Scotland, Northern Ireland, & Ireland: 9/03 – 9/09

Glen Coe >>> Edinburgh >>> (Ireland) Navan >>>  (Northern Ireland) Belfast >>> (Ireland) Connermara National Park >>> Galway >>> Ring of Kerry
9/3 – Day 4 of Campervanning in Scotland: Niest Point, Fort William, Glen Coe and Devil’s Staircase
9/4 – Day 5 of Campervanning in Scotland: Loch Lomond, Trossachs National Park, Doune Castle, Edinburgh
9/5 – Fly to Dublin, Pick up Campervan in Navan 
9/6 – Day 1 of Campervanning in Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol, Explore Dublin
9/7 – Day 2 of Campervanning in Ireland: Belfast, Caves of Cushendun, Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Dark Hedges
9/8 – Day 3 of Campervanning in Ireland: Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, Connemara Loop, Explore Galway
9/9 – Day 4 of Campervanning in Ireland: Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Camp at Mannix Campsite

Day 4 of Campervanning in Scotland: Niest Point, Fort William, Glen Coe and Devil’s Staircase
+ In the morning we had cool views of the lake that we were parked near as we ate our breakfast.
+ Continuing our tour through the Isle of Skye, we continued driving on these back roads towards Niest point. This is the westernmost point of GB and had really dramatic scenery of steep cliffs and giant mountains.
+ From the parking area, we had a 30 minute hike down and out to the lighthouse which was located at the far end of the point. We stopped at a few different overlooks along the way admiring the views. On the way back to the van, we climbed up a big hill that let us see for miles and miles!
+ Back in the parking lot we saw 2 other wicked campervans! We hadn’t seen any  during our drive but now there were 2 others with cool paint jobs. One van was of the 2 different jokers from batman and the other had characters from Pulp Fiction. We liked our paint job better but the other vans looked much newer!
+ After some more driving, we came to the Fairy pools. We had planned to do a little bit of hiking but it was too rainy and foggy to see much outside so we decided to just skip it and continue driving.
+ While driving, we needed a bathroom break and saw a cool little place to pull over called Cullin brewery. We each tried one of the craft beers but weren’t too impressed so we chose to move on.
+ Our next stop was to do a hike called Devils Staircase on the Aognach Eoglach ridge located in the Glen Coe area. Liz didn’t feel like hiking and having to wait for Corey since she was always so much faster than him, so Corey set out to do the hike himself.
+ Although it was rainy and the daylight was fading, he managed to make it all the way to the top and back in just over an hour! This was because he ran much of the trail and only paused to take pictures. Besides the incredible views in every direction from the top, he also saw a whole pack of Scottish deer! They were at the very top of the ridge as Corey was hiking up, but ran away before got up there.
+ We needed some wifi to do a few different things so we backtracked about half an hour to Fort William where we visited McDonald’s (which was probably the only place open that had wifi and would allow us to sit there with all our devices). We worked til they closed and then sat in the van right outside continuing to use the wifi until we’d accomplished everything on our to do list.
+ Not wanting to drive super far because it was rainy and late at night, we only went about 45 minutes until we found a perfect pull out spot to park for the night.
+ Overall the scenery had been so impressive today! Probably the prettiest place we’d seen in all of Scotland!
Day 5 of Campervanning in Scotland: Loch Lomond, Trossachs National Park, Doune Castle, Edinburgh
+ Today was our last day in the Wicked Camper as we had to return it by 5 pm back in Edinburgh.
+ On our drive, we saw signs for the Falls of Falloch waterfall so we pulled over to see it. After only a short 5 minute walk, we came to the falls and took some pictures. It was in a very picturesque setting although the falls themselves weren’t the best.
+ We then drove all along Loch Lomond and through Queen Elizabeth park. Both were very pretty and seemed like popular family and tourist destinations where you could spend a prolonged period of time in. We’ll have to come back another time!
+ Trossachs National Park was next and provided one magnificent view after the next. We reached the “Rest and Be Thankful” viewpoint and stopped to take some pictures before hopping back in the van.
