Michele mentioned in a recent post that it was slow here, so I thought it would be a good time to do a long neglected trip report.
I'll start out with an overview of the trip then go into a day by day report. If you are a regular here, you may recall that DW and I had been a long time planning our 5th trip to Ireland, taking our 10 yr old Grand daughter for her first time. All of our trips to Ireland were memorable, the first time, taking my Parents back to where our kin folk had left in 1851 during the aftermath of the great hunger.
The 2nd trip was memorable because, for the first time we just toured a small chunk, the north west part of the island. It was our only summer trip, but a good one because the NW is not as over run with tourists as is the case with most of the rest of Ireland.
The 3rd trip was really fun because we introduced long time friends to Ireland and spent 1 week in a self catering cottage for the first time.
The 4th trip was more hectic, the same 4-some combining Scotland and Northern Ireland for 1 week each. Not sure I would do that again, since we wasted quite a bit of time traveling. If split between 2 regions, I would suggest 3 weeks total.
This 5th trip with our GD, was with out a doubt, the most satisfying of all. I would do it again in a heart beat! The trip took place this past Oct 1-16 with 14 full days in Ireland. Planning started in April. Our primary concern was getting a passport secured for GD and we are really glad we started out so early, as we had 2 glitches that caused extreme anxiety right down to within 3 weeks of departure. So my advice is to allow 6 months to get a passport, when they say 3! Our current passports expire next Nov, but DW and I are going to renew ours shortly after the New Year!
Our seasonal tourist business will not allow us to travel now in the summer so the first concern was taking our GD during the school year and missing 2 weeks of school. We worked closely with her school, primarily with her 5th grade teacher and her Principal. We wanted to make this as "educational" as possible for our GD as well as for those left behind in her class room. I will expound upon that at the end of this report. This trip was unique in that this was "HER" trip, and most every aspect was planned in that regard. It was really fun to see Ireland "through a child's eyes" so to speak.
My biggest concerns were: (1) was she mature enough to handle it? (2) would she get home sick? And (3) would she get bored? Yes, no, and no! In her case, I think the timing was perfect. Next year she would be in middle school and from that time on, I was afraid school activities and friends may become more important in her life. The other important factor was that she EARNED this trip. She worked for us part time the past 3 summers, at first for tips then later for a paycheck. She had begged to go with us to Ireland the previous two times, and so we offered her this opportunity, with the condition that she was in good standing as a student at school, and that if she saved enough money to buy her own airline ticket, we would pay for the rest of the trip.
She was very motivated at that point, and then it wasn't as hard to talk her into putting the Lion's share of her earnings into her savings account! We helped her open the account, had her make out her own deposit slips and keep her passbook balance current. Needless to say, she had the required amount saved well before last April. So the planning began in earnest.
We sat down many evenings in front of the lap top computer with our good friend "google" and started to look at all the options in the towns and areas that we would cover in two weeks. Her must-see list included Blarney Castle and Cliffs of Moher and her must do list had to do with horse back riding. She pretty much picked most of the items she wanted to see/do. Because she worked for this trip, she really took ownership in all aspects of the planning and preparations. We are hopeful it created for her enough memories to last her for a lifetime. I know it did so for Gma and Pappa! So what follows is a run down on 14 days of never-a-dull-moment AND one high adventure after another!
Great idea Dan. It is always slow around here at the end of the year and because of the holidays. Once we hit next year things will pick up. Although I do believe that fewer people find their way here because they get snagged by other high profile forums with million dollar advertising budgets. Nothing wrong with them and many dispense good info. I guess it is like big box stores squeezing out the Mom & Pop places. Big always wins out.
"Ireland Expert" Michele ErdvigClick links for Michele's Book or Custom Ireland ItineraryVisit Michele's Irish Shop for unique Irish gifts and beautiful photos of Ireland.
Day 1 After the passport debacle, the next mission for this trip was "shopping"! Since GD is at Mom's house part of the time and at Dad's the rest of the time, we are never quite sure where all the various articles of clothing are at any given time AND what state of cleanliness said articles of clothing may or may not be in, so we decided a whole new "Ireland wardrobe" was in order. And it would supplement school clothes for the rest of the year...maybe...she is growing like a weed! Shopping!!
Great fun for DW and GD but a day of drudgery for Pappa....from store to store to store at the outlet mall we went. Didn't realize a 10 year old girl had such distinct tastes in attire...(we raised 2 boys....much different when it comes to shopping!). But Pappa got thru it alright and we got home about supper time. By 9 PM we had everything washed and dried and all 4 color coded packing cubes filled with appropriate garments, the quart bag stocked with 3oz liquids, and one complete set of clothes tucked into the new purple back pack(to go along with the purple rain coat and later a purple umbrella!)...in case we were forced into checking our legal size carry-on roller bags...in case they would happen to get lost! By the way the packing cubes are a fantastic invention and were a great investment and we won't go with out them again. They were not the compression type, but really helped keep everything in the the roller bag organized. Highly recommended.
The next task was to down load and print our boarding pass 24 hours beforehand. We had secured airline tickets with British Airways using our rewards bonus points from making purchases on our Visa credit card. We had enough points to get two $850 international flight credits towards our tickets. That would have been nearly enough to get us to Dublin. However we added some extra $'s and booked into Shannon instead, as that was the area of Ireland that we were spending all our time in. And SNN is smaller, friendly, and easy to drive out of and back into. In addition, we had enough points to get a $325 partial bonus fare for our GD so it worked out great. Would have paid about $1,100 each if we had to buy them all outright. AND it was the first time we had opted to get a direct flight to Europe for our 1st leg, connecting at London Heathrow instead of the connecting flight in Chicago or one of the east coast gateway airports.
