Ireland 2002

Home Up

May 24, 2002

County Clare

We arrive at the Shannon airport to impressive winds and a bumpy landing.  The big charter plane rocks on the tarmac as we wait to deplane.  Yet one more time our car rental is all screwed up…we end up with a standard and Carol takes the first turn at the wheel.  We head out for Newmarket on Fergus.   In due time, we arrive at The Hunter’s Lodge.  It is nice but not extravagant.

  

We take supper early in the pub where I wash everything down with a Smithwick’s beer and then to bed about 6:00 pm.  Wake up in the night but go back to bed and get up at 7:00 am feeling much more rested. 

 

May 25, 2002

We head out directly after a lovely Irish breakfast.  Our first stop is Quin Abbey.  Built in the early 1400s for Franciscan monks, it is very picturesque, full of sheep and the graveyard is still in use.  A great start to a visit to the Emerald Isle. 

 

Our next stop is the very intriguing Craggaunowen Project.  This one really takes us back in time:  a small restored castle with period furniture and activities, an island fort called a Crannog, an Iron Age field and road, a cooking site, a ring fort and a souterrain.  I really like this place.  On display is a replica of St Brendan’s sailboat circa 583 which is said to have sailed to America.  The replica sailboat is covered entirely in leather.  I buy the book for Bob who appreciates anything to do with sailboats.   We enjoy tea and a lovely scone in the restaurant before we leave.

 

It starts to rain as we head for the Cliffs of Moher.   We arrive in a downpour with plenty of wind and the landscape and high cliffs remind me of Cornwall.  It is not so colourful, being mostly grey instead of the brilliant jewel tones of the sea off the shores of Cornwall.  The rain is so heavy there are tiny creeks forming everywhere and the water is running an inch deep down the steps we are walking on.  Here and there tiny cowslips, English daisies and other pretty little flowers bring a tiny splash of colour to the gray day.  All in all, the heavy rains and fierce winds are in keeping with the rugged coast and cliffs as we struggle to take photos of them.  Despite the heavy weather the Cliffs of Moher are awesome and a must see for any traveler to Ireland.

 

From the cliffs, we head out through the rural countryside to the Burren:    a karstic terrain consisting of acres of limestone rock formations sculpted by glaciers and erosion and the tramping feet of people and sheep.  Hundreds of interesting plants and wild flowers thrive here, poking their way stubbornly up through the fissures and gullies relieving the barren moonscape look.  We stop on the Burren to take a good look at the Poulnabrone Portal Dolman, a burial place dating back to 2500 BC, to the beginning of the Bronze Age.  At the Burren Centre I purchase a buttery soft Merino wool sweater.  I did not know that wool could be soft enough to wear against the skin but this surely is.

 

County Galway

We push on through the Burren to the North of Galway to find our bed for the night and a bite to eat.  The B&B, about a 3 minute walk from the ocean, is lovely, but Carol’s tasteless steak and my rather mature lamb chops are not.  We are somewhat mollified by the steamed treacle pudding with sauce and real whipped cream!

 

May 26, 2002

Morning sees us up early for a walk along the sea front and then back to welcoming Fenaugh house for another great Irish breakfast.  Carol takes the helm of our trusty Nissan and we head northwest through the Maam Turk and Twelve Pin mountains to Clifden.   Absolutely beautiful!  I am in love with Connemara.  Intrepid fly fishermen in hip waders stand in the swollen creeks that flow out of the mountains.  The creeks quickly become rivers rushing through the green “turf” valleys.  The turf is harvested, dried and burned locally.  There are hundreds of places where you can see it being cut from the ground.  The smell of turf or peat fires is distinctive in the air as we pass through the villages.  Thousands of sheep, hundreds of goats, horses and Connemara ponies can be seen (and hopefully avoided) on these roads.  A quaint church with Celtic crosses sitting against the horizon, pretty waterfalls, bridges and loughs make wonderful photo opportunities in the Roundstone region.   

