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Bob's 2017 'Whirlwind Tour' -- In (Possibly Too Much) Detail


 

I know that Last year I promised a DETAILED Report and failed to produce it, so I was DETERMINED not to have that happen THIS year, too.  So, here goes -- Probably more info than you might want, but I DO tend to be a man of extremes!  hmm  hmm  hmm

So, I bought tickets to Ireland on 29August for a trip that would begin on 25 September.  My only guidelines were that we had to fly in and out of SNN with no more than one lay-over (as short as possible) , that we had to see new and different sites  (rather than revisit the same old same old ), NO Dublin and, of course, I also WANTED to add to my Round Towers Visited list.

          NO pressure, right?????

 Being the generous, unselfish, "It really doesnt matter what I want" guy that I am I immediate tried to determine which Round Towers to include.  hmm  hmm

 My list is actually getting pretty short (Finally!).  Ive only Four and three that require revisits for photos:  Killeany (on Inishmore), Scattery Island (County Clare), Tory island (WELL of the North coast of Donegal) and Rams island (On Lough Neagh, County Antrim).  I also need to revisit three others (Liathmore (Co Tipperary ), Ardpatrick (Co Limerick) and Rathmichael (Co Dublin), as I have NO pictures of those.

 Tory is accessible via Ferry and is VERY weather-dependent even in summer.  Rams is only accessible during the summer, as well and is a bit far afield for this trip.  Emails discovered that the Ferry to Scattery only runs through the end of September (weather permitting) and only if there are at least 6 passengers.  This time of year, I was advised, they often dropped back to a Thursday Sunday, reduced schedule.

 Now, we had previously visited Inishmore using the Ferry, but it was prior to my obsession with Round Towers and the traditional tours from Kilronan dont cover that end of the island.  Theres plenty to see and do there, though, so it seemed possible to both visit my Round tower AND see other, new-and-different sites.   Most are located near the Airport, introducing the possibility of flying to the island, with Arial views something we havent ever done!  

 We received an email to advise us that many of them would be gathering near Tralee to celebrate the eighteenth birthday of the daughter of one of my wifes cousins on the evening of 30 September and the basis of a plan began to come together.

 Then came Hurricane Irma!  A few days of preparations shopping for emergency essentials , installing storm shutters, etc --, the actual storm, two days without electricity (WE were lucky!) ,  another five whilst our daughter, SIL and three grand-daughters bunked in awaiting the return of electricity to their home and, then, removing shutters, replacing the spoiled contents of our fridge and freezer.  That took a BIG chunk out of my planning Window!  furious  furious  furious

 Still, I had the bones of a plan:

 Day 0:  Fly out of SRQ.

 Day1:  Arrive SNN in the AM, pick up the reserved (Dooley, through Fox) Focus-class car and drive to Spiddal, Galway, for the night.  Stop along the way at the Galway Shopping Center, visit the 3 Mobile Store and secure a mobile phone SIM and a Data Top Up for our Mobile WiFi device.

 Day 2:  Drive to Inverin and fly to Inishmore.  Spend the night after visiting my Round Tower, Europes smallest Church, the Black Fort and, if time / weather permits, Dun Eochla and Dun Eoghanachta.

 Day 3: Fly back to Inverin in the AM and then drive to Kilkee, via the Burren.  Possible stops along the way:  Corcomroe Abbey, and St Brigids Well.

 Day 4:  Drive to Kilrush and take the Scattery Island Ferry to visit the Round Tower, then drive on to take the Shannon Ferry to Banna Strand Resort for a self-catering cottage (complete with a washer and dryer), for three nights.  This would allow us a breatherfrom the one-night-stands and the laundry option meant that we could pack a BIT lighter, too.

 Day 5: Drive to the North West section of the Dingle peninsula and visit some previously missed sites.  Gather at the Cousins for the evening.

 Day 6: Drive to Killarney and Millstreet.  Meet up with friends in both areas if time permits.

