I thought I would add this -- In an attempt to locate ALL my Trip Reports in ONE place! I MIGHT even manage to finish the 2010 Report that never was completed ---
SOME day . . .
With Apologies to John Spillane and Ger Wolfe .... So, I took this trip to Ireland. Arrived in Shannon on Friday, 31 March and left on 9 April, from same. I took massive amounts of photographs and had many adventures in the South and West. I returned home, tired, jet-lagged and generally worn out. I had no interest in sitting down at the computer to create a viable photo album of the trip. Neither, did I feel motivated to write my traditional EPIC trip report. But the Missus says to me, "Bob, you must write it all down, and do the work. If you don't, who will?" True enough, that (as she so often is). Therefore, I was subdued and set about the task. First, I edited down the pictures to a manageable 100 or so, to shield the innocent and protect, the guilty. No ACTUAL animals were hurt, or mistreated, during the process. Then, I lashed captions onto nearly each, and every one of the chosen group. Then (for I am a metikulus - meticelouse --- CAREFUL --- researcher), I wrote out the following, all in my own words and such, in order to entertain, enlighten and educate, like. Fair play, to me, and Good Enough. Basic Outline: Friday: Arrived Shannon at 9:30 AM, retrieved rental car and drove to Watergrasshill, Co. Cork and checked into Ashgrove B&B. Dinner with family. Saturday: Drove to Kilcrohane, Sheeps Head, via the N71. Checked into The Apartment (a rebuilt, stone cottage) at Pinewood Cottages, for a one week, Saturday to Saturday, self-catering rental. Dinner in Bantry at The Snug. Sunday: Toured Sheeps Head, in AM, then drove to Drimoleague to visit family. Dinner with the family. Monday: Toured Mizen Head, with lunch at O'Sullivan's, in Crookhaven. Dinner at "home". Tuesday: Visited Heritage Center, in Skibbereen, then drove to Drimoleague for lunch with relatives and then ascended past Castle Donovon to Coomleigh, for afternoon tea with the Laird O' the Mountain, Cousin Sean, himself. Dinner in Bantry at O'Callaghan's. Weds. drove back to Skibbereen to catch the records clerk at the Hospital. Retrieved copies of my wife's Grandmother's birth certificates. Lunch at the Church Restraunt. Drove to Glenngarriff for MAJOR gift shopping. Dinner at O'Callaghan's. Thursday: Drove to Clonakilty, via Skibbereen, Castle Townsend, Union Hall and Glandore. Visited Drombeg Stone Cirle enroute. Stayed at Quality Hotel, on the bypass. Dinner in town (the name escapes me), then to DeBarra's for John Spillane's once-monthly performance. Friday: Drove to Killarney, via N71 to Skibbereen, then to Drimoleague and into Bantry. Picked up the N71 again and drove on through Glenngarriff, and Kenmare, to the Windy Gap. Turned off toward Sneem, there, for lunch at the Pancake Cottage and then returned to the N71 to continue into Killarney. Had the Tourist Board book me into the Harp B&B, on Muckross Road, for Friday night, and the Shannon View B&B in Newmarket-On-Fergus, for Saturday night. Spent a few hours shopping, then met Ciaran Wynne for dinner at O'Connor's, on High Street, before retiring to O"Riain's for drinks with his sister and brother-in-law whilst being thoroughly entertained by Ciaran's musical performance. Saturday AM, drove to Millstreet, via Rathmore. Lunch at Nibbles Cafe and Bakery. Headed off through the hinterlands and hidden roads to Killarney, where we turned off to Shannon, via the N21, through Adare and Limmerick. Dinner at Kathleen's, in Bunratty. Great, INTERESTING trip. Blow-by-blow details to follow, but that's the basic truth of it, as far as it goes, so Fair Play to me. And Good Enough. Bob
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DAY ONE: FRIDAY, 31 MARCH We departed from Sarasota Airport with only one minor hassle - I left a butane lighter in the pocket of my coat and when the X-ray scan turned it up, they confiscated it. The flight was full, but uneventful. The scheduled layover in Newark was short (just under three hours), allowing time for a decent dinner. We boarded just before 8:00 PM for our scheduled 8:35 departure, but about 8:20 it was announced that the flight was "over sold" and they were requesting "One passenger, who has NOT checked any luggage" to volunteer to accept a bump, with all the usual incentives -- $500 voucher, plus meal and hotel accommodation for the night AND a first class seat on the next evening's flight. Dunno if anyone qualified, or if there even WERE any volunteers, but we never left the ground until 9:30. Didn't 'make up' any time in the air, either, so we didn't land in Shannon until 9:35 / 9:40 AM (Local Time). A moderate rain was falling. Because we were an hour late in landing, there were additional planes off loading, so customs and baggage claims were backed up. Once in the lobby, the lines at the rental car counters (specifically Europcar and Dan Dooley) were 2-3 wide and 15-20 deep. I popped into the nearby TOP Shop and purchased a 10 Euro "Top-Up" card for my cell phone. After picking up my keys and carting the luggage out to the car, we noticed a missing cover on the side view mirror, so I had to trek back into the terminal and have the damage annotated on the contract. By the time we pulled out onto the road, it was 11:30. First stop was Bunratty, for breakfast in the upstairs of the Blarney Woolen Mills Shops, across from the castle. By now, the rain was nearly over, although there would be intermittent, light bursts, throughout the rest of the day. Departing Bunratty, we drove south to Mallow, where were turned east on the N72. Ended up heading in the wrong direction, at first, because oddly enough, after driving through the center of town, you have to turn NORTH (a left), in order to head SOUTH, toward Waterford. Once we got turned back around, we drove to Fermoy, turned onto the N8 going south and arrived at our B&B in Watergrasshill about 2 PM. We have stayed at the Ashgrove House in Watergrasshill any number of times. It is neither fancy, nor pretentious, but Mrs. Cronin ALWAYS makes us feel so welcome, that my wife likens arriving there to going to spend the night at her grandmother's, when she was little -- the familiar, comfortable bed and the warm, genuine greeting, as if we are family, come home to visit. After a two hour nap and a refreshing shower and change of clothes, we were off to Cousin Sean's. An hour or so later, we were at her daughter's for a family get-together and a dinner spread that couldn't be beat. Back to the B&B about eleven. DAY TWO: SATURDAY, 1 APRIL Morning found us refreshed, invigorated and happy to be in Ireland. We thoroughly enjoyed Mrs. Cronin's ample Irish breakfast, paid for our room (50 Euro -- because we're like family), then headed back to Sean's for a bit more visiting. Then, about 1 PM, we headed off under cloudy skies for West Cork and our self-catering rental on the Sheeps Head. We took the N8 South to the Tunnel and then kept working our way West around Cork, until we picked up the N71 heading through Bandon and into Clonakilty. Although Town Center has been bypassed, we drove into town and located DeBarras, where we had an excellent lunch and inquired about details concerning the scheduled John Spillane appearance, the following Thursday. He is a regular at DeBarras, playing there the first Thursday of every month. As we attempted to exit the pub, we were trapped in the doorway by a sudden deluge for about 10 minutes or so, but we could see the line of blue sky, rapidly approaching from the West. As soon as the rain stopped, we walked to our car and drove off, into the sunshine. It was the LAST rainfall we would experience, for the next five days. We continued on the N71, through Ross Carbery, Leap, Skibbereen and into Ballydehob, were we turned off on an unnumbered road, to Durrus. Once in Durrus, we followed the Sheeps Head Drive signs, through Ahakista, into Kilcrohane. From just outside of Durrus, the road hugs the coastline of Dunmanus Bay. It was on THIS road, just outside of Ahakista, where we came across the road-full of cows, sans human accompaniment. They were apparently just out for a wee stroll, to stretch their legs. A tradesman, approaching from the opposite direction stopped his van, as well. When the cows should no interest in sharing the road, he finally beeped his horn and then waved his arm out the window. Reluctantly, they moved aside enough to let the tradesman past. Taking advantage of the opening (you can probably see from my photos that they didn't give up MUCH space), I gingerly drove by, as well. Upon our arrival in Kilcrohane, we telephoned our landlords, John and Janet