+ Up next was a visit to Doune Castle. This is where they filmed Monty Python and had a really good audio tour narrated by one of the actors. We toured all around the castle and learned about the family that used to live there and it’s history with different people trying to breech it’s walls.
+ With limited time left, we had to keep moving so back in the van we set our sights to see the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle. Unfortunately we ran out of time and couldn’t stop to tour through them, so we kept on driving towards Edinburgh. We did manage to see the famous large statues of Kelpi Horses on the way back though!
+ After cleaning out the van and packing up our stuff, we hailed an Uber to take us to our hostel for the night.
+ Hungry and with leftover food to finish before our flight, we cooked 2 different types of macaroni and cheese in the hostel!
+ Then after some showers and rearranging our bags to meet the low weight requirements of Ryan Air, we realized we were still hungry. So we decided to return to the Wings restaurant we’d eaten at before the trip. Still just as delicious!
+ Back at the hostel, we tried to maximize our time with wifi and ended up staying up way too late and only got about 2 hours of sleep before we had to wake up and get to the airport.
Fly to Dublin, Pick up Campervan in Navan
+ After very little sleep that only felt like a minute, we caught the bus to the airport and boarded our early flight to Dublin.
+ On the flight we researched some things about Ireland and after only about an hour, we touched down in Dublin. Then we walked through the airport and found the bus we needed to Navan, which was about an hour outside of Dublin and where the Spaceship campervan we were picking up was located.
+ One of the representatives picked us up in Navan and took us to the depot where we picked up the van. It was much bigger and newer than our Wicked van, but no cool paint job. And this one was stick shift so Corey would be doing all the driving once again.
+ After we got everything packed up how we wanted, we went to the town mall to get some food and groceries for the next 8 days in the van. After shopping at the Tesco, eating Subway, and picking up some goodies from the Irish dollar store equivalent, we were feeling very tired and wanted a nap.
+ So back in the van, we decided to sleep for a few hours and drive to Dublin that night. But we slept a bit longer than planned and when we awoke just after 10 pm, we discovered the parking garage closed at 10 and was on lockdown! So we couldn’t even walk out of the garage, much less drive. We were stuck for the night! But we made the best of our situation and did research for Ireland until about 2 am when the FSU game vs. Ole Miss started. The data signal in the garage wasn’t the best so we weren’t able to stream the game, but we did manage to listen to it on the radio. So we listened long enough to hear the largest comeback win in school history take place and then went back to sleep.
Day 1 of Campervanning in Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol, Explore Dublin, Drive to Belfast in Northern Ireland
+ In the morning we awoke to find the garage full of cars again.
+ Our van was a little strange because there were no curtains to cover the windows (like Wicked), only metallic reflective window pads that you had to stick up with suction cups each night. From the outside it really did look like a spaceship!
+ After a quick bathroom visit, we drove down to Dublin. Our first destination was to do the Kalmainham Gaol tour. This place was a historic jail and had played an important role in Ireland throughout the years, especially when the separation with Northern Ireland happened and the 1916 Easter uprising. The tour was led by a passionate guide who explained the often dark and brutal history of the jail and told tales of the important figures who had passed through and died in the jail.
+ Afterwards we walked around Dublin taking in the sights: both of the large and impressive Cathedrals, St. Stephens Green, Trinity College, the Spire, and Connelly Street, which had lots of touristy shops and restaurants. Dublin was a very pretty city and the people were friendly.
+ For dinner we ate at Boojum burrito bar. It had been recommended by a friendly local and ended up having big tasty burritos that hit the spot!
+ Wanting to get most of the distance between Dublin and Belfast covered tonight, we drove most of the way north to Belfast and stopped on the highway 20 min outside the city at a rest area with some semis and slept there for the night.
Day 2 of Campervanning in Ireland: Belfast, Caves of Cushendun, Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Dark Hedges, drive back into Ireland
+ Being so close, we were in Belfast in no time and went straight to the Visit Belfast information Center. The center itself was pretty cool but we were more interested in the outdoor sights located on the northern coast. So we decided to just keep driving north. We did manage to see the Belfast city hall (impressive building) and had a very rude parking lot attendant overcharge us before letting us leave.
