"Bucket List" Trip report
I will attempt to do a report on this trip, our 6th time to Ireland since 2006! This first installment will be an overview of the entire 28 day trip, and then follow up with a daily run-down. I'll try not to be too wordy due to the length of the trip, the first time we ever undertook a 4-week vacation. Most times it has been a 2 week trip with the exception of our 3 week trip one year ago to Central Europe.
Our pattern over the past 10 years was to visit Ireland roughly every-other year. Our 1st trip in 2006, resulted in taking my Parents back to the home of our ancestors, my Father's Grandfather at age 11, and Great Grandfather age 40, who left in 1851 in the aftermath of the great famine. We toured the south half of the island starting in Dublin, traveling near the coast clockwise toward Galway and back across to Dublin in a whirlwind 10-day timeframe.
We changed our tactics for subsequent trips and concentrated our efforts in smaller geographical areas trying to eliminate 1-night stays. In 2009 we concentrated on NW Ireland. In 2010 we targeted central and SW Ireland, spending a week at a self-catering cottage near Millstreet doing genealogy research. In 2012 we split a 2 week trip between Northern Ireland and Scotland, 1 week in each area. 2014 found us in Ireland with our 10 year old Grand daughter. This was HER trip and we were delighted to see Ireland through a child's eyes, since she got to choose all of the itinerary stops in a geographic area from Shannon to Cork City to Mizen Head to Clifden. Granted, we had already previously toured in that area, we visited places that a 10 year old would choose, many places that we had bypassed a few years earlier!
That brings us to the 2016 trip. This trip is a result of 2 bucket lists. I'll start with our bucket list: the first trip in 2006 was to be a "trip of a lifetime". So we felt we had to cram as much into the 10 days as possible. We subsequently realized that we had missed a lot of interesting parts of Eastern and South Eastern Ireland. As a result, we had a lot on my bucket list, including a possible 7 days in Wales, which is quite easily accessible from the SE. With further research, we decided that the dollar/euro exchange was much better (at that time) than the dollar/sterling pound ratio. Considering transportation costs(ferry) rental car cost in Wales (more than double the rate compared to in Ireland) and other higher food and lodging costs due to the costly exchange rate, we decided to skip Wales and instead, stay in Ireland for the duration.
As Christmas 2015 approached, a plan started to formulate in my mind for a fall 2016 trip. We love Oct in Ireland. Most things are still open, but the crowds are way down in number, and for the most part the weather is still quite agreeable. And it works for our business/work schedule.
Then shortly after Christmas, I got a phone call from my cousin in Colorado. His Dad (my uncle) fought cancer for 4 years, and just prior to the diagnosis, He and my Aunt were set to visit Ireland. Cancer forced them to cancel that trip. My cousin informed me that shortly before he passed away, his Dad had asked him to see that his Mom got to go to Ireland since it had been on HER "bucket list" for some time. He wanted to know if we were going to Ireland in the near future. I told him it wasn't a matter of "if" but "when"! They were thinking March. I warned them about the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising" and St Patrick's Day celebration, and Easter Sunday, which marks the start of spring school breaks in Ireland, all occurring in a 2-3 week timeframe. Since it appeared it was going to be very busy in Ireland during that time frame, I suggested Oct instead, and they agreed. They asked me if I could be their tour guide/driver. I readily agreed!
Our group numbered 6, three cousins, my Aunt, and my wife and myself. They were limited to a 9 day trip due to their work commitments. They also wanted me to plan the entire itinerary. I considered the logistics of a whirlwind 9 day trip (which including 2 travel days) with my 80 year old aunt (in very good shape/health) and our group size of 6. I came to the conclusion we needed a good base and then do day trips from there. I considered Dublin, Killarney, and Galway, but Killarney won out. It is second to none for drop-dead scenic drives, from the Beara, RofK, Dingle, and a true gem is Killarney National Park, right on the door step of Killarney itself. A compact smaller city with much to offer in the line of pubs, music, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. That choice dictated that we use SNN airport, so we all booked our tickets, rented a 9 passenger van, and the planning started.
The balance of the trip for us, 20 days, was to be spent on the East/south coasts. In about a week, we found out that another couple, long time friends, also wanted to go to Ireland. They also were willing to just tag-along. They decided to fly into DUB where we were to pick them up, after downsizing to a mid-size rental car. We sat down and picked out 5 towns to headquarter in for 2-4 days and then do day trips from there. They included: Dundalk 4 nights, Kilkenny 2, Cork City 4, Wexford 3, Wicklow 3, and Dublin 3.
We initially immediately booked all lodging through booking.com to nail something down, figuring to tweak the lodging choices in the following month or two, since booking.com has a reasonable no cost cancellation policy.
It all worked out pretty well. The only thing we would do differently in hindsight, on a 4 week trip, you should probably build in a "down day" about once a week. My go-go-go schedule got to be tiring and we kind of wore ourselves out.
More to follow!
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!
Our Ireland trip planning always starts with airline reservations. Airfare is one of the larger expenses for a European vacation and definitely for a long haul flights, especially when you start out from the West Coast of the USA. The air fare cost is generally the same, whether your trip is 2, 3, or more weeks in length. Hence the decision was to stay 4 weeks.
Since we own our own business, we are able to parlay most of our business expenditures using a credit card, into an airfare rewards program. We once again took advantage of this, and about 75% of our airfare for this trip was covered. Our rewards program consists of 1 point for every $1.00 spent. Of course we pay ALL monthly credit card bills on time AND pay "0" interest to make this work.
Due to the constraints of our rewards program, we were unable to book the entire trip in one single booking. The best we could do was: Boston to SNN, and DUB to SEA (open jaw or multi destination tickets). That meant the West Coast to Boston leg would need to be booked separately. This involves some risk....if the first leg is delayed or cancelled, the 2nd leg airline has no obligation to re-ticket. We felt that we could solve that dilemma with a good trip cancellation/interruption insurance policy, (insuremytrip.com) which we always purchase anyway, and we wanted a minimum 3 hour lay-over, in case of weather/mechanical delays on the first flight.
We have booked open-jaw flights before and found it offers a lot more flexibility and less back-tracking. We also try to book outbound AND return for mid-week, which results in lower fares (fewer rewards points). We landed a one-way flight from PDX-Boston for around $160/person on Alaska AL. That, along with the 25% (about $500) for the rewards flights and we were set for about $820 total for 2 tickets out-of-pocket. Total price for this trip at that time, would have been around $1200 each without the rewards points. The price did come down somewhat later on, but they say not to look back....especially since my rewards points were about to expire due to my bank changing to a new rewards program.
The rewards flight were booked with Aer Lingus, an airline we have used before and are generally pleased with. We prefer to not fly the narrow body (3 seat-aisle-3 seat configuration). Unfortunately we were not so lucky. Expected a 737 for the 5 hour coast to coast flight on Alaska. We ended up with a 757 over the Atlantic, and out of Boston it ends up being only about a 5 1/2 hour flight, which we felt would be tolerable. Since we were flying out of Portland and back into Seattle, parking was out of the question-(would have been expensive for 4-weeks anyway) we arranged with a close family friend to deliver us to PDX the evening before. Since we live 2 1/2 to 3 hours from a major airport, we always elect to be close-in the night before. The weather forecast for both Portland and Boston was perfect, the weather gods were on our side. The very dependable Alaska airlines departed on time with a full flight on Tues Sept 27th around 7:30AM.
My Aunt/Cousins all departed Denver on the same United AL flight, code share/ticketed by Aer Lingus, and had about a 20 minute late departure. Was happy that we all arrived within about 20 minutes time frame. (Was suppose to land 3 minutes apart!) We met them at a restaurant/pub at BOS airport. We had a mini family reunion over sandwiches and beer, caught up on family news, and boarded the Aer Lingus flight on time. I had stressed about the logistics of the 6 of us all getting to Boston and SNN at the same time. It couldn't have worked out any better. Upon boarding the plane, DW and I discovered that our "rewards seats" resulted in us being seated in the very back row, with very limited ability to recline due to the rear bulkhead. This affected my ability to get my normal 5 hours of trans-Atlantic sleep, which was to come back to affect me later on "jet lag" day. More later....
After a long taxi, our flight lifted off on time at 7:24 PM. I put my ear plugs in and my eye shades on, took two Tylenol PM tablets and settled in. About 15 minutes into the flight, I drifted off into the first of several bouts of fitful sleep in a pretty much upright position. I Do recall smelling food and wine at some point, but no one bothered me about partaking of food or beverage. DW never has any luck sleeping and that was true that evening. I may have gotten somewhere between 2-3 hours sleep, but hard to tell.
Woke up for good about 4AM Ireland time, and soon after was served juice and breakfast bar, followed by choice of coffee/tea. The captain soon came on with an announcement that due to a strong tail wind, we would be landing about 5:15, well ahead of 6:15 AM as scheduled.
Rolled out of our landing at 5:17AM in Shannon, and of course it was pitch black outside, so we missed seeing the usual green squares covering the landscape during our descent. Was good to get up and stretch the stiffness out of knees and joints. I'm convinced that "flying" is the "penance" you have to pay for the privilege of visiting this beautiful country!
No trouble getting thru immigration and customs. Out to the arrivals haul and NO customers at the Hertz rental counter! We had booked a 9 passenger van with Easy Tour Ireland. We could have gotten by with a 6 passenger, but had hoped our group might grow to 7 or 8, but that didn't happen. We had used Easy Tour a couple of times previous, and they are great to work with. We elected to take full insurance options, (CDW, and SCDW), and added on tires/glass coverage at the counter for a reasonable extra charge, and this brought our deductible to "0" The beauty of Easy Tour, you always know exactly what it is going to cost, similar to Dooley, but Easy Tour has always under-bid Dooley when I was getting prices on rental cars.
None of the 4 ladies in our group were interested in driving, but cousin KC indicated he would like to try it! We opted to pay the 10 Euros/day extra, to add a second driver. We had our own Garmin Nuvi Irish GPS along, but Hertz had a coupon for a free GPS. Decided to give it a try, and the GPS rental charge appeared on our invoice, but they said it would be removed when we turned the GPS back to them in good condition. We took their Tom Tom GPS and headed out to the rental lot, keys in hand. Then we were about to have an unexpected Deja vu moment!
My deceased Uncle loved to tinker with old Renault cars, and he owned various models over the years. Often they didn't run very well and they needed a lot of TLC from him from time to time. He seemed to be working on them often. He was razzed about his Renaults, by friends and relatives, but that didn't phase him, he sure loved his Renaults. Our rental van contract stated: VW Caravel Van or similar! manual transmission. We went out to the lot and lo and behold....a Renault Van! My Aunt told her kids: Your Dad is looking down on us, and must have had something to do with all of this! Poignant moment for all of us. And it was a new, beautiful, comfortable vehicle and served us well for 8 days. The final bill on the credit card statement was $1,008.00 for the 8 days. Divided 6 ways, quite reasonable we felt.
I had pre-installed all our GPS waypoints and stops for the first day so we fired up the trusty Garmin. We figured out headlights, mirrors, and all necessary interior vehicle functions and we were off and running by 6:30 AM. The faithful sat-nav took us successfully through the first dark round-about near SNN airport, as it was to do, hundreds of times over in the next 4 weeks. First stop just a short 10 minutes down the road at the Spar Express near Bunratty for some much needed coffee for the driver and passengers. We stocked up with a gallon of bottled water, fruit, snacks etc for road rations. Had the first opportunity of many, to visit with some locals, hi-way construction workers, on their way to work. The people in Ireland are the friendliest folks in the whole world, as was demonstrated time and again during this trip as in all the previous times we were there.
Back on the road and next stop: Coonagh Cross Tesco. My Irish cell phone with a Tesco SIM had not been used since 2014, and just as I expected, the SIM card had expired. One slight problem, the Tech counter wasn't officially open yet at that time of the day, but one of the assistant shift managers and I had a short discussion regarding where else we might go later in the day to get lined up with service. He graciously decided to open up the Tech department for us, lined me up with a 5 Euro SIM card, then offered me the best bargain of the day, a 15 Euro top-up that allowed unlimited calls for 1 month. This was our lucky day. While I was getting this all sorted and making a test call to make sure it worked, the rest were scouring the Tesco store and were duly impressed with what they saw. I told them jokingly that it was sort of an Irish version of Wally World, only to be told later on in the trip by a Tesco employee that Walmart was the actual parent company. Lol!
Back on the road and looping around the North side of Limerick: destination St. Mary's Cathedral and King Johns Castle. I didn't have the exact GPS coordinates loaded quite right and after 2 circles of the castle on narrow one way streets, we decided to opt for a pay and display parking lot centrally located between the two, and set out on foot. The castle wasn't due to open quite yet so opted to visit the Cathedral first. Cost was 4 Euros/person and well worth it. Beautiful cathedral in Limerick built in 1168 it is the oldest building in the city still in daily use, Church of Ireland, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is famous due to having the only complete set of misericords left in Ireland. They are also known as a mercy seat, since it is a small wooden structure formed on the underside of the folding seat in a church which, when the seat is folded up, is intended to act as a small shelf to support a person in a partially standing position during long periods of prayer! There were numerous ornate carvings in the wooden seats.
Next; on to King Johns Castle. A huge structure, as Norman castles go, it is a 13th century building nestled on Kings Island adjacent to the mighty Shannon River. It was built in 1200 on the orders of King John. A stunning setting and well preserved, probably the best example of a Norman Castle in all of Europe. It's historical significance was involved heavily in the siege of Limerick. It underwent a 5.7 million Euro renovation between 2011-2013. Tremendous views from the top of the towers, and a must see attraction if you get anywhere near Limerick. Cost 8.50 per person, and well worth every cent!
Next: coffee (for the driver) and a "99" (a soft serve vanilla ice cream cone with a chocolate flake stuck in the side) and cheese and onion tatos, famous Irish potato chips (as per the recommendation of the server) to use to dip in the soft serve! Yes delicious, but I was skeptical until I tried it! All subsequent 99 purchases included cheese and onion tatos! And then we were ready to head out of Limerick town.