Tobin, quite proud that we had found our way, all by ourselves. As it turns out, they actually LIVE in Durrus, so we had to wait in Kilcrohane village about 15 or 20 minutes, for them to arrive and take us to the cottage. Small sacrifice -- Kilcrohane Village consists of one large Catholic Church, two pubs and one shop, cum post office, cum petrol station. There IS actually a second shop -a hardware/grocery store, but it is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Prior to Easter, the pace there is slow -- the pubs don't regularly serve food in the evening and the sole resteraunt operates on a 'pre-book only' basis. That's not to say that the village is dead. There is new home construction, remodeling, etc. going on throughout the Village AND, the rest of the Sheeps Head, as well. We found it a beautiful and charming place, though all that blue sky and sunshine made it easy. When John arrived, we followed him back to the 'Apartment'. It is located on the Ahakista side of Kilcrohane, less than 1/2 mile from the village center. Taking a left, we turned uphill on a narrow, paved road that, after a few narrow turns, quickly turned into a bohreen. After I pulled into the driveway, I politely suggested to Mr and Mrs Tobin that their web-site ( http://www.pinewoodcottage.com ) had pictures of the outside of the apartment, the outside of the Cottage and a few, of the inside of the cottage, but that he really needed to add at least one more -- of the view! All I can say is, "WOW!" Dunmanus Bay spreads out, at your feet, for as far as you can see, with the north coast of Mizen Head opposite. The web site DOES mention 'views of the bay', but ... After being familiarized with the mechanical workings of the appliances etc. and paying the balance of the rental fee, we headed out, for supper in Bantry. We drove back into Kilcrohane and turned right, just past the Church, driving uphill passing the second pub, onto the Goat's Path. The Goat's Path is a winding, narrow road over the mountain (Seefin), where it meets the shore of Bantry Bay and follows along the shoreline, into Bantry. At the top, are TWO rest stops, complete with one picnic table, each. One is on the South, facing Dunmanus Bay; the other, on the North, overlooking Bantry Bay, with Beara Peninsula's silouette on the opposite shore. Just over the crest, on the Beara side is a replica Pieta. On the ridge midway between the two, is a concrete and stone slab/bench -- said to be the spot where Culculain rested, soaking his feet in the bay. Bantry is only 20 miles away from Kilcrohane, using this route. Locals swear it is no more than a 20 minute drive. Call it 35 and you won't be too far off the mark. We had dinner at The Snug, a nice, small and busy pub/eatery on the north end of the square, decorated with tree trunks "supporting" tables and roof. Good food, reasonably priced. We drove back over the Goat's Path with darkness falling, stopping into the shop in Kilcrohane for juice, cereal, milk, tea, bread and jam to stock our little kitchen. I built up a peat fire in our little Waterford stove and we settled in for the night. More to follow ...
DAY THREE SUNDAY, 2 APRIL: We got off to a late start, didn't 'hit the road until almost 10 AM. Dunno if it was the overcast sky, or the relaxed, idyllic setting, working its magic on us, but it seemed to end up being the norm for all our time on the Sheep's Head. My wife wanted to attend Mass in the village, scheduled for 11, so we drove out to the Visitor's Center out at the tip. The Center was closed, of course, given the time of year AND day, but the view was well worth the drive and I DID manage to make it back to Kilcrohane by 11:05. Since I am a pagan, Itallian Methodist, I opted to sit in the car and read UNDER THE SHADOW OF SUIFINN a local history written by Ann McCarthy that I picked up in the village shop. It is an obsession, with me -- wherever we go. I always end up buying a half dozen or so, every trip. This one has a nifty, fold-out, color map in the front, and the procedes go to the Kilcrohane Developement Association. It was 12 Euro 70 well spent, in my opinion and, actually, quite informative. My wife joined the exodus from the Church about 35 minutes later -- you've got to love the Irish efficiency when it comes to Mass (particularly if you aren't a Catholic). With Mass over, the shop reopened and we went in to make a few purchases.I showed my wife an interesting looking tee with the Sheep's Head Logo, but there was only the one and it was a XXL. The shopkeeper said that the lady who did the shirts also ran the Visitor's Center, but it was only open on Sunday afternoons, this time of year. Since we had committed to meeting the cousins in Drimoleague, I expressed the opinion that we were out of luck, but the shopkeeper said that she would ring up the lady and have her drop a few more by the shop. We drove in to Drimoleague, via Ahakista, Durrus and Skibbereen, then took a slight "detour" through Caheragh on some interesting, small, local roads. Well, OK, I took a wrong turn and we got lost A BIT -- Still, we DID end up in Drimoleague, more or less on time. Of course, it IS fortunate, that time is a rather FLUID thing, in Ireland! Cousin Sean's daughter and her husband have just bought a newer, three bedroom, semi-detatched (townhouse type) house in Drimoleague, to use as a weekend/summer get away place. She admitted to us that her parents will probably use it a lot more than she will, but that really was the point, I guess. We had a great visit and a really sumptuous meal and then, after promising to meet Sean and his wife again on Tuesday, for lunch (They were planning on staying on, at the house in Drimoleague), we set out about 5:30 or so, for Bantry and then Kilcrohane. VISIONS OF MIZEN Another glorious day, as by 9AM the sun chased away the gloom. Since the shop in Kilcrohane carries every conceivable variation of Coke product EXCEPT Diet Coke, I stopped into the market in Durrus. As Iwas beging to run a bit low on Euros, I inquired as to the location of the nearest ATM. As our destination was Mizen, I was advised that the nearest was in Goleen, or barring that, Skull. Durrus is not a LOT bigger than Kilcrohane, but it IS bigger, but I wasn't to the point of being desperate for cash, so we headed on the R591 along the north shore before crossing South, to Toormore. From there, we followed the South coast to Goleen (Not much bigger than Durrus). There, I replenished my Diet coke and inquired again. "The ATM is at the Post Office," the young shop girl told me, without guile, as she handed me my change. Walking out to the car, I scanned up and down the street, looking for the green AN POST sign. Eventually, I spotted the small, rectangular banner, proudly jutting from the facade of the shop that I had just exited. Rentering the store, I now noticed the tidy little cubicle -- on the far wall directly opposite the shop's cashier. When I asked the young man behind the shelf about the ATM, he replied that it was only accessable by AIB customers, and that the nearest other that "would do any good" was located in Skull. Continuing on, we ended up in a very quiet and subdued Crookhaven, at about 10 minutes before Noon. Since Budman and others had spoken highly of O'Sullivan's Bar. Unfortunately, when we tried the front door, though the sign said, 'OPEN', it was locked and no one was about. It seemed quite possible that, being the 'off season', they were, indeed, closed and had simply overlooked the sign, as we had passed two other places that had proudly displayed the fact that they were not open. But, as we walked back to our car, four twenty-somethings drove up, hopped out and strode perposely around to the small shop attatched to the side of the pub. As we made to follow, two other vehicles drove in -- a father with two small children that distracted us by being so damn cute, making their way to the pier for a look see, and a largish, Land Rover with yellow GB plates. It contained a youngish couple with 1.5 children. Inside the shop, we discovered that the pub would be closing at 2 -- 'It being the off season, and all'. "Ah, yes," says I. "And when, exactly, would it be that it opens?" "Well, they are closing at 2, sir." The young girl looked a bit confused, as if uncertain of what I was asking. Apparently, she finally realized that I was a Yank, and presumably, a bit dense about such things. "So," says she, smiling patiently, "They will be opening up about 12, of course." We went back out front to discover that GB hubby and young son were occupying a table near the pier, as young mother (with attatched, .5 child) was fetching over a glass of orange minerals and a frothy pint