 Day 7: Drive to Drimoleague, Co Cork for two nights, staying at a different cousins Weekend home.

 Day 8:  Tour the vicinity and attempt to locate the gravesite of my wifes G-Grandfather.

 Day 9:  Drive to Cork and stay ( ????) confuseconfuseconfuse.

 Day 10:  Drive to Holycross Abbey and stay (???) confuseconfuseconfuse --   Although, were leaning towards a revisit to Abbey Court Hotel, in Nenagh, Co Tipperary since this is the night of my 65th Birthday.

  Day 11:  Drive the ENTIRE Lough Derg Drive (Both sides!).  End at Bunratty for the opportunity to spend two delightful nights at Headley Court B&B (A personal favorite!).

  Day 12:  Tour some of the attractions IN Limerick (King Johns Castle, St. Marys Cathedral, Hunt Museum) that weve previously skipped over.

  Day 13:  Fly home from SNN.

 So We had a plan (mostly) and we had chosen MOST of our accommodations although a last-minute cancelation in Kilkee cause a minor relocation!  We were booked for the flights to and from Inishmore and for the late-morning cruise to Scattery on Friday, 29 September.

 What could go wrong?????   

 More To Come!



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Battle Plan -- Meet Reality

You're NOT Going To Like It!

Day 0:  Our daughter arrived to collect us around 10 AM and drove us to Sarasota (about 45 minutes away), around 11 dropping us at the front doors.  Check in at Jet Blue went smoothly (we checked only 1 bag, which they checked through to SNN).   Security was a breeze, as we were randomly selected for TSA Pre-Check (No removing belts, jackets, etcetera ) Although I usually do so prior to getting into line anyway . . .

There was no drama with the 12:53 PM flight.  We were anticipating a bit of turbulence which never really materialized and our 3 hour lay-over at JFK went by quickly enough.  The Aer Lingus flight (was on a FULL 757 with 3 and 3 seating, so I had a New Best Friend for the duration, but we departed on time  (6:30 PM) and landed a bit early, but reasonably close to our 6AM, scheduled time,  Deplaning, Immigration,  baggage claim and Customs went along as expected.

What is it with Irish airports and their INSISTANCE on filling the route from the plane to Immigration with numerous stairs UP, vast, empty stretches of empty corridors and, then, numerous stairs back DOWN???   DUB and SNN are the worst example, but if memory serves, the New terminal in Cork is similar, as well. 

 At any rate, we found ourselves in the Arrivals Hall just shortly after 6 AM and after a few minutes, were warmly greeted by two of our favorite Irish Cousins.  They had driven up from Cork the night before and booked a room at the Park Inn, in order to welcome us, Home!  They had an early afternoon appointment back in Cork, but had negotiated a late Check Out, just in case we were in need of a nap before proceeding on. 

 My wife and her cousins headed off to find breakfast whilst I made a hasty exit for the outdoors and a belated nicotine infusion, before going to collect our rental car.  I had booked a manual transmission intermediate no-frills car with Dooley via Fox Car Hire for a very reasonable $123.07, waiving all insurances using my bank of America issued, World Master Card.  The young man at the desk gave me minimal Hard Sell, but DID ask for my Letter of Coverage from Master Card.  The Dooley / Fox counter shares space (though separated by a wall) with Enterprises counter.   He was NOT terribly amused when I asked him how long it would be before they removed the wall.

 I believe his answer was something along the lines of, "Never, Please God --  I hope".   aww  aww

 I dragged our luggage out to the car (conveniently staged in the car park opposite the Arrivals Hall which I was NOT expecting.  It would seem the Enterprise purchase has returned Dooley to an on-Airport Depot, as our pick up and subsequent return proved.   After a brief inspection (in verification that all the visible damage mostly minor had been duly annotated on the provided documents), I locked the car and returned to the Arrivals Hall.  I had been upgraded to silver, 2016 Skoda Octavia.  It was a 5 speed manual, diesel fuel, 5 door hatch back, roughly equivalent to a US model, Ford Fusion.  The contract listed the mileage as 66,875, but the odometer registered 66,787.  Close enough, I suppose.   confuse  confuse  confuse

 https://www.foxrentacar.com/en.html

 Since the ladies were still deeply engrossed in catching up, I grabbed a light breakfast for myself and settled in.  After another half hour or so, we made our way over to their room in the hotel and continued our chat.  The next thing we noticed, it was nearly 10:30 (The cousins had planned to leave no later than 10!) and we decided that we would all depart together They for Cork, and my wife and I toward Galway.  I think that we finally exited the car park around 11 AM.