It was great to have that 1st leg longer because we were able to get more sleep on this flight compared to the others, although Chicago wasn't too bad. We have now received 5 and 1/2 almost free flights to Ireland since 2006 by using our credit card as much as possible, for personal and business purchases, getting 1 point for every dollar spent. And of course, we pay the entire balance when due and NO interest! In order to be guaranteed 3 seats together, we had to pony up an additional $39/ticket to have the privilege of selecting our own seat assignments. Otherwise we would have had to wait till 24 hrs prior to boarding in order to select/be given seat assignments. That was my only complaint with BA. Otherwise a decent airline and great flight. We did NOT opt to pay $39/leg/ticket on the remaining 3 legs. We had a scheduled 6:30pm flight out of SeaTac.
Since GD has an early release every Wednesday at 1:30 for teacher in-service, we decided to pick her up at school when she was released at 11:45 AM for lunch. Stopped to tell Mom goodbye and then to Dad's office for more goodbyes. Had packed lunch for on the road and soon we were on Interstate 5. Good weather, light traffic, which made for an uneventful arrival at SEA with 3 hours to spare. After boarding the plane we took a "selfie" picture of the 3 of us side by side by side on the Triple 7 and texted it to Mom and Dad, then the iPhone went on airplane mode! (Picture made it on face book by Mom. And soon it seems everybody knew the Murphy's were headed to Ireland!) This social media is amazing?
Wheels off the runway at 7:00pm sharp. First time on a 777 and it was great, if you are a 3-some, as it was 3-3-3 seat arrangement in cattle car class! Still prefer the 2-4-2 seating, though, if traveling as a couple or 4-some. So we sat back, relaxed after all the hurdles so far, and enjoyed a pretty decent in flight meal and beverages. GD got into action with the seat back entertainment system and a movie before finally nodding off. DW never sleeps much on trans Atlantic night flights, and I think I got in about 5 1/2 hours pretty restful sleep. (Am use to it, do to my usual 1-2 hours of easy-chair sleep almost every night at home!) Thus ended our 1st official day of this great adventure and we knew when we awoke we would be nearly there.
Sounds like a great start! Glad you held off reporting until now -- As Michele said, December is 'Quiet Time' for Ireland Trip Planning . . .
Can't wait to hear what your GD thought was most / least memorable.
Help Us to Help You. The more you tell us about your plans (dates, interests, budget), the better we can tailor our advice to suit!
Looking forward to hearing more Dan. BTW, I edited your posts to make paragraphs. Easier to read than a solid block of text.
Day 2 Awoke to the wonderful smell of coffee! And a bright sun shining thru the windows on the RH side of the 777, where we were sitting. A quick glance out and down and the unmistakable brilliant green colors left no doubt that we were over Ireland. The moving map display on the seat back in front of me verified that we were indeed over southeastern Ireland, approx between Dublin and Kilkenny. Waterford was the other city that I was fairly certain was visible. Then over the water and soon over the not-quite-as-green hill sides of England. Soon we were setting up for a landing at Heathrow. Had heard horror stories about Heathrow and the size and difficulty of use. Since we had nearly a 3 hour layover both ways, I wasn't too concerned.
Landed on time and started through the maze of rail transfer, bus transfer from Term 5 to Terminal 2. Had a couple additional layers of security to go thru that we never had before. A biometric capture by camera with photos stored and later compared by a computer, I guess. Also had to fill out a landing card even though we were not spending any time in England. Also DW and I had to completely empty both of our bags for visual inspection. All for our own good and safety, I guess. Seems Bin Laden is still in control of a bunch of freedoms we used to enjoy in air travel. Normal layover to recharge e-devices and had a snack and water to try to stay hydrated, it seems like the airline climate control system really dries you out although I understand the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is suppose to help that situation. Waited in the departure lounge for our gate/flight to be called. Departed at 3:30 PM.
The short flight on AerLingus was uneventful and soon we were over the green hillsides of Ireland once again and a great feeling to be back "HOME" with wheels down at 4:30. Easy-peasy to clear customs and soon made our way to the Hertz counter. No one in line! I had secured a booking for the first time with Conn at Easy Tour Ireland who has a franchise agreement with Hertz. Journey Through Ireland also a Hertz franchise was the company we used the last 2 trips and they were similar in that they promised no extra or hidden charges. And that was true the 3rd time, and I would be hard pressed to do anything different again although I would like to try Dooley someday. Had made a request thru Conn for a 4-door since it would be easier in and out for GD. Had reserved the 2nd smallest category of car and it was just right for 3 people with 3 roller bags and 3 personal bags. Never had to store luggage anywhere but in the boot (trunk) as it fit with room to spare for gift items and extra coats/raincoats. It was a Dacia Sandero and it was fairly new, only 5416 k on the odometer. It was manual transmission and got fairly good gas mileage.
Weather was partly cloudy breezy and fairly warm. Rain was in the forecast for the next day, and the sky looked the part. Checked the car over and body was in great shape. Took a few photos of minor scratches...don't know why...we had Super CDW. Checked to make absolutely sure the cig lighter recept. worked as we had a dead one the last time and with some other problems, Hertz ended up changing cars for us on day 2 and didn't want to go thru that again. Installed my trusty Garmin Nuvi GPS with the British Isles Sd card and it would not load the maps! Kept getting an error message so gave up. Since we were only a few miles from our 1st over night destination, I wasn't too worried about navigation at that moment.
Within 15 minutes we were pulling into Bunratty Manor Hotel. Had previously booked Bunratty Castle Hotel on account of the swimming pool, but found out after looking at reviews, there were complaints about children NOT being allowed in the pool after 6PM. So we opted for Bunratty Manor as it had better reviews. We had prebooked all of our lodging on the internet since I am not comfortable trying to find lodging on the spot. We also like to be in walking distance of restaurants/shops/pubs for our evening outings and meals. This hotel was perfect! A triple room (1 double and 1 twin- which was to be the norm for the entire trip). Cost 89 Euros bed and full hot breakfast. Cattle grazing right next door! yet only a 2-3 block walk to the Castle and to the Creamery Bar.