of the Black stuff, for himself. When we entered the now unlocked pub, we were courteously greeted and advised that they weren't quite 'set', yet. "But if you can say what it is that you'll want, we can begin thinking about the making of it.' 1 Double pot of tea, two large bowls of soup - one mushroom and one chicken vegetable, both with brown bread, one toasted special and one toasted ham and cheese, without dressings. Everything was excedingly tasty and the price? A modest 16 Euro 50. Exiting the pub, we adjourned to th shop next door, where I stumbled across a copy of NORTHSIDE OF THE MIZEN by Patrick McCarthy and Richard Hawkes for a miserly, 15 Euro. I considered one of the tee shirts, but ... Back on the road, we drove past the Barley Cove Beach that thoroughly facinated my wife and followed a tour bus out to the visitor's center's car park. The bus turned out to be filled (or nearly so) with what appeared to be elderly Irish women -- who, though sounding entirely, authenticly Irish, STILL brought to mind a gaggle of escapees from Jerry Steinfeld's infamous "Del Boca Grande'! We left the women to the Interpretive Center as we headed out to the signal beacon on the point. There is a gate set up to collect your ticket, just as you exit the Center / snack bar / souvineer stand, but it is unmanned. After following the path past the 99 steps (signposted as Do Not Enter - but only from the top!), we made our way to the infamous "shakey bridge". It is now so swathed in so many safety precaution railings fence cage mesh and scaffolding planks that I think you could drive a small car over it without eliciting a twitch. The view from the bridge, the point (southernmost in all of Ireland) and, indeed, along the entire walk itself, was WELL worth it. As we arrived at the buildings supporting the signal, a man popped out from one to ask for our tickets. Wonder if they would have made us walk all the way back to the Center, if we couldn't produce them??? As we drove back, my wife prevailed upon me to stop at the car park so that she could hike down to the deserted sand beach at Barley Cove. I stayed in the car park with my fresh Diet Coke, my CDs and my newly acquired book. Upon her return, we drove back through Goleen and into Skull, which is quite a large town. I saw at least two banks along the main street that had ATMs, but we discovered a large car park at a SPAR, where we purchased a few snacks AND recharged my lilting wallet. From Skull, we drove on to Kilcrohane, via Durrus and Ahakista and drove into the village intent on sampling the fare at one of the pubs, only to discover that (It being the off season) food was not being served. We picked up some munchies at the shop and called it a day.
DAY FIVE, Tues. 4 April: Another gray morning, that melted, early on, into a sunny, blue sky day. Today we had planned to have lunch with sean and his wife at a restaurant mid-way between Drimoleague and Bantry that the Tobins had highly recommended, called Willie Pa's (in Colomane (027 50392), but they had called and asked us to come to the house for lunch instead, as they felt going out would be too cumbersome. We had planned to visit the Heritage Center in Skibbereen first, in any event, to do some ancestor research, and then go shopping. We had been mortified, Sunday evening as we had driven away from our first visit, that we had brought NOTHING to our hostess -- particularly after she greeted us so proudly -- justifiably so! -- and welcomed us into her new home. We had allowed extra time today, intent on scouring Skib for a suitable gift. Also, today was Sean's birthday and while we had already given he and his wife gifts, I though it would be appropriate to bring him a small bottle of his preferred brand of whiskey (Powers), to commemorate the day. Once inside the Heritage Center, we opted for the tour of the mini-museum, that also included a video about the nearby, salt water lake, Lough Hyne. Then, while browsing the typical tourist shop gifts area, we stumbled upon the perfect housewarming gift for our cousin's new 'getaway' home in Drimoleague. There, on the wall above the assorted books and maps, was a solitary framed, numbered print, signed by the artist. We couldn't believe our eyes, at first. Not only was it an image of Castle Donovan (not exactly world famous), but the perspective was from the old Deelish schoolyard! Sean's mother had been the teacher there, and they had, in fact, LIVED across the street in the teacher's house, growing up, effectively, in the very shadow of said Castle. The price was 90 Euro, framed, and 40 Euro, unframed. Buying it was a 'No Brainer'. This was to be only our first co-incidence that morning, however, because after we asked to purchase the print, we also inquired about securing records of my wife's ancestors. Skibbereen has a full copy of the 1901 Census, plus one later, as well. We were told that those copies only exist, by accidental, good fortune. Prior Census data was ordered destroyed by the British Government, after they felt that it had become out dated. Most subsequent records were transferred to Cork City, where most were partially or completely destroyed in the fighting there, during the Civil War in the 1920's. By some fluke, Skibbereen's local government had kept copies of 1901 and one other. For any with relatives from the area and THAT time period, it is a significant "bubble" of information. Birth records are a separate matter. Those are the domain (in Skibbereen, at least) of the Records Office at the local hospital. While we were there, at least, we were informed that they can only be attained between 10 and 12:30. As it was almost 12, we realized that our quest for the elusive birth certificate would require a return trip to Skib. Now, I am an amateur student of human behavior. I have discovered, in Ireland at least, that there are usually only three or four reactions to the announcement, "We're here in search of our roots. Can you help us?" An alarmingly frequent reaction is The Look -- The, 'God, how am I going to let these people down easy, without crushing their dreams?" You see, it is very DIFFICULT to trace ancestry ANYWHERE in the world, without a good deal of prior information. Have you ever told someone you were going to Ireland and heard them say, "Wow, I/we want to do that! We're Irish, too. My Great-great Grandfather/mother came from somewhere over there. We don't know where, exactly, but they were (O'Brien / O'Reilly / Burkes / Flynns, or whatever )- so it shouldn't be too hard to check out where we came from, right?" My wife's Grandmother was a Driscoll (They didn't take back the " O' " until after Independence). I once read that if you couldn't throw a rock, anywhere in Baltimore, Skibbereen, or the general area, without it striking an O'Driscoll -- there are that many! The same book said that it would be a BIG mistake, too, by the way -- something about 'provoking a MIGHTY wrath'... Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is, YOU NEED SOME DETAILS, and a LOT of people don't have them. It makes it hard, being the bearer of bad tidings, and dread of that is what causes THE LOOK. So, we told Margret that we were looking for information about my wife's Grandmother, and I notice The Look. It doesn't get much better when we say that her maiden name was Margret O'Driscoll, we THINK she was born in 1883 (it's what's on her grave marker), but it softens, a bit, when my wife says that her Great-Grandfather was named William, and that she was from Drimoleague (SEE--details!). Then, I spoke up, and it REALLY got weird. "Seehanes," says I. "They lived in the Townland of Seehanes." Margret gets a REALLY strange look -- whatever the Irish equivalent of, "Shut UP! Get the Hell out! You're s****** me, right?" Then, she looks at us and smiles. "My cousin is married to Teddy. I was just up there, this last weekend!" Now, Teddy is the current resident of the family house, in Seehanes. His late father was my father-in-law's first cousin (like Sean, Sean2 and Liam)! Small world, ain't it? We had a nice chat about the family after that. Margret told us all about the family, including some DISTANT cousins that we didn't even know about and then we said our goodbyes and headed off with our gift, a detailed copy of the family's listing in the 1901 Census and good directions, to avoid another 'magical exploration' of the hinterlands. This time, I didn't get lost.We dropped into a Spar and picked up a freshly baked Rhubarb Tart, the aforementioned bottle of Powers Whiskey and a birthday card for Sean. Then, we headed off to Drimoleague, arriving about 1 PM. All of our gifts were graciously received, but the print of Castle Donovan