Our destination was Killarney, and our trusty GPS led us faithfully out of Limerick, some heavy traffic here and there, but just happy it wasn't rush hour. Next stop: the picture perfect village of Adare. First time in Adare for us! And we were not disappointed. It Was the logical lunch stop, and through research on the Internet, we determined that we wouldn't go wrong at "Sean Collins Bar". And once again, it was a good decision. Had read that the beef stew was outstanding... And it was. DW had her first of many orders of fish and chips, also delicious. All 6 were well pleased with their first meal in Ireland and of course with pints of Guinness (only a glass for the driver) for some opted for Irish Coffee, a good way to fight jet-lag.
After lunch we walked down thru the beautiful city park on a splendid fall day, and then on to see the thatch roof cottages that line Main Street. Sorry to see that two had burned, and no signs of restoration, but talk around town is that they will be restored some day. Back in the van and on toward Killarney with a couple of hours still ahead of us (including coffee stops) for the driver and co-pilot KC. Some of the gals were seen cat-napping from time to time in between marveling at the beautiful green countryside around us. The next two hours proved to be the toughest driving I had to do in 6 trips to Ireland. Lack of sleep on the plane was taking its toll on me. I find that besides coffee, salted sun flower seeds in the shell are generally a fail-safe way to stay awake while driving. Two additional stops, Abbeyfeale and Newcastle West yielded coffee, but no sunflowers seeds. Finally settled for some pistachios in the shell to nibble on for the last 30 minute drive to Killarney.
Our lodging for the next 6 nights was the Scott Apartments. We had booked 2 of them, both set up to comfortably sleep 5. We had also priced 3 double B&B rooms, but the apartment option was more economical and had loads more room. Here again, we had extra room available in case our group size grew. As it turned out, we had lots of elbow room in these spacious 2 bedroom 2 bath apartments, with 3 people in each apartment. They were located directly across the courtyard from the Scott Hotel. We apartment dwellers were able to utilize all the amenities of the Scott Hotel. We were offered a hot full Irish breakfast for 10 Euros/person. We took advantage of that option a couple of mornings. Along with a full service restaurant, and pub, they furnished a large bag for dirty laundry and charged only 15 Euros/bag for a wash-dry-fold.
The pub crowd often spilled out onto the courtyard, where there was a table area and canopy cover and a jumbo screen TV playing mostly live sports all day and into the evening. They also had a live rock band in the evening in the courtyard Mon-Sat, catering to the young pop music crowd. We could sometimes hear the music from our apartment, and that was the only minor complaint we had about this whole lodging experience. If you are a light sleeper, you might want to bring your ear plugs. It was usually quiet by 11:00 pm The location was 2nd to none, with easy walking distance to shopping, pubs, and restaurants.
We settled into our apartment to unpack, freshen up with much needed showers and agreed to meet at 7 for our evening pub grub meal. One of our favorites in Killarney is Murphy's pub, right around the corner from the courtyard to the right on college street. However, Murphy's was living up to its billing as a great place to eat, and they anticipated a 40 minute wait for a table. We were tired and didn't want to wait that long so we went across the street to Cronnins Pub. It was an acceptable choice, and we especially enjoyed the shepherds pie and of course more pints of Ireland's best beer!
Turned in about 9PM after a very long day, for a much needed nights rest.
I'm enjoying the report. Glad you made it safely to Killarney. It is about the farthest I suggest driving on arrival day (2 hours). I spent a week self-catering in Adare a few years back and loved it. I stayed in the yellow thatched cottage directly across the street from the Dunraven Arms Hotel and beside the gate to Adare Manor. Had many good meals at Sean Collins.
I've never tried Taytos and a 99 at the same time. Must try it next trip. Sounds interesting. Tell us more about your apartment. Was it clean and well stocked? Nothing worse than checking into a rental and having to clean it.
"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.
Accomodation is one of the "big three" for me, in planning a trip like this (the other two being airline tickets and rental car.) The most important for us is in choosing lodging is cleanliness, followed by location. We had no complaints from anyone in our group of 6 concerning cleanliness. I tend to spend a lot of time on the "due diligence" in selecting lodgings. I read as many reviews from the past year, sometimes two years as I can. I use Trip Advisor and Booking.com reviews, as well as sometimes reviews on the lodgings own web sight or on google.
As far as well stocked? There were some complaints by a few reviewers about sparse cooking equipment. For our needs, it was very adequate. Spending only one week there, we were not in the mood to spend much time grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, or washing dishes! Not my idea of a vacation! We had a toaster, coffee/tea maker, plates, bowls, cups, and silver ware that was adequate for our needs.
I would not hesitate to stay there again, provided your group size was 3 or more.
The day dawned crisp and clear, with sunny skies, the brilliant Autumn sun shown down on us as we crossed the courtyard from the apartments to Scott Hotel Restaurant. We met there for a full Irish Breakfast, buffet style, and they had a special rate for us at 10 Euros/person. It was quite good. Breakfast conversation included our accommodations. All were pleased with the size, cleanliness, and comfort of our apartments. Our alternate lodging choice had been a B&B located very close by, with only twin rooms available (needed 3) cost 42 Euros/person/night (optional full Irish breakfast for 8 additional Euros/person). Our apartment cost ended up being 39.50 Euros/person/night, a good value for our money.
The apartment was much more spacious and comfortable than a B&B or Hotel room would have been. Each apartment had one master bedroom with a double bed/bathroom, and a 2nd bedroom triple (1 double and 1 twin) with another bathroom across the hall. The great room (kitchen, dining, and living room) was huge! Comfy chairs and couches to stretch out on, relax, or catch up on our emails on our iPads/iPhones, taking advantage of the free wifi. We had adequate kitchen equipment for light housekeeping, but maybe a little sparse if you would want to cook full meals. We only had breakfast there 3-4 times: cereal, breakfast bars, toast, fruit and coffee/tea. All of our other meals were eaten in pubs/restaurants.
My Aunt and Cousins opted for a Horse and Carriage ride from the Apartments to Ross Castle. Cost was 10 Euros/person. Pickup point was adjacent to the courtyard just to the south side, where the tour busses set down to unload. The hotel desk clerk graciously sorted it all out for us, reserving the carriage/driver. The driver was a congenial, knowledgeable, energetic young chap, and he talked non stop, filling them in on a lot of history and information about Killarney on the 45-60 minute ride. A quicker trip this time of day, since the other traffic was not too heavy.
We were able to park the van in the basement parking garage below the hotel. We had collected a paper ticket on the way in, and we simply turned it in at the hotel registration counter to be validated each time we were ready to drive out. We liked the free parking, especially since you never had to load/unload out in the weather. It was a little tight at times for a big van, with narrow spots and support posts here and there. (A stay at the nearby B&B would have cost 10 Euro/day parking rate at a public outdoor lot, 2 blocks north). DW and I took the van to Ross Castle to meet the Carriage passengers. They were all smiles, they loved the ride.
We went into the castle to check out tour times. It would be a 90 minute wait for the next available 6 person slot, so we decided to make a reservation for 3:30pm. This allowed us ample time to visit Muckross House/Gardens. We headed over there, and purchased our Heritage Passes (20 Euros/person Sr, 22 Euros/person regular adult price). We figured that with only 4-5 uses, the pass would more than pay for itself. Auntie and cousins booked a noon tour of the inside of this beautiful Victorian Mansion, using their new passes, after a quick cup of coffee-to-go in the tea room a short distance away. DW and I had toured the mansion in 06, so we decided to sit out on the park bench, drink coffee, and enjoy the sunshine near the formal garden. When the tour was finished we all joined up for a stroll thru the less formal garden/park/wooded trails area nearby.
Soon it was time to head back to Ross Castle for our 3:30 appointment. Ross is a15th century tower house and former home of the o'Donoghue clan. It is a very good guided tour. DW and I had been on this tour before too, but hey, we had our heritage pass in hand so why not again. It is a restored castle and the restoration (by an American, with help from Irish Govt to get it completed) is very well done. We enjoyed the tour immensely....again! 2 castles in 2 days and the cousins were impressed! Ross Castle, situated on Killarney Lakes and National Park, is located in a stunning setting. It was the last Irish castle/stronghold to fall to Cromwellian forces, when the UK swept over the countrside, conquering Ireland. Everyone felt that it would never fall into enemy hands, but it did only because it was attacked from the Lake side of the castle, with artillery brought in by boat. Eventually it became a military barracks, with an addition built onto the south side. The scenic lake view from the top floor was awesome. Boat trip tours were departing from the banks on the west side of the castle, heading across the three interconnected lakes to Lord Brandon's cottage.
And now, with the tour finished, the timing was great for us to drive to Ladies View, and then drive the Black Valley, west to east from near Lord Brandon's Cottage to Kate Kearney's cottage, since the Jarvies and their pony carts would be done for the day. The road is very narrow and steep, and it has been said that it can be difficult to negotiate driving this stretch earlier in the day, when all the carts are present, and the Jarvies, are none to happy to share the road with autos. They have been known to verbalize their concerns quite vehemently! Hence late afternoon or early evening was a good time for this outing, although we (they-the cousins) spent a little too much time at Ladies View-gift shop-snack bar. Being a tour guide/driver has its challenges! I found it to be kind of like "herding cats"! No offense intended, I relished the challenge, and enjoyed every minute of it! It would have been better to be there before the shadows started creeping in due to the setting sun. Very stunning scenery in brilliant sunlight, but was awesome in the evening too.
The Black Valley route by van is every bit as scenic and enjoyable as it was by pony cart two years earlier with our Grand Daughter. Now, however, we could stop and gawk....which we did numerous times every time we came to a wide spot in the road. So much awesome unspoiled scenery in Killarney National Park....words can't begin to describe and pictures just don't do it justice. And to think we bypassed this gem 2 times in previous trips, just because one certain blue Europe touring book trashed Killarney and branded it as too touristy! NOT!
We got back to our apartment about 6:00 PM, and agreed to once again try to meet for supper (Midwest terminology!) at our favorite pub right around the corner: "Murphy's". KC and I headed over there to check it out. Tonight was much different than last night; fewer guests, and tables would be available. We made a reservation for 7:30. In the meantime some wanted to rest and relax a bit with an adult beverage, and some wanted to go shopping. Eventually, we settled into this homey welcoming pub, and sure enough, the pints and food did hit the spot. The fresh air and the day's outing had built a great hunger...and thirst! We lingered for a while after eating and listened to the traditional music that is featured most nights in Murphy's. One cousin, quite an accomplished flautist herself, was really was blown away by the flute music she heard there. We reflected on the day, and decided that it couldn't get much better than this!
Since some of us were still somewhat feeling the effects of jet lag, we decided to head back to the apartment about 11:30pm, but 2 cousins decided to seek out a place with a younger crowd with appropriate music! I heard later that they ended up at The Grand. A good time was being had by all, so far, in Killarney Town.
It was Friday, the 30th of Sept, and it still felt like summer! The weather forecast was good, and that would make for a fine day to drive the Ring of Kerry. We all opted for a light breakfast in the apartment, and we were out the door on on the road by 8:30AM. Wanted an early start since we had hoped to get back to Killarney in time for "Celtic Steps the Show". We had not booked tickets, we didn't know how much time we would spend on the Ring, and decided to play-it-by-ear regarding the evening show.
In 2006, we drove the ring clockwise. This time, we reversed direction and headed North out of Killarney. First stop was Killorglin for a coffee. Had read there was a good coffee/pastry shop in town but didn't have the name of the business. It was a small village, so took a chance on finding it. No parking available on the Main Street through town. However a blue sign indicating a car park with a left turn, and it was only a short distance down the hill next to the river. Had noticed a coffee shop right after the left turn, so walked back up the hill to investigate. Sure enough, a huge selection in the pastry shop and they looked yummy. No sit-down area so we bought our takeaway beverages and an assortment of pastries and headed back to the car park, to eat/drink on the go.
Next stop was Rossbeigh Beach near Glenbeigh. Ireland has numerous blue flag beaches, designated thus due to strict cleanliness and environmental standards. This choice was a good stop for our land locked relatives from Colorado (DW and I live in a beach community in Washington State, and the beach is a good tourist draw). They enjoyed a morning stroll, brilliant sunshine, despite a brisk cool breeze.
Back on the road and soon reached Cahersiveen. This community in the Skellig region, on the north side of the RoK near Valencia Island, is most noted for its native son, Daniel O'Connel. Our interest was in visiting the Catholic Church, the only Church in Ireland named after a lay person. He was no ordinary lay person; he was also known as The Liberator or The Emancipator. He campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament, which had been denied for over 100 years. He also campaigned for the repeal of the Act of Union which combined Great Britain and Ireland. Being a Barrister (lawyer) he was successful in his practice but did not end up financially well off. He did end up inheriting Derrynane, a place we visited later in the day. He died on his way to a pilgrimage in Rome, and his heart is buried there and his body rests at Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin.
There is also a heritage center in town in the old Royal Irish Constabulary barracks with much more information, but we didn't take the two hours time frame we would have needed to see all of that, so we moved on to Reenard Point. We drove onto the car ferry for the 7 Euro passage to Valencia Island. The island proved to be quite a scenic drive. We crossed over the bridge to Portmagee, our noon destination: The Moorings for lunch. It is famous for its seafood chowder and it did not disappoint!
We somehow missed the turn off for the Skellig Ring and of course the famous chocolate factory, and by the time we discovered my error, it would mean many miles of back tracking. I had failed to put it in my GPS as a waypoint, and relying only on a paper map resulted in this error.
Next stop was Derrynane House and Gardens, using our Heritage pass once again. It was the home of Daniel O'Connell. The house displays many relics of O'Connell life and career. It was a beautiful setting on 300 acres on the south coast line.
We then drove on to Sneem. This cute little village lies on the estuary of the Sneem River and N70 runs through it. When you google "Sneem" a picture pops up of a "hot pink" colored building in the center of town. It is known as Dan Murphy's Bar. It has since been painted a red/burgundy color. I have been there before, and since it bears my name sake, I always try and hit them up for a complimentary pint! It doesn't work. They said there are thousands of Dan Murphy's out there, that try the same stunt! But it was a necessary stop for me as well as my relatives since my Aunt's maiden name is "Murphy". They do pour a good pint (half pint for the driver) and always have good craic there. There is a large rock outside the front door, and a large plaque with the lyrics of the Irish song: "The Rock Beside Dan Murphy's Door". A group photo by the door, and we were ready to depart for Killarney.
