Dingle Peninsula, Republic of Ireland

Nearing the end of the All Ireland Rocker trip with Busabout / Shamrocker Adventures. Today we explore the Dingle Peninsula, a stretch of land jutting out to the sea that like most of Ireland is breath taking and green. It should be noted that the ring road around the peninsula while 2-way is generally taken only in one direction by the locals and tourists in the know, that is because for most of the journey its a cliff-side road without a lot of room for modern traffic to allow for casual passing.

First stop on the ring road was a farmer’s estate where for a few euros you can pay to explore the Beehive huts (Clochán), the old farmhouse and pet baby sheep. Expecting a bit of a tourist trap I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually pretty straight forward process. Pay to enter and explore at one’s leisure. The baby sheep where in one section and as long as you were gentle you could pick up one for a photo.

They don’t mince words… exactly as advertised… also historic Beehive Huts

But for a bit of culture I did manage to drag myself away from the cute baby sheep and check out the Beehive Huts that are another staple of the area history.

Next stop on the Dingle Peninsula is Coumeenoole Beach, first we stopped for another photo opportunity then headed down to the beach itself.

Overlooking Coumeenoole Beach

Its quite a trek down to the beach from the parking lot, I opted to grab some more photos and a awesome time-lapse using my iPhone and the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 which makes up my micro travel kit for photographers.

Next we headed out to the point of the peninsula, it got very craggy out there and the wind did start to pick up but was not unmanageable, again weather seemed to be on our side (fun note, the north side of the island was getting pelted by heavy rain so weather is highly variable on the emerald isle – I just got really lucky and I’m sure that luck with eventually run out… cough spoiler cough cough). The Devils Horn as the region is known is quite something, and looking out to the ocean you can see some islands which were used in a recent Star Wars movie.

At the start and subsequent end of our trip around Dingle is the small town of Dingle. Known for its dolphin Fungie that lives out in the bay I had to take a look and see if I could spot the elusive critter.

They even have a statue by the marina honoring their unexpected town mascot
Dingle Harbour / Marina
FOUND HIM!
(J/K – Photoshop is my friend – But I fooled a bunch of people on the bus!)

We did stop for lunch in town, so several of us found a nice place called John Benny’s Pub to have some lunch at the recommendation of our tour guide Gemma. I had the fish of the day and chips, which came with peas as the veggies.

And that was it for the Dingle Penisula, a great day exploring a unique region of Ireland. Along the way we did drive by the famous “Rose Hotel” and stop in town for a rest break. I managed to find a rose bush and an old car to take pictures of… but otherwise short break.

Cliffs of Moher, Republic of Ireland

Today we left Galway and continued our southern heading journey towards the famous Cliffs of Moher. Along the way we stopped at Dunguaire Castle for a quick photo-op. The bus dropped us off at the car park, it was here we discovered there was a back door! (So I’m a bit of keener and sat near the front of the bus and this was the first time we used that entrance!)

The castle was built in 1520 and sits just outside of Galway, the castle is open for guided tours but this was a quick stop for us so beyond enjoying some photos and the breeze as you can see from the flag and my hair we continued on our journey.

Next Stop was the “Little” Cliffs of Moher

Our next stop, the cliffs of Moher!!!! Just kidding, before we got to the cliffs we had a short park on the side of the road at what our Guide Gemma dubbed “The Little Cliffs of Moher” where the rock face stood about 20ft above the ocean. We had a chance to wander around the site and look over the edge, we were the only tourists when we arrived but a couple of cars stopped and other tourists came down to see the site as well while we hung out enjoying the wonderful weather.

The “Little Cliffs of Moher”

The make-up of our Shamrocker Tour Group had changed from the northern portion of the All Ireland Rocker, with tour-mates on the Giant Rocker (Northern Tour) having left back to Dublin and the tour-mates on the Southern Rocker joining us. It was time to get another group photo!

Now the cliffs of Moher have their own micro climate due to the ocean air currents coming up against such a sudden tall land barrier, so despite our luck with the weather it was a coin toss what kind of weather we were going to encounter at the cliffs, we got lucky, more clear skies!

The Cliffs of Moher!
Additional Cliffs of Moher – There is a Significant Trek if one has the time to venture along the craggy cliffs
Recently they have started putting up barriers to keep tourists from the edges of the cliffs but if you walk far enough you can reach a point where the slate stones no longer separate you from the cliff.
You really need to visit the Cliffs of Moher yourself to truly appreciate how awe inspiring they really are!

One Last photo from the Cliffs of Moher as I head back to towards the bus so we can head to our next exciting location!

One Last Look at the Cliffs

Inis Mor, Aran Islands, Republic of Ireland

Today we leave Galway to check out Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands just off the coast. We had to walk 1.5 blocks from the hostel to catch the charter bus, everyone from Shamrocker Adventures and some other tour groups boarded the Aran Island buses. After a short trip along the coast we reached a marina where large sea ferries waited to take everyone over to the islands.

There are four different ways to explore the island, walking, cycling, horse drawn cart, micro bus. I choose a bicycle option for 10£ although there are now options for electrical bikes for a bit more. Out of the group about 80% took the bicycle option, and the remaining 20% when with the pony trap option.

