Final Destinations as “Fáilte” Fades To “Farewell”
Here it is — my final days in Ireland have come to an end. My last couple of weekends didn’t slow down, but rather, I took advantage of the time to explore some last minute destinations on my list before I parted the island.
The first of two trips began with a day trip to Kinsale in County Cork. The weekend previous to this, I traveled to Cork with some friends where I spent the weekend exploring the town + kayaking the River Lee. I really enjoyed the area so I was happy to return as I passed through on my way down to Kinsale. As I arrived in the colorful + quaint harbor town, I joined along on a history stroll of the town where I learned about its rich history with the Spanish Armada + English conflict. I also had planned to visit on this particular day to experience the town’s “Street Feast” food festival, as Kinsale is known as the “foodie” town of Ireland (catch some snapshots of that goodness below).
Following my day in Kinsale, I journeyed to Limerick for my accommodation for the evening, where I had lovely views of the River Shannon below. The next morning, I met a tour group outside the park in Limerick to take a trip around the Dingle Peninsula.
Our excursion began with a quick pass through Killarney for a cafe stop before heading to our first destination that was Inch Beach. It was definitely the first time I have been to a beach where lush pasture land met right beside wide open sandy shores. This feature gave the location a unique scent mixture of sheep + seafood (I oddly kind of liked it?). The coastline was particularly broad + happened to be decorated with a vast array of seashells, as we had met it at low tide. As I walked along the sand in search of a tiny treasure to carry back with me, I kept thanking + praising God for such a glorious, gorgeous day He had given us to be out exploring!
After departing the shoreline, we continued along the Slea Head Drive of the peninsula. Along the way, we stopped at a local farm on the side of the road where I came across the dearest little lambs that I was able to hold for a bit. At this same location rest some of the notable Beehive Huts, or clocháin, in the area that are made solely from stone without sand, concrete, etc. (as many of the stone walls here in Ireland are made) where people lived an estimated thousands of years ago, however the exact history + date of their construction is unknown. Some more of these structures were dotted across the Blasket Islands which we had magnificent views of along our coastal drive, including the famed “Sleeping Giant” island which is rightly named.
Further on we stopped by Dunmore Head beach — dark + rocky, yet lush + green islands jut out from vivid clear-teal waters — and Ceann Sibéal where the Jedi temples were created for the eighth Star Wars film. The Slea Head Drive led us back down into Dingle Town where I had quite the tasty seafood lunch overlooking the harbor before our departure back to Limerick + my further transfer back home to Dublin, where I arrived very late in the evening but very well pleased with my little adventure!
For my final weekend in Ireland, I decided to visit Donegal. Now, Donegal had been on the top of my list for places to visit since I have been on the island due to the staggering coastline, Star Wars film locations + Northern Lights viewing at Malin Head, and the outdoor allure of Glenveagh National Park. However, when I was looking for tours + activities to do there, none were available until May after my departure. I pushed off going for this reason, but as my last weekend crept up with nothing planned to fill the time, I saw it as a sign for me to go ahead anyway! I took a bus up to Donegal from Dublin that dropped me off right at my hotel where I once again had a river view — the River Eske. I walked around town (“the Diamond”) for a while + then headed into the tourist information office to see if there were any tours that I had missed with my online search, as well as other things to do around the area. The lady gave me the unfortunate news that I already knew to be the case. However, she then told me that there was one private tour going out the next day that was full but she could call the guy leading it just to double check. He replied that he believed it was a group of seven + his van fit eight people, but he would have to ask them if they would be open to having another person (stranger) join along with them.
As I waited until the evening when I would hear back, I went out on the Donegal Bay Waterbus. A narrator on board pointed out various spots along the way including an old Abbey from 1474, seven different islands with unique owners + history, the embarkation point of many during the Great Famine, an old coast guard station used during World War I, as well as “seal island” which is usually full of harbour + grey seals who unfortunately did not come out to play for us that afternoon. On the return trip back into town, the guide played guitar + sang a variety of traditional Irish songs + international classics for us to enjoy + sing along to. Afterwards, I went out to dinner (the best Indian restaurant in Ireland, to be exact) + I was getting ready for bed, as I had almost just given up on my hopes of hearing back about the tour, when I heard my phone ring: the guy called + said that the group of ladies would be delighted to have me join them on the tour tomorrow! There ya have it folks: God answers prayers + in perfect time.