was greatly appreciated, earning a place of honor over the fireplace in the living room. We retired to the kitchen for a delicious, home-cooked meal and then returned to the living room, to talk and admire the print. Cousin Liam dropped in, both to wish Sean a happy birthday and to speak to us. When he saw the print, he was amazed -- telling us that he had just bought one for his OWN Drimoleague place. Liam has a small, 'hobby farm' up from the village. His upper pasture has a fine view of the Castle Donovan ruins. After a while, Sean and Liam headed off together to move Liam's cows to a fresh pasture. Previous experience has taught us that neither man handles saying goodbye very well, so neither of us were too surprised. We lingered at the house t, dragging out our parting with Sean's wife and his two eldest daughters (they, of the INFAMOUS 40th birthday parties of 2005 and 2006!)and then rang up cousin Sean2 (Laird of Coomleigh). By 4 PM, we were negotiating the narrow bohreen up past the Castle and back down, into the valley beyond. We spent two hours, visiting with the OTHER Sean. The visit was vastly improved, over last year's, when he was in Bantry Hospital. He looked and acted very good AND, during our entire visit, he never had a SINGLE cigarette!! Given his penchant for chain smoking I would say he has enacted a major change to his life. He did seem somewhat subdued, relative to previous years, but then again, he IS still an 82 year old, unrepentant bachelor. He seemed a bit reluctant to see us leave and perhaps a bit disappointed that he hadn't been able to duplicate previous years' entertainments -- like the neighborhood 'kitchen dance' of 2000, or the 'Great Sheep Shearing Debacle' of 2005. Our time there WAS short, but for us, it really is enough, just to sit and talk with him. There is an entire way of life that Ireland is losing, as men like Sean pass from the scene. We drove back into Bantry and had dinner at the Bantry Bay Hotel's O'Callahan's pub. By now, it was getting dark and I missed the turn off for the Goat's Path and ended up taking the longer route, through Durrus and Ahakista. !! THERE ARE NO STREETLIGHTS ON THE SHEEP"S HEAD DRIVE !! It was a tense drive home to the cottage in Kilcrohane. As impossible as it seems, the roads get even narrower in the dark. It may have something to do with heat convection swelling and shrinking the asphalt. All I know is that those 1 1/2 lane roads SEEMED barely wide enough for my little Ford Focus and meeting the occasional vehicle head on was a truly 'white knuckle' experience.
DAY SIX -- WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5th "Congratsulations ... It's a girl!" (FORGIVE ME, AS I WAX, SENTIMENTAL) Our original plan was to tour the Beara today, so we started a bit earlier. As I was showering, my wife rushed into the bathroom, slightly agitated. It seems that a woman had walked up the hill, closing off the gates to the cottage next door and then, had closed up OUR gate, as well. Being only SLIGHTLY more of a 'country' person than the Mrs., I suggested that perhaps they were preparing to move some cows into a different field. For some reason, this seemed to intrigue my wife and she grabbed up the camera and rushed outside to see. By the time I was dried and dressed sufficient to join her, the small herd had already been driven past, but the 'gate closing woman' came back up the hill, to announce that she had miscounted. Shortly after she disappeared over the uphill crest, a lone steer ambled down. Once he saw us, he lowered his head sheepishly, looking very much like a large dog that knows he has done something improper. He seemed very much taken with my wife, approaching her repeatedly at the gate and following her along the wall as she moved away. Eventually, he meandered down the hill, but when my wife returned to the gate to see, the steer turned around, came back up to the gate and tried to lean in, seeking either food or a soothing petting, neither of which was forthcoming from us. Eventually, the 'gate woman' returned and all the cows were guided away. Shortly after, we drove into the village, where we saw the cows again, turning off the road onto a path beneath the bridge, just before the church. After a stop into the shop, we headed off to Skibbereen to check with the records clerk, at the hospital. On th drive in, we decided that making this same drive, coming from Clonakilty on Thursday night, around midnight (after the John Spillane performance) would be entirely too stress inducing. Our solution was to find a place to stay for the night, somewhere near DeBarras, so we decided to visit the Tourist Office in Skibbereen, as well, to see what they could find for us. The Skibbereen hospital sits in a series of low, modern buildings surrounded by freshly blacktopped and striped parking lots that follow the gentle contours of the rising hillside. Our rental was one of the poorest of vehicles parked there, which is a testament to the continuing pervasiveness of the Celtic Tiger prosperity. I gathered up our accumulated information and we set out, in search of Grandmother's birth certificate. Years before, I had made a sketch of the family plot, placing the location of each headstone and recording their inscriptions. For Margaret, that included a listed birth year of 1883. Courtesy of the Heritage Center, we now also had a copy of the 1901 Census, which showed that she had already left Ireland. Once inside, we were directed to a waiting room. After about five minutes, we were ushered into a large, modern office and the search was on. Nothing turned up for 1883, there were THREE Margaret Driscolls born in 1884 (all in Drimoleague, but none from Seehanes) and none showed up in 1885. My wife began to despair of finding any actual records, but I knew that Margaret's YOUNGER brother had been born in 1885 (from the Census), so I suggested searching in the OTHER direction. As the record clerk tapped away on the computer keys - the large flat screen hidden from us, there was still no joy, as 1882 drew no results and 1881proved no better. "Well," my wife sighed. "It was worth a try.." The record's clerk stopped typing. Disappointment hung in the air. We had come so far... We had come so close... "Your Grandmother was born on the Twentieth of January, 1880. Did you want me to print you a certificate?" "We'll want three." "They are 8 Euro each," she pointed out somewhat apologetically. " Do you still want three? With the 4 Euro research fee, that would total 28 Euro." "Oh, yeah." Here was tangible, DOCUMENTED proof, that Grandmother Margaret had been a real, live, human being. Margaret had died in 1947, before my wife was born. Prior to this moment, she had been a semi-mythic character, talked about in stories. But now, we had seen the house where she was born, walked the roads that she had walked and now, we held the legal proof of her existence. As we walked through the parking lot, my wife had tears welling up in her eyes as she gazed, lovingly, at the multi-colored, Irish long form birth certificate. But Ireland is a place of paradoxes. It is the home of reverent, IRREVERENCE. Here is where men and women learned to deflect sorrow with wit and laughter ... Standing on the fresh tarmac, surrounded by the new cars and modern medical buildings, we were torn from our sentimental reverie as three sheep ambled by -- a ram, and two ewes. They didn't seem terribly impressed. We left the Skibbereen Hospital and drove into town center and parked in the car park located behind the Supervalu. From there, it is only a short walk to the Tourist Office. Inside, they found us a room in the Quality Inn, in Clonakilty (on the bypass, but near town center) for 82 Euro, including breakfast. They charge 4 Euro for making the reservation and collect 10% of the room charge as a deposit. We also bought a few "trinkets" -- tourist-type gifts for all those co-workers who say, "Oh, you're going to Ireland? Bring me back something." -- and received a recommendation to try The Church, for lunch. The Church is an old Protestant, Church of Ireland, remodeled into a restaurant. It was quite busy, which -- given the time of year -- means that it is quite popular with locals. I'm not terribly surprised, either. The food and service were excellent. Even though we departed from our usual luncheon fare of soup and sandwiches, we both ate exceedingly well for about 20 Euro. The baked goods on offer for desert looked amazing, but we were both so filled by our servings that we had to give them a pass. After lunch, we headed west past and dropped back into the Heritage Center to pick up an unframed copy of the Castle Donovan print, as a gift for our