The map we were given to navigate the island and estimated cycle times

I decided to check out Dun Aonghasa and the Seven Chruches, along the way there were a few other notable historic sites along the way but mainly it optimized views and I took the costal route to avoid to many hills (I have been sitting on a bus for the last 4 days).

First Stop at the Seal Colony – No Seals at the moment.
The beach on the island at the narrow point about 1/2 across the island. It is also the main split in the coastal road to the various sites found on the map.

Dun Aonghasa is my first stop, there is an additional fee to enter the site and its quite a hike up a hill. A fort on the highest point on the island, half of it fell into the ocean below when the cliff eroded.

Dun Aonghasa in half its glory!

Inside the fort was pretty barren, it is basically a large stone (semi) circle of stones that act as wall from the outside. There are a few holes in the walls to act as windows and a doorway.

The views from the fort are breath taking!

The View from the Fort back to the far side of the Island where the ferry dropped us off!
Fences? We don’t need no stinking fences..

Yes you can look over the edge, if you want too! The remnants of the fort can clearly be seen below in the ocean. Its quite a unique experience and hope everyone acts responsible so to allow people the opportunity to gaze over the edge!

Well.. gulp!

After having lunch and enjoying the views such a vantage point allowed it was time to head back down the hill and jump on the bike once more, my second location awaits for no one and the time on the island was running thin to fit it in!

View as I trek back down the hillside to the parking lot where my bike awaits!

Down the hill and past the beach again, this time turning left I cycled along some shallow rolling hills and farms, at least it will be downhill on the way back to the beach!

Now All I have to do bike 2/3 of the length of the island before the Ferry leaves… totally doable… erk!

Low Tide, guess the Ferry is stuck here (Just Kidding, its behind the derelict ship)

Kinlay Hostel and Galway, Republic of Ireland

Finally after a long day of travel from Londonderry we arrive in Galway and get dropped off at our Hostel for the evening… a perfect fit for a day of almost zero exertions… you like stairs right? The reward was one of the nicer hostels on this trip, and as we were staying two nights a chance to do laundry!

Welcome to Hostel Living… sometimes it not pretty…

So after we got our luggage up to our rooms some of us took to the town to look for food and take in the sunset golden hour.

Spanish Arc

Shamrocker Adventures (and Busabout) offer several tours in Ireland, and there is a combination that is very specifically setup so that the main four Rocker tours (North, South, Western, and All Irish) all meet up in Galway and here we join into one large group for Galway and the Aran Isles portion of the trip. Now while the logistics of this feat is notable, it is also why all the tours have funky travel days. So if you were ever wondering why 7/3/3/3 day trips were offered, its because of that 10 day rotation (with downtime for staff before the next rotation).

One of the bars we visited during the night

However, and I hate to be critical of what was already quite an enjoyable trip, but the “ice breaker” event that Shamrocker has set-up for everyone is an optional pub crawl through Galway with a contest to steal potatoes from eachother… what sounded like a fun game quickly got ugly competitive as soon as alcohol was thrown into the mix, with each bus group vying to win it for their “team”. After having my potatoe stolen, and stealing back another and a pinpong ball (?) the thrid bar we went to had a band playing in the other section and I left the pub crawl and enjoyed the rest of my evening…

Local Irish Band Playing at the Third Bar
I found out there was more than three flavors of the Cider I liked back in Ballitoy

Irish Cairns and Drumcliffe, Republic of Ireland

Without a doubt, the longest bus day on the trip we leave Northern Ireland and head south through some extremely scenic Ireland green landscapes as we head towards the costal port town of Galway. We make several short stops along the route, each bringing its own flavor of Ireland…

What Irish Bus Tour would be Complete without a Third Stop to an AppleGreen Truck Stop?

Okay just kidding, the first culture stop was an old megalithic stone court cairns where people used to bury the dead.

Our next stop was at St. Columba’s, an old Irish Church in Drumcliffe which is notable for a famous burial plot of W.B. Yates, a famous Irish Poet.

Welcome to Drumcliffe
The resting place of the famous Irish Poet W.B. Yates

The Dumcliffe stop also had a washroom and a couple quaint tourist coffee shops right beside the Church Grounds.

While most of the bus decided to stop and have some snacks I found out the church was actually open and the nun in attendance was very friendly and happy to allow me to explore the lower level at my leisure.

As we said goodbye to Drumcliffe we continued for quite a bit of driving, I took some time to stare out the heavy glossed windows (cough cough – not 100% photographic friendly). This portion of the trip seems to be very focused on death and burial.

But our next stop was worth it, West Port, what I envisioned a coastal Irish town should look like… check out the next post!

Dark Hedges and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge – Ballintoy, Northern Ireland

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…

Proof I was here!

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!

The other end of the Hedges – I only had to photoshop out 3 tourist!

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.

The view from the front of our hostel and pretty much the entire village!

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.

Night finally set in and we headed back up the hill to the town
(Photoshopped Star Filled Sky as it Was Cloudy)
The Fullerton Arms – The Only Pub in Town.