+ On the way north, we saw an advertisement for a lunch buffet at Pizza Hut. We were both starving and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stuff ourselves with some yummy American food!
+ With full stomachs, we drove to the Caves of Cushendun which were a Game of Thrones filming location. They were big and impressive and their location right on the shore made them even cooler looking. We had a tad bit of trouble backing out our huge van with the one way road. After deciding a 3-point turn just wasn’t going to work, Corey had to reverse all the way back out while Liz ran ahead making sure no one was coming! Lol
+ Next up was the Ballytown harbour which offered great costal views.
+ A big tourist destination we decided to hit up was the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which spanned between the mainland cliffs and an island. We kind of got guilted into buying a ticket to cross it by the ticket guy instead of just viewing it. With a line to cross over to the island and then back again, our visit was very rushed. But we did manage to see it and cross the big gap over the crashing ocean below!
+ Our next stop had been on Corey’s bucket list for a while: Giant’s Causeway! So we first explored the visitor center and learned about the myth involving Giants and how the place was created. Then we got a great audio guide and walked all around the huge cliffs on a cool coastal walk! The audio guide was fantastic and told background information about the area from all points of view! It was probably one of Liz’s favorite audio tours from the whole trip. Afterwards we drove to the bottom and actually walked all around on the hexagonal basalt towers. We ended up staying at Giant’s Causeway until dusk!
+ Before leaving this northern coastal area, we drove through the Dark Hedges. This was another GOT location and at night provided a really spooky setting!
+ With nothing left on the to do on our list up in this area, we drove really far south and crossed back into the Republic of Ireland. After probably 4 hours or so, we found a nice parking spot for the night and went to sleep.
Day 3 of Campervanning in Ireland: Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, Connemara Loop, Explored Galway
+ One of the cool areas we didn’t want to miss was Connemara National Park. After touring their nice visitor center, we walked 2 trails: the ridge trail and the nature garden trail. It was very grey and dreary outside and during the hike we did the running man to entertain ourselves due to the bad weather.
+ Before starting to drive again, we ate a snack in the van of peanut butter and Nutella bagel sandwiches. They were delicious and a bit messy, but gave us some more energy to keep exploring!
+ Kylemore Abbey was our next stop and we browsed around the welcome center, looking at the unique pottery from the nuns which was on display. The abbey is set on a beautiful lake and makes for stunning pictures. We didn’t want to pay to tour the inside so instead we got pictures of the outside and set off again.
+ According to our guidebooks and everything we’d read online, one of the most beautiful areas around this area of Ireland was the Connermara Loop. It was made up of a bunch of very narrow (pretty much single car width 95% of the time) roads that went up and down the pretty hills, providing gorgeous views over the scenic landscape. So as we drove the Connemara Loop and passed countless flocks of sheep, we made hilarious sheep jokes like “This grass is the baaaast” and “Sheep’s across the fence were being baaaad”! Very Clever and mature, we know.
+ From there, we continued our drive towards Galway. This was a popular city and one where we wanted to experience a bit of the Irish culture. As we wandered through the old and unique streets of Galway, we spotted a traditional looking pub with live music so we made our way in and each ordered a pint of Guinness. There was a little band playing with a main singer and they were performing traditional upbeat Irish songs which was nice. Then, another guy (older local) was going to sing a song as a guest and we quickly learned he was a bit famous around these parts. The whole bar was hushed and he climbed onto a table and began singing a much slower and heartfelt Irish song. Many different patrons of the bar knew the song and would sing along with him during certain parts and it made the whole experience feel magical. You could really feel the emotion in the crowd as they sang about the difficult history Galway had dealt with but also their pride for Galway and Ireland overall.