Since it appeared we would get back in time for "Celtic Steps The Show", I placed a phone call to the ticket office to check availability. They did have tickets available so reserved 6 to pick up at will-call window. The show was to be held at the theatre at the Killarney Equestrian Center. We arrived in town with only 30 minutes to spare, and hungry, but not enough time to eat dinner, so we opted to stop at a Spar nearby for some pre-made hot deli items to munch on before the show.
The center is easy to find on the west outskirts of Killarney. 8-10 coaches, most of them the larger variety had parked nearby and the theatre was nearly full. Our seats were 3/4 of the way back, but the tier seating made it easy to see the stage and the sound system was awesome. I don't think there was a bad seat in the house. The cost of the tickets was 27.50 per person, and everyone agreed it was well worth it. The show started at 8:30 PM and door opened 45 minutes before. It was open seating, first-come basis. The step dancing was terrific, one of the dancers had been with "Riverdance". We were really impressed with the skill of the 2 gentlemen who played the Celtic drum known as the Bodhran. They performed a duet that reminded me of "dueling banjos"! They tried to outdo each other and came right up the center isle among the audience for most of the song. The audience really responded enthusiastically to the show. Highly recommended if you happen to be in Killarney during their season. Sept 30 was the last date listed on their websight, so we assumed it was the end of their season.
It was late by the time we returned to the basement car park, and all of the easy spots were taken. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to get parked. We sure appreciated having a roomy vehicle with a smooth ride, and felt it was worth it despite the few times we had a hassle trying to park, or negotiate narrow streets/roads.
Dingle tomorrow! More to follow.
Since you enjoyed the show so much, it was probably fortunate that you 'missed' the Skellig Ring!
Enjoying the report. We did much of the same route during our November Killarney visit -- Looking foreword to more.
Bucket list Ireland trip Day 5
Our group met at the Hotel restaurant for the breakfast buffet at 8:30 and then depart for a day trip to the Dingle peninsula. We were on the road by 9:30.
Our string of good weather days was to end today. After reviewing the forecast on my trusty iPhone, I had given out a friendly reminder to bring raincoats along, since showers were forecast for mid-day. We had saved Dingle for Saturday, because we had found out from the Killarney tourist information office that there was a food festival in Dingle town that day. The festival was scheduled from 1-6 PM. Our plan was to do some touring on the peninsula first and then take in the last 2 hours of the food festival, which would then suffice for our evening meal.
Our first stop was Inch beach. It is located about 30 minute drive from Killarney, and only 37 miles (60k) from Tralee. Inch is famous for its expansive views, crystal clear water, where you can swim with a 5mm wet suit and of course surf. Surfing instruction appears to be available in the warmer months according to the signage. This day we were content to stroll along and beach comb. We spent about 45 minutes there.
Our next planned stop was Connor Pass, if the weather was good enough to take advantage of the reported gorgeous views from the top. The last time we were here in 06, clouds covered the high terrain. About 5 minutes before the Conor pass turn off, we ran into our first rain shower. Since it appeared there were numerous small scattered showers coming on shore from the Atlantic, we decided to chance it, and turned off on the F560. I was concerned about doing this segment of the drive with our large van, but we had no difficulties. It was amazing to see the scenery unfold below us as we climbed up the 1,496' elevation at the small car park at the top. The view from the north side of the parking lot appeared to stretch all the way to the cliff walls west of Ennis. We were then interrupted by a brief rain shower so took shelter in the van. It only lasted a few minutes. From the south side of the parking lot the views included the south dingle peninsula coast line, as well as the north side of the Ring of Kerry which we had traversed the previous day. All in all, well worth the time it took for this detour.
We drove into Dingle town and spotted a shopping area. We needed a pit stop by this time. We especially needed coffee, and some light snacks for lunch, since we were saving our appetite for the food festival, Also Fisherman Friend cough drops, since yours truly was catching a cold. I had slight sniffles, but my throat and upper respiratory was taking the brunt of it. We do find this brand of plain cough drops in the US, but in Ireland they sell several favors so we stocked up.
As we headed west through town, we spotted the vendors setting up for the festival and it appeared it was going to get more and more congested as the day went along. First stop was at a "Ferry Fort". It wasn't on my agenda, but the cousins spotted the sign and wanted to check it out. They reported they were underwhelmed when they returned to the van. But, hey....this was their trip! They had a sheep petting opportunity at the same location, and I could see where families with young children may like to stop here.
Entered the Slea Head drive, which meandered around the coastline SW, West, and looped back around to the north and east. You could spend a whole day on this drive if you wanted to take in all the prehistoric and medieval remains, including stone beehive huts, churches, stone forts, and ogham stones.
Next stop was the Blasket Center, utilizing our Heritage passes. This was quite an educational experience with numerous pictures and written explanations of the life and times on the Blasket Islands, which are visible off shore from the visitors center. The entire population of these rugged little islands spoke Irish. The islands inhabitants were forcefully evacuated by the Government in 1957. Many descendants currently reside in Springfield Massachusetts, and some former residents now live on the Dingle Peninsula.
The islanders were extensively studied by anthropologists and linguists in late 1800 - early 1900's. Due to this, a number of books were written about and by the islanders. I personally have read: "Twenty Years A-Growing" and I was fascinated by what unfolded in this book and how they scraped a living off the the land or from the sea. Everyone felt it was a worthwhile stop.
Another Heritage Pass stop on our agenda was Gallarus Oratory. This stone chapel with its unusual construction of cut rocks, stacked tightly together is quite unique. A very small amount of mortar was used on the inside only. The shape is that of an upturned boat. The chapel uses corbel vaulting, with the stones laid at a slight angle so that rain water runs off. It appears to be a dry structure inside, with the 11 roof cap stones cut and then perfectly fit snugly together. Historians are uncertain of the age of this structure, a myth still suggests it was built sometime between the 6th and 9th century's, other historians claim it was built in the 1200's. It appears much the same today as it appeared when it was first discovered in 1756. The peak roof line appears to sag down slightly. Another worthwhile stop.
There is much more to see on the Slea Head loop but we were getting hungry and anxious to get to the food festival.
The parking lot at the marina on the west side of town was the best parking option, and we nested in with the smaller coaches and touring vans. The down town area was bustling with throngs of people. The rain showers had subsided and it was a perfect afternoon for the event. Tokens (paper tickets) were being sold 20 for 22 Euros. Most Venders featured 2 items and the cost was 2-3 tokens/item. There were 70 some vendors on the program, with restaurant name, items offered, tokens required, complete with a locator map.
I was interested in chowder, having gotten to be quite fond of clam chowder on the Pacific Coast of the USA. In Ireland, however, it is always "Seafood Chowder" and I wanted to try several. Unfortunately, due to our late afternoon arrival, all of the vendors listing chowder, were sold out. Next priority for me, was any other type of seafood. Had a good monkfish pie and seafood bisque. The lamb sliders were quite good too. Of course tried some local brewed beer! Topped it off with none other than local Murphy's homemade ice cream. Yum!
DW and I had owned and operated a homemade ice cream/confection shop (also called "Murphy's"!) in a west coast tourist town. We sold this business just prior to our first trip to Ireland in 2006. We subsequently had met and visited with both Murphy brothers from Dingle in a couple of previous trips, so we were glad to be able to touch base with one of them once again on this day, and hear about their exciting expansion into other cities in Ireland including Killarney, Dublin, and Cliffs of Moher. A great way to end our stroll down through Dingle Town enjoying the food festival.
BTW, The 2017 festival is scheduled for Sept 29-Oct 1, a 3 day event with tastings scheduled Fri and Sat evenings in participating restaurants as well as throughout the rest of the weekend. Street entertainment/music is also mentioned on the festival web sight! If you plan to be in the area, I would highly recommend being there!
The evening drive to Killarney saw the return of clouds, drizzle and even some fog. We were glad to be done driving and to park the van for the evening around 7:15PM. Just in time to relax for a while with an adult beverage, in the apartment living room, and settle down with my iPhone and stream in on wifi, live radio coverages of a football game being played by my favorite college team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Somehow managed to stay awake to celebrate the victory, around midnight Ireland time. No pub crawls on this night!
More to follow....
Bummer about the Dingle chowder. I guess it was extra good that day!
Today was "Heritage" day for the Murphy family.. Our family is among, what is reported to be, the 70 million Americans who claim Irish Heritage. My GG Grandfather left Ireland in 1851 after the great famine, with his wife and 4 children. My youngest Aunt had traced down our roots with assistance of Later Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. My Great Grandfather's baptismal records were found at rural Dromtarriff Parish in County Cork, near Millstreet.
During our 3rd trip to Ireland, we spent a week self-catering near Millstreet and was able to arrange to see the actual baptismal records. It was a one-line entry in a large frail book, yellowed pages and only listed the date, the newborn's baptismal name, parents name, and sponsors. It was really exciting for us to see this document in person. In recent times, most of these documents can be viewed on genealogy web sights on computer. That option wasn't available when we were there, and we felt lucky to have had this opportunity.
Further research had revealed on the Griffith Valuation (1850's census of all of Ireland) some records that GG GF had leased 2 parcels of land from a British landlord for the 2 years just prior to their emigration. The Griffith Valuation maps showed the size and shape of the parcels. One of our goals was to find this land.
During that trip, the ancestry department in the Cork City Library came through for us, despite their skepticism, due to "Murphy" being one of the most common last names in Ireland! They were able to provid a satellite map and pin-point the location due to the rather unique shape of one of the two parcels. They informed us that many parcels of land stayed the exact same shape and size over the centuries due to rock wall borders/fences. We were ecstatic! The next challenge was to find these parcels, using the satellite map.
The sat map showed that the nearest town was Banteer, not too far away from Dromtarriff, so off to Banteer we headed. We enlisted the help of a kind young couple on the main square of Banteer. They were certain we could find the land since the west border of one parcel was the Blackwater River. They gave us explicit driving directions to try to locate it and we did.
According to the Griffith Valuation it had been tillable farm ground with a home, office, and outbuildings. What we found was a grassy, bare, rectangular piece of ground, with rock fences, and 2 metal access gates. It appeared to be used only as grazing land. The 2nd parcel also matched the shape and size, and was located kitty-corner across the road, again primarily grazing land. We walked down to the shores of the Blackwater, and looked backed to see huge electricity generating Windmills on the ridge line beyond and above the property. We couldn't help but wonder what this area looked like 160 years prior, and contemplated all of the changes that had taken place in Ireland since then.
And now, 5 years later, My Aunt and Cousins wanted to visit this whole area, and this was our plan on Day 6. We packed a picnic lunch and departed Killarney at 8:00 AM for the 40 minute drive to Dromtarriff Church (now known as St. John's) to take part in the celebration of the 9:00 AM Mass.
This Sunday was the "Harvest Mass" celebration and the church was beautifully decorated. After Mass we were pleasantly surprised to meet up with Evelyn , the church secretary, who had shown us the baptismal records 5 years earlier. We renewed our acquaintance and had a nice visit while the the cousins explored the church and immediate surroundings. In our conversation, we learned new information regarding the remnants of a stone structure adjacent to the current church. It turns out this was an old out-building and not the originally Dromtarriff Church. She indicated the original church ruins were actually located in the old Dromtarriff Cemetary. (The new cemetery is located near the current church.)
This current limestone block church was built in 1833, after a very sad history for this parish, along with other Catholic Churches in Ireland during this time period. The original church, which may date back to the 1300's, was set on fire on July 27, 1651 after the fierce Battle of Knockbrack, near Banteer. It was one of the last fierce battles of the Confederation of Kilkenny, as forces were preparing to go to the aid of Limerick which was still under siege. Cromwellian forces, by this time, had captured all other Irish fortified towns in the Irish civil war. Cromwellian forces had observed Irish resistance soldiers taking refuge in Dromtarriff Church, along with civilians already hiding within. It is reported that 400 people perished when the English forces under Lord Brohill's army, led by one of the officers known as "Butcher Maxwell" torched the thatch roof church.
We headed out to visit the old Cemetery, located a few miles South East. A prominent view of the remnants of the oblong old church are visible just inside. There is a small white plaque placed in front of 3 approx 10' diameter circles of small white rocks marking the 3 mass graves, located adjacent to the East rock wall remnants of the burned out church. The stone circles and plaque commemorate the victims of this atrocity.
The old cemetery is walled and has many headstones with unreadable names/dates. We did secure a roster 5 years ago, listing the names of all the folks buried there, and while there are several Murphy's on the list, none appeared to be our relatives. The new cemetery, located near the current church, contains head stones that are dated 1995 and later. We did notice there are some recent graves in the old cemetery as well.
The mid day weather was gorgeous for this type of an outing so we decided to also pay a visit to the old farmstead near Banteer. With the trusty GPS set for Banteer and the lat./long. coordinates entered for the 2 parcels of land, we departed. We needed a pit stop first and checked in at the Banteer pub for Irish coffee/pints. In the process, we all were given a complimentary "Murphy" labeled pint glass to take home! The friendly bar tender suggested having our picnic lunch at the beautiful local park, just west of town, near the train station.
After eating we headed out into the country side west and south of Banteer. Upon arrival we found that the field gate entry-ways were extremely muddy so we opted to just look over the fence at the former Murphy farmstead.
By this time it was crowding 3:00 PM. Our GPS indicated that we were only about an hour North of Blarney Castle, a place DW and I had visited a couple of times already, but the cousins were really interested in visiting and kissing the rock. I suggested that after 4 PM, is a great time to visit the castle, since most of the tour busses would have already left. We headed out, arriving shortly after 4 allowing about a 2 hour visit. DW and I poked around in Blarney Village while they were at the castle, and managed to find some tasty home made style fudge AND another "99"! The castle and the grounds were very impressive according to my Aunt and cousins, and they were delighted!
It turned out to be, everyone agreed, a worth while detour with a decent scenic road west and view of a beautiful sunset on the way back to Killarney. We arrived shortly after sun down, around 7 PM. Cousin KC offered to treat the group to dinner at "Mac's Restaurant" in downtown Killarney. We had read rave reviews about this famous eatery and they were spot on. The fish and chips and mussels were very tasty. I had not been very much of a fan of mussels....my experience in the States was that mussels were always very rubbery And bland. We found the Irish version to be very tender and cooked in a tasty garlic butter sauce, and we were to choose them as a group appetizer several more times in the next three weeks!
