Welcome to the Paddywagon
Painted in a flashy vivid green, it was easy to spot the bus parked ahead as we drove towards it on a quiet Saturday morning in Dublin. I laughed at the pictures of the mischievous leprechauns painted all over the bus, grinning at me, as if to say “Haha – wait until you see what we have in store for you!”
Mike, our Paddywagon guide and driver, was there to welcome me. As I boarded the bus, I said goodbye to Hans (the owner of the B&B home I stayed at while in Dublin), and thanked him for giving me a ride to the bus departure point. Hans and Mike greeted each other warmly, shook hands and gave each other a quick pat on the back as they chatted together like they were family.
A short time later, as the bus headed out of the city of Dublin, I asked Mike how he knew Hans, to which he looked at me blankly for a few seconds. “Oh, that guy who drove you to the bus? I never met him before. That’s just the Irish greeting.”
I smiled and laughed (and commented as to how I must have lived in England too long)! The journey was off to a pleasant start. A good thing, too, as I would spend 25+ hours on this bus over the course of the next three days, as myself and 10 other travel bloggers ventured out on a 2 night/3 day trip around Ireland, courtesy of Paddywagontours and Daytoursworld.
Drastic Landscape Changes
Coming down with a cold, and exhausted from three days of little sleep and a non-stop schedule of events at the Travel Blogger’s (TBEX) conference, I unfortunately only caught bits and pieces of all the great information Mike shared with us about Ireland on the first morning of our tour. I remember hearing a few facts such as 28% of Ireland is covered in peat (a type of vegetation), the river Shannon flows for 426 miles, the stone walls were just rock placed on rock with no cement or any other kind of material to glue them together, and thatched roofs often last between 15-30 years.
I was most focused on the spectacular landscape changes passing by me, almost faster than I could take it all in! Day 1 of the tour would lead us west from Dublin towards Galway, then through the Burren landscape in County Clare, formed of limestone, rolling hills & rock formations. Finally, we’d head south through the towns of Bally Vaughan and Doolin, along the coastal path bordering the Atlantic ocean and on to the Cliffs of Moher. We’d observe some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen:
Small charming rural towns with their own local grocery store, a few pubs and pastel-colored houses –
Wide open land dotted by stone walls and various shades of green land, with the coast in the distance –
Rock formations that looked down to the blue water of the Atlantic ocean below –
Old castles, ancient ruins and even historical, picturesque cemeteries –
Finally the Cliffs of Moher, that rise up to 702 feet (214 meters) at the highest point and range for 5 miles over the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard of County Clare. Formed about 320 million years ago, they are Irelands’s most visited natural attraction. (Visit the Cliffs of Moher website for more detailed information).
Master Storytelling At Work
The Irish people seem to have a natural talent for storytelling, and Mike was no exception. I heard some of the coolest stories during my 3 day tour aboard the Paddywagon –
Like the story about the footballers from County Mayo. In 1951 they won the All-Ireland champion and as they passed through the streets celebrating, they unfortunately continued cheering and shouting while they passed by a funeral procession. The story goes that a local priest put a curse on them, vowing they would never win an All-Ireland championship while any of the players from that 1951 team were still alive. 62 years later, a few of the 1951 team members are still living, and the “curse” continues…
Or the story about one of Ireland’s oldest festivals, the Puck Fair Festival, held in the county Kerry where locals go up into the mountains and capture a wild goat every year for the festival. The goat is then hoisted up on a tower 30 feet up and crowned, and for the next 3 days acts as the “King of ceremonies” during the festival’s length, which includes all night dancing, singing and other exciting activities.
Mike’s humor never faded, either, even after he drove the bus for hours on end. When we told him how impressed we were with his ability to manuever the narrow Irish roads his comment back was, “If I was in your country on the roads I’d be like a goat looking at lightning.”
All of these stories are best heard first-hand, and I highly recommend that you consider a tour like this to see it all in person. Each and every story captured my attention. The opportunity to see Ireland this way, as opposed to one of the alternatives (e.g. renting a car yourself and trying to maneuver the “two-way roads”) is a lot less stressful, especially for other Americans like me who are used to wide roads!
The Rose of Tralee
At the end of a wonderful, but long, 12-hour day, as the bus barreled on towards the town of Tralee, Mike appropriately played us the song “The Rose of Tralee,” while I stared out the window and listened to the music’s romantic lyrics. “Oh, the pale moon was rising above the green mountain, The sun was declining beneath the blue sea…”
The sun really was declining beneath the blue sea as we entered the town. I marveled at the unique opportunity I had to be a part of this Ireland excursion. Maybe it was my sheer state of exhaustion, but at that moment it felt like a magical and mythical ride, just as mythical as the Irish leprechauns, whose images were painted all over our bus!
This was only the end of day one.
The next two days would take us through the Dingle Peninsula, Killarney, and Cork and I’d get to see and experience more of Ireland than I ever thought I’d have the chance to see.
Interested in Learning more?
See some of my friends’ great reviews and pictures (who all went on the same Paddywagon tour as I did!):
Taking a Paddywagon Tour: Pros & Cons – Susan, Vibrant Ireland
Exploring South West Ireland – Nienke, The Travel Tester
Touring the West Coast of Ireland – Alex & Bell, Wanderlust Marriage
Ireland (Part 1) – Anja, Travel on Toast
Thank you to Paddywagon tours and DayToursWorld who offered this tour opportunity to a selected group of travel bloggers.