Taking advantage of the extremely underadvertised (and, by extension, underused) SailRail offer, which gets you from any train station in the UK to Dublin for a mere £30.50 or less, I put a few days aside and travelled out to the west coast of Ireland to see how Jamal was getting along. The first thing that struck me about County Mayo and the Mullet Peninsula (on the morning after I arrived, as it was long dark by the time the train from Dublin rolled in) was their utterly bleak and weatherbeaten appearance. The area is all grassy tufts, peat bogs and jagged rocky coast – very tough and unforgiving, but with a stark beauty, not unlike the northern parts of the Peak District.
Jamal put me up at his highly comfortable house and cleared his schedule to show me some of the area on Sunday, brushing any suggestions of Dutch-going aside with the catch-all “Eastern hospitality” argument. We took a scenic drive down the coast as far as Westport, paused for lunch at the renowned Quay Cottage restaurant (one of the best eateries in Ireland) and stopped at the majestic Achill Island on the way back. Being used to Korea’s muddy and overdeveloped coast, I could not get enough of the raw pristineness.
On Monday, Jamal, like most people, had to go to work and so I decided to take a walk out to the local coast on the very edge of the peninsula. The boggy nature of the land meant that there were very few footpaths, but there was also very little traffic and so I was able to walk by the side of the road and perfect the Mayo Wave. This is a greeting used by local motorists (the inhabitants being so few, everyone knows each other), and involves raising one or two fingers from the steering wheel after making brief eye contact. I wasn’t sure what the accepted pedestrian version was, but nobody yelled at me so I probably did OK.
I had initially planned on getting an afternoon ferry from Dublin and making the trip back to Yorkshire in a single day, as I’d done on the way out. However, Irish Ferries decided to cancel all their rapid services (purportedly due to an “EU inspection”) and I ended up spending the night in Dublin (the alternative being arriving in Holyhead just after midnight, with no onward trains until the morning). The Natural History Museum was sadly closed for renovations (partly due to a stairway collapsing back in 2007), but I spent a few interesting hours wandering around the rest of the city centre and taking in the National Gallery.