 

The Recess and Kylemore route delivers a hodge-podge of obstacles in terms of livestock on the road…some deceased!  We travel through valleys and pasture land:  rocky, hilly inhospitable areas, absolutely stony areas and mountainous areas.  There is a timelessness to this rugged place that appeals to me and has me thinking about the types of people who have made this their home down through the centuries. 

 

Kylemore Abbey is enchanting!  Situated on the water, this castle-like structure is run by the St. Benedictine nuns as a boarding school and a school for local girls.  Carol says:  “We will come around a corner and say ‘OH MY GOD!’”     Ten seconds later we come around a corner, onto a bridge and say “OH MY GOD!”  A surreal setting for a fairy tale castle, the first view of the abbey will stay with me all my life.  We spend a lot of time exploring the abbey, the beautifully cared-for grounds and gardens and most of the out-buildings.  Kylemore Abbey is an experience one should not miss.

 

We continue around the coastal road taking in the magnificent scenery.  We see sail boats -- one with red sails -- and fishing boats of every description in the bays and harbours as we pass by.  Late evening finds us back at Fenagh in Salt Hill.  We have a light dinner at Kitty O’Shea’s pub.  Some traditional Irish musicians show up and we decide to return after we visit the famous O’Connor’s pub.   O’Connor’s is very dark, lit by candles and has sawdust shavings on the floor…an insurance man’s nightmare but certainly an experience all its own.  It has the most incredible collection of antiques and junk I have ever seen.  It is definitely a happening place.  A fireplace with a line of laundry including socks, woolen long johns and the like had obviously enticed one customer to remove her bra and add it to the collection!  We return to Kitty’s and listen to more of the wonderful Irish music over a beer before we make our way home to bed.

 

May 27, 2002

County Roscommon

We have breakfast at 8:30 and bid a warm farewell to Evelyn our hostess.  In terms of rain this is the worst May anyone can remember.  But as the gentleman said last night:  “We’d be lost without it! We wouldn’t know what to do!”  We venture into Galway for a look-see and a two hour visit to Shop Street.  From there we go off down the road to Roscommon and Roscommon castle.  We climb the stile and venture into a muddy field to get a closer look at the castle making friends with a trio of curious horses in the process.  Much to my delight and amazement, Carol who always likes to be prepared, did not make a booking for the night.  We poke around and find the Lough Ree B&B on the outskirts of Althone.  The B&B has a beautifully landscaped yard and an excellent view of Lough Ree;  the view included a wee white sail moving across the Lough.  The B&B was available but not ready for guests so we traipse down the hill about 1 km to Daly’s pub.  Renovated about two years ago, it came to the proprietor through his mother’s family.  We partake of a huge meal of fish and chips and two pints of beer each.  I actually try the Guinness and find that it is perfectly fine in this country.  We decide we will begin sharing meals again if we are going to eat in pubs as the servings are just too big.   We acquire soft ice creams for the trek home.  We probably have had too much Guinness as I go in to a fit of giggles while Carol gamely carries on a conversation with a sheep in a pasture we are passing.  Carol:  “Baaaaa!”   Sheep:  “Baaa Baaa!”  Carol:  “Baaaaa, Baaaa!”  And so it continues until I can hardly walk from laughter!  Bob would believe this kind of behavior of me but who would have thought Carol would do it?…must have been the beer!  Back at home we bid Holly, the dog, goodnight and make our way to bed.

 

May 28, 2002

County Offaly

Another Irish Breakfast complete with blood sausage…I get to eat Carol’s too!  Our destination today is Clonmacnoise (Cluain Mhic Nóis meaning "Meadow of the Sons of Nós").  It is the site of the first Christian settlement and was founded by St. Ciarán around 1100 AD.  The settlement was a place of learning as much as it was of religion.  Located in the geographical centre of Ireland, pilgrims and warriors, travelers and scholars travelled the north/south route on the River Shannon and the east/west route on the glacial eskers.  All of them meeting and crossing at Clonmacnoise.  It is a fascinating place with much history and the setting is so beautiful it takes my breath away. 