Went right to the castle for a twilight photo op and then night photos, with the castle impressively all lit up. GD needed to get rid of pent up energy so we needed this walk. Out in front of the Creamery bar was a monument/historical marker and she had to climb over every square inch of it with numerous photos of Bunratty Castle in the background! We were getting worn out just watching her and jet lag was starting to take its toll on us.
We decided it was time for our evening meal. Had read great reviews about the Creamery and it was indeed good. GD had chicken tenders/nuggets and fries, a pattern that was to be repeated for her food choice every single evening except 1 (one night we talked her into ordering a burger!). DW ordered Fish and Chips, (her favorite meal in Ireland) GM like GD! They say the acorn doesn't fall too far from the tree!!!! As for myself, I like variety and to try new or unusual menu items, usually what is normal for the culture or region. I totally missed out on bacon and cabbage on the previous trip so that it would be THREE scoops of mashed taters with lean back bacon, salt cured but not smoked like here. Also included carrots, turnips, and peas. Yummy! Had my first pint of the black stuff and DW had Smithwicks and DW had a coke (we are on vacation!) price: 40.60 Euros. Walked (actually waddled) back to the hotel. Went out to the car to try to get my GPS to load the maps. No luck. Talked to the bar-tender/hotel owner/manager and he suggested visiting Maplin in Limerick tomorrow for help or to get a new sd card. We then purchased from him, a 7-up and another Guiness to take to the room for a night-cap and then hit the hay about 9PM. No problem getting to sleep on this night, and we had a great rest!
Great reading about the first 2 days Dan, looking forward to more.
Day 3. Friday Oct 3rd dawned rainy. Slept in till nearly 8AM. Jet lag was not so bad, everybody got up bright eyed and bushy tailed! Reported earlier that this hotel was 89 Euros B&B but after looking at my journal, that was the room only price. Checked out and headed to Limerick. 1st stop was at Tesco, off exit 4 before the tunnel with easy access off main highway heading towards town. Topped up my Ireland cell phone for 10 Euros and also topped up the loaner mifi for 15 Euros. By the way, a couple of Irelandyes regulars sent us the mifi to use, and if anyone else would like to make use of it, send me a private message and I will see what I can do. Purchased mini donuts, coffee and juice for in-car breakfast, along with a gal of bottled water, sliced turkey, bread ,cheese, and digestives(cookies with dark chocolate frosting!) for lunch later. Brought along our soft side cooler that we flattened in bottom of my roller bag, and we put it to good use most every day for a light lunch/snacks. Next stop was Maplin Store, kind of the Irish version of Best Buy to see about getting the GPS working. No Ireland sd cards available....they could get them on Amazon within a week. Not an option. They did have an expensive option, a new Garmin Nuvi 55 LM with UK/Ireland already loaded for 119 Euros. The other option was the same unit with lifetime updates for 139 Euros. Since the average lifespan is about 5 years, and my old GPS was already going on 4, I rationalized that I needed this one. Many may disagree, but I find that, for me, there is a great deal less stress having a GPS and maps vrs just maps when driving in Ireland every other year. I esp liked this new one because it would give a visible and audio signal when ever you were approaching a speed camera. One or two speeding tickets would probably easily pay for the GPS (rationalizing again!) New gps installed, and thru the tunnel, and heading southbound we drove thru intermittent showers, heavy at times, (a pattern that would be repeated over the next 6 days according to the weather app on my smart phone)Enjoyed the scenery of rolling hills and farm/pasture land of rural Irish countryside. Most notable town on this route was Charelville, a bustling farming community. From there turned west toward Liscarrol on narrow slow winding roads. Next stop was the donkey sanctuary, easy to find not too far up the hill, just a couple miles East of the castle ruins. GD wanted to stop and explore Liscarrol Castle, but we assured her that there was a bigger castle and possibly 2 to explore later that day. The donkey sanctuary is home to about 110 rescued donkeys at this time of year, but there are about 300 more farmed out to various donkey adopters in the area, and most will be back in the sanctuary by mid winter when there will be a shortage of grazing. I would imagine they are utilized by folks who would rather let the donkeys "cut grass" than have to do it with a power mower! Over 1,000 donkeys have been rescued since the sanctuary was established. Most animals come from folks who wanted them as a recreational animal, and then couldn't afford to keep them.....they still NEED to EAT every day! Spent about 90 minutes there. Could have adopted one and the money would be used for care and upkeep, but GD opted to spend her incidental spending money elsewhere. Next stop was at Kanturk castle. 2nd visit for us, but was a great stop for GD! She climbed all over the structure where she could safely....was holding my breath....didn't need an accident! Numerous photo ops in nearly every arch way, room, etc through out the castle. Spent about 30 minutes doing that, then another 30 minutes having lunch out of the boot(trunk). Between showers. A tail gate party but no football game! Next on to Dromtarriff Parish (St John's Catholic Church) west of Kanturk/Mallow, a rural parish near Millstreet. This is where GD's Great-Great-Great Grand Father was baptized in 1841. Spent about 45 minutes there with photos inside and out from the choir loft to the altar. Back on the road to Mallow, then south bound to Blarney. We had planned to visit Blarney Castle first thing the next morning before the tour busses congregated. Arrived in Blarney shortly before 4pm. With 2 hours df daylight left,and not much precipitation falling, decided an hour at the castle and an hour on the grounds would work out fine. And who knows, it might be a down pour in the morning. Blarney castle not too busy, just 1 tour bus. Got our passes adult 12 and child 5 for total of 29 Euros. This was the 2nd visit for DW and I, and I can't figure out for the life of me, why St. Rick thinks this is one of the ten top tourist traps of Europe. The