The next morning I went across the river from my hotel to journey along the Bank Walk. It was a lovely trail along the River Eske + Donegal Bay shaded with mossy trees that were decorated with tiny, colorful fairy doors + houses — a trend in the rural culture. I made my way back over to the town center just as the Donegal Castle was opening, so I perused through the stone walls before going back to the hotel where the tour was supposed to pick up at 11:30am. I met the group of ladies I would be traveling with for the day — they were all cousins from around Ireland + England who decided 10 years ago that they needed to have annual girls weekend trips to catch up + have some time together that wasn’t spent at a wedding or funeral. They made me feel most welcome, engaged in good, genuine conversation + laughter, and passed along many “sweets” throughout our journey, so it’s safe to say that I really enjoyed them + I think they might have liked me too!
We began our drive passing through the largest fishing port on the island, Killybegs, then on to another town called Carrick. The entire drive was incredibly scenic with breathtaking rocky sea cliffs around us. We made our photo stops quick though because it was freezing rain + high winds that could easily blow me right off the edge — the Wild Atlantic Way for sure! Following the coastline, we arrived at Sliabh Liag / Slieve League which are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe, providing us with magnificent views from the edge. Next up we encountered Malin Beg, yet another one of Ireland’s strikingly characteristic beaches with teal waters, golden sand, rugged mountains surrounding. There was still some rain showering, but this provided for many full, rushing waterfalls to be seen descending down the cliffs + hillsides. A quick lunch break was made in the folk village of Glencolmcille before passing down through Ghleann Gheis — a deep-cut valley that was illuminated in green due to the rain run-off that settles down in between the two steep sides. It was full of grazing sheep who were enjoying the fresh vegetation, + seemed to be much safer than the many I had seen previously on the edges + extremities of the cliffs. Not long after, we found ourselves circling back into Donegal town where I spent the evening resting, recollecting, reflecting on the weekend that had just summed up.
Wow. That’s what I have been finding myself saying a lot since I have been here — wow. Not only does God answer our prayers but He goes above + beyond them (Ephesians 3:20), and He has done this consistently during my time in Ireland: my classwork + internship days, roommates, finding a church, travel companions ( a variety!), and more + more.
So many times, whether it be for a weekend trip such as these or school assignments or just grocery store runs, I have had a plan going in that has fallen to pieces right in front of me — yet the pieces seemed to have fallen ideally in places not foreseen by me. That’s one of the things that God has been teaching me here — to let go. to not plan every detail. to not hold expectations. But rather, to fully + boldly trust Him to guide, organize, handle all things (Exodus 15:13, Psalm 48:14, 32:8, 73:24). I also feel that I grew much closer to God as I learned more about His character during my time abroad. I was constantly reminded that He is always with me (Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:9, 1 Kings 8:57, Psalm 23:4, 73:23, Isaiah 41:10, John 16:32) — physically walking with me, caring for me, watching over me. But also always in my heart comforting me, fully knowing + loving me. His love is unmatchable, unconditional, unending (Psalm 86:15, Isaiah 54:10, Ephesians 3:18-19). I have been astounded by His continual love + faithfulness.
Without a doubt the Lord has blessed me immensely beyond what I can even explain. I stayed busy, I stayed safe, I stayed enlightened. I am incredibly thankful for the exploration + growth that I encountered in Ireland + I hope you enjoyed journeying along with me!
And if you’re wondering if I’d ever study abroad again, the answer is WITHOUT A DOUBT!
And if you’re wondering whether or not you should study abroad yourself, the answer is YES! One of my favorite quotes in The Wizard of Oz teaches, “Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on the earth the more experience you are sure to get.” So seek out the experiences that God is leading you toward, take action in following the path He is paving + aim to give your undivided attention to the experience.
The Earth is beautiful. I am blessed. Life is good. (All thanks to God).