One of the most beautiful day trips of my life ended up happening in Ireland by accident. My best friend Erin and I spent a week in Dublin, and several weeks before our trip she booked a tour for us through Viator to Limerick, Galway, and the southwest coast. It was a combo train/bus tour, and the tour operators assured us the coach bus had a wheelchair lift. When we arrived at the train platform, the tour operators there told us the bus did NOT have a lift and the tour was not accessible at all. Instead of getting upset and disappointed, this is what we did.
I need to caveat this post by letting you know that (a) I was traveling with my best friend and not alone, (b) I’m able to transfer into a sedan, and (c) I was in a manual wheelchair. While my electric scooter (that can be taken apart and put in a trunk) would have worked, a power wheelchair would not.
Since we were already at the Dublin train station, on a whim we decided we were going to Galway no matter what and bought round-trip tickets on IrishRail. The trip would take roughly two hours each way, and the tickets cost about €90 for the both of us. Right after buying the tickets, we went to the information/assistance desk (about 20 minutes before departure) to let them know we would need a ramp to get into the wheelchair car. We boarded easily, and they phoned ahead to the Galway station so they would have a ramp ready when we arrived. I was comfortable in the wheelchair space (where two seats have been removed), but beware that train passengers love to put strollers and suitcases in these designated wheelchair spaces. If that’s the case, you need to be vocal so people realize they have to move their stuff.
On the way to Galway, I looked up taxi companies that might be able to just drive us around to scenic areas for a few hours. As our great luck would have it, I found Galway Taxis right away, which happens to provide two different 5-hour guided tours! I booked the southern tour that included the Cliffs of Moher, and within 90 minutes, Pat Kenny (our amazing driver and guide) met us on the train platform at the station. We went to his comfortable 4-door sedan, where I was able to transfer into the back seat and he was able to fold my manual chair and place it in the trunk. Then we were off!
First, we drove for about an hour or so through the scenic countryside to the famous Cliffs of Moher. It was quite chilly and very windy, and my friend Erin had to work pretty hard to push me up the hill for the view! If you bring an electric scooter, make sure you have a full battery, and bring your charger and adapter with you just in case you need to top off along the way. Even though it was cloudy, the view of the cliffs was spectacular. The path to the very top and beyond turns to dirt about halfway up and gets a bit more rugged. I stopped at the end of the pavement because Erin was getting tired, but she continued a bit more to get some spectacular photos
From the cliffs we started skirting the west Irish coast along the Burren Road, also known as the Wild Atlantic Coast. In my opinion, the views from this coastal highway were even more awe-inspiring than from the cliffs. We stopped in several places to take photos—especially of the sheep and adorable little lambs that were everywhere! On the way back to Galway, we drove through many scenic small villages, then did a windshield tour of the city of Galway. It was like a miniature Dublin, but with fewer people. We did stop at the Galway Cathedral, which looks like it was built hundreds of years ago but was actually only constructed in 1960. This is because being Catholic was essentially illegal prior to that, Catholic churches were converted to Protestant ones, and no new Catholic churches were allowed to be built. It was the perfect blend of historic architecture with modern touches like purple and red lighting in various alcoves.
After seeing the cathedral, Pat took us back to the train station where we gave them about 30 minutes notice that I would need a ramp to board the train back to Dublin. We had no problems boarding the train, nor disembarking at the Heuston station in Dublin. We were tired after such a busy day, but just so happy that we were able to take a potentially crushing situation and turn it into such a fabulous accessible experience!