daughter. Then, we drove to the Skibbereen Memorial Cemetary and paid a visit to the Famine Grave Site. Skibbereen was decimated during the Great Famine; her loses painfully documented by numerous writers and artists who visited the area during that time. It is a Testament to the Irish people, in general, and the people of Skibbereen, in specific, that we saw numerous bunches of freshly laid flowers, randomly placed on the Famine Grave mound. It is a moving, and sobering place. Back on the road, we set out to shop, in Glengarriff, after deciding that it was much too late to consider even a partial tour of the Beara. We parked in the Quills lot and did a quick tour through the store, making a mental note of prices, etc. Then we crossed the street to the Glengarriff Crafts shop, enticed by the huge banner signs declaring SALE (not unlike the same signage, that we had seen at Quill's). To my suprise, not only were the prices actually lower, but the selection (of the merchandise we were searching for, at least) seemed more expansive. We secured sweaters for our son and DIL, a framed wall hanging (in Irish) for my wife's sister, and adorable sweaters that our grandson and granddaughter will be able to wear next winter, all for about 200 Euro. As my wife was settling up with the VAT back paperwork, etc., I wandered out to observe the on-going construction on the building next door. Then, we went back into Quill's and picked up the remaining items (36 Euro) that we had seen earlier but had been unable to duplicate at the Crafts shop. And, yes, BOTH of us got taken with the infamous DCC! In my case, I actually called the clerk on it and was advised that the US dollar amount was 'just for information purposes' and quite honestly, the extra 50 cents or so difference just wasn't worth fighting over. Likewise, we decided, even with the 'extra' $4 or so tacked on, we still felt satisfied with what the Crafts shop merchandise had cost (we WERE using our Credit Union provided Debit card, so we didn't take a 'double' hit). Still, it does frost me that the tiny print on the bottom of the receipt says "Cardholder has chosen to pay in USD". We drove back into Bantry and had dinner at the Bantry Bay Hotel's O'Callahan's pub. This time, we DID get desert -- and it tasted marvelous. Then, we drove back over the Goat's Path to Kilcrohane. I called the Tobins, to let them know that we would be leaving in the morning and made arraingments to cover the estimated utilities costs. John advised me to leave 15 Euro on the table, but I opted to leave 20, as I might want to return someday and figured that an extra 5 Euro might suffice to cover any unforseen overages. We had tried to do one load of wash in the combination washer-dryer and it had turned into a lengthy and doubtless, tremendously energy inefficient fiasco, as we ended up drying much of the items under the electric space heater mounted on the bathroom wall. This was our third experience with Irish appliances and we just can't seem to get a grasp of the intricacies of using them correctly. Ah, well. While the dryer wasn't really drying, I dropped down to the shop in the village and purchased two of the Sheep's Head Way tee shirts. Since we were scheduled to meet Ciaran Wynne, on Friday, in Killarney, this was to be our last night in Kilcrohane. More to come ...
Day 7: THURSDAY, APRIL 6th A liesurely start as we finished packing up and sprucing up our little rental cottage -- not that we had created much of a mess during our brief stay. We drove back into Kilcrohane for a quick stop in the shop and then headed back through Ahakista, Durrus and Skibbereen. Just to the East of Skib, we turned off onto the road for Castle Townsend, for a "look see". We had briefly toyed with the idea of renting a self-catering apartment in the Castle before settling on our place on the Sheep's Head, so we wanted to check it out for future reference. I would say that it is definitely a contender, in that regard. From Castle Townsend, we took followed questionable signage along small country roads into Union Hall. By now, we were well and truely ready for a lunch stop, but nothing in Union Hall 'jumped out' at us, so we continued on, crossing the one-lane bridge into Glandore, famous from the "WAR OF THE BUTTONS" movie. This trip, we actually had to use the center 'pull off', as another vehicle approached from the other side. Quite a sensation. Just after making shore, the road curves sharply to the right and then winds hard, to the left. There is an old Protestant Church, high up on the hill to the left of the road and then the road continues along the shore to arrive at a modest boat ramp and warf. Overlooking this spot, on the left, are a series of shop buildings and a nice, little cafe, where we stopped for a light and satisfying lunch. As we entered, it began to rain, but it was quite finished by the time we returned to the car to go on. Just past Glandore, I spotted a small directional sign indicating the way to Drombeg Stone Circle -- a spot that has eluded me (due to time constraints and weather) on numerous trips through this area. Seeing that it was so close, I turned off onto an even smaller, wooded and winding road and made my way to the car park. There was only one other car there. The car park will hold a dozen or so vehicles. At the far end is a gate that leads up to a farmhouse. The path to the Circle turns to the left, right before the gate, following a tractor- wide path that is isolated from the farmer's fields by high, stone walls. There is a portable building at the begining of the path that MIGHT be used to house a ticket-taker and/or a small snack and gift shop during high season, but it was empty and seemingly abandoned when we were there. The occupants of the lone, other car were departing as we arrived, so for a time, we had the site all to ourselves. In addition to the Cirle itself, there are also the remnants of two small, stone buildings (equally ancient) and a stone-lined, water filled cooking pit. The water in the pits was brought toa boil by dropping fire heated rocks into it and then adding the food that was to be cooked. Pretty interesting, that those neolitic peoples went to so much trouble to BOIL their meals, rather than simply ROAST them, over an open fire. Say what you will, about those primitive, neolithic hunter-gatherers -- they sure had a keen eye for esthetics! They knew how to pick incredibly picturesque settings for their religious/ceremonial constructs. As I was moving quickly, billy-goat style (or what passes as such, when you are an over 50 individual) over the still wet, muddy and boggy terrain, my feet lost their purchace. After much flailing about of my arms and legs, my shoes slid smoothly out from under me. Down I went, landing with a squishy thump. I managed to strike a three point stance -- the sides of my two shoes and my out-stretched, right fore arm -- which saved my legs, hips and torso from contact with the puddle that sprang up out of the ground, as soon as pressure was applied to it. The sleeve of my wool jacket, however, became immediately saturated, wicking up the muddy water like a dessicated sponge. When I managed to regain my feet, it was LITERALLY dripping water. I actually had to take it off and wring it out! All the while this was going on, my wife reacted in stunned horror. "Are you all right? Are you all right? "Oh, my God. Are you hurt?" she kept asking. I tried to covince her that I was fine, despite the jarring fall. I was touched by her concern, of course. We've been married thirty-five years, now, and I don't think I've ever seen her so frightened by any of my prior mishaps. Shrugging off my embarrassment and the ache in my shoulder from the impact, I told her that. "I was TERRIFIED that you were going to be seriously injured!" She admonished. "There's NO WAY that I can drive the car out of here!" Just then, a young (twenty-something) couple arrived. From their appearance and demeanor and my own predjudiced eye, I assumed they were German. HE nodded to us, then turned to read the display sign. After a moment, SHE turned and surveyed the grounds. HE drew out his camera, snapped a picture of the sign and then turned to shoot another, of the Stone Circle and ruins, beyond. Then HE carefully put away the camera and drew a small notebook and pen from the pocket of HIS jacket. HE flipped open the notebook and checked off the entry with flourish, before returning the book to his pocket. With a firm nod (quite chillingly reminiscent of Chevy Chase's take at the Grand Canyon, in National Lampoon's VACATION ), THEY turned and briskly walked back to the carpark. My wife and I laughed, all the way back to the car.
