Hanging out with goats in a magical forest in Ballyvaughan, Ireland sounds like a great adventure, right? Typically, our preferred locations for vacations are big cities where we walk everywhere exploring the neighborhoods and enjoying cafes and shops. However, one of our most memorable trips we have taken was a complete and unexpected departure from the norm. Goats! And lots of them from the head dude to the herd that followed him around, all located on a bayside retreat near Galway. Enjoy the journey!
Not only did we enjoy staying in a beautiful house sitting on a historical fishing harbor on the Atlantic Ocean while watching the tides flow in and out, but it was just a short stroll through the ferns and trees to meet up with the goat herd and observe their clan as they live their best lives in this beautiful setting. The ARBNB (Harbourhillhouse Goatfarm – Farm stays for Rent in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland – Airbnb) was outstanding in all ways and I highly recommend as a unique retreat.
The host lives separately on the property, taking care of their goats and their guests. We met her for feeding time and heard all about the hierarchy of the goats. They eat and sleep in a community where they have to earn their place in the superior accommodations of the sheds. From the goat village, the goats make daily pilgrimages to the water. It is a sight to see.
When not hanging out with the goats or gazing at the water, we ventured into Ballyvaughan to get groceries and explore the shops and bars. Check out O’Loclainn’s Pub for an authentic Irish experience-just don’t try to order a Cosmo. Head out to Newtown Castle on the water to absorb some history and shop-yes, they have artisans working on their wares right there and selling them to tourists. I got some beautiful handmade jewelry there.
When on the west side of Ireland, the must sees include the town of Galway and a boat tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. Watch the weather and don’t book a boat tour in advance-trust me. Our first trip to Ireland, the weather turned bad, and we couldn’t go the day we had paid for in advance and we weren’t there long enough to reschedule. Next trip, we just went to the dock on a nice day, got a ticket and walked on the boat. This will work during the “shoulder” seasons when it’s less busy. If you are going in the summer months, you may have to take that risk. We passed through the town of Lisdoonvarna on our way from the goat farm to the cliffs and saw the famous Matchmaker Bar. They have a festival every year to match folks up! I imagine it’s quite the happening place.
If you like hiking, I would recommend taking the combo Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher boat trip. We were dropped off on the island and then walked several miles exploring all over the small island. From the cemetery with the ancient crosses to the boat wrecks on the beaches, it was a glorious day. Happy to be back on the boat, it took us by the Cliffs of Moher while we rested. You can walk the path along the cliffs if you are not scared of heights.
Another day, drive a few miles up north to Galway. A picturesque city on the water, walk the streets, enjoy a meal and a pint and shop! Here are some of my favorite places:
- Coffeewek+Press, 4 Quay Street (sit outside if nice and listen to the buskers) Coffeewerk and Press – Coffeewerk + Press
- Biteclub, 36 Upper Abbeygate Street-quirky place with great service for lunch
- My Shop Granny across from Biteclub on Upper Abbeygate Street https://www.myshopgranny.com/ Check out the jewelry by Aria-V there and then you can get even more jewelry online at: Aria-V jewellery handcrafted with natural stones – aria-v.com I have a collection of her jewelry and get lots of complements on the unusual stones she uses to craft her works of art.
I’m not a fan of driving but, if your goal is to explore off the beaten path in Ireland, it’s probably a necessary evil. I’ve done this twice now and have some advice to share:
- Research in advance all the fees you will be charged. I thought we were going to pay a much lower amount than what we found out when picking up the car because the extra insurance they require was double the cost of the daily rental rate. If you pay for the rental with an American Express, that may cover the requirement of insurance. International car rentals won’t recognize US insurance coverage. Be forewarned!
- At the many roundabouts (circular traffic paths that are a replacement for traffic lights) just keep saying to yourself “Stay Left!” and you may survive.
- Highways in Ireland are lovely and wide. All other secondary roads can be very narrow so don’t rent a huge car. We had a compact and still had shrubs and trees hitting the car on both sides on lanes that were supposedly for two-way traffic but really were like cow paths where oncoming traffic had to edge over as possible between breaks in the stone walls lining most roads to allow cars to pass each other.
- Pack a flask with you to fill with authentic Irish whiskey for those adventures driving on the narrow cow paths! I am not joking. The cows are huge over there and they use the same roads as the cars to get from field to field. Interesting and terrifying. Cheers!