 

We then spend some time attempting to locate the High Cross of Durrow.  Much to our chagrin, it remains an ancient mystery! 

 

County Meath

Giving up on the High Cross we head for Trim and Trim castle.  The castle stands on the banks of the River Boyne historically significant for the Battle of the Boyne.  This castle’s most recent claim to fame is its use as the setting for the filming of Braveheart starring Mel Gibson.  Built by Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, a Norman loyal to the king of England, it was one of several political bequests to ensure that none of the ambitious Normans living on the island would proclaim themselves King!

 

Our next stop is our B&B in Ballyboghill and a fine dinner in the Star Pub and Restaurant in the nearby village of Swords.  The Kilkenny pub in Ballyboghill serves us up another beer before we head home to bed.

 

May 29, 2002

County Dublin

We set off for Dublin, dropping our laundry at a laundry services along the way (pricey but worth it).  We hop on a Dublin City Bus Tour, taking in the General Post Office (with its bullet holes) and St. Stephen’s Green before moving on to Trinity College where we find the amazing Book of Kells and the Old Library which contains 200,000 of the library’s oldest books.  Altogether there are around 4.5 million printed volumes along with manuscripts, maps and music held at Trinity college libraries.  Bob would love this place.

 

Our tour also includes the statue of the lovely Molly Malone, Georgian houses, the Ha’Penny (Liffey) Bridge and a Guinness factory.  In Nassau Street I buy a lovely sweater for Bob.  My materialism is followed up by visits to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Anglican “Christ Church” both impressive and magnificent structures and very different one from the other.  As we bounce along in our double-decker bus, our guide rattles off an impressive list of authors who originated in Dublin:  Jonathon Swift, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats and, of course, Oscar Wild.  We also get a look at a huge hotel owned by the band U2.  We end our day with a dinner in a Thai restaurant in Swords.  We are both glad to see our pillows tonight.

 

May 30, 2002

County Meath

We pick up our laundry after breakfast and I provide Carol with entertainment as I try unsuccessfully to navigate a stone wall to mail some post cards.  I nearly break my neck and she nearly dies laughing.  I am not nearly as agile as I once was!  We catch our breaths, wipe our tears and head north to Knowth and New Grange “Bru Na Boinne”, a world heritage site.  These ancient passage tombs dating back some 5000 years are some of the most significant prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe.  The chronological order is Neolithic, Iron Age, Cistercian and Christianity.  Dowth, Knowth and New Grange.  Between them, they contain fully one third of the world’s examples of Neolithic Art.  These are truly awe-inspiring sites with incredible history.  There is no evidence of activity or habitation during the Bronze Age.  Celtic descendants believed their ancestors, the Tuatha de Danaan, still lived in these mounds and would not go near them.  I also hear the names Brian Boru, and Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster, several times throughout the visit and am finally satisfied that I have been to the heart of the myths and legends that have been the basis of so many stores I’ve read over the years.  It is exhilarating to be here and well worth the trip.

 

Our last stop today is the Hill of Tara, the seat of the Irish King.  Tara was much diminished by Christianity which changed the social and political structure of the culture.  It remained a powerful “high seat” but not at the same level and eventually fell into disuse.  The view is impressive from all points on the hilltop.  There are many interesting archeological artifacts and ruins here:  a place of ancient history, myth and magic. Rains during our visit create a colourful rainbow like curtain over the hills behind us and enhance the mystery of this legendary and mythical place. 

 

We head south and get lost, nearly ending up in Dublin and its terrifying city roundabouts with traffic lights in them.  We manage to extricate ourselves from the mess and end up back in Swords.  We enjoy a lovely meal in an Italian restaurant partaking of a few glasses of excellent Montepulciano red wine and a French apple and caramel upside down tart that is to die for.  Our pillows are calling and we go home to bed with our minds busily reviewing all we have seen and heard today.

 

May 31, 2002 –

County Wicklow

We leave immediately after breakfast trying to get around Dublin on the smaller roads.  We finally find the N11 and head south making better time.  The weather is much improved today.  Powerscourt, a beautifully landscaped manor house, first constructed in around 1780 is our first stop of the day.  We stroll around the beautifully terraced, immaculately kept, grounds and ponds taking pictures while I try to identify the plants and flowers.  This is a very, very elegant place with many interesting features.