With one more full day scheduled in Killarney, I asked how everybody wanted to spend this day. I offered a day trip, driving the Ring of Beara, OR a relaxing day near/in Killarney to shop etc. They opted for a relaxed down day and I was not disappointed since DW and I had driven the RofB before. I was ready for a driving break, although KC had given me some breaks by helping drive part time for the past three days. Since we had no long distances to travel, we decided it might be a good day to sleep-in for those who so desired.
More to follow.....
Bucket Lists Ireland Trip Day 7
My apologies for a three week delay in resuming this trip report. My only excuse: Sometimes life gets complicated! I hope with some spare time during the Holidays, I can get through this marathon report.
I failed to mention that we accidentally stumbled on to a wonderful sheep dog demonstration on our drive around the Ring of Kerry. We stopped at Caitins Pub and Accomodation for a restroom and coffee stop, and noticed several coaches parking, and occupants disappearing up the path beside the pub. We checked it out and were able to take in the demonstration given by a local farmer, Brendan Ferris.
He started the demonstraction by showing and telling about several unusual breeds of sheep, brought individually to show front and center. Then he used sheep dogs, moving and sorting sheep in the large pasture extending uphill behind the corral He used the dogs in pairs, to help keep them rested. While one dog worked, the other one layed down, on their haunches, ready to spring into action. Those dogs were so totally focused, I don't think anything could have distracted them! They responded to whistle commands and it was an awesome performance. This was unplanned and not on our itinerary, but should have been! I highly recommend finding one of these demonstrations, when planning a visit to Ireland. They are also available in other areas of the countryside.
Now on to day 7.
This was our down day, to catch up on odds and ends and to select close-in things to see and do. First order of business was for DW and I to get some laundry done. The Scott Hotel offered to wash, dry, and fold a fairly large plastic bag (which they supplied) for dirty laundry all for only 15. It was a great value. We pack light, using light weight easy-dry clothes, and we managed to get 6 days worth of laundry into the bag. We dropped it at the front desk after breakfast.
Off to Torc Waterfall, just south of Muckross Mansion. Everyone enjoyed this outing in the crisp fall morning air. From there, we drove over to St. Mary's Cathedral. It is a Gothic style Cathedral, that serves as the cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Kerry. Construction began in 1842 and it was consecrated in 1855. The last renovation was in 1970. Well worth a stop if you have time when visiting Killarney
Next was lunch, to try, what was reported to be, some of the best seafood chowder in Killarney. My Aunt offered to treat the group for lunch. We parked the van in the parking garage, and made our way the few short blocks to "Sciel Eile" for lunch. And the rave reviews were spot on! One of the best seafood chowders I ever ate!
After lunch, we split up. Cousins wanted to go shopping, and DW, Auntie, and I walked over to the Franciscan Friary a few easy blocks walk east side of down town Killarney. It is a working Friary, the facility is being leased to the diocese, and the Monks reside in a new Friary nearby. It is known for its beautiful stain glass windows. A gift shop is located on the premise with numerous religious articles and supplies.
By mid afternoon, it was time to rest and relax in our spacious apartment. A couple hour nap was in order, to catch up on sleep from short nights doing pub crawls etc., and to get rested and ready for our long drive to SNN via Doolin and Cliffs of Moore tomorrow. The laundry was finished by 6 pm, so it was time to repackage our luggage.
Went to Tattler Jacks Pub around 7 for our evening meal. Tried the deep fried plaice, on special that evening. Was just ok....I still prefer cod. Overall a good and decent place for pub grub.
Spent the rest of the evening listening to trad music, starting at Danny Mann pub in Evistan Hotel. Then moved on to The Grand. Finished the night at Murphy's Pub, getting back to the apartment around midnight.
It was our final night of a wonderful week in Killarney. It was nearly a perfect choice to headquarter for our group, and this was due to such a wide variety of possibilities for day trips. It is a user friendly compact small city for shopping, pubs, restaurants, and night life. We hated to have to leave.......
more to come
Bucket Lists Ireland Trip Day 8
6:30 AM wake up call for what was to be our relatives last full day in Ireland. We checked out of Scott Apartments, and we were on the road by 8:00 AM.
Our first planned stop was Doolin/Cliffs of Moore. Arrived at the Tarbert/Killimer Ferry dock with just seconds to spare, we were the last car to load, or we would have had to wait for the next crossing. Whew! Lady Luck was on our side today! Traffic had been light, even as we departed Killarney. However the ferry was quite full. Only would have been enough room for 3-4 more vehicles as we pulled away. Cost was 18 no return.
The crossing was smooth and soon we were headed north bound towards Doolin. The forecast was partly sunny through mid day, with light showers possible in the afternoon. I really like the "Wonder Weather" app on my iPhone, and it was quite accurate even in Ireland. Since the boat trip below the cliffs is weather dependent, we decided this was their first priority.
We arrived at the Doolin Pier, and the foursome purchased tickets for 15 each for the Cliffs boat trip and had only 30 minutes to arrange rest room calls and snacks/coffee for the 11:00AM departure. Lunch would have to be later. DW and I, had been on this trip 2 years earlier, so we went over to Gus O'Connors pub for a goat cheese appetizer and a cup of chowder, all washed down with a pint.
The boat was back to the docks right on schedule, and they all agreed it was an awesome experience. A mid to late afternoon trip would have made for better photos (if the sun is shining) since the cliffs are in shadows earlier in the day. But with rain clouds on the horizon, this time frame proved to be a better option.
Next we arrived at the new Cliffs of Moher visitors center, as the first drops of mist then light showers made their way on shore. Dropped the group off at the coach set down area so Auntie wouldn't have so far to walk, and parked in the huge lot across the highway. The visitors center is impressive structure built right inside of the hill. Admission is 6 adults, 4.50 seniors.
Our group made its way up the steps/ramps to the upper outside viewing area. Managed to time this in between showers, but it started raining steady as we retraced our steps back down. Our little-used rain coats did come in handy. The grey weather hampered the view somewhat, but it was still spectacular. Touristy? Yes, but that doesn't mean you should avoid this wonderful part of Ireland. Back inside, out of the weather at the visitors center, a late lunch of soup/sandwiches was available. We visited the heritage center in the back of the center, complete with an educational interpretation facility featuring natural history, social history, and geography education. It is a popular spot for school field trips. Our group agreed it was worth the extra miles of detour, to see all of this, one of the true wonders of the world, on our way to Shannon.
Our group had contemplated trying to get to Buratty that evening for the Bunratty Castle Medieval banquet, but they were reluctant to commit to buying advance tickets, in case of delay during the 3 plus hours drive, and they didn't want to cut their time short at the Cliffs. Our schedule appeared to be working to possibly get to the banquet that evening, but a phone call resulted in the news that the banquet was nearly sold out, only 1 ticket remained. A call to the Corn Barn yielded better results. We purchased 6 tickets with credit card over the phone for the 8:30pm dinner/music/dancing show.
Departed the Cliffs/Doolin about 4:00. The route to Shannon was to take us right through Ennis, and after calculating the drive time, and allowing 30 minutes for check in at Bunratty Manor Hotel, we decided a 60 minute stop in Ennis was doable. Found a central public parking lot, and we split up. The two gals went shopping. The rest of us decided a cozy pub for an afternoon Irish Coffee/half pint was in order. Having spent a few days in Ennis a couple of years ago, I am convinced that it is an under-rated medieval town. It is similar to Killarney, in that there are so many options for things to see and do close by, and one could headquarter here and do day trips. It has great shopping, pubs, music, food, and night life.
Our one hour stop-over ended much to quickly, and soon we were back on the road to Bunratty. We had secured three rooms at Bunratty Manor, and having stayed here once before, we were happy with these accommodations. It is an easy 10-15 minute drive to SNN airport. They have a very friendly, service oriented staff, who expedited our check in. It's location affords an easy 2-3 block walk to Bunratty castle/folk park. It was good to get out for a brisk evening walk after a long car ride. The seating at the corn barn was to begin a short time after we arrived. We picked up our (will call) tickets at the reception desk. The tickets were 42 each, and that was a good value for a three course meal and entertainment. Upon entering, we were offered our complimentary Baily's Irish cream or mead (honey wine) as we were seated. The meal choice was either roasted chicken/veggies or Irish stew. The entertainment was quite good, with singing, dancing, instrumentalists, and even some story telling laced with Irish comedy.
Everyone agreed it was a fitting way to end the 8 day visit to Ireland. Back to the hotel for re-packing for the trip home in the morning. Most turned in early, but KC wanted me to join him for one last pint in the hotel pub. We had a lengthy discussion about politics, driving in Ireland, and this trip in general. He hated to see it come to an end, and he assured me they would return! I told him I felt confident in handing off the baton....he could now confidently drive here, and could be the tour guide when they returned!
More to come.....
Bucket Lists Ireland Trip Day 9
Another 6:30 AM wake up call, since our relatives needed to be at SNN airport by 8 to allow the 3 hour window for check-in and pre-clearance for their 11:00 AM flight. SNN is such a breeze to use compared to DUB. The Park Hotel is walking distance just across from the terminal if you so choose to drop your vehicle the night before an early flight. We, however, were exchanging the van for a 5 passenger mid-size car. We pulled into the Hertz return lot located a few minutes walk from the terminal. We bid our good-byes with hugs all around, and then they made their way to the terminal to check in, just a short walk from the Hertz rental car return lot.
The van was fairly new with only about 8,0000k. Total miles driven, as viewed on the van's odometer was 1,106 K driven in 8 days. The final cost with full fuel was 874. The credit card total was $1,008.00 divided by 6, $168/person, a reasonable price for our group for all our excursions. Total fuel bill was 106 = total $122.00 divided by 6 was about $20/person.
We had hoped we could transfer our luggage directly from the van to the car, but this was not to be. After checking the van in, we carted our luggage back over to the rental counter in the terminal to do the necessary paper work to get the car. Again, a simple procedure, as we have had nothing but good luck securing rental cars through Easy Tour Ireland. We had a coupon for another free Tom Tom GPS, but opted not to bother with it as my Garmin Nuvi was doing an awesome job...and I was use to it.
We soon found ourselves back out in the car lot, loading our luggage into a sleek shiny black Hyundai car. I believe it was a model E40. This vehicle was also fairly new, only about 9k miles on odometer. It too was a diesel (as per requested on both vehicles) a manual 6-speed. We had gotten very spoiled by the roomy van, and now had to fold ourselves down into the low slung seats! It was going to be cozy with 4 adults, and not quite as much room as the Opal mid size car had been back in 2012. But it was what we had, so decided to make the best of it. The boot(trunk) was huge and that was a relief, since we didn't know if our advice to pack light was going to be heeded by our friends from Oregon. We were scheduled to pick them up the next day at DUB.
We had just this one day to ourselves, with a full itinerary and numerous stops planned in an area of Ireland we had passed through, but not extensively toured. First stop: Quinn Abbey, not too far north of SNN, around nine miles north of Ennis. Arrived around 9:30AM, and had the whole place to ourselves. It seems we can't get enough of these old church's and abbeys in Ireland. It is a national monument, ruins of a Franciscan Abbey/Friary dating back to 1433. Spent about 40 minutes there, then headed across the street to the tea room to have coffee and pastries.
Back on the road the next destination, that being Tuamgraney, the home of the Wilde Irish Chocolate Factory. They have chocolates and fudge merchandised in Doolin, and they wholesale confections throughout Ireland. The actual production facility is located in an industrial area just outside of Tuamgraney. We entered and were greeted by a very friendly gal named Patricia, who happened to be the owner. A small compact production area and 2 workers, one being trained were doing a production run of molded chocolates. We were to learn that they were gearing up to move to a larger facility.
We spent a great 40 minutes there, talking about candy, since DW and I were involved in the homemade chocolate, fudge, and ice cream business from the mid 90's until 2006 in a West coast of USA tourist community. We talked shop, discussed recipes, and the differences between our retail production and her wholesale experiences. We bought several of her best selling confections and she gave us complimentary samples of several more. It was a chocolate lovers dream come true. Bought some to give as gifts and the rest for road rations, and still have some in our refrigerator as I write this report! We are rationing it out.....yum! Big you are a chocolate lover, and get anywhere close by, I highly recommend a stop!
On the road again, next stop Birr. Found a sandwich shop downtown, but chocolate sampling took the edge off our hungar and sharing a toasted sandwich and cup of lentIl soup sufficed.
Meandered over to Birr Castle. Cost 13.50 total for 2. Interior not available to tour since it is still a private residence of the 7th Earl of Rosse. The grounds and gardens of the demense are open to the public and we spent a good 2 hours there. Just beautiful. There is a science center, with a museum about scientists and their contributions to astronomy and botany. The grounds still houses the restored astronomical "Great telescope" of the 3rd Earl of Rosse. It reigned as the worlds largest telescope for several decades starting in the 1840's. Impressive!
The grounds include Ireland's oldest wrought iron bridge dating back to 1820. Also the 4th Earl and his wife were photographers, and on display is the oldest surviving dark room in the world. The box hedges located on the grounds are over 300 years old and are in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest hedge in the world. All in all, a worth while stop, and we should/could have spent a half or even a full day there in order to see it all.
We were spending the night in Tullamore, home to the famous Tullamore Dew triple distilled and blended Irish Whiskey. It was purchased in 2010 by a Scottish company, but the original owner was Daniel E. Williams, (abbreviated D.E.W. and merged to form Dew) and his company C&C Group, since 1829. In 1950 the distillery closed and production moved to Midleton County Cork. In 2014 production was moved back to a brand new distillery in county Offaly in the nearby outskirts of Tullamore. Tours are not available in the new distillery, but the visitor center in the old warehouse in downtown Tullamore was open for a tasting tour. Our coupon got the two of us in for 12. Well done Tullamore Dew! It ranks right up there with Bushmills and Jamison for my palate!
It was nearly 6:00PM by the time we were done touring and tasting and time to check into our lodging, Bridgeview B&B. Cost 70 for two! including a full Irish breakfast. Nothing real fancy, but clean, comfortable, and good breakfast. It was located within easy striking distance to DUB to meet our Oregon friends due in on a noon flight tomorrow.