castle itself is great, with a nice view of the village of Blarney and the surrounding Irish countryside is to be appreciated from the top. And the castle grounds are awesome. This was one of GD must see/do items, so none of that mattered anyway. She went with the idea that she would kiss the stone, but fear took over and it didn't happen. I thought if I went first, that might help, but no way. The grate over the opening looking down 50 feet was what I think spooked her. Went on down and strolled thru the grounds. The poison garden really sparked her interest. She also liked the little hollow bushes and shrubs that she was able to get under/inside. This is just one of the many things during the trip that caught her eye and she just HAD to investigate, most of which adults probably would overlook. That put us at 6:00 pm and prompted me to give notice to our B&B that we would be there shortly, since we were going to be about 15 minutes late. Had booked the White House B&B for 2 nights, the first of mostly 2 night stays. It was a nice facility, helpful friendly owner/ operators and was 170 euros total 2 nights triple. Checked in, had a cup pa and did some math homework with GD, then headed on foot downtown about 7:30 to Muskerry Arms Pub for supper. GD learned about "chicken goujons" which chicken strips or chicken nuggets are often times referred to on menus in Ireland. Just a mere 10 minute walk downtown with raincoats in hand, just in case. DW had the bacon wrapped stuffed roast chicken, and I had leg of lamb. The food here was outstanding as was touted on TA and suggested by our B&B host. Also shared a slice of our first banafi pie and yum,yum! Along with beverages, total bill was 52 Euros. The entrees were about 13 euros, kids menu ave 7-8 Euros, but along with 3 pints and soda it really adds up. But then, we are on vacation (holiday)......
Headed out to return to White House B&B with sprinkles coming down. Stoppeby an off sale store and picked up some soda and also spotted Bushmills Honey Whiskey. THAT was our favorite in the taste test room 2 years ago when we visited Bushmills Distillery in NI, so couldn't resist picking one up for a tummy warming nightcap for the next several nights! Was pricy....29 Euros! Wasn't readily available in the states so a real treat. Incidentally, it did finally appear on the shelf in a supermarket in Yuma AZ this fall.....for $19.99. Amazing that it costs almost double in the country it is produced compared to the price here.....imported and all! Lights out early as DW was developing a severe headache, and took a pain relief tablet, hopefully in time to ward off a severe episode. Thus ended our first full touring day in Ireland, and our new little traveler had handled herself and every situation extremely well, which was a good sign for the rest of the upcoming trip!
Good job! It sounds like you are molding GD into an ardent lover of all things Irish!
As per the Bushmill's -- Technically, it IS imported in the Republic, as well as in the USA. Likewise -- particularly since the advent of 'Austerity', Ireland taxes alcohol and tobacco at EXTREMELY high rates . . .
With a functioning MiFi unit, couldn't you have simply used your Smart Phone as a GPS? I do that with mine, but then, I remember that you are an Apple adoptee, and I must confess my EXTREMELY limited familiarity with THAT system . . .
Some of St Rick of Steve's Ireland Picks and Pans seem rather arbitrary -- and, frankly, rather DATED -- like insisting that Killarney is too crowded and too 'tacky', while insisting that Dingle is the ONLY location. I often wonder how often he visits (and, for how long), but mostly, I wonder just how long it has been, since he last set foot in Ireland!
For all his talk of touring Europe, 'Off The Beaten Path', what I have seen of his Ireland itineraries strikes me as remarkably staid, traditional and slightly, "If this is Tuesday, we must be in Galway".
And, while kissing an arbitrarily designated stone that rests high atop a ruined castle probably IS 'Creative' tourism PR at BEST, the grounds and scenery have GREAT merit in their own right, in MY opinion.
As you pointed out, Blarney is SO much more than just The Stone.
I'm enjoying the trip and your GD's reactions. It is so nice seeing everything through the fresh eyes of a future Ireland addict.
Don't get me started on RS, the self proclaimed expert on travel. I question whether he has even been to Ireland.
After reading his comments about Killarney in the Kerryman Newspaper, stating that in Killarney you would see a line of green Holiday Inns and outlet malls, I think that if RS was in Killarney at all, he was under the influence of something. Maybe poor Mr. RS needs his vision checked, because there is only one Holiday Inn and one small outlet centre in Killarney.
Sorry Dan, I didn't mean to interfere with your trip report, but the mention of RS and his view on Ireland gets my Irish blood boiling. Please, continue with your wonderful report and I'll calm down.
Everyone has their own opinions of Ireland but I think at times RS exaggerates certain things to get his point of view across. It is good to get multiple viewpoints and then decide for yourself. No one is infallible...even me!
Day 4, Sat Oct 4 Awoke about 7:45 after another restful night. Felt almost human again despite slight remnants of jet lag. However, not so for DW. Migraine headache during the night and as sometimes happens she was nauseous. No breakfast for her so GD and I went to the first seating. GD ordered the 3 pancakes with strawberries. She didn't care for them since they were thin and chewy. She likes the regular fluffy kind, and only ate 1/2 of one and some berries. Finally asked for toast and that was to be her breakfast for the rest of the trip! As for myself....full Irish, (minus black sausage) and it was tasty and filling, as always.
DW struggled into action after pain meds kicked in. First stop of the day was Blarney Woolen Mills store for some power shopping. GD had a list of friends, relatives, teacher etc whom she wanted to buy gifts for. When I first saw the list, I was dreading this. It turned out good as it didn't take her long to pick and choose and before an hour was up, she had 90% completed. We assured her that there would be ample opportunity to finish the few left on her list and was happy that she didn't wait till the last minute to do this task, even though we were going to have to haul and pack them around for the better part of 2 weeks.