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.

Famous Rope Bridge just outside Ballitoy, Northern Ireland

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).

At this point I need to start thanking my Shamrocker Adventure Tour Mates for taking the time to capture some photos of me… I’m too often always behind the camera to remember that I need to show I actually visited places!

Okay, now on to the main attraction for which I’m in Northern Ireland for… the giant’s Causeway!

All Ireland Rocker – Tour Start and Overview

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…

  • Giants Causeway
  • Inis Mor
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Dublin & Belfast
  • Dingle Peninsula
  • Blarney Castle
The Tour from Busabout Website (URL Linked)

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!

Our Diver and Tour Guide

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).

My “Excited” Face on Bus Tour when I accidentally snap a photo of myself when I’m trying Vlog…

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.

Trencin, Slovakia

Trencin, Slovakia

Today, we were on our way to Budapest in Hungary via Slovakia. Soon after entering Slovakia, we did a quick pit stop so that some of our bus tour folks could get a few more Euros. I took the opportunity to pick up some German water. Trencin is a picturesque ‘Eastern Europe’ village with most of the buildings appearing to be from the communist era. Slovakia, a land-locked country that has, over the years, been a part of many different jurisdictions including being once a part of the Kingdom of Moldavia and most recently part of Czechoslovakia is now an independent country. Slovakia became a member of the European Union in 2004 and adopted the Euro as its currency in 2009.

Then, came the tank ride, a 15 minute wet, muddy and exciting roller coaster-like ride in a tracked vehicle. We had arrived at Podbiel, Slovakia where entrepreneur, Jozef Krupa, promises tourists the ride of their life. From the pictures and video which I will be uploading later, you can clearly see that nobody went back to the Busabout Coach dry or unhappy. Definitely a must-stop tourist attraction for any tourist who would like a bit of an adrenaline rush!

(Graeme on tour in Europe. Images will be upload to this blog when time and consistent internet access permits.)

Olomouc, Czech Republic

Olomouc, Czech Republic

We were now on tour with the Busabout tour company and we were stopping for the night in the sixth largest Czech city (a bit less than 100,000). It is located in the lowland of the Haná region and was, in the past, the capital of then Moravia. An architecturally attractive city with good mix of ancient, older and newer architectural styles to keep photographers busy. We would be spending the night at the Flora Hotel. It’s a nice hotel with comfy beds and windows that open. The rooms were a bit warm so we kept the window open for the night.

In the morning breakfast ended up being quite an adventure. We went to the wrong breakfast room. We were supposed to go to a nicer restaurant but, instead, some of us went to the more basic breakfast room where we watched in shock as the a group of tourists ahead of us literally attacked the food tables. Fortunately, our guide came and rescued us and we found our way to the much nicer restaurant and the rest of our group where we were able to have a nice breakfast in a more civilized fashion.

Bone Church, Kutná Hora
Now on the tour bus, we stopped at a church which became a very popular place to be buried after a 13th century monk returned form the Holy Land with some soil which he sprinkled over the existing graveyard.The graveyard became the popular place for aristocracy to be buried, so much so that there was a significant overcrowding issue and to help with the overcrowding issue bones were exhumed and stored below the church. Eventually, the city council hired a local craftsman,František Rint, to go in and put the bones into more order. What he ended up doing was create works if art using the bones. An interesting place to visit – rather unique. (photos to follow).

(Graeme on tour in Europe. Images will be uploaded when time and access to reliable internet permit)

Europe Bound

Euro 4K
It’s vacation time again and I’m heading back to Europe for my forth time* and quite appropriate given my photo/film hobby I’m packing with me a Lumix GH4 which records in 4K (well true cinematic 4K and UHD). For the purpose of this trip I’m filming in UHD at 23.98 FPS which will allow me to match to my 1080p footage. Later I’ll look at doing true Cinematic 4K, but the GH4 only does that at 24FPS. That said I may find I have to switch to PAL (25FPS) or 24 if I find NTSC flickers as I’ll be in Europe rather than North America (that whole 60 vs 50 Hz electricity issue) – good thing the GH4 is a world camera and can swap between frequencies with a quick on/off.
*Assuming you consider UK as part of Europe which for my purposes I am. If not then I bounced through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on the way to Africa so count that instead 🙂

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It’s been over a year since I was on a plane for a vacation, but really making up for it now with a trip to Eastern Europe.

Today is day 1 of the trip leaving Ottawa in the evening and doing an overnight. Once in Europe I’ll have a half-day to check out Prague before meeting up with the first BusAbout Tour.
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Flying via Air France this time with actual flights on Air France/KLM/WestJet flights; with departures and arrivals that should minimized jetlag impact. Definitely worth the extra $50 CAD over other flight/operator combos.

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Special thanks to my Travel Agent, Margaret Breau, from Adventure Travel Company / Merit for investigating and arranging the flights and navigating the tours to ensure I could jump from one to another, and dealing with my ever changing vacation dates.

Over the trip I’ll be trying to update the blog when I can, so please stay tune!