B&B owners suggested the Bridge Hotel Bar for an evening meal. Only a 15 minute walk to find them, and their evening special was a huge burger and pint for 15. It included chips (French fries) and a choice of numerous trimmings and toppings. Irish beef is certainly tasty!
Turned in for the night early since it had been a long day of touring and traveling.
Correction for the previous post! We were staying at the "Brookville B&B" in Tullamore. (not the Bridge View). A huge Full-Irish breakfast awaited us at 8 in the morning. We checked out about 9 AM and were in no big hurry, since the Kilbeggan Distillery was next on our agenda. It was only a 15 minute drive away, and the doors first opened at 10 AM.
It was another gorgeous (of what was to become a long string) Autumn day. We marveled at our good fortune. Here it was Oct 6 and Indian Summer appeared to be in full force. The fall colors were just starting to show up, yet all the late summer and fall flowers were in full bloom. They say Ireland is really beautiful in the spring with new foliage and spring blossoms, but I don't see how it could be much better than what we were to witness over the next 20 days.
The brewery doors were opened promptly at 10 and we were greeted by a friendly staff. We opted for the self guided tour for 9 Euros/person using a small brochure that led you step by step throughout the old distillery.
We learned that this is possibly the oldest small pot distillery in Ireland, the original license is on display and it dates back to 1757. The old water wheel (still operational) is probably the center piece along with much of the original equipment still in place. There was also a back-up generator in case the river flow was to low. There was some production going on there as we noticed a worker stirring mash. He was friendly and answered questions and offered information not showing up on the brochure guide. It was an interesting tour, taking about 45 minutes including the "taste test" at the end.
Many of the over 200 distilleries that were in Ireland during that time period, had rough histories for a variety of reasons including the famine and the depression of the 1920's. The defeat of Fianna Fáil in 1948 took its toll for Kilbeggan. It stopped producing in 1954 and closed in 1957. Many Irish distilleries faced similar outcomes. Eventually there were only a handful of distilleries that survived.
Twenty Five years later, the City of Kilbeggan restored this distillery, and reopened it to the public as a whiskey distillery museum. Shortly there after, Cooley Distillery bought the license to produce Kilbeggan and Lockes Whiskey, and then took over the museum.
The taste test must have been a success because we ended up purchasing a bottle of Kilbeggan for 24 Euros, since our Oregon friend is known to appreciate a good glass of whiskey from time to time! Soon it was time to get back on the road to DUB to meet their incoming flight.
I had set up my GPS for short term parking by Lat/Long coordinates and it led us right in. The multi story short term facility was connected to a long corridor off of terminal 2 where they were schedule to arrive at 11:40AM, after a long haul flight on Aer Lingus from San Francisco. Their flight originated in Eugene Oregon. They had checked luggage, so we figured it would be the better part of an hour before they would clear customs and get their luggage.
We had agreed to meet them at a nearby restaurant there in terminal 2 and sure enough, they showed up about 10 minutes after we arrived. We had no desire for food after the huge Irish breakfast, and they had just had lunch on the airline. We opted to forgo lunch and headed to the rental car. We stuck 3 Euros in the pay-to-park machine, got our exit voucher and were relieved to see that all the luggage fit just fine in the boot with a little room left over for souvenirs etc.
Our Oregon friends, T&K, were pretty tired, and jet lagged, but ready to do some outside stuff. Our destination that evening was Dundalk. It is situated about half way between Dublin and Belfast, chosen as a 4 night headquarters for some touring of the NE coast. Our plan was to take a scenic coastal route and headed east out of Dublin airport. We found a bank in a small community so we stopped so they could exchange some dollars for Euros.
Our next stop was the 12th century Malahide Castle and the 260 acre of Gardens, located just 9 miles north of Dublin. It was owned by the Talbot family for 800 years. Admission price was 7.50 Euros/person. The guided tour was fantastic as we were escorted around the fully restored and furnished castle. The gardens were awesome as DW and I walked through, while T&K decided to check out the gift shop and we found them later, having much needed coffee to help combat jet lag and a snack at the Avoca Store.
We all were anxious to see the coastal area, and the receptionist advised us to take a slight detour toward Skerries. It was worth the little extra time it took to navigate through heavier traffic starting to accumulate this time of day. Skerries is a cute little seaside community and we drove down to the boat basin. We had worked up a bit of a thirst so we thought it was time to introduce T&K to some of the black stuff, since they had already been in Ireland for a grand total of 4 hours! We found a pub on the water front and settled in for a pint (1/2 pint for the driver). They were impressed (they said!). We still had quite a drive to Dundalk and the 6 PM check in time was rapidly approaching. Our trusty GPS led us back to the main north-bound highway, eventually.
The food, the Alcohol, and the jet lag were taking its toll on our friends, and it soon got pretty quiet in the back seat. They succumbed to sleep, and enjoyed about an hour long nap as we headed toward Dundalk.
Our B&B the next 4 nights was to be the "Rosemount B&B". It didn't come up with an address that worked for my gps, so I had entered the coordinates. They must have been entered with a wrong digit, because when the GPS said we had arrived, there was no B&B in sight on a busy industrial street. We made the circuit again, but still no luck. We pulled into a factory and drove up to the guard building at the entrance to seek help. The address was not familiar to the guard, but he asked if we had the B&B's phone number. We did, and he dialed them for driving instructions. Turns out they were nearby, just around the corner on a side street, less than 2 blocks away. Arrived a little late, about 6:15.
This B&B had been secured through agoda.com. I had never used this one before, so I was skeptical. I Decided to follow up with an email. No answer. Then another one. The owners never responded. When we arrived in Killarney, I phoned them. I was relieved to find that everything was as it should be, their computer had been down when I tried to reach them. Rosemount had fantastic reviews on 3 internet sights and they were spot on. I have NEVER in 6 trips to Ireland, observed such beautiful landscaping at a B&B. Almost the entire yard and house was inundated with numerous massive flower gardens, raised beds, and hanging baskets with thousands of blooms. The inside was plush and beautifully decorated as well. The price was a little higher at 50 Euros/person but it was worth every cent! The proprietor and his wife were extremely friendly and helpful. T&K were delighted with their first Ireland B&B experience! And so were we!
On our 4th trip to Ireland (Northern) we had also spent a week in Scotland touring western Scotland with a lady from Glasgow, whom we had gotten to know very well, because her son owned a business next to ours. Betty loves to travel, and we had arranged to meet up with her once again, this time in Dundalk for 4 days. She had flown from Glasgow into Belfast mid-day, and had taken the bus down to Dundalk. We had secured an additional room for her at Rosemount. She had elected to spend a couple of hours this afternoon in a pub near the bus station, since we were still on the road, and she was now eagerly awaiting us to pick her up.
Rosemount owners had advised us to have dinner that night at the Malt House Pub, a few blocks away, on the way downtown. We dropped T&K off at the Pub with instructions to get a table for 5 sorted, while we drove down to retrieve Betty. It was sure great to see her once again, and we knew we were going to be in for a fun 3 days touring Northern Ireland.
We had a great meal at the Malt House and we especially liked the smoked haddock. A few pints later and with much news to catch up on, it was time to get back to the B&B to get Betty checked in. AND our jet lagged friends were fading fast. We secured a time for breakfast and turned in for the night. Everyone slept well, in this wonderful quiet B&B.
Thanks for continuing the saga, Dan. I'm enjoying the detail. Glad you got to drive through Skerries. There was a recent episode of Booze Traveler filmed in Ireland. If you get the Travel Channel you might seek it out. I'm sure you would enjoy it.
Michele, I have run across this program a couple of times but didn't see the one last week that had been filmed in Ireland. It appears to be reshowing Jan 3 at 11 Eastern time so will try to remember to tune in! Dan
As usual, we had a lot planned for the next three days, and a lot of miles to cover. But, our jet lagged friends needed to rest up, so we opted for the latest breakfast slot 9:00AM. Maize, John, and their crew at Rosemount had an awesome breakfast for us. T&K were way impressed with breakfast "Irish Style". From the fancy table settings, to the fresh brewed coffee/tea, to the assortment of breads, dry cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt, and then the hot breakfast, they were in total awe, as are most first time visitors taking in the traditional Irish Breakfast for the first time.
Our first stop of the day was Newgrange/Knowth, burial monuments dating back to the Neolithic/Bronze age. Since there is a limited number of people and time slots available for these daily tours, we needed to be there early in the day, because if all the time slots would fill up, we would have to return another day. Guided tours are the only option. It was suppose to be a 20 minute drive, but Murphy's law set in and the usual trusty GPS took us to the Newgrange bus drop off point rather than the visitors center. Oops, can't blame that on the GPS. The tour guide (yours truly) should have known that, since we had been there 10 years earlier! As a result we took the longer scenic route and drove in after looping around the West side.
This was a Heritage Pass sight, we used ours and T&K purchased theirs. Since Newgrange is in my "top 5" list of all things in Ireland to see or do, we suggested that they see this passage tomb, and DW and I signed up for the Knowth tour. Both had a 12:15 time slot. Since Betty had broken her ankle a year ago in Spain, we were unprepared for how her mobility had been compromised. She elected to just stay in the visitor center for the duration. We all watched the video presentation that was very well done, that would give us background information in preparation for the tours. Soon it was time to exit the back side, walk down the path, across the bridge over the Boyne River, and out to the shuttle bus staging area. We got on our separate tour busses and soon arrived at the Knowth passage tomb sight.
Newgrange is very impressive in its own right, however Knowth is almost as impressive but for other reasons. If you only have time for 1, then do Newgrange, mainly because of access to center via the interior passage way. If you have time, I highly recommend doing both the same day instead of waiting 10 years like we did. The age of these passage tomb is astounding. Newgrange dates back to 3200 BC. Knowth dates back to estimated 2000-2500 BC. Knowth has two passages, and tours have access only a little way in, unlike Newgrange where you can go all the way to the center chamber of a single passage. Newgrange is larger in diameter, but Knowth is taller, AND there is public access to the top of the mound and oh what a sight....you can see miles in all directions. In addition, there are 17 small satellite mounds located around the main tomb. It was first discovered in the 1600's but the most complete excavations were done in the 1960's.
The tour lasted about an hour. We returned to the visitor center and the five of us met for coffee/tea and a light snack. T&K were way impressed with their tour. Betty was content to drink tea and people watch.
Next stop: Trim Castle. Another Heritage Pass sight. We had also been here 10 years earlier for a very short visit in the pouring rain. At that time we had just missed the guided tour and elected not to wait in the rain for the next one. This time, same situation, but great weather. We elected to take a self guided tour instead. Disappointing since you learn so much more on a guided tour. Again, Betty was unable to accompany us. She said she would poke around in Trim. We found her in McCormicks pub across the street. She had already started on her mid afternoon glass of wine, so we opted to join her for a quick 1/2 pint and once again got back on the road.
The last stop of the day was Hill of Tara. This is not visually as impressive as the passage tombs or the Trim Castle, but it is historically significant. Again it required some walking in the grassy fields, and Betty opted for a visit to the gift shop and the tea room. I always enjoy getting out for a brisk walk like this and T&K agreed the fresh air and exercise was just the remedy for a little lingering jet lag.
We learned about the ancient monuments and the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. At the summit, we checked out the Iron Age hilltop enclosure, known as the Fort of the Kings or the Royal Enclosure. It incorporated a double ditch ring fort and a ring barrow known as Cormacs House and the Royal seat. In the center is a standing stone also known as the stone of destiny, at which the high kings were crowned.
Numerous Other historical features and structures were added over the years, and I won't go into them here. If you are into ancient history as well as more recent history, this is a great stop. Back at the main entrance we saw two young men with strange looking ax shaped curved sticks, passing a ball back and forth. We inquired and found out they were practicing for an inter-mural hurling match. It was to be held tomorrow nearby and they invited us to come and watch. But our schedule wasn't going to allow it since we were heading northbound. Hurling is just one of the many popular Irish sports that are on my future Ireland bucket list! But time was getting away from us and it was time to make the journey back to Dundalk.
We arrived back at Rosemount about 6:30PM, and after a brief time to rest and freshen up a bit, John arranged a 5 passenger taxi for us for the 10 minute drive to "The Winsor". This was a popular and busy restaurant with dining area on 2 floors. We were grateful that John had secured reservations for us. We had a really good meal and beverages and good conversation. The taxi took us back to the B&B. Parking was an issue down town, and I am usually always ready to forego driving after dark after having driven most of the day. Prefer to be in walking distance of pubs and restaurants when choosing a B&B but this one was well worth it for the few Euros we spent on taxis.
Had an invite for a night cap beverage in Betty's room, since she had a more spacious room on the ground floor. They all sampled my Kilbeggan and they were not disappointed. This day, a few more things were crossed off my bucket list and several more to cross off the next two days!
More to come.....Dan
Since our plans for this day included a lot of driving to far off places to the north, Betty opted out and decided to stay in Dundalk. She decided to sleep in, have a late breakfast, and then headed toward downtown. Her main stop was Tesco on the way, and she had a leisure day in downtown Dundalk.
The remaining four-some ate another sumptuous breakfast at the earliest seating, and were soon on the road. During a previous trip to Northern Ireland, we had visited most all the major attractions. However, we ran out of time and daylight for the "Dark Hedges" and Torr Head Drive. So, these 2 items were on our bucket list this time. We had suggested that T&K join a tour bus out of Dublin to do the Giants Causeway, Titanic, Rope Bridge, and Bushmills. We had inquired with the tour company about meeting the tour bus near Dundalk, but they elected to stick with us.
The first stop was indeed the Dark Hedges. In reading about them on various blogs and forums, I was intrigued enough to want to see them for myself. And, I was not disappointed. They are ranked in the top 5 of the most beautiful tree tunnels in the world. The tunnel is composed of a long avenue of some 150-Three Hundred year old beech trees. The stark white of the trunks and the shape of the twisting branches arching over head to meet and touch in the middle....awesome. Not with-standing that recently the sight has been over-run with tourist due to scenes from "Game of Thrones" filmed there by their fans. I had not seen any of these HBO series, but after seeing Dark Hedges, I can understand the draw of filming there.