She bought thoughtful items and didn't bust the budget. We offered to pay for them but she had wanted her own spending money, money which she took out of her savings account and put into our checking account. We then took our ATM card and had withdrawn from our checking account currency in the form of Euros which we kept on her own envelope in Papas passport wallet. Any time she wanted to buy herself a souvenir or treat, she would get Euros out of the envelope and then we would let her do the entire transaction. She picked right up on the Euro currency, making it an educational experience for her.
Next we headed to Fota wildlife Park. It was east southeast of Cork City. Our GPS led us around the north and east outskirts of Cork City and right to our destination. Admission charge was 28.20 Euros for the 3 of us and well worth it for the 3 hours we spent there. The most memorable animals were the primates, (not sure what kind) but very vocal and animated. A bulging sack below the chin and guess that was the vocal chord area where they made 2 distinctive different sounds. One more soothing if you can call it that and the other really obnoxious and could be heard all over the park, and occurred when they were excited! We watched them swinging from tree branch to ropes and all over their area. Very entertaining! The giraffe (s) were quite impressive too. Stark contrast brownish color to the lush green of the park sanctuary. Kangaroos were interesting too, but not as easy to spot till we came to their resting area, then they were really tame and GD could get within a few inches of a resting KR. Lots of birds and a huge pond with lots of variety in aqua type fowl. A great place for kids and with the snack bar/ restaurant on the far end of the park, you could easily spend all day there and not see it all. Opted to take bottled water and snacks along and sat on a park bench for a light lunch.
Next stop was Cobh. Parked on dock street and walked down to dock area for a photo op on the dock where our ancestors left Ireland in 1851. GD posed by the bronze statues of the immigrant children. Her GGG GF was her age when he left Ireland with his family. From there we crossed over on the small car ferry and followed the GPS advice to take some wee roads south and then West to Charles Fort. There we purchased Heritage cards 21 Euros for me 8 Euros for GD and knew we would be using them enough to be worth having. It had been sunny all day but now real breezy with a fall chill in the air. DW was still not feeling too perky yet, and elected to stay in the car. GD and I donned our light jackets and rain coats to cut the wind chill a bit and proceeded to explore every nook and cranny of the fort. She really liked this, and we made it a point to get out and do some vigorous type of activity like this once or twice a day when ever possible every day thereafter.
Headed back to Blarney and our 2nd night at the White House B&B. GPS took us handily zig zagging thru Cork City with all the 1-way streets and we arrived in Blarney about 6pm. Walked down toward the village and just on the edge was Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. We got there in plenty of time for 6:30 Mass. Big beautiful church, as most are in Ireland. Just across the street and down a block was the Muskerry Arms pub and the food there was good the night before and we went back. GD had her ONLY non-chicken evening meal of the entire 2weeks- a burger and fries. DW had Fish & Chips, and I had a 10 oz sirloin/chips. This was a first for me, and despite being grass fattened instead of corn or grain fattened, it was quite tasty and tender. Headed back to the B&B to help GD do homework: math, read 20 minutes, and catch up on her journal. A full day that went exactly like planned (except for the head ache gal who was feeling a whole lot better by evening) Dan
I took a month off from this project so will get going once again! Day 5 Sun Oct 5 Got up in time for the earliest seating for breakfast 8:30. DW's headache departed so she was back to normal. She had the full Irish and I had the 1/2 salmon omelette with 2 sides of bacon. GD had her usual toast/OJ. Packed up and on the road by 9:30. Made good time and arrived at the Prince August toy soldier factory by 11:00 AM. Signed up for the workshop and spent about 3 hours. A very worth while stop for an 11 year old and we older folks enjoyed it too. The work shop was 24 euros and included casting 2 items. They had 6-8 choices for the work shop, and since GD is nuts about horses, she chose the toy soldier with a sword on a horse. For me, she picked out a mommy rabbit holding a baby rabbit. We decided we would give that to 3 yr old little sister back home. DW wasn't going to do one, but the lady offered her a small angel and said as long as 2 of us were painting, she might as well too. Actually got to do the whole process from powdering the molds to casting and pouring the molten metal. It didn't take long to cool and then we wire brushed and clipped off the bits of stray excess as a result of the molding process. Next, the nice lady that was running the operation took them to prime with a rattle can. It wasn't long we were painting. Each item had a work sheet with detailed instruction on what color to put where and even the order the different colors were to be applied. The time went by quickly and with the aid of hair blow dryer, paint was all cured, items wrapped in tissue and ready to travel. DW bought a kit to make a complete Nativity Scene and we paid for it and had it shipped. She completed a set in early December and it turned out great. The rubber molds can be used up to 500 times. From there on to Gugane Berra Forest Park. After sitting for three hours and painting, was good to get out and we hiked around for a couple of hours. We came upon a unique toilet at the park! It was round with a thatch roof and won the award for Ireland's best toilet in 2012! Still quite a bit of scarring from the huge wind storm that went thru a year or so ago, but still a beautiful parK
Rain was picking up but that didn't slow us down. Stopped at the Carriganass Castle in Kealkill. Saw the sign for the Kealkill stone circle. Wasn't too far away but a wee road and not great parking. By now the wind was gusting pretty good so donned the raincoats and made a mad dash thru a cow pasture to the stone circle. Had to dodge a lot of cow poo both ways! This narrow steep road allowed a Birdseye view of the village of Keelkill, when we finally got the car turned around to head back down. Stunning views despite the rain, coming from scattered clouds and shafts of light here and there extending to the ground.
