his efforts promoting the city.
The tour kicked off at our hotel lobby as we were already well situated downtown. Our guide wore a bright yellow jumper (as you can clearly see) which made it easy to follower her along as the tour commenced.
Now like all walking tours, you do require a but of walking stamina for the 1.5 hours or so jaunt around the city. There are frequent culture talk breaks but as the city isn’t flat be prepared to walk up some stairs and hill sides. This is defiantly a “culture vulture” activity to learn in depth about the city’s divided history and present day realities.
It was clear our guide is very passionate about Lendenderry* (her coined phrase) and you can see that on her face as she discusses the various elements of “The Troubles” and the lessons learned since then.
Overall it was a great guided walk if you wanted to learn all about the Troubles and had questions the TV series “Derry Girls” didn’t fully answer for you. She was open and willing to answer tough questions various members of the group had and overall I’d rate this guided tour much more strongly than some others I have been on. Defiantly worth more than the 5£ so be sure to leave a tip.
The site is now busy as ever and tourists are fortunately still able to explore the site, although there are more attendants around the site they seem to take a back stage approach to managing the site. Although they are best to ask about how close to the water’s edge is advisable.
Can you Spot Humphrey the Camel?
Guess its time to see about grabbing a tea… oh look another castle!
After Belfest our Shamrocker Adventures All Ireland Rocker tour bus continued north towards the coast lines. Along the way we made a few stops!
Game of Thrones Fan? Well I’ve not inadvertently visited two major sites for Kings landing, with Dubrovnik Croatia being the other. I guess I should get around to watching that series…
The dark hedges basically line a road between two fields, one end is very popular and the site of most of those famous “Dark Hedges” photos you always see with tones of tourists clamoring to get selfies and photos. We came in from the other end of the trail… less people so viola!
After our brief stop at the hedges we continued north to Ballitoy, a quaint small village along the north shore of the island where we will be staying the night in order to get us quickly to Giant’s Causeway in the morning.
There is honestly very little to do in Ballitoy other than head down to the shore and get some breaths of fresh ocean air. Since I brought my Z6 and Sirui Video Monopod I decided to give some long-exposure photography a go as we quickly lost the light.
Once it was dark we returned to Ballitoy and some of us, despite the rain decided to check out the local pub, the Fullerton Arms. I wanted to try some local Irish Ciders, and get some solid Irish experience. There was live music at the arms and it seemed like a pretty lively place.
Its a Saturday night so for entertainment the locals tried to play matchmaker with some of the female tour-mates and local lads from around town. It was all in good fun but we eventually turned in as we had an exciting day tomorrow and some of us (me) were going to try to stick in an extra event before we left.
I and a few other adventurous souls woke up early in the morning in order to make the trek to Carrick-a-Rede, a rope bridge that you can walk over (with a ticket). We didn’t have time to wait for it to open, which is fine by me (I’m not the biggest fan of heights – despite what that zip-lining video I took may disagree).
Okay, now on to the main attraction for which I’m in Northern Ireland for… the giant’s Causeway!
Belfest is the capital of Northern Ireland and a major hub for “The Troubles” where historically Protestants and Catholics have dueled over the fate of Northern Ireland and its place within the UK and Europe. This has resulted in a very segmented city with distinct neighborhoods. The black tours gives you a opportunity to travel to various neighborhoods circumventing the complex series of walls wind through the city. Our Shamrocker Adventures bus dropped us off in the center of the city where the Black Cabs were already waiting to take us through the city.
This particular Black Cab company is Big E Taxi Tours and reachable at 07968477924
After learning about the catholic struggle during the troubles we moved to a location which separates the city with a significantly taller wall (taller than the Berlin wall) which is known as the “Belfast Peace Wall” as it separates the warring communities and keeps the peace.
The black cab drivers gave us markers so that we could write on the wall, quite a few people took them up on their offer.
Next the cabs brought us to Catholic side of the Peace Wall and a monument garden for people who were killed during the troubles called the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden.