The age of the trees has caused some to be lost by wind storm "Gertrude" recently . I've read that some of these dead trees have been salvaged and made into 10 doors, and there is a "doors" trail you can take to see a series of G of T doors. One such door is displayed nearby in Gracehill Mansion.
At the west end of the tunnel was located this old mansion, built by James Stuart and wife Grace, hence the name "Gracehill" The original owners of this Georgian mansion, planted these two rows of trees as a center piece with the tunnel visible as you stand at the front door of the mansion looking down the road to the East, just as they had envisioned it so many years ago. The mansion was being decorated for Halloween, and not open to the public since there was an upcoming haunted house/Halloween party scheduled there according to the flyers on the front door.
Next stop was the Torr Head drive. We headed to Ballycastle. This is a beautiful town on the Northeast sea coast. Since we were not 100% sure where the Torr head road started and ended, we stopped in the tourist information office. The staff was very helpful, with maps and suggestions on other possible attractions on our way back down the coastal road heading south toward Dundalk.
This narrow road following the Irish Sea, was every bit as beautiful and scenic as I had read about it in various forums. It is a rugged headland of Torr Head, of metamorphosed limestone and volcanic rock. It was an important look out point for ships for Loyds of London years ago. On a clear you can see the Scotland coast-line across the Irish Sea, just 15 miles away. There are no shops or facilities on this route so a picnic would be grand idea for this outing. It's historical significance to the people of Ireland is because of a sixth century cashel/stone fort called Altagore Cashel. These ruins are visible from the car park at the top of the hill, but further up the walking trail is reported to be a great hike with even better views. Since it was windy and chilly, we opted to see what we could from the car park. (Another bucket list item for a future trip? You bet! I wouldn't mind returning and do this climb!)
T&K were enthralled with all the sheep in the area, and begged for photo ops. The driver obliged since we recalled the same awe of all things "sheep" during our first trip to Ireland.
T is into geocaching (treasure hunting via smart phone GPS) and commented from time to time about a cache here or there. He had purchased a data plan for his smart phone and was surprised how many geocaches were located in Ireland. We became quite interested and questioned him extensively about this popular outdoor activity by millions world wide and were discussing it at length on this particular drive.
We soon came upon a group of 3 poking around near a rock wall and fence. T mentioned that they were probably geocaching since it was showing up as a "hit" on the phone as we got closer. We decided to stop and ask. Sure enough, they were. They were from a rural area east of London, on holiday and were having trouble finding the cache. We offered to help and with 7 people looking, we soon found it in gap in the wall. It was simply a little plastic container like 35mm film use to come in. Inside was a small plastic bag with a small sheet of paper that the cache finder could date and sign (with their geocache code name, not their real name). It was amazing, because it was at the crest of the hill with spectacular views in all directions. T explained to us that this was the WAY geocaching works. You end up seeing interesting stuff that you ordinarily wouldn't see if you just passed by or through. We were to see several more church's, monuments, etc over the next 2 weeks due to our friend T spotting a geocache to stop and check out, having found it on his phone, as we were driving thru the country side.
Since then, it occurred to me that for someone who has made numerous trips to a destination like Ireland and you are running out of places to go or things to do, Geocaching just might afford you the opportunity to see some really neat stuff that was not on the average itinerary. Food for thought......
We headed on down the coastal road southbound. Stopped in Cushindall located at the south end of the Torr Road, and introduced T&K to a famous Ireland "99". The ice cream treat was to suffice as our lunch! We sat in the car in a parking lot and munched and enjoyed. Of course I had to supplement with my new companion snack, tatos!
One of the suggestions by the staff at Ballycastle TI office, was to see Carrickfergus Castle. It is one of the more impressive, best preserved Norman castles in Northern Ireland. This castle is in Antrim county in Carrickfergus town. It was impressive! We arrived in the last hour of operation and after a short guided tour we were allowed to explore the far reaches of the castle on our own. It is quite large. Historically it was strategic, in that once it was 3/4 surrounded by water, but now only 1/3 surrounded by water, due to land reclamation.
It has quite an 800 years history, having been besieged in turn by the Scottish, Irish, English, and French. It is under State Care of Northern Ireland do to its beauty, historical significance, and is a center piece for this seaside community that bears its namesake.
By now, it is 5:00 and time to start heading inland to "quicker" highways since we were to meet Betty for dinner this evening. It was an easy 60 minute drive back to Dundalk. Betty was ready for dinner, as were we, and decided to drive ourselves down-town tonight. I discovered that our GPS had these little blue squares with a "P" inside. All you had to do was select a "Parking lot near you destination, and the rest was easy! Tonight we opted for the Kingfisher restaurant, since they had good reviews and was a "local" hangout. They are noted for fish and chips and home cooked style meals,nand they didn't disappoint. There was a good variety of menu options that were satisfying, delicious, and a good value.
Our plan was to hit the St. Patrick trail Sunday, and our thought was to go to Mass in a St. Patrick Church Sunday....somewhere....Internet research was needed to determine where/when. However this type of planning wasn't necessary after a lengthy visit with another guest that morning at the Rosemount breakfast table. It happens that this guest was a Redemptorist Priest; Fr. Michael Cusack, who was in charge of the 9-day St. Gerard Majella Annual Novena, held at St. Joseph Redemptorist Church in Dundalk. It ran from Oct 8-16. He invited us to attend one of the 10 daily sessions, starting at 7:00AM through 10PM. The last service at 10PM was to be candlelight and this was our first choice, but we thought that would be too late getting in and be ready for a long day on the St. Patrick trail.
We opted for the 8:30PM Novena/Mass. We were informed that since over 10,000 people attend each day from Counties Down, Armagh, Cavan, Monaghn, and Meath, the parking would be very difficult. DW, Betty, and I opted for a taxi down and back for 20Euros total. This was a good decision, because we arrived a little late because of a traffic jam, to find a packed church with seating overflowing into the hallways, side altars, and the parish hall. We arrived to standing room only, but some kind folks scrunched in which resulted in a place for Betty to sit down. It was our first ever Novena. It was the Novena of St Gerrard, the patron Saint of expectant mothers or those who wished to become pregnant. Very moving ceremony, and one of those unforgettable "wow" adventures that we have accidentally stumbled on to so many times in Ireland.
Our taxi driver was on time to return us to Rosemount. We were tired from a huge adventuresome day and we were ready to turn in. I had thought about trying to find some trad music in downtown Dundalk, but we had a schedule that was full. And Kilkenny and Cork City was upcoming on our itinerary and there would be ample opportunity for music then!
I'm really enjoying your report Dan, though it reminds me of just how negligent I've been with my own!
I know what you mean about running out of time and daylight causing the need for revisits for missed attractions -- I always try to Over-Schedule MY days -- so I'll always have an 'Excuse' to return . . .
We loved Carrickfergus, as well. Did you do your North Cork ancestors Proud and throw a rock at the 'King Billy' statue at the edge of the car park?
Yes Bob, we have been anxiously awaiting your trip report!
We did not notice the "Billy Statue" in the parking lot! I don't notice or
get too excited about statues, with the exception of Molly Malone! That one was impressive!
The inscription on the statue's base praises King Billy (William of Orange) for SAVING Ireland.
I took a picture of my wife tossing a pebble at the statue, when no one was around, just to say we did it!
Bucket lists Ireland Trip Day 13
This day dawned clear and sunny. Again! T&K were asking by now: "Where is the rain you warned us about?" It was indeed, splendid October weather in Ireland.
Today was St. Patrick's Day.....for our group! We planned to drive as much of the St. Patricks trail as we could. Do to our late evening Novena, we ate a late breakfast and didn't get a very early start. We headed straight away to Downpatrick. We stopped first at the Saint Patrick visitor center and heritage museum. Cost: 9 GBP/2 seniors. This center was impressive; very well done, and a good starting point for us on this day. We were to learn a lot about the life and times of this Irish icon, and where and how we would spend the rest of the day on the SP trail.
The main part of the exhibit in the center is 'Ego Patricias' - the story of St. Patrick - in has own words. It is a series of interactive displays that depicts the ancient and modern legacy of St. Patrick during early Christian times, and the impact of Irish missionaries in Europe from the 4th-9th century's. Life size videos are interspersed with art and metal work of the era. Really impressive exhibit. We spent about 60 minutes, but had to leave a little early since a coach tour was due in. They weren't going to let us in at first, but we had agreed to leave whenever necessary.
From there we went over to the 12th century Downpatrick cathedral a short (but walkable) uphill distance (Cathedral Hill) north of the center. We elected to drive to save time and for Betty's sake. This is a Church of Ireland cathedral and an information/tour was starting for a coach tour and we were invited to join in. Most of our group stayed for that, but I went out scouting the surrounding cemetery. There was an old weathered granite high cross on the east side believed to be from the 10th or 11th century. Also an inscribed granite stone placed just to the south of the cathedral, in 1900, over the alleged burial spot of St. Patrick who was thought to have died in 461. Sixteen hundred years of history here folks!
After about 45 minutes spent there, we moved on to Inch Abbey. Not really a typical stop on the SP trail. But only 3/4 mile north so opted to drive over for a look-see. It is a large pre-Norman monastic sight featuring Gothic architecture, the area now under state care. Originally on an island, it now is on the north bank of a river. It dates back to the 800's. It had been plundered twice by the Vikings.
It became formally known as Inch Abbey in 1177 after it was erected by John De Courcy and his wife, as an act of repentance for the earlier destruction of the Abbey at Erinagh, just 3 miles south. The community of Monks was never very large, considering the size and layout of the ruined structures. Separate nearby accommodations were also used by lay-Brothers. In spite of being considered a wealthy Abbey on 850 acres, by medieval standards, it was dissolved in 1541. It is a very peaceful tranquil setting and well worth the stop for a quick visit.
Next, we drove a short distance east of Downpatrick to "Slieve Patrick". On the crest of this hill is a massive statue of Saint Patrick with bronze panels showing scenes of his life. It has a grassy path leading uphill from the car park on the nearby road, and is gradual enough for most anybody to make the trek up. DW, T, and myself made this trip and K. kept Betty company in the car. It is well worth the climb for the wonderful views in all directions.
Next stop was the nearby Saul Church and round tower. It is reported to be the sight of the first Christian church in Ireland. The existing structure was built to replace the 1788 wood building and was opened in 1933 to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of St Patrick first landing in Ireland at the mouth of the Slaney River nearby. A local chieftain gave Patrick shelter in a barn, and the Irish word for barn is Sabhall, since anglicized to Saul. Prior to this structure, it had also been a monastic sight and a priory. The small chapel has public access and is still used for weekend and some daily services up to the present time.
Next stop was suppose to be Struell Wells. A series of 4 holy wells. We struck out trying to find them, and no one around to ask directions, after 2-3 circles around the general area where my GPS said it was suppose to be. Oh, WELL.....there will be next time! Lol. It had already been a jam-packed busy day and we still had a good drive to get back to Dundalk. But....not before a wee break in what was probably a wee town, to "imbibe" in some liquid refreshments at the "Arkle Bar and Lounge"! At any rate it was starting to get quite dark when we exited....so much for a scenic drive back to Dundalk. But we had, all-in -all, a fantastic day on the St. Patrick trail.
Arrived back in town and went straight away for our 2nd meal at the Malt House pub. It was a fitting place to have the last evening meal for our 5-some, as Betty was to head back to Belfast then Scotland in the morning and the rest of us would be heading south bound.
Arriving back at the B&B, we had a nice chat with Mazie and John of Rosemount as we paid them for our four nights lodging. It was one of the nicest B&B's we stayed in during our 4 weeks in Ireland. And upon further checking my notes, the price, as previously reported wasn't correct. The doubles were 280 Euros (70/night/double) and Betty's room was 200 (50/night) single supplement. All in all a good value and we wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.
Bucket Lists Ireland trip Day 14
It is a real plus to be able to stay in a lodging location multiple nights. It is a real hassle to pack up the luggage, down steps, try to remember how it is all going to fit back in the boot (trunk). And then fit in all the extras; gifts, souvenirs, snacks, gallon of bottled water, etc. Whew! Everything still fit! Just glad we didn't have to do all this EVERY day.
John volunteered to get Betty to the bus station. We had asked him to arrange a taxi for her, but he wouldn't hear of that. Said he would deliver her downtown himself. Famous Irish hospitality on display once again!
Our destination tonight was Kilkenny. However, we had a few 'bucket list' places to see on the way. Monasterboice is in County Louth just north of Drohedga, just a 20 minute drive south of Dundalk. We arrived early in the day and we had the good fortune of having the entire ruins to ourselves. This was an early Christian settlement, founded by St. Buithe in the 5th century. There are two 14th century or later churches and a round tower on sight, but there are three 10th century 'High Crosses' that make this ruins special. The 'Muiredach's High Cross is thought to be the most spectacular high cross in all of Ireland. It is quite ornate and features numerous biblical carvings from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Two other crosses, one north and one west are also pretty neat, but have suffered much more from the effects of the weather. Monasterboice means "monastery of Buithe"
Next stop Kildare. It is home to one of the two round towers in Ireland that you can actually go in and climb to the top. Sadly, we could not do this. The main gate was locked and the sign said: open 01 May - 30th September. And the hours listed seemed pretty limited. Yours truly the tour guide didn't do very good on his homework researching this one. We wandered over to the heritage/visitors center. Had a nice chat with the the lady working there, and she suggested watching the video upstairs for historical background information of the area, and promised that the gate would be unlocked soon so we could at least walk through the grounds. Also on the grounds is St Brigid's Cathedral, built by the Norman Bishop Ralph of Bristol. It wasn't open to the public either. St Brigid is one of the more important patron Saints of Ireland, and it is believed she started a convent on this sight in the 5th Century. The cathedral dates back to the 1200's.
Upon returning to the car, we noticed a petrol station/deli right across the street. It was time for our 2nd tank of diesel. Had fueled in Dundalk, 32L for 40 Euros. This time it was a bit more thirsty; 45 L for 55 Euros. We had put on a lot of Kil Since leaving Shannon 5 days earlier, and it appeared we were getting good fuel economy for a mid size car. We also purchased bread, cheese, cold meat slices, snacks, and beverages for a picnic later, as it was another awesome weather day. Kildare is a nice little village and I wouldn't mind spending more time there!