 

The drive continues on down through the stunning Wicklow mountains.  Treacherous roads wind their way through the gorse and large trees on the tops of the mountains and then drop down through the glens.  Here, under canopies of trees all underlined with moss, vines and ferns, I am certain that leprechauns and faeries abound.  We visit the enchanting ancient monastic site of Glendalough, Glen of Two Lakes, founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century.  The river and the lough are beautiful.  The round tower dominates the landscape and the remains of the rest of the structures are also very intriguing.  I feel the presence of wee folk here as well.

 

County Wexford

We move on to the Vale of Avoca and Mount Pleasant House:  a remodeled building (1800s) on the site of an old ruin (1300s).   The owners have furnished the rooms with some stunning antiques.  The flooring consists of impressive 10” planks and the yard is full of statuary and other interesting things.  After meeting our hostess and dropping our bags we head into Kilmore Quay for a fine seafood dinner and a lovely white Moreau Blanc from France.  We walk around the harbor taking pictures of boats and sailboats and get a great shot of a working fishing boat coming into the harbor.  Kilmore Quay contains the most homes with thatched roofs we have seen to date and we take the opportunity to get lots of photos.  We end the day with a stroll on the beach before heading back to our antique beds.

 

June 1, 2002

County Waterford

Early morning sees us venturing out to take photos in the yard before hitting the road.  As we pass through the massive door, I sneeze.  The object, that I had peered at intently both before and after breakfast and had assumed was a statue, takes flight.   A heron, fishing patiently, is the stillest of birds!!! 

 

Our destination this morning is the Waterford Crystal Factory and we have our scenic route all planned.  Irish roads are not always marked.  Irish towns may not be on the map, may have a different name than on the map (Gaelic in some cases!) or there are what appears to be two villages with the same name!  It takes us about three tries to get OUT of Kilmore Quay.  We conclude that the faeries and leprechauns have removed all the road signs and/or that “All roads lead to Kilmore Quay!”  Great tourism strategy! 

 

The visit to Waterford proves to be very interesting.  We watch the crystal being molded and blown:  small pieces go on to the conveyor while large pieces are carried to the inspection room.  The work is closely inspected for flaws and any with flaws are rejected forthwith and the material is recycled.  Caps are removed by scoring and then by using blasts of hot and cold air followed by firm tapping.  Molded grids with patterns are placed on those with smaller flaws.  If the flaw or flaws fall within the cuts then it is assumed that the craftsman will be able to cut them out.  Crystal is engraved, cut and/or molded.  It is no wonder it is so expensive.  It takes a full 10 years of apprenticeship to become an engraver, 8 years to become a cutter and five years to be a blower. 

 

This is an Irish holiday and a long weekend and given that the Irish soccer team just beat Cameroon, everyone is out of doors.  Some dressed up or wearing face paint in the Irish colours…even the engraver at Waterford was sporting bright orange and green headgear!

 

County Wexford

Leaving Waterford, we cross the river at Ballyhack on the Passage East ferry…capacity about six vehicle and I don’t think they do lorries!  We make our way to the very scenic fishing village of Dunmore East.  The entire community is out walking on the beach, playing with their dogs and swimming.  We swim too and find it a bit “refreshing!”  It is quite a charming place and we have the most delicious food at the Bay Café.  Everything was fresh, real and made from scratch including the whipped cream.  It is, by far, the best apple pie I have ever eaten!  We explore the streets and working harbours and stop to admire the  monument to local fishermen lost at sea. Dunmore East is a must see for anyone coming to Ireland.

 

Our return trip takes us through New Ross and another scenic drive.  We get lost yet again but eventually find our way, making a detour to the magnificent lighthouse at Hook Head.  Carol takes a special pleasure in this remote and windy headland which makes it worth the extra time and effort.  We arrive back at our B&B after dark, weary and ready for bed.  So much for our easy day!

