Galway was the very fist weekend trip trip I took. It was early October, I finally had gotten settled into an apartment, was getting comfortable with Dublin, and felt I should start seeing a little more of the countryside.
Getting from Dublin to Galway is actually a relatively painless 2hr 45min train ride (Dublin train station is easily accessible from downtown Dublin, and timetables are available on their website: www.irishrail.ie ). The cars are clean, and the cost isn't too high. We ended up gettingin around 7pm that evening, and headed directly to our youth hostel. The hostel we stayed at is a place called Barnacles: Quay Street House (pronounced "key"), and is quite possibly one of my ALL TIME favorite hostel experiences (so much so that I stayed there two additional times with different groups of friends). You may be asking what qualifies it for such a high Molly Rating, well let me tell you: the location is unbeatable, it is right downtown on one of the main tourist walk-ways in Galway, and close to a bunch of fun pubs and shopping. They offer a private quad with a private bathroom (including a shower) - yes, they are bunk beds. Finally, the price is totally reasonable, and it includes a continental breakfast (from 13 - 39 euros/night).
We quickly settled in, and rambled/sprinted over to the King's Head pub to meet up with my Irish friends, Barry (Galwegian native) and Adrian, for a couple (re: dozens) of drinks. The King's Head is a larger Irish pub, but has a great atmosphere and live music 7 nights a week. Even if you aren't much of a drinker, I would highly suggest going to pubs while you're touring Ireland. Pubs are a big part of Irish culture, but not just because of the alcohol - food and conversation are also a big part of the experience. The latter two may have taken a back seat to drinking on this particular night, but we were in college, so whateva. The four of us rolled back to the youth hostel semi-early with the intention of taking a bus tour of the countryside the following morning...
Two of my friends and travel companions [Ali and Norah], the chipper little go-getters that they are, woke up early the next morning and headed directly to the Galway tourism office (thanks again, Barnacle staffers). The woman at the tourism office was extremely helpful, and suggested that if Ali and Norah could get Julia and I out of our drunken slumber, that a bus tour of The Burren would be a great option. Fueled by a desire to not be a total waste-o-space, we were able to kick our butts in gear and make the bus with 2 or 3 minutes to spare. It really ended up being a great way to see the countryside (rental car is best, but this is a great alternative). We hit up all the "hot-spots":
Cliffs of Moher:
**The pub gets sooo much business from tourists, but the Fish & Chips are delicious.
Poulnabrone Dolmen (might mean rock table):
**Ha - not sure the point of taking a picture in a cave, but experiencing "total darkness" was nifty.
**Tehe - Ali doing a jig of sorts...this was the end of our sugar high.