Steady rain by now as we made the short drive to Glengarriff and topped the car off with 45 euros of petrol. A really charming small village! We checked into Caseys Hotel, 170 euros for two nights. It Was a small well run hotel and if it wasn't family owned, they treated us like it was. Took a Guiness & Smithwicks and soda up to the room to nurse while we did homework. Went across the street to McCarthys Bar, part of the Glengarriff park hotel. GD had chicken goujons/chips, DW had lasagna, and I decided to take advantage of som seafood, Salmon/prawns. A little pricier than we usually pay for pub grub....but excellent food. Yummy meal! The hotel had poor wifi and poor cell phone generally in that town, but it is good to get away from the electronic devices from time to time. Day 6 oct 6 Monday Got up for the early seating for breakfast at Caseys hotel restaurant. 2 full Irish breakfast along with the usual toast/OJ for missy. Reported in at the Blue Pool ferry kiosk at 10AM and bought tickets for the trip over to the island for 10 Euros Adults 5 Euros for a child for a total of 25 Euros. On the island, GD and I used our heritage pass and DW bought hers. Spent about 90 minutes walking around the park. Beautiful tropical paradise! We all enjoyed it and well worth the price and effort to see this. Stopped at the visitor center cafe for lemon cake and Latte. Some young lady all of a sudden got seriously hungry..... Returned to the car park at 11:30 for our trip around Mizen peninsula. At the end of the road was the Mizen Head Light. Lots of history there and it was well displayed. The walk up the steps, narrow sidewalk and finally out on the brilliant white bridge was breathtaking....literally since it was breezy and brisk cold wind blowing. Tour was 15 Euros for the 3 of us and again well worth it. Drove up the north side of Mizen peninsula, and great scenery, but Beara is still my favorite of all of them. It was just 4 when we got done with Mizen, so decided to do Sheep's Head Peninsula too. Had read good reviews about it, they said it was pretty desolate, towns and roads not very big. Great scenery but I had to really concentrate on the road on the north side heading back inland. Very narrow and we often wondered what would happen if we met a car on the crest of the hill. Only saw 2 cars on that side, both going our direction. It Scared our GD, as at one point on a real treacherous stretch, she said: Papa, I think we are going to die!!! She can be a drama queen! It was pretty dark when we got back to Caseys at 6:45. Was glad we weren't on the wee roads after dark! Had a couple of pints and soda while doing some homework, then want down to the hotel bar. DW had fish and chips, GD had chicken, and I opted for starter portions of Seafood chowder and mussels. Mussels that I had years ago in the States were tough and rubbery, but these were great. GD had ice cream and our meal with 2 pints came to 44Euros. Visited with the bar tender about the cable car. Very disappointed that the cable was only running M-W-F in Oct. Bummer! Since the next day was Tuesday, we were out of luck. One of the few items that we were not able to tick the box on the entire trip!
-- Edited by murphy on Thursday 29th of January 2015 11:04:37 PM
Glad to hear your GD (and you and your wife) survived the narrow Sheep's Head roads!
Ah, Dan -- The Goat's Path!
I remember it WELL! In April of 2006, for our 35th Anniversary, we rented a one bedroom stone cottage in Kilcrohane:
http://ireland.activeboard.com/t56586002/old-report-april-2006-the-renewal-tour/ in which all the Sheep's Head Roads featured heavily!
Is it just me, or does it seem like there are signs EVERYWHERE in West Cork for the Toy Soldier Factory?
Good on you for finding that Stone Circle in Kealkill! I gave up on MY one attempt!
With the weather as it was, you did well to bypass Kilcrea Abbey: http://www.irelandtravelkit.com/majestic-kilcrea-abbey-ovens-co-cork/
Old graveyards in the rain are NO fun!
Enjoying your report.
Checked out of Casey's after breakfast. We talked GD into trying some yogurt and bacon along with her toast. DW had the full Irish and since the seafood had been so outstanding I opted for the plank smoked salmon and 2 poached on brown bread. Yummy! Headed west to the Bearra. Since Dursey cable car was off the itinerary, we decided this could be a more leisure day.
Made a right turn on the road going over Healy Pass! Outstanding pass drive that I highly recommend. 4 years ago we came over from the opposite direction so was good to see it from the south side. Brilliant sunny day and the views were spectacular. Stopped at the summit and spent about an hour, GD and Papa climbed all over the rocks above the shrine on both sides of the road. Back down the north side and....Josie's was beckoning for tea and clotted cream scones, but just couldn't do it since we had gotten up from the breakfast table 2 hours before....maybe next time! Also considered doing the north side of Bearra which I consider to be the most scenic stretch of all the peninsulas in Ireland. But didn't really want to back track, and besides there was another detour beckoning! So we turned right toward and thru Kenmare, one of our top 3 favorite small towns. But no stoping this time. Made a left on N71 (ROK) to Sneem,
Back in 2006, we were on an early morning drive on the ROK with my parents, and as we passed thru Sneem we spotted a pub called Dan Murphy's Bar. It was too early to be open for business so did a photo (my avitar) by the front door. I vowed to some day return for a visit and this was our chance. Got there shortly before 11:00 and they still weren't open! Finally the bar waitress showed up and then a little later the owner with the money. The Irish are pretty laid back with a "we will be there when we get there attitude!". DW had an Irish Coffee, GD a soda and a HALF pint for the designated driver. GD thought it was pretty cool to hang out in a pub named after Papa! Wandered down Main Street to look for scotch tape for GD journal, which was starting to lose pages. Blank stare for that request...it is called cello tape in Ireland!