+ When the performances had finally subsided, we left the pub and explored more of the city. We came upon a hole in the wall restaurant which smelled too good to pass up. It was called The Pie Maker and we each went for a different Irish pie to go (similar to shepherd’s pie). While waiting in line, we spoke with 2 other American couples which were there on vacation. We compared our time in Ireland so far and the different places we’d visited. We hadn’t met many American couples during our tour so far but now there were 2 just in this little restaurant!
+ On our way back to the van, we found another Pub with live folk music, although this music was much more upbeat. We went in and got another pint of a local brew and enjoyed the music for half an hour or so. When we felt fulfilled, we headed back to the van and ate our (still insanely hot) pies to warm ourselves up.
+ That night, we drove a little bit towards our next destination until we found a good spot to pull over and park for the night.
Day 4 of Campervanning in Ireland: Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Camped at Mannix Campsite
+ This morning we were headed towards the Cliffs of Moher. On our drive there, the weather continued to get worse and worse and by the time we parked, it looked like a hurricane was a-brewin’ outside! We put on all of our rain gear and started the walk to the visitor center. It was very rainy and extremely windy and foggy. We could barely see anything! Since we didn’t think we would even be able to see any of the cliffs, we decided to go into the visitor center first in hopes the weather would get better. The visitor center was very large and well done and was a great mix of interactive displays, hands-on learning areas, and even had a little theater which gave you a “birds-eye” view of the cliffs both above and below water. Really neat!
+ Now it was time to head outside to view the cliffs. When we exited, we were disappointed to see the weather had gotten even worse! Although the rain had slowed, it was even foggier than before and when we walked to the edge of the cliffs and peered out over the railings, we couldn’t see anything except a wall of gray!
+ We continued our walk along the cliff trail and did eventualy see a tiny bit of the cliffs as we braved the weather. It wasn’t much but we did get a couple pictures in and watch the birds navigate the winds and rock formations as they returned to thwir nests.
+ Back in the warm van, we drove south to the Ring of Kerry. It was a few hours away and we took the long way along the coast.
+ To our delight, after we got on the Ring of Kerry the sun finally came out and we got to enjoy the landscape! The beginning of the drive was already spectacular and we could tell why this was the number 1 attraction in all of Ireland.
+ Our first stop was a cold and windy beach that Corey was really impressed with. It had a thick section of rocks which eventually gave way to a strip of sand and the ocean, but behind the rocks were towering sand dunes. According to the map, this was a large peninsula and it provided the ability to walk around the whole thing, or even camp on it if you fancied! We didn’t have time for that, but Corey did run up to the top of the tallest sand dune he could see and he had great views over the whole peninsula and surrounding waters. In the background the mountains loomed and made the whole scene look like a painting or a picture you’d see on a puzzle!
+ We continued our drive on the Ring of Kerry to Mannix campsite just in time to catch an amazing sunset light up the sky in pink and orange!
+ At the campsite, we met a funny Irishman who sold us his shower tokens since the reception was already closed. He made some jokes about us being cold and chided Corey a bit but we couldn’t understand everything he said with his thick accent!
+ While trying to prepare dinner, we discovered neither of our 2 stoves in the van worked correctly. We borrowed a lighter from the neighbors next to us and made due to (almost) boil water and make pasta. After what seemed like forever we ate our dinner in the warm van.
+ We realized tonight was the first night of our Ireland trip where it had not been raining as we parked the van! Thank goodness!
+ Before our much needed showers we took the dishes to the washing up area only to discover this campsite included a full kitchen! With pots, pans, numerous stoves, everything! That would’ve made our cooking so much easier! Lol oh well.
+ Our showers had to be speedy because our tokens only provided 5 minutes of water per token. (We were smart and bought 10 minutes worth for Liz.) The bathrooms had the local NPR-type radio station piping in on speaker so we enjoyed our showers with the classical background music.
+ Afterwards, we moved to the dining area and shared a bottle of wine as Liz ate some chocolate and Corey ate some spicy cheese. The campsite cat was particularly interested in becoming Corey’s best friend to maybe get a bite of his cheese. It was funny to watch him slowly pester Corey until the old softie relented.  We watched a couple episodes of Parks and Recreation. It was a nice way to end the night.

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