DAY SEVEN -- PART TWO OR, HOW TO QUIET A CROWD We continued driving east, into the picturesque little town of Ross Carbery, with its pretty views of the bay and magnificent swans. Back on the N71, it was only a matter of minutes before we found ourself at Clonakilty. We located the Quality Inn easily (it's on the bypass, on the Southern edge of town), then set out to orient ourselves with the route to DeBarra's. Sure enough, "walking distance from Town Center" is measured somewhat differently by Irish standards than it is by those of us from the USA. While it is PROBABLY under a mile, it isn't MUCH under. Factoring in the changeable nature of the weather and the fact that an Irish April midnight feels a mite chill to those of us who hail from Florida, we decided that we would need to drive to the show. Once that was settled, we drove back to the hotel and checked in for a nap and clean up of my muddy jacket sleeve. About 7:15, we headed into town, parking in the large car park that actually abutts the rear gate to DeBarra's. Having eaten a nice lunch there, back on Day 2, we decided to try our luck elsewhere. Can't remember the name of the place, now, but it was another pub, just West of DeBarra's, on the same side of the street. We ate in the bar, another 'soup and toasted' , pub-grub meal that although perfectly acceptible, was not particularly memorable. After we ate, I located a streetside ATM and withdrew enough Euros to cover our planned evening. We settled into the front bar at DeBarra's about 8:15, or so, and were rewarded by the experience of witnessing a multi-Meteor Award winner humping his own gear into the back, about 8:30 or so. Now, the performance was scheduled to begin at 9:00, but having been to Ireland NUMEROUS times, neither of us were terribly suprised when they finally began selling the 15 Euro tickets and opened the doors about 9:15. Once we chose our seats (front row, but to the right of center), I went to the back bar and then headed out to the back 'beer garden' for a smoke. I had a nice chat with DeBarra's in-house sound man then. I also eaves-dropped (unintentionally) on John Spillane's half of a cell phone conversation about his up-coming performance, and then, witnessed the belated arrival of John's 'Special Mystery Guest', opening act, Niall Connolly. After a rushed, 'on the fly' guitar tuning, the show got underway about 9:30, when John introduced Niall to the 30 or 40 of us in the audience as "the best young song writer in Cork". Accepting the emphasis on "young" -- I would guestimate that Niall Connolly is in his mid- twenties -- I'll be damned, if John wasn't right! Niall performed for about 20 minutes or so, enchanting us with about half a dozen extremely entertaining and thought-provoking songs. At the end, he politely advised us that he had some CDs on offer, for 10 or 15 Euro, "depending on how nice your shoes are", and then he turned over the stage to John Spillane about 10:00. Now, John Spillane is a widely known and revered musician in Ireland, but his stature is nearly LEGENDARY, in Cork. In addition to his 2003 and 2006 Meteor Award wins, John hosts a music program on the Irish Language Radio. In addition to his solo CDs, he is also is one half of The Gallic Hit Factory, partnered with Louis De Poer (Louis The Poet). We have been trying to catch his live performance for a few years, so we were somewhat shocked when he took the stage. Standing at the mike, guitar in hand, he addressed the crowd in a dispassionate monotone. With his head bowed, his eyes seemingly GLARED angrily up at us from beneath his brows. Using a diatribe nearly identical to my opening to this trip report, and always ending with the words, "So, fair play to me. And good enough!", my wife's initial reaction was "What an egotistical, ARROGANT, S.O.B.!!" As he was doing his intro to the third song, however, the personna slipped, as John cracked himself up with the absurdity of his banter and we realized that it was all an act. (I was told later, that Ger Wolfe uses much the same style when performing, perhaps even DRIER, still. Never having seen Ger perform, I'll have to take that on faith.) Once we were in on the joke, we both found John's stage patter rousing, good fun. During intermission, I stepped over to where Niall was sitting and told him that I wanted to purchase his CD. It turned out that he had two --the first, for 10 and his second, for 15 Euro. "Which one did ye want?, he asked. When I told him that I'ld take both, he sheepishly pointed out that he had only performed ONE song on the night, that was actually on the CDs. The rest, he said, would be on the NEW CD that he was only just now recording. Based on what we've heard, we will DEFINITELY be purchasing his new CD! After scoring autographed copies, I took the opportunity to slip out back again, for another smoke and had the great, good fortune of bumping into the real, off stage John Spillane. "How's it going?" he asked. "Quite well," says I. When he asked what I thought of the show, I remarked that it was a quiet crowd. He misunderstood me, I'm sure, thinking that I was commenting on the relatively small size of the audience. He quickly pointed out that, after all, it was a Thursday night -- in EARLY April, no less -- and assured me that the crowds would get substantially larger, once the season got well and truely underway. "No," says I. "I realize THAT. I'm suprised at how attentive and QUIET they are. Most times I've been out to listen to music, I've found it hard to hear over the sound of everybody talking and laughing." John smiled, then. "When you make them pay 15 Quid," he said, "it shuts them up!" Then, he laughed. More to Come ...
DAY EIGHT: FRIDAY, 7 APRIL In the morning, we had the included breakfast, cafeteria style in the downstairs dining area. Can't say that we were terribly impressed by the steamed and lamp-warmed, industrial tubs of rashers, scrambled eggs and sausages, but it was edible and filling. They DID have a pretty good selection of breads and cereals and decent supplies of juice and citrus fruits, though. As we were finishing up, we realized that it was also possible to special order items, as well. I went for a quick stroll after breakfast. The hotel sits near the back of a deep cul-de-sac, on the right hand side. It is a fairly new place, equipt with a gym, and indoor pool and some sort of child / day care place. There is also a three screen multi-plex, located in a seperate building, only a few feet away. Across the side street to the multi-plex are a number of small two storey houses (some, even now, just under construction), that are apparrently used as self-catering rentals. Don't know what they charge for those, but at 80 Euro PER ROOM, B&B, we thought the hotel was a pretty decent deal, for anyone wanting to spend some time in the Clonakilty area. After checking out, we headed off, back West on the N71. When we reached Skibbereen, I detoured North in order to do a last drive through of Drimoleague. As we passed the Hospital, enroute, our old friend, the Ram was standing out front on the hillside. We took it to be a good sign. The drive through Bantry, Glengarriff, the Caha Pass Rock Tunnels and Kenmare were uneventful. The rugged beauty of the familiar scenery was more than adequate compensation for the sporatic rain squalls and short stretches of road construction. They seem Hell-Bent on widening that route, ASAP, and though understandable, it breaks my heart to think that before long, Bantry to Kenmare (and probable the Beara) will be as filled up with Tour Buses and cars as Killarney and the Ring of Kerry have become. Still, the rain always seemed to stop when we did, and for the most part we seemed to have the road to ourselves, so it's hard to wallow in to much angst. We stopped in Moll's Gap for a quick break. As there is MAJOR widening taking place just beyond, it seemed like an opportune stop. Inside, I picked up a copy of Robert Whyte's 1847 FAMINE SHIP DIARY for 9 Euro 99, as well as a few other small items. Then, as luch time was calling, we turned off, toward Sneem, to visit The Strawberry Field Pancakes & Tearooms. I'd found them on the internet and we thought that after a week of typical Irish fare that it would make for a nice change. We were right (though the menu is actually more crepes than pancakes).http://www.strawberryfield-ireland.com They also have extensive offerings of Cast-Iron garden furniture and ornaments and various art work on offer and we purchased a nice little celtic design trivet for 6 Euro. Then, it was back in the car to Windy Gap and on toward Killarney. We stopped at the 'REAL' Ladie's View, South of the Tourist Shop normally accossiated with that location, for a couple of pictures. There is a wide pull off and a small plaque marking the spot. You have to walk about ten paces, up over a rise, but once there, it feels as if there is no one else in the world. I wonder how many people have actually stopped there? I know that all the Tour Buses stop up the road at the Shop and Snack Bar, with its wide car park and Leprechan Crossing signs and "I'M IRISH -- I NEED A BEER" Tee shirts. Ah, well. To each his own, I guess. We drove down through the National Park, past Torc Falls, Muckross House and the turn off to Ross Castle and parked in the Car Park nest to the Tourist Office. It was about 3:30 PM, so we had them book us into the Harp B&B on Muckross Road for the night and also into the Shannonside B&B in Newmarket-on-Fergus for Sat night, as well. Then I called our musician frien, Ciaran Wynne and we arrainged to meet him about 8, for dinner. We would then follow him to the pub where he would be performing that night. We wandered around town then, for about an hour or so. I dropped into the Pages Book Store on New Street (a regular stop, when in Killarney) and picked up a copy of Denis B. Cashman's FENIAN DIARY, edited by C.W. Sullivan III, for another 9 Euro 99. For some reason, books about the Fenian Rising and the Land War (1860 - 1910 time frame) are in very short supply, so I tend to grab up everything I find. We also visited the local Dunne's (also on High Street) where we scored to TERRIFIC gifts for our not-quite-one-year-old grandchildren -- little Irish Soccer outfits (shorts and jerseys) in green and white, for only 6 Euro each. Then, as it was nearly 5 PM, we headed down to the Harp (probably within walking distance if the weather was decent) to check in and get in a short nap. Our bedroom was SMALL, but comfortable, and the bathroom was BIG. I would definitely stay there again.