 

June 2, 2006

County Kilkenny

We bid farewell to our hostess, Noreen, and her wee daughter, Sara, and leave Mountpleasant House and its gorgeous antiques behind.  Another scenic drive leads us through Inistioge to Kilkenny.  Inistioge is a beautiful and charming Irish village in the Nore Valley and I decide I must return one day for a longer visit.   

 

A city bus tour in Kilkenny reveals that this was a divided city with wealthy English in one part of town and poor Irish in another.  Kilkenny has a couple of big and imposing churches.  It also boasts a brewery:  Guinness, of course, which also produces Kilkenny, Smithwick’s and Budweiser.  The citizens are supportive of their local brewery…Kilkenny counts 80 active pubs within its city limits!!

 

Kilkenny Castle in all its restored glory is a beautiful place.  Empty for 32 years and then sold to the people of Kilkenny for 50 pounds, it was turned over two years later to DUCHAS, the Irish State Heritage organization.  Originally Kilkenny Castle and grounds encompassed 270,000 acres and was a popular place for royal visits offering picnicking, hunting and fishing to name a few.  The castle has been rebuilt and refurbished to what is believed its original state.  They have recovered 7 percent of the paintings and furnishings that were auctioned off in the 1930s.  We stroll around the beautiful, park-like surroundings imagining the sounds and sights of its heydays. 

 

Returning to the car, Carol volunteers to pay the parking ticket.  Once done, she very nearly gets into another, very similar, car.  The woman driving it displays a fairly stunned expression while I finally manage to stop laughing long enough to find the horn.

 

 

 

 

County Tipperary

We drive on to Cashel and find The Grove.  Our hostess, Terry, makes us a pot of tea and makes us feel so very welcome.  We hurry off to the Rock of Cashel only to find it closed.  An impressive structure perched on top of a huge rock jutting up out of the Tipperary plains, it started life as a Christian fortress unlike most Irish strongholds whose origins are either neolithic or pagan Celtic.  It was officially turned over to the church in the 1100s.

 

We will come back tomorrow for a better look and make the most of our time by clambering over a stone wall to walk through a cow pasture where I manage to step in a cow patty:  the distinctive sound and squishy feel of a fresh cow patty bring back a flood of childhood memories.   We make our way to the ruins of Hore Abbey.  It is a beautiful, spiritual place and its early occupants still whisper softly in its passages and rooms…even Carol can hear them!   Carol says my picture of Hore Abbey will be quintessential Ireland.  We get some fabulous shots of the Rock of Cashel framed by the ruins of the Abbey and I am hopeful that they will turn out well. 

 

Dinner is starters and a bottle of wine with Carol enjoying stuffed salmon on a bed of new potato salad and I have the sautéed bacon and sausage with fried peppers and chunks of Cashel blue cheese:  very, very good!  I drag Carol back downtown in the rain after dark to see the Rock lit up…it is not as spectacular as we had hoped and Carol muses that it would likely be much more impressive on a darker night. 

 

June 3, 2002

We enjoy another fine Irish breakfast and then say our farewells, to Terry, Gizmo the dog and The Grove and make a second attempt to see the Rock of Cashel.  This morning it is open and we explore the grounds and the ruins extensively.  We decide to sit in on an audio-visual presentation…the first few seconds seemed to be an introduction in what we assume is ancient Gaelic or Irish so we pay little attention.  Eventually Carol notices my shoulders shaking as I try not to laugh out loud.  Our audio-visual is being presented in German…after a couple of more minutes we leave quietly to return later for the English version.  We have quite a good laugh about our mistake. 

 

Our next stop is Cahir and the island castle fortress which is one of the best preserved in Ireland.  We cross a small river ford and find a rather tight parking spot.  It is so tight Carol has trouble getting out of the driver’s side.  I get a good shot of that to blackmail her with!  We get a good look at the castle, the site of sieges by the English, where you can still see cannon balls imbedded in the walls.  We also enjoy the sight of a lone heron fishing under a nearby bridge, providing an excellent photo opportunity!