Finally the tour was done and we got dropped off at the St. George Market to wander the stalls in search of lunch and any trinkets we might spy and want from our short time in belfast.
I signed up for a 7 day Shamrocker Adventure’s “All Ireland Rocker” bus tour which encompasses the entire of island of Ireland including the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I picked this tour company for a few reasons, the main one being that it hits ALL the major “Ireland Landmarks” you can think of without going in-depth thinking…
Cliffs of Moher
Dublin & Belfast
Now for this tour I am breaking one of my cardinal travel rules, always stay two nights in each location of interest. However Ireland tourism doesn’t really have though kinds of tours offered and still appeal to adventurous souls like me; rather the two night trips cater to a more silver haired crowd. The second thing I’ll mention is that the tour is offered by Shamrocker’s Tour which is a sister company to Busabout – so you can book the same tour on either company. There is a similar arrangement for Haggis Tours in Scotland so don’t spend too much time comparing the two sites… its the same offers with slightly different marketing package. So there you have it and away I go!
Today we leave Dublin and head straight to Belfast with a few stops along the way. The tour pickup point is the Four Courts Hostel in downtown Dublin (which is partly why I ended up staying at the Hostel).
One Final Note: For this trip I brought with me my iPhone 6s+ (with Osmo Mobile 3) as well as my Nikon Z6 and GoPro Hero7 for capturing the journey. Its been two long years since I’ve traveled while I was working on my master’s so I’m admittedly a bit out of practice… I’ll back fill vlog posts on the site as I edit and upload them at a later date.
For my first night in Dublin I stayed at the four courts hostel. I choose this hostel after as it was the starting point of my Shamrocker Adventure All Ireland Tour.
The hostel has basic accommodations and walking on stairs is a requirement. Their are three common areas in the hostel, the kitchen galley, a quite reading room and another event room where they occasionally show movies.
The hostel walls are covered with various recreations of Banksy artwork.
The hostel is located on a Main Street and there was quite a bit of traffic noise through the night. The beds were comfortable and using the provided duvets is required.
In the morning I jumped on my Shamrocker Adventure Tour – All Ireland Rocker with our Tour Guide Gemma and Driver Joe.
On my way back from Open Gate Brewery I spotted a pizzeria with a wood stove and decided to drop in for a pizza.
I was sat outside on the small terrace, I had quite a bit of time to look over the menu and selected the Meat Legend Personal Pizza.
Once ordered the pizza and Strawberry Lemon-aid show up shortly fresh from the oven and kitchen. The drink was very favourable and I wish I had asked for the recipe as I suspect they used real strawberry exact vs. “Flavours” which we get back in Canada.
Now back to the Hostel to get a night sleep before my Shamrocker Tour starts in the morning.
The open gate brewery is about a 5 minute walk around to the back of the storehouse. Unlike the storehouse which is a tourist circus the storehouse is a quiet affair which opens later in the afternoon.
It does require you to buy a ticket online in advance and was mainly filled with Irish locals (accents) and clearly a “date night” destination or with friends. There is a gate with a door man who will ask you your name and check you off the list.
What makes this pub unique and worth the visit is that this is where Guinness has it’s experimental beers. With various IPA and other beers available with unique flavours and colourful names.
The 9€ entrance fee covers one pint of beer of your choosing OR a flight of beers to test. I went with the latter as you can see below.
Now I should premise that I’m not a beer drinker but I did quite enjoy the smoother flavours and having just drank a pint and a half of Guinness at the storehouse I wasn’t going to push it. But with some small slider burgers I ordered in addition (food prices were quite high) here is the results.
Each one was a unique beer, the two on the right ended up being too bitter/punchy for me while two on the right were quite good and if I had more room I could see getting a pint of the Honey + Fig Ale; that was delicious.
Finally part of this pub purpose is to gather feedback from clients and there was a large blackboard where you could indicate what you thought out their latest products.
Finally it should be noted that when I say “experimental” there could be just a keg or two of each beer brew and often each flavour is only available for a limited time so when you visit it could be completely different selection, but it definitely worth the walk over from the store house.