EVENING OF DAY EIGHT A NIGHT OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY We napped in our room at the Harp B&B until shortly about 7:30 PM and then drove to the large parking lot behind the Failte Hotel on College Street. From there, it's only a short walk down a wide, cobblestone alley to High Street. As a bonus result of the Smoking Ban, a few of the cafes and pubs along the alley have added outside tables, greatly improving the ambience. Not too many people out to appreciate that though, as the sky was struggling mightily, to hold back the rain. By 9:30, however, it would give up the fight, unleashing a prety impressive downpour that lasted until nearly closing time. You've got to love a country, where the climate is so considerately accommodating. Where the alley connects to High Street, we entered O'Connor's and settled into a table downstairs and waited for Ciaran to arrive. Ciaran Wynne has been an intregal part of our facination with Ireland since we first "discovered" his music, back in April of 2001. We actually met him in Feb of '02, and it was his recommendation of John Spillane, then, that culminated in our Clonakilty detour, this trip. Ciaran is, without a doubt, the most gifted singer-songwriter that I know (which actually says less about his talent, then it does about my limited circle of acquaintences). While fame and fortune HAVE managed to elude him (SO FAR), TALENT has fully embraced him. I know of no other artist that is more genuinely deserving of being a house-hold name. His songs are diverse snapshots of the human condition -- the good, the bad and even the mundane -- played back for us, as the lyrics to "A MOTHER'S SONG" says, "This is not a love song -- This is how feel", as his only disclaimer. On top of it all, Ciaran is a genuine, likeable person. How often does THAT occur, in the ranks of talented artists? Once he arrives, we order a meal of good, basic fare -- Irish Stews, Ham and cabbage, and I suprise Ciaran with a gift. Last summer, I had located a small horde of 'SUNSHINE AND FLOWERS', a cassette recording by the group GLIONDAR (which included a young, but even then, talented) lead singer, named Ciaran Wynne! I have to say, he seemed equally touched and SHOCKED that I had found any copies remaining. I also gave him a copy of the second volume of my Irish Family History, as well -- the project having been inspired, as it was by his music. The entire project will entail three volumes, each individually title, but all under the "umbrella" title of SPOKES IN THE WHEEL (from a Ciaran Wynne song). Haven't heard back from him on that (it DOES run over 300 pages), but I THINK he will enjoy it. Ciaran told us that his sister and brother-in-law were also in Killarney, for the weekend, as a 30th anniversary gift, from their children. He thought that they might be meeting up with us, at O'Riain's for Ciaran's performance. O'Riain's is almost directly opposite of O'Connor's and just 'up' the street from the FLESK (the excellent, 'American Legion' Steak and seafood bisque meal from the 11 DAY JUNE IRELAND TRIP with our daughter and son-in-law http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=2&tid=34508429 ). O'Riain's used to be a small, gruby, pub with inexpensive rooms above, but it was recently purchaced by new owners and restored / converted into a fresh, clean, multi-floor, gathering place, while losing none of its original charm. Upstairs, the new owners have added a second bar and a small stage. Not previously know for providing music, they made the excellent choice of having Ciaran kick off their new venture. When we entered, about 9 PM, Ann and Con were occupying a large booth in the front. After introductions all around, Ciaran dismissed himself to attend to setting up and tuning up. We had a nice getting acquainted chat about Ciaran, Kildare and our respective children until Ciaran returned, about 20 minutes later. Con, Ciaran and I stepped out into the alley for a smoke, but cut our time outside short, as someone chose that moment to puncture the rain clouds above us. Our time outside was made more interesting though, when Ciaran realized that in his early, 'starving artist' days, he had actually rented the front, upstairs room above the old O'Riain's, and recounted the universal lament of artists and musicians, occassionally "sneaking down the squeaky back steps to avoid the landlady" when he was a bit short, on the rent. Upstairs, we were treated to an excellent performance, before a small ("It being the off-season, and all"), but generally appreciate crowd. A Canadian girl wandered in and asked if Ciaran could do any James Blunt songs. Ciaran replied that, no, since James Blunt didn't do any of HIS songs, Ciaran felt it only proper, to reciprocate. The girl from Canada seemed to consider that as slightly unreasonable, I guess, as she left, shortly after, but the rest of us thought that it made perfect sense -- it was THAT kind of a crowd. As the evening came to a close, we said our good byes all around and headed back to our B&B. I really haven't done justice to the scope and depth of the evening, I suppose. Just know that I would return to Ireland again, JUST for one more night like it. More to come ...