 

County Cork

From Cahir we travel down through Cork to the picturesque tourist town of Kinsale.  While quaint and colourful, it is obviously geared to tourists and Carol and I decide that we like Dunmore East better.  We wander around taking in the sights.  I purchase a gorgeous red barrette for my hair and we sit outside a pub, drinking Irish beer.   Dinner in a local restaurant is good though expensive and the portions are too small.  Carol has steak and profiteroles and I have the lamb and a hot chocolate and banana pudding bomb!  The bomb part is probably an indication of the number of calories involved!

 

We head back to Danabel, our B&B, for a good night’s rest.

 

June 4, 2002

Today we set out early for Blarney Castle to do what most tourists to Ireland do…kiss the Blarney Stone.   I am a little apprehensive and not sure I will do this, particularly if I have to hang by my heels.  It is pretty high up and we join the queue up the winding, worn and possibly slightly dangerous stairway to the top.  A man in front of us who is follically-challenged makes a big show of combing his hair in preparation for the event and the photo op.  Kissing the stone is actually much easier than I feared, so I do my thing wondering how many other “wet” lips have preceded mine on the stone!  We tour the beautiful grounds and ruins and then make our way to the Blarney Woolen Mills shop.  Carol purchases three more Aran sweaters bringing her total to six.  I eye one up but can’t find my size.  I will have another opportunity at Bunratty castle just before we leave.

 

County Kerry

We head for Muckross House for a lovely lunch and a visit through this stately old home.  It is a beautiful home said to have been visited by Queen Victoria and we tour all of the beautiful rooms open to the public.  Despite the persistent rain, we take a ride in a jaunting car with a lovely Irish draft horse named Molly and her driver Robert.  Robert is a real Irish character…when he isn’t talking to us or his horse, whom he calls “Molly Darling” or “Darling”, he is singing.  Due to the downpour, he makes every effort to keep us comfortable by tucking us under a smelly, horsey old woolen blanket!  Carol’s face is priceless and I do my best not to burst out laughing!  Molly and Robert take us cheerfully through the rain to the beautiful Torc Waterfall, a perfect location for faeries and leprechauns and then on to the Muckross Friary for a look around.  The ruins are fairly well preserved with lovely arches and a centre square in which stands a huge and venerable yew tree.  We eventually bid Robert and Molly farewell and drive down through Moll’s Gap in the Ring of Kerry.  The views here, even with all the rain and mist, are absolutely stunning!

 

We arrive in Sneem at Derry East Farmhouse to be greeted very warmly by our hostess, Mary Teahan.  Once we settle, in we venture back into Sneem for another “too big” meal and a lovely bottle of wine.  We return to the B&B where we enjoy tea, a peat fire and a lengthy chat with the other guests.  I am delighted to find a bathtub and take a long leisurely soak rather than our shower.  Mary has also agreed to do some laundry for us.

 

June 5, 2002

We head out early to do our road tour of the Ring of Kerry, one of Ireland’s premier tourist attractions.  A beautiful, bright, mostly sunny day affords us views of some of the most spectacular scenery:  high craggy, mountainous peaks split by ragged valleys laced with rivers, creeks and lakes and trimmed with bright green pastures laid out neatly by ancient stone fences.  We pass through some lovely treed areas but most have been logged off.  Killarney National park is awesome and we stop for photos at the breathtaking” Ladies View”, so named in Queen Victoria’s time due its popularity with her ladies in waiting.  We finish our tour early and decide that we should drive the Dingle Peninsula while we can. 