Next, a short drive just south of Kildare to Tully to visit the Irish National Stud/Japanese gardens. The combo tickets were 9 Euros/couple with 2-for-1 coupons. Decided to stroll through the garden first. It was quite unique, as we had never been in a formal Japanese garden of this magnitude. Back outside the main gate was a picnic area with tables near the car park. We had our light lunch then wandered over to see the horses.
We didn't know what to expect here either, we had never had much experience with Thoroughbred race horses. This was a historic breeding facility where many champions had resided. This stud was once privately owned, and must have been pretty prosperous, looking at the sheer size of the facilities. In time the owner turned the stud over to the Country of Ireland, in 1945, hence the National Stud.
The horses, in their large grassy paddocks, were awesome. Huge, sleek, muscular, beautiful horses and the price of the stud fee (many 5,000 Euros or more) was listed as well as races won and offspring sired. Quite a well sign posted and self guided tour with the aid of a brochure from the main desk. Went around the circuit to see the birthing barns, the nursery pasture with the moms/young colts, to the yearling pen where the half/grown youngsters resided. Well worth the stop.
By now it was mid afternoon. Our B&B proprietor for tonight had emailed in the morning, to see what time we planned to arrive. We had replied back: 6:00 PM the standard check-in time. The GPS said we were going arrive about 90 minutes early, so we took a side step in the route to detour over to Carlow town. This town was on DW and my list for tomorrow while T&K spent the day in Kilkenny. The gals and T decided to check out the shops. I wanted to go to the TI office to see what we might find to see and do in/around Carlow tomorrow. Agreed to meet back at the car in 30-45 minutes.
Got a hand full of brochures and the helpful Lady at the TI had a suggestion for a route to take to see an extensive list of sight for DW and I. Got back to the car, and found the other 3 in a coffee shop having a 99! I think we got T&K hooked! And it didn't take long!
Back on the road for the late afternoon trek to Kilkenny. The trusty GPS led us right to Bridgeview B&B. Arrived at 6:05, but no one there to check us in. Waited till 6:30 and called the contact number. Finally 6:40 she arrived on foot with an arm load of groceries, and we were in. A two night stay planned for here. It was a quite nice facility, but definitely a little bit of a let-down compared to Rosemount. After getting settled in, we made the trip over the new bridge to Kytelers Inn, to their pub for dinner. We had been there 4 years before, and they do a great pint, good food, and Trad music. It is probably the most famous go-to place for food/beverage in Town. They did not disappoint! There is nothing like bacon and cabbage in Ireland, I really enjoyed it, and DW said the roast beef was to die for. Juicy tender Irish beef....after all that ice cream! Lol
We had inquired about laundry service in Kilkenny when we checked in, and the proprietor suggested that we do our laundry right here at the B&B!?! I Don't know if she felt a tad guilty for being late for check-in, but at the price of 6 Euros/load, wash AND dry, we couldn't go wrong. I had started a load before we left for Kytelers, so as the other 3 settled in to have a pint and listen to music, I slipped back over to the B&B to check on the progress, and transferred clothing to the dryer.
We spent a couple hours winding down in this cozy medieval pub of stone and beamed bars, and rustic wood tables, named after Alice Kyteler, accused and condemned for witchcraft, after marrying and burying 4 husbands! Interesting history in one of the oldest pubs in Ireland dating back 740 years! K was wore out so took an early leave of this party and headed to the B&B. She agreed to check on the status of the laundry in the dryer. T&K planned to spend the entire day wandering around Kilkenny and they decided they could do their laundry then.
Too Soon, the musicians called it a night, and it was also time for us to turn in for the night. Clothing was out of the dryer, and ready to return it to the suitcases. It was going to be 2 nights and 1 day in Kilkenny that would go by much to quickly!
More to follow...Dan
Bucket lists Ireland trip day 15
Met up with T&K downstairs for a decent full Irish breakfast, and then they were to be on their own the rest of the day, on foot. Kilkenny is a compact city, which would allow them to see Kilkenny Castle, Smithwicks Brewery, St. Canice's Cathedral and round tower. They checked out the shopping and did their laundry. All in all, a busy day and the location of our B&B made this all possible. It was located across the street from the River Nore which splits Kilkenny in two, directly opposite the smart new pedestrian bridge built in 2014. This foot bridge links the Canal walk and the Lacken walk, unifying the center of the city making it more user friendly and eliminating the need to drive the long way around to travel just as short distance 'as the crow flies'.
DW and I had a big day planned in rural Carlow County. We wanted to see some interior rural parts of Ireland, largely agriculture areas that most tourist tend to just pass through or bypass altogether.
Our first stop was a brand new (visitor center just opened in July) modern distillery that was striving to make its name the old fashioned way with the human touch rather than relying on computers to analyze for quality and taste. It is located at Royal Oak in rural Carlow County. It has gained recognition for producing 'Writers Tears' and 'The Irishman' brand of whiskers and cordials. They brought whiskey distilling back to this area for the first time in over 200 years. Tour Cost: 30 Euros/2 persons including taste test, of course!
It is the only independent Irish Whiskey distillery producing all 3 styles of Irish Whiskey--pot still, malt, and grain. Our guided tour revealed the new state of the art double production lines, using both pot and column stills. The column distilleries were over 20' high, and had not recalled seeing one of these column stills in any prior distillery tours, at least not on this size or scale. We had to check our electronic equipment (cameras/phones) in at the door as they were afraid of a possible spark causing an explosion. And no wonder, the sweet scent of alcohol production was very noticeable as we entered! This was a great tour, very much reminding us of the Smithwicks tour....another working facility tour.
It was designed and built from the ground up as a distillery AND a visitor experience. The taste test was delightful. Also they had a line of Irish Cream which we sampled.....yum! Good enough to purchase so we did, along with 2 whiskey glasses. We were then invited to walk the grounds to view the outside of the 18th Century Holloden House Mansion that the Walsh family was in the process of restoring. Along with this, The distillery will soon include 2 maturation houses holding 60,000 barrels of whiskey, structures scheduled to be built sometime in 2017.
This location was chosen because of the availability of abundant, best natural ingredients including local sourced grains. The setting is a place of beauty and tranquility.
From Kilbeggan to Walsh, this pretty well spans hundreds of years of whiskey production in Ireland. Well worth a stop in our estimation.
It was high noon when we pulled out, next stop: Brownshill Dolmen, a megalithic portal tomb. It is located 3 km east of Carlow town, off the R726. It is clearly visible from the road, but is accessible on foot via a narrow fenced lane running south from the car park then west, right snack in the middle of a farm field. It is reported to have the heaviest cap stone in all of Europe, estimated at over 100 metric tons. Impressive!
Next stop: Duckett's Grove, located between Carlow and Tullow. It is a historical landmark, a ruined great house and 1200 acre estate from 1830, built by the Duckett family. It was originally a Georgian mansion, but had a makeover in the castellated Gothic style. This is what makes it so unique and interesting. The structure has number of towers and turrets of various shapes and sizes, round, square, and octagonal with elaborate niches displaying statues. Also numerous statues are located on pedestals around and approaching the main building.
When Wm. Duckett passed away, his daughter was unable to manage the upkeep requiring a staff of 11. It fell into disuse, (except for the local IRA and its flying column.) Everything inside was pretty much left in tact until an overnight fire destroyed it in 1933. Currently it is being managed by the Carlow County Council with ongoing restoration of the 2 walled gardens, and has been used as a public park since 2007. It is reported that the ruins are haunted by a Banshee Ghost. However we didn't see anything like that! Lol
Next we drove to Altamont Gardens. Admission 3 Euros plus 2 Euro pay and display car park. This was a beautiful old world Robinsonian style garden near Tullow and Bunclody, on Bunclody Road. We were treated to 500 year old rare trees, shrubs, and roses, manicured grass, and formal flower beds all sloping down to a beautiful lake. Took the walking path on the lake/river walk. There is a nursery that was selling plants and a tea room (not open). We had snacks in the car and ate our light lunch before departing.
Next, we took the "Mount Leinster" scenic drive from Bunclody (just into County Wexford) over to the village of Borris. This is a 13 km steep, narrow, climbing, winding road with an average gradient of 5.9% with the steepest decent almost 16% gradient. Exhilarating ride, and punctuated with an awesome 10 minute windy stop at the summit. Spectacular views in all directions!
Got to the small town of Borris, whose claim to fame is a couple of old pubs: M O'Sheas's and Joyce's. They are both full of rustic cozy charm. M O'Sheas is a family run, multi-tasking facility, selling groceries and alcohol since the 1800's. Someone famous was known to hang out at Joyce's pub, but it escapes me right now, who that might be! Tried a glass of local brew there, called O'Hara Stout. Quite good.
Nearby was St. Mullens well and Abbey, in the tiny village lying on the eastern bank of the Barrow River. It was getting kind of late but couldn't resist the short trip south, just 2 km off the R729 road. the sun was setting lower into the western sky, casting long shadows, and daylight would soon be fading. That made it all the more interesting! We were not worried, the GPS said we were only about 30 miles from Kilkenny.
The village is named after St. Moling, who founded a monastery there in the 7th century. There is a lot of history to be gleaned here, but we gave the holy well and ruined Abbey a quick look-see, spending about 20 minutes, then headed out.
Rolled back into Kilkenny just at dusk, (didn't need headlight-more on that saga later) about 6:30PM and T&K thought we might have gotten lost! We compared and exchanged stories about our respective day's adventures, as we crossed the foot bridge on our way to "Matt the Miller" pub for dinner. Both agreed we had a great day in Ireland, and I think DW and I may have broken the record for number of tourist attractions in one day! That lady in the TI office in Carlow really had it pegged for us for the route for this day's outing.
Matt the Miller sure had good food and atmosphere, and probably ranks right up there close to Kytelers. As for the menu, T&K shared the trout special, it was fish and chips as usual for DW and I had the Irish lamb stew which was to die for. We lingered over another pint for a while and listened to the music. As for tomorrow....time to say goodbye to Kilkenny.....Cork City here we come!
More to follow.....Dan
Bucket Lists Ireland Trip Day 16
Checked out of Bridgeview B&B. We really liked this B&B for its location and use of laundry facilities. It had covenient parking and was easy to get to/from by vehicle or on foot. We would stay there again.
Headed south from Kilkenny destination Cork City for 4 nights, but a few stops along the way. The first stop was Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. It is also known as Cashel of the Kings, and St. Patrick's Rock. According to a local myth, St. Patrick banished Satan from a nearby cave AND was reported to be the sight where St. Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity in the 5th century.
As for what you see there today, it is in my top 10 list of possible tourist attractions in the whole of Ireland. We had been there for a short visit to this Rock 4 years earlier. We were only able to be there for about an hour for a self guided tour. It was definitely on my bucket list for a return visit.
The setting, on the highest rocky terrain for miles, the size of the structure, being of medieval architecture with one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art found anywhere in Europe was most impressive. It was a Heritage Pass sight and we took the guided tour. It revealed a wealth of information about this historic sight.
Few bits remain from the earliest times, most of what you see is from the 12th/13th centuries including a well preserved round tower, built with the dry stone method. Some places have been filled in with mortar in recent times for safety reasons. Very impressive is Cormac's Chapel, named for King Cormac. It is more sophisticated than many of the Romanesque churches found in Ireland, due to a couple of carpenters involved resulting in Germanic influences of twin towers, and a barrel vaulted roof, and ornate carvings inside. It has a beautifully preserved Irish fresco. Do to its sandstone construction, it has become waterlogged over time, and resulting in damage to the frescos. There were huge scaffolds outside of the main cathedral, and the restoration preservation process required totally enclosing the structure in order to rain proof it, and dehumidifiers were being used to dry the stone. Quite a process, and while the scaffolding and other waterproofing structures detracted from the overall appearance, hopefully this effort will preserve this awesome historical structure for centuries to come.
Our next stop, not too far south, near the village of Cahir, was the Swiss Cottage. Since it offers guided tours only, we didn't want to wait too late into the day and miss out on a time slot. This was not an issue on this day. It was another Heritage pass sight. It is an 1810 structure, the best surviving example of an ornamental cottage, built on land that was originally part of Lord and Lady Cahir's estate to entertain guests. This structure was built by Richard Butler, and it's design was thought to be from the famous architect John Nash. Lord Butler also used it to entertain day guests and it was not used overnight, as many recreational cabins are used today.
After some years of neglect, it was restored in 1985 and became open to the public as a historic 'house museum'. It has unique architecture, inspired by nature including thatch roof, external woodwork that resembles branched trees, and this theme carries thru the interior including world famous wall paper, some original and some replicated. The spiral staircase was amazing, and the rooms were all elegantly decorated.
Next stop in the center of the village of Cahir was Cahir Castle. This too, was a Heritage Pass sight. We really got our money's worth on the Heritage pass on this trip! The castle was situated on an island in the River Suir. Not so today, as the river was on the east and a city street butted right up next to the castle on the west side, It is the largest castle in Ireland, is well preserved and has guided tours. Again, no huge crowds, in fact our foursome were the only ones on this tour, as well as many other tours, a result of traveling in the shoulder season.
The core of the castle was built by the O'Brien family in the 13th century. Two additional section of the castle were subsequently built, one section was built 200 years later. It was granted to the powerful Butler family in the 14th century, who remodeled it. Like many castles it fell into ruin in the late 1700's.
After a couple of restorations over the years, it has become a National Monument. It is probably best know for it being used as a location for a battle scene in the 1981 film "Excalibur". It was also used as a setting for Sabans Mystic Knights, and the television series 'The Tudors'. A very impressive castle to explore all the far reaches on your own after the guided tour, and the sights across the countryside was pretty impressive from some of the top locations in the castle. It made sense, as a castle's primary reason for existence, was a safe place for its occupants.
We made our way across the street to the 'Castle Bar' for refreshments as well as soup/bread. Irish soup and especially the brown bread are generally really delicious, as was this sampling. The most common soup we found was puréed varieties of vegetable soup, which were good but different than the chunky vegetable soup we are use to.
It was time to head toward Cork City. I was dreading this drive, due to the one-way scheme of Cork streets that we had been involved with a couple of other previous trips. It's always more challenging at this time of day due to congestion due to motorists heading home from work. With our trusty GPS, we knew we could handle it, and only took one wrong turn, and let the GPS recalculate to get us around about a 4 block circuit and right back up to our B&B.