DAY 9 -- Saturday, 8 April TAKING THE LONG WAY HOME After a very pleasant breakfast and chat with the lady of the house, we departed the Harp B&B and Killarney via the Countess Road 'short-cut' to the Cork Road (the N22) and then turned off onto the N72, heading East, toward Mallow. It was a dark, cloudy and schizophrenicday, with scattered bouts of rain, both SOFT and Hard, interspersed by brief stretches of blue sky and sunshine. We turned off onto the side road running along side the Catholic Church in Rathmore. It was in this very building (remodelled a few times, but still essentially the same), that my wife's Grandparents were married, back in 1865. It's kinda hard to drive by, or even, NEAR a place like that, without pausing at least a few minutes. Back on the road, we turned right at the fork marked Millstreet, caused by the R582 intersecting with the N72. A mile or so down the road, we passed the Cadbury Chocolate Factory (no Tours and Free Samples that I'm AWARE of - darn the Luck!). A few miles down the road, we cross a little bridge, entering County Cork and leaving Kerry behind. You might never notice the difference, but the eternal Cork-Kerry rivalry should assure you that it really DOES matter to those who live hereabout. To the right, is a narrow lane, heading off, towards the mountains (Darrynasaggart Mountain chain) including Clara and the unmistakeable PAPS. This road takes you to the Townlands of Knocknaloman and Caherbarnagh. We continue on the R582, though and stop at the little shop and petrol station in the village of Ballydaly. There, ever mindful of the 'must return the rental car EMPTY', I opt to add 5 euro to the tank. Try though I might, the woman running the shop insists on pumping the fuel, so the two of us are standing there at the back of the car as: the wind picks up, it starts to rain -then starts to rain REALLY hard, we notice random snowflakes falling (but, frequently enough to be noticeable!) and then, we start to be pelted, by BB sized HAIL STONES!!!! I stopped her at 4 Euro, handed her two 4 Euro coins and she dashed off to the shop, while I raced around the car and jumped into the driver's seat. After a few, brief moments spent laughing about the absurdity of the situation, I started the car and drove slowly to the road. By the time I pulled out from the parkin lot, the sudden weather assault had devolved into a light rain. After less than a mile, the rain had ceased, completely. Another mile further, I parked the car in the village Square of Millstreet. Although still somewhat cloudy, mostly, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. We went into the Wordsworth shop (another, perrennial shopping stop)and purchased a few small items. I bought Donal Hickey's STONE MAD FOR MUSIC -- THE SLIABH LUACHRA STORY for 9 Euro 99. Sliabh Luachra is a geographical area, roughly triangular in shape that is somewhat loosely anchored between three points -- Killarney, Millstreet and Castleisland. It is an area rich in tradition, particularly in music and story telling. Along the base of that Millstreet to Killarney line, is AN SHRONE -- The City -- a settlement and Holy Place that was old when men of the Aegean fought over the beautiful Helen. We had lunch at the incompareable Nibbles. It is a "food emporium" that is worth a detour, to reach. Their speciality is their baked goods, in every concievable variety -- whole grain, gluten-free, organic grown -- you name it. Go. Eat. Enjoy. Discover the gastronomic version of Nirvanna. My only complaint? I spotted a half a dozen or so eclairs in the display rack, as we were ordering, but decided to purchase some AFTER our meal. By that time, not only were the eclairs LONG gone, but so was nearly everything else that had been on offer, a mere 30 minutes earlier! I just know it was all those nasty, Westlife-loving outsiders that deprived my craving sweet tooth! But, I DID get to return to Millstreet, in spite of them, so ... As we made our sad, eclair-less way out of town, we stopped at the Turbrid Holy Well, so that my wife could fill her little bottle and make it through another year, protected. We hurriedly returned to the car, as it started raining lightly, almost the very second that the doors were closed. I took a brief moment to celebrate the continuation of my streak -- in SEVEN YEARS, no rain has EVER struck me, while I have been in Millstreet! We have friends there, who have suggested that my annual trips need to be LENGTHENED -- solely for that reason! I drove back in toward Millstreet and turned right (South) just to the West of the Catholic Church. This road winds back toward the Mount Leader Industrial Park. Just past the entrance, on the right hand side (West), is a small dirt road the runs along the base of Clara mountain, near Claratlea South and continuing on, to pass through Gortavehy. Mid-way between those two areas is a crossroad (Croohig's Cross). A right turn (South) would return you to Ballydaly, but we continued West. If you keep going, the next cross road is at Caherbarnagh. This entire road was undergoing widening and/or drainage work and was nearly impassable in several places, so we turned off toward the North and eventually made our way into Rathmore -- ending up on the very street where we had parked earlier that morning -- next to the Catholic Church! Had I NOT turned off, when I did, I BELIEVE that I would have reached the ancient site of An Shrone. So now, I already have an important part of my NEXT Ireland trip planned! From Rathmore, we drove into Killarney and then turned NE onto the N21. We stopped briefly (under a CANOPIED petrol station) to buy another 10 Euro worth, and then continued onward, to Adare. We then fought the rain up to and around Limmerick and all the way to our final night's B&B, SHANNONSIDE, in Newmarker-on-Fergus. The kindest thing that I believe that I can say concerning this particular B&B is that it REALLY is conveniently close to the Shannon airport. They have won numerous awards and accolades, over theyears, but the most telling, for me, is the plaque hanging outside, recognizing 35 years of service, dated 1995. Once the rain finally dissipated, we drove into Bunratty for our final dinner at Kathleen's and then returned to SHANNONSIDE to pack up and hit the bed for our 9 AM flight. We were at the airport at 7. We dropped off the car (without any suprises) and took the shuttle back to the terminal. The check in lines seemed to go on forever, foretelling a full, no empty seat return flight. At this point, I would have welcomed a "BUMP", but when the inevitable offer came, it was only for ONE, so there was no joy, there. The flight was uneventful, and our time in Newark EXCEDINGLY short, due to Continental's changes to our original itinerary, but we were soon in Fort Meyers, without any untoward delays. I'll add some follow up info later, but this is pretty much it, except to round it all up in John Spillane's typical fashion. I have tried to tell all the truth of it, as best as I can remember. I wrote it all down, in my own words, like, EACH and EVERY ONE. So Fair Play, to me. And, Good Enough!
Additions and Corrections: Lunch in Glandore on Thursday (Day 6), while enroute to Clonakilty, was at the Cove Cafe & Restaurant, The Pier House, Glandore. We each had a toasted sandwich (2 @ 4.25), chips (2 @ 2.00)(french fries) and tea (2 @ 1.50), for a total of 13 Euro 50, or about $16.75. Food was very good, simple fare. Wouldn't make a special trip just to eat there, but would stop there again, if I was in the vicinity around mealtime...
All I can say is I'm glad that I am retired, because once I start reading your trip reports, I can not stop. Once again you took me back home to Ireland. Your visits and descriptions of small town Ireland is most interesting to me.
I have a few comments on your report. On day 3 you wrote that you thought the 35 minute Mass was Irish efficiency. Well, if you ever land at Shannon on a Sunday morning, have your wife attend the 15 minute Mass at Shannon Airport. My granddaughter, who was 5 years old at the time, called it a racecar Mass. You also mentioned a "kitchen dance" from a previous visit with relatives. That sure brought back memories of my first trip to Ireland, staying in a small cottage with relatives and watching many kitchen dances.
Interesting that your wife finally found her grandmothers birth certificate and it was not the year that she thought it was. My mother always told me that she was never really sure of her real birthday. She said growing up in Ireland they never really celebrated birthdays. As it turned out her birth date was not the year nor the day she thought it was.
Finally, thanks for the tip about the real Ladies View. I've been to the top many times, but never knew to visit the place where the plaque is located south of the tourist shop. That's another reason (among many) to visit again.
I am wondering Bob, if you ever read the book "Last of the Donkey Pilgrims" by Kevin O'Hara? It is about his personal journey of self-discovery around Ireland. Your trip reports remind me of that book, even though you use a car and he walked it.
I found the 'Real' Ladies View by accident. I pulled off the road to stretch my legs, have a smoke and let a line of vehicles go by. It was only while wandering about that I noticed the sign.
By the way -- the 'Kitchen Dance' took place in a TINY, 2 bed bungalow, back in 2000. I doubt if the kitchen was 8' square! It was definitely 'Old Ireland' at its finest! Deep in the Mealagh Valley, in the wilds of West Cork.
A funny story about the Grandmother's birth date: Margaret died in 1947, in Upstate NY, only a couple of months prior to her husband, John. Her stone lists her birth as 1883 and his lists his ACTUAL, 23 June 1880 birthdate. When we returned with Margaret's Birth Cert and showed it to my wife's father (who was one of the children responsible for having her stone carved) -- HIS reply was, "Yes, we knew that. Father always used to tease Mother that she was older than him!" Things that drive a researcher CRAZY!!!!!
I have heard of the book you mention, but I haven't read it -- YET. It is on my 'List', though . . .