Spotted a place that was offering 99's! I had read that this was a very popular treat in Ireland so I thought we owed it to science to try one. We had previously been in the home made hard ice cream business in the mid 90's and we never thought soft serve quite measured up. Discovered that the 99's were quite good. Big old vanilla soft serve cone with a chunk of chocolate flake cookie bar stuck in the side. GD was way impressed and from that time on she kept an eagle eye out for the orange Icecream signs. We had several more during the 2nd week, however some places had already shut their soft serve machines down for the season. Guess cold sideways rain and ice cream are not compatible in winter (was not in our operation either!) they say the 99's can become quite addictive and I can see why!
Found a new tin whistle for myself, a more expensive higher quality one as my old one sounded scratchy. Back to the car for the trip to Killarney. I had inquired in one of the shops about the 568 route across the middle of the peninsula to Molls gap and they assured me it was fine and it was. It sure beat backtracking down N71 to Kenmare then north to Killarney. Stopped at Molls gap for photos. On to Torc Water fall. Spent about 30 minutes hiking down to falls and back, then on to Muckross farm and gardens. Farm was only open on weekends in Oct and was disappointed as we thought the farm and animals would be a real hit with GD. Spent about an hour wandering the paths of Muckross rock garden south of the visitors center then thru the formal gardens which were beautiful but prob past the summer prime since it was Oct. Went inside the visitor center to the cafe for tea and scone, macaroon cake and chocolate cake. This along with ice cream meant that we maxed out on the sweets on this day!
Drove on into Killarney. Checked into Murphy's B&B on College St. We walked the few blocks straight away to Duros Tour office to arr. our gap of Dunloe tour for the next day. 80 Euros for the 3 of us and probably could have drove ourselves and arr. a taxi back to the car less expensive, but Duros networks with the boat driver and pony cart drivers so you never know which side will have availability as they try not to dead head back empty for either. You might have a wait if you did it on your own so this was a faster more efficient option. Decided to give the car and driver a rest for a day which I was ready for. Grabbed a couple of pints at Murphy's bar and headed up to the room to do some homework. Went back down for pub grub. DW had a burger, GD had...you guessed it....chicken!?! And I opted for Guinness and beef with vegetables. Good meal for 44 Euros including drinks.
Back upstairs for more homework. Had great wifi here so the ladies decided to catch up on their tablet games while Papa slipped back downstairs to the bar for 30 minutes of Trad Music. Guitar/vocalist, traditional Irish Harp and a squeeze box. Pretty good music but was tired so not up to staying for the entire session and decided to call it a day.
-- Edited by Itallian Chauffeur on Friday 30th of January 2015 11:15:26 AM
Happy to read that you are back reporting Dan.
We had also stopped at the toy soldier factory for a tour, but did not do the workshop, something we should have done since we were with grandkids at the time. Next time maybe.
Good to hear you had a sunny day for Healy Pass, one of my favorites.
Now, did you really think you would find "scotch" tape in Ireland? I can just picture the look you got with that request.
Day 7 We'd Oct 7
Cheked out of Casey's after breakfast. We talked GD into trying some yogurt and bacon along with her toast. DW had the full Irish and since the seafood had been so outstanding I opted for the plank smoked salmon and 2 poached on brown bread. Yummy! Headed west to the Bearra. Since Dursey cable car was off the itinerary, we decided this could be a more leisure day.
-- Edited by murphy on Saturday 31st of January 2015 12:13:00 AM
Day 8 Wd oct 8
I had parked on the Street in front of Murphy's B&B overnight. However I needed to move to the long term lot about a 5 min walk north. Parking there would be 3 Euros for 24 hours, much more economical than buying disks for curb side parking in Killarney. On the way back I spotted a dry cleaners and stopped in to see about getting our laundry done. They agreed to take our clothes to their launderette location 4-5 blocks away, so they gave me a bag to fill. Went back to the B&b to get dirty clothes from all 3 suitcases and dropped them off. They said to stop by before 5 pm to pick them up.
After a full Irish breakfast down in Murphys bar, we walked over to Duros office to meet the tour bus. Stopped at a bank on the corner to get some $'s turned into Euros then caught the bus at 10:30. We were to do the tour backwards, the boat portion 1st. We were dropped at Ross Castle to meet up with our boat captain. Departed in brilliant sunshine. However, dark skies lay off in the direction we were to travel and the had said to expect rain showers. A pleasant journey, heading to Lord Brandons cottage. Took about 90 minutes, with the bulk of the trip in rain. The Captan had us pull a giant tarp like sheet of plastic out to cover us up and protect us from the lashing cold rain. He simply used a well used umbrella tilted forward with him peeking out from time to time to do navigation chores!
Such a beautiful pristine lake, and miles of beautiful scenery going by. Could only imagine it on a brilliant sunny day. About midpoint or past, we slowed down at a narrowing of the waters. Had to navigate through some rapid churning water lbetween the upper and lower lakes. We were asked to depart the boat and walk to an area beyond the bridge. Due to all the rain, the captain claimed the water was 1-2 foot higher than usual. He proceeded to have a devil of the time trying to get the now empty boat through the rapids with the motor revving pretty high and he tugging on the rope. He struggled quite a while and I began to wonder if I should go help him. Just then, a couple of guys from the boat that had gone thru before we arrived, showed up and help him tug the boat on thru. He then motored over to where we were, and loaded us back up. The rest of the boat journey was uneventful and soon we were at the docks to be unloaded at Lord Brandon' cottage.
DW and I had Irish Coffees and GD had Hot Cocoa 12.75 Euros. It really tasted good and hit the spot. It wasn't long our Jarvie came to gather us for the pony trap ride. This ride was 60 euros for 3. Our pony was hitched to the 2-wheel cart and GD and this pony were instant best friends. His name was Micket Mouse and our driver was Gary. The 4 of us pretty cramped in the cart and off we went. The horse seemed to have an odd gait. It seemed to continually jerk up and down, the severity of which was pretty much determined by the speed. Gary altered the speed often esp slowing down going uphill. Another cart with 2 lady customers was always right behind us. The smoothest ride was at a walking or galloping gait. The roughest ride was during the trotting phase. It would definitely be uncomfortable if you had a bad back or other painful disability. The scenery was out of this world. Much of it pristine and probably looked almost exactly like it did for the past 1000 years. The only evidence of human touch was a few stone walls and structures widely scattered along the way. This segment was about 7 miles long if I recall.