This was a tough choice when booking a B&B for this area. We started by booking a Hotel, Aherns in Youghal. Booked it on booking.com just to have something in place. Most all our lodging was done in this manner. If, later on, we found something higher rated-better priced-better location, we cancelled our reservation (initially only booked lodging that had no deposit or cancellation penalty) and booked the alternate property. When we found out that the Jamison Distillery visitors center would be closed for renovation while we were there, we shifted west to Cork City, in and around which we would be spending 4 nights and 3 days.
We thought we wanted 'location' in Cork city, and finally settled on Creedons B&B. This was strictly a location based decision and the price was 47 Euros/person. The pros and cons of this decision: pros; location and extremely nice and friendly proprietors. Cons: did not include breakfast, an additional 10 Euros/person. There was a Parking issue. There was disc pay parking in front and side....if available, however it was free parking on the side from 6pm to 8am. Since we were only spending one day in Cork city, we had to buy 24 hr parking from a lot about 6-8 blocks west, down Plunkett street cost 15 Euros. The other two days we managed to be out and gone by 9AM so paid for only 1 hour of parking, and similar if we returned before 6PM. So that was kind of a hassle which makes you appreciate free parking. Also, our rooms were up 2 full flights of steps. K started having arthritis issues in her hip, and these flights of steps made it difficult for her. And the rooms were quite small, however, very modern and nicely decorated with space saving amenities that made the smaller space more user friendly. So there was a trade off here. Would we choose to do this again? probably not, although I really enjoyed the vibe and night life in Cork City.
We got settled into our rooms. K. was not hungry or in the mood for steps after the struggle to get our luggage upstairs, so T, DW and I headed out to get an evening meal. A couple blocks down and easy walk to the 'Oliver Plunkett Pub, which we heard had good food and music. The food, beer, and music were good, but we didn't stay too late. And for the first time in over a week, there was rain in the forecast. It was spitting when we went to eat and raining lightly as we returned to Creedons.
I'm really enjoying all the detail. Glad you got to Carlow. There are some interesting things to do and see there.
Bucket Lists Ireland Trip Day 17
We were staying 4 nights/3 days in this location. On this trip, we had a general idea of what all we were going to see or do, but not sure which day we would do what, allowing that to be determined by weather forecast. We have a great weather app that works well in the US. We found that it worked well in Ireland too. It is: "wunderground" or "Weather Underground". It gives you a fairly reliable forecast on temps, wind and precipitation, with even a radar feature that shows you in motion which way and speed clouds/precipitation is moving. We used this tool often in determining what to do on any given day as well as what to do during the day based on weather.
Luckily, the weather was really awesome during this 28 day trip, but it was reassuring to know this ahead of time and plan accordingly. Today was forecast to be one of the few rain days we experienced , so we decided to spend this day IN Cork City and the next 2 days on day trips that had outdoor type venues planned.
We had visited Cork City as a day trip twice before, from nearby bases. Cork City doesn't get the recognition that maybe Dublin or Galway does, but it does have a lot to offer. Starting off with the "street" we were staying on. "Oliver Plunkett Street" is really impressive. It was originally laid out in the early 1700's, so is quite narrow as are most of the similar medieval streets are in other towns in Ireland. Oliver Plunkett street was named after a 17th century martyr, from Armagh. It was originally George's street after King George, but after the burning of Cork and the formation of the Irish Free State it was appropriately renamed.
It made history more recently as winner of "The Great Street Award" of 2016, by London's Academy of Urbanization, the only Irish city street to be on the rather long short-list of 70 streets in the UK and Ireland! It met our expectations after all the hype we read about that this award had generated.
We had taken advantage of the free overnight parking on this street just across from Creedons. However, at 8 AM it became a pedestrian only street, so we had to move the car. I went out at 7:45 to do this and I had to negotiate my way down this narrow street among all the delivery trucks, garbage trucks, etc for 10-12 blocks. O P street extends from Clontarff St/R610 on the east (by our B&B) and ending on Grand Parade St./R848 on the west. It was on Grand Parade that I had located the nearest 24 hour car park, secured by getting on line and paying 15 Euros by credit card. I was given a confirmation number, which I presented at the service window 24 hours later, at which time we were issued a paper voucher that I inserted and it raised the barrier to let us out.
With the car secured, I walked back the length of O.P. Street checking everything out in the daylight to get the lay-of-land and noticing out all the great long time businesses (many Mom & Pop/multi generational) that lined both sides of the street. There is a secondary entrance to a Penny's store. There are just a few chain retailers, as well as Cork's main Post Office. The center piece for me is the very easily accessible nearby "English Market". There are a few restaurants and pubs for nightlife on this street, but they are much more numerous on the side streets branching off of OP street. OP street as well as some of the side streets are also pedestrianized from 10:30-4:30 daily. Automatic bollards (posts that come up out of the street surface) are used on several streets in the area, including a set right out in front of our B&B. Pretty cool!
By 8:30, raincoats in hand, we set out. Went back down the length of OP so the others could later decide how to spend their shopping time. T wanted to mail postcards, K was coming down with a cold so located a pharmacy on Grand Parade. Next stop English Market. It was a bit early as most venders were just getting opened up, but not officially open, except coffee and pastry shops, which we needed as we did not opt for breakfast at Creedons.
Despite us being from the West Coast Pacific NW, often referred to as the coffee consumption capital of the world, and as self proclaimed "coffee snobs"! We found the coffee in Ireland quite good for the most part in the tea rooms/coffee shops.....the B&B's not so much, sometimes even getting instant coffee. In some B&B's, if they used a French Press, it was quite good. As for tea? That was awesome....if..... that was your beverage-of-choice!
Good Coffee and small pastry in hand, we strolled the isles in the English Market, taking in all the sights and smells wafting out at us, especially from where they were cooking the numerous styles and kinds of sausages. We had purchased 6-8 of the uncooked sausages here on a previous trip, taking them back to the self-catering cottage to prepare. They were awesome, and there was no doubt in my mind that a sausage on a stick would be part 2 of my breakfast! Ah, but what a hard choice....so many sausages....so little time! Yum!
Spent about an hour here in this famous market, small purchases included: dry fruit, cheese, dark chocolate candy bars, a dry deli salami, and an assortment of scrumptious olives of all varieties, shapes and colors. I asked the vendor to pick out 6 of the most popular types of olives and put them all in one container. We were all set for lunch later in the day.
Next stop TI office on Grand Parade to purchases HOHO bus tickets. 13 Euros/person/Sr. Our first stop was the Cork City Goal (jail). Tour cost was 7.50 Euro/person. Similar to Kilmainham in Dubs. Interesting and a worth while stop. We had just missed a HOHO bus, and T and I had just enough time to snag a pint in a cozy pub just below the goal, while the gals people watched (the rain had stopped) on the park bench in front of the goal.
Back on the bus, next stop St. Anne's Church of Ireland, home of the famous Shandon Bells, made famous by a popular song in the 1800's. Admission charge 4Euros/person. It is located in the Shandon district of Cork, high on a hill overlooking the River Lee. The Church tower is a noted landmark and symbol of the city. The weathervane at the top of the tower is a salmon, representing the fishing industry in the area.
The bells, mounted in a fixed position to reduce vibration, were originally cast in 1752, and recast in 1865 and 1906 and are the main draw here. 8 bells, the largest being over 1.5 tons, have a beautiful tone AND visitors can climb to the first floor and ring them by ropes. Every rope is labeled with a number, and a booklet is available with 2-3 dozen songs with the notes of the song designated by number. I chose and attempted to play "Amazing Grace". We were given ear muff (hearing protectors) as we headed up the tower steps to see the bells and how the mechanism worked that rang them. Very interesting. On up to see the famous clock, all four sides controlled by one mechanism. Often times over the years, it had mechanical problems and was not working properly, showing a different time on each face, which prompted the locals to rename it "the four-faced liar"! Lol. The clock was stopped in 2013 for renovation. Restarted in 14' it has worked better. Today it was roped off with construction tape, and tools laying about indicated there might still be reconditioning going on.
Up another flight of steps and then to outside cat-walk, 120 feet up for a wonderful panoramic view of Cork City. Spotted several landmarks around the City, and the maze of one way streets and bridges that make up downtown Cork. Was surprised to see how close we were to the old "Murphy's Brewery" (now owned by and sign posted "Heinekin"). They still make the famous Murphy's stout, and market it world wide.
Upon exiting the church, now the gals were thirsty, so we stopped at another cozy pub nearby. Our conversation was punctuated several times by "bells". They were quite loud this close by and asked the staff if it became annoying. They said they were so use to it, they didn't even notice it that much any more.
Back on the bus for the final part of the circuit and exited on Grand Parade. K was not doing to well with her cold, so decided to go back to the B&B and rest. (Another plus for choosing lodging in a nearby central location). It was too early for the rest of us to head back. T had noticed a geocache that intrigued him so we set out to find it. Was quite challenging! Suppose to be in the alley connecting St. Patrick's St with the English Market. It took a while, tried a couple different alleys, but kept coming back to this one. Finally found it on the underside of a down spout, magnetic holder. This geocaching could be a fun activity to get involved in someday! Wandered down St Patrick St window shopping on our way back to the B&B.
Rested and relaxed a bit in the room. We had heard there was quite a bit of variety of good ethnic food in the area, and we needed a break from Irish cuisine. We were seeking a place the "locals" might go. "Cormix Bistro" was suggested, which was run by Polish folks with good Polish food offerings on their menu. It checked out on YELP (a food app we often use). We had gotten Perrogies in Poland a year earlier, and they were on the menu here. They had 4 different varieties on the menu, but sold out of one of them. We ordered 3 meals of the other 3 kinds of Perrogies and some sides to share and sample and they were quite good. Perrogies are a small dumpling filled with meat/cheese/sauce and can be ordered boiled or fried. We enjoyed them, it was a welcome change. Almost as good as in Poland!
The gals were ready to call it a night and headed back, while T and I headed over to the Oliver Plunkett Pub again for more music. And beer. It was good music again tonight and we stayed till almost midnight, before we too, called it a day.
Bucket lists Ireland trip Day 18
This day dawned with the threat of more rain showers. Ok! that's why we brought rain coats and water-proofed our shoes! Gathered up coffee and pastries from a nearby Centra to take to the room and after breakfast, I made my way down OP street to Grand Parade to fetch the car. The confirmation number I received on the Internet sight yielded a paper voucher. The car was safe and sound where I left it, and soon I was through the barrier, left turn out on to Grand Parade, around the block back down to Creedons, where the rest of the crew was waiting on the sidewalk for our day trip.
A day trip down to Kinsale was on our agenda, primarily do to a previous visit that didn't allow sufficient time to see and experience this lively seaside town. During our 1st trip to Ireland, in 06, we breezed into town late Saturday afternoon, with no room reservations, (mistake, especially on a weekend) finally got lucky and found a couple rooms due to an unexpected cancellation, Mass, dinner, music in a pub, and left town first thing in the morning....because we had to keep moving on our "Green Blur Tour"
This time we wanted to spend the whole day in Kinsale and it was a pleasant drive of about 45 minutes and we arrived at the town center about 9:30 AM near the Tourist Information office. The rain had started, so I let the other three out and proceeded to find a parking spot in the free car park behind the Super Valu. Only about a 3 block walk back to the TI. Our group planned to meet there with the leader of a historical walking tour of Kilkenny for 5 Euros/person. We have been on a couple of these tours previously, and we found them to be very worth while. You learn much more about the history and people this way than just striking out on your own sight seeing excursion.
This informative tour lasted about an hour, and our guide suggested a couple of places that we might want to visit later. One was the Museum. It has the largest collection of maritime artifacts in Ireland. Formerly a court house, it was the location where the inquest was held regarding the sinking of the "Lusitania" which marked the beginning of WW1. The ground floor displays the maritime objects, while the entire 2nd floor is dedicated to the Lusitania. A great place to spend 60-90 minutes on a rainy day or even a dry day in Kinsale.
Another recommendation was to visit the Cathedral Church of Ireland, St. Multose. It is known for its stain glass windows. Quite impressive! After that we poked around in several of the small stores nearby. Bought a few souvenirs and a famous French chocolate that was delish but can't remember the name now!
Kinsale is known as a good place for "foodies" with great restaurants, known mainly for its seafood cuisine. One such restaurant that I researched, with many good reviews, was "Fishy Fishy". We had a light breakfast, and planned this meal to suffice for lunch AND dinner by waiting till mid afternoon to eat. Many times this restaurant requires reservations, but not this day. It was a good choice. We Sampled a local micro beer that was good (despite me being a self proclaimed Guinness snob)....have to go out on a limb once in a while on beer! Hot tea, Irish Coffee, a red seafood chowder, yellow fin tuna/pasta, mussels starters, fish both baked and fried rounded out our menu selections. This food was really-really good!
By now it was a little after 4, but too early to head back to Cork City. K had picked up information at the TI about a 9/11 remembrance garden just west out of Kinsale. It was easy to find. It was the result of efforts by Kathlene Murphy, a retired NYC nurse. She donated the land and 373 trees were planted in honor of the 373 first responders/firemen who perished in the Twin Towers in NYC on 9/11. Many of those men were of Irish descent. It was very well done and a moving tribute from Ireland in remembrance of our heroes.
It was time to head back to Cork. I Was apprehensive about driving back in to Cork at rush hour but not to worry, it was easy. Pulled up to our B&B just as the bollards were lowered and landed a great over night parking spot. Everybody was ready to call it a day, except yours truly, who headed back over to Oliver Plunkett bar for the early 7 pm session. Best music yet, featuring a champion accordion player, and a 16 year old lad and 2 younger sibs step dancing. The 16 year old finished 11th in the all-Ireland step dancing competition. Wow this was worth seeing. Just happened to be sitting beside a lady who happened to be his Mum, at the end of the bar and she was very proud of her dancing brood, and rightly so. I would have stayed longer, but the trad music group was being replaced by a rock band for the late session this Friday evening so I was out of there. Was not in the mood to wander around Cork City in the rain to possibly find other trad music, so I called it a night.