 

Dingle itself is not as memorable as the Ring of Kerry but it has one of the most significant collections of archeological monuments in Western Europe with 6000 years of history.   The road is incredible, threading its way beside long, wide beaches or strands mingling with grassy sand dunes, rugged rocks and shorelines.  The sea is an ever-changing collage of blues and purples and again, brings the coast of Cornwall to mind.  We take the long way home heading out through Connor’s Pass.  It just gets more incredible:  narrow, twisting, winding roads and wild panoramic views in every direction.  I doubt my camera can do them justice.  We happen upon a sizeable religious statue at Slea Head though we are not certain of its purpose.  We pass the 4000 year old bee hive huts but are unable to stop for a photo due to the traffic.  We even get caught in a traffic jam.  A camper van is attempting to navigate a hill and a corner as the cars are trying to go down.  The length of the van is probably not suitable for the short tight corners and it is a VERY tight squeeze to get down past him.  There are no more than two inches to spare on either side.  The cars will have to go before he can make his move.  For all I know he may still be there!

 

 

We attempt to go cross country on the scenic road to Inch to save time.  The road gets bumpier and narrows quickly.  Dusk is coming and we are low on gas.  We do not wish to be in the middle of a mountain on a road we don’t know after dark and we go back around by Killarney instead.  We are assured later that the road is really quite safe and passable.

 

We arrive home late and Mary makes us a cup of tea.  We chat with John and Bethy and the hurley-playing rascal, Eddie, who is well into his 60’s and still very much the ladies man!  We finish our tea in this good company by the crackle and pop of the aromatic turf fire.  Kerry people are the warmest, most  welcoming Irish people, we have met yet. 

 

June 6, 2002

Yet another hearty breakfast and we say farewell to Mary and John.  We turn off the Killarney road to Glencar, The Highlands of Kerry.  From there we make our way through the Ballaghbeama Gap which passes through the Macgillicuddy Reeks, Ireland’s tallest mountain range.  High above sea level, we wind in and out and around, climbing to the pass on a very narrow road…virtually single lane with two-way traffic.  We don’t get out of second gear until well beyond the pass.  Fortunately there are few travelers today though we do meet a man on a tractor with a nearly all-white border collie herding cattle down the road.  The collie rides in the bucket on the back of the tractor, leaping off and on enthusiastically to herd the cattle according to his master’s commands.  Those dogs are so good at what they do!

 

 We enjoy our sunniest day yet, taking in spectacular views all around and spending an hour and a half to reach Kilorglin.   At the top of the pass we stop to take pictures.   We step out beneath the craggy peaks under the sunny sky and suck in a deep breath of mountain air!  Our eyes get big and our faces screw up and then we start to laugh…we have just sucked in big gulps of air, heavily fragranced with the distinctive and aromatic smell of SHEEP!

 

County Limerick

We head north stopping at the very modern and picturesque village of Adare, where we wander around taking pictures of the flowers, Tudor style homes and some of the many thatched roof homes that Adare is so well known for.  With great interest, we watch two young men rethatching a roof…it is quite a process.

 

Our final destination is the very commercial Bunratty castle in Limerick.  A folk village here proves to be very entertaining with a fat little donkey and his reaction to Carol being the highlight!  I think he likes her and I certainly have a picture or two to support my theory.  The castle itself is fairly authentically furnished throughout and hosts a medieval dinner each night.  A visit to the Blarney Woolen Mills shop results in me finding my size in the sweater I found so appealing at Blarney Castle…one more for me.

 

We check in at Leavale in Bunratty and then head out to Durty Nelly’s for supper.  A seatmate on the plane had recommended the place to me on the way over.  Our hostess at Leavale suggests it as well so that clinches it.  The food is mediocre but the Irish whiskey is great.  Again we are mollified by a lovely dessert of strawberries with real whipped cream. 

 

We chat with an American couple exploring their origins.  Her family originated in the Dingle area and he can trace his family to the Butlers of Kilkenny.  One of my most significant discoveries of this trip is the strong connection the Irish have with the United States.  Virtually everyone here has relatives in the US and has benefitted from that connection.  Our hostess has an autographed photo of Ted Kennedy and there is the JFK Arboretum in County Cork.  There were nearly three million inhabitants in Ireland when the potato famine struck:  one million died, one million emigrated and one million remained.   It is truly a tragic period in the history of the country and I wish that I could have explored that part of Irish history a little more during this visit…I shall have to return to the myth, the magic and the mystery of the Emerald Isle.

 

Home Up