Arrived at Kate Kearneys cottage about 2pm. Once again a tummy warmer, 2 more Irish coffees, hot cocoa, scone and chicken goujons for 25 euros. Duros tour Bus arrived at 3:30 to take us and several others back to Killarney. We walked down town to a big bookstore. It use to be privately owned and famous. However it has recently been sold to a big book store company. Nonetheless an impressive place. Bought GD 3 books to read and then share with her classroom.
Went over to Quinlans Seafood Bar for dinner for the adults GD was still full of chicken, ordered 2 cod meals wth chips and mushy peas and 3 drinks. 33 Euros. Went to 2euro store and found covers for Mimi and regular iPads. Found an Irish hat for a friend then stopped at Murphy's Ice Cream. 3 small cones 10 euros. Visited briefly with one of the Murphy brothere , Kieran.
headed back to Murphy's Bar and had a couple of pints and a Shirley Temple. Listened to some music. 1 flute, 1 squeeze box and 1 guitar/vocalist. A great end to an awesome day long outing which should not be missed if you are in the Killarney area. The extended amount of fresh air had taken its toll and we were really tired. As we turned in for the night, we realized we forgot to pick up our laundry at 4:50. Hoped it would be there in the morning.
Now I'm in suspense about the laundry.
Bad luck about the rain. I've wanted to do the Gap in reverse as you did, since the first time I drove it. Going South to North definitely gives you a different perspective.
It's gorgeous in either direction, though!
We had the Full Irish Breakfast downstairs in the pub dining area. I left the breakfast table before the gals to check on the laundry. It was there and neatly folded all in 1 large bag. Paid them 15 euros (it was way worth it as we have always done B&B sink laundry during prior trips-except once in self catering cottage). Re packed our packing cubes--did I say how much we loved the packing cubes? Will never go without them again! Finally managed to check out about 9:45 which is pretty late for us, but we had an easy day so no big rush.
Arrived at Ross Castle just in time for the 10:00 am tour. Used our heritage cards. Tour lasted about an hour and very informative and also one of the best castle and castle tours in Ireland. It would easily rank in the top 3!
Made the easy drive to Ballyseede Castle near Tralee. In route we stopped at a petro station and topped up the tank. Also some tasty hot food bites of some kind at their deli. Arrived at main gates of Ballyseede and many oohs and aahs as we drove down the winding grassy tree lined lane and parked in front of an impressive structure. Went up to the check in desk to see what the status of our rooms might be. They would be ready at 1:30. GD was really impressed by now and didn't think she could wait that long! This castle stay was going to be way cool!!!
The desk suggested we go to the Tralee shopping center. We had a couple of lattes and a hot chocolate. In addition, GD had a 99! Window shipped and people watched and soon it was time to head to Ballyseede. Checked into our room. Cost 189 Euros our splurge night. Was about double what we pd on average for our other B&B/hotel accommodations. But was well worth it as this castle was really decorated beautifully. It was like stepping back in time
Got our room keys and headed up three flights of stairs on the ornate grand staircase. Our room was on the SE corner third floor and it was huge. And very nice! Grabbed a couple of pints and soda from Pappy's bar on the main floor and returned to enjoy our room. By this time GD was reading the inside cover of the info booklet. Reading the story about lady Hilda who was the last of her family to lease the castle and live there. About the red rose that needed to be taken to the altar every year on a Saints feast day as part of the lease agreement. It was reported that the ghost of Miss Hilda has been spotted in the halls of the castle carrying a single red rose! GD pondered over this info for a long time!
The sun had come out bright and the weather outdoors was almost perfect. Took the camera out to parking lot and took a picture of the girls in the open window of the castle! They joined me outside and we took a long walk in the splendid back and side yards of the castle including the formal gardens. Spent about an hour outside and paid a visit to the donkeys and horses penned just beyond the parking lot in front. Magical setting out in the countryside For a castle.
A chill was settling into the air so went back inside to get ready for our evening meal. Decided to go less formal, to Pappys Bar. The bar tender had a dog who was a regular in the castle. Was a cattle dog and had herding instincts. This crazy dog, herded, rocks!!! He would beg his master every day to go to the parking lot for rocks. He would litteraly carry them around the bar, all 7 at once in his mouth! He would randomly drop them at a patrons feet and look at you with big brown eyes and dare you to scatter them with your foot and then make a mad dash all over gathering them up. And I swear he could count! One time we secretly picked up one of the scattered rocks and he searched and searched for that final rock. Finally came over and sniffed my hand! One smart and very entertaining castle dog! A real hit and instant best friend of our GD!
Got our food and along the usual chicken goujons, we opted for the spicy lamb burgers, chips, salad and beverages. All for 62 euros. And the "dog" entertainment was free! Retired to our room early to enjoy the surroundings and do some more homework. No homework break for the little Princess, it wasn't too long and lthen time for lights out
It wasn't long, GD said "Grandma" In a stressful voice. "What's wrong"? "I'm scared". "Of what"? "Ghosts!" Then, "can I come to your bed." So GMa relented and she crawled in beside her GMa and everything was instantly all better! Shortly the little princess was out and having sweet dreams about all things castles! It doesn't get much better than this in Ireland!
Really appreciate the report Dan. I will be in Ireland next month. Was curious -- what are you paying for gas there now? Has it dropped like it has here?