 The M18 Motorway (running all the way to Tuam) was scheduled to open within any day, but NOT this day.  We were diverted off in Gort , just as it always used to be and followed the Old Road all the way into Galway.  We made a brief stop at the Galway Shopping Center locate near the intersection of the R866 (Headford Road), the R338 (Sean Mulvoy Rd / Old Dublin Road) and the N6 (where it makes a 90* Northward turn after coming from the West). 

 http://www.galwaysc.com/

 http://www.galwaysc.com/store-directory/02-retail/

 There, we visited the 3 Mobile Store, added a 25 Euro, 7 Gb, 30 day Data Plan for the MiFi unit I purchased from the Carphone Warehouse in Mallow, back in 2013.  (Its the Gift that just keeps giving!)  I also bought a SIM card with All You Can Eat Data for my unlocked Nokia Lumina Windows Smartphone for an additional 20 Euro.  Back on the road (and using the GPS built-in to my Nokia, we detoured around Galway city center and made our way to our booked hotel An Cruiscin Lan Hotel, located in Spiddal.

 http://www.cruiscin.ie/accommodation/

 The booking was for a two bed room, ensuite, B&B, for 110 Euro.  It is located right in the center of town, not too far past the Craft Village but on the opposite side of the main road.  Parking in front of the hotel is straight-in and at a rather steep angle down from the road.  The R336 can be QUITE busy, so pulling in and out can be problematic -- and the front or rear under trim can easily take a beating from the sidewalk if you arent careful but there are plenty of parallel parking spaces only a short distance away which are MUCH easier to deal with.  There is also designated, off-street parking to the rear, sea-ward side of the hotel.

 The receptionist was cheerful, friendly and efficient and we were checked in, in just minutes.  I humped our luggage up to our room (a single, short flight of stairs) and within minutes, we were both collapsed onto our beds where we slept deeply and fully for the next two hours.  Having threatened rain all day, it finally began to fall as we drifted off to sleep.

 After rising, showers and fresh clothes gave us renewed energy, so we set out orienteering plotting out our route for the following morning.  Our 10 AM flight required that we arrive by 9:30 and my wife is All About knowing what to expect, so we went in search of the Connemara Airport in Inverin which is also just off the R336 in still lightly falling (soft) rain. 

 The airport is well sign posted, but we found the long lane way to be rather narrow (and pot-holed).  Google maps calls it 12.5 Kilometers (roughly 7 ¾ miles) and rates it as a 13 minute drive.  It took me the better part of 20 minutes (Close enough), particularly as I was exceedingly cautious passing down the pot holed lane.  Deciding that departing the hotel by 9 AM would easily suffice, we returned to Spiddal.  Since the rain had relented, we took a quick stroll about, stopping into the harbor as well as the Catholic Church, to view the delightful, Modern, High Cross.  Its well worth a few minutes, if you are in the area:   https://www.irelandxo.com/ireland/galway/spiddal/news/ardchrois-spid%C3%A9il-high-cross-spiddal 

 With the rain renewing, we made our way to the hotel restaurant for a very good meal and retired to our rooms to organize our luggage.  Dirty clothes were placed in a large plastic bag that we brought along for the purpose.  We laid out clothes for the morning and packed a set of clothes into my small back pack and my wifes zippered tote bag (which is her default carry on) and I returned the rest of our luggage to the car.  Taking advantage of the lull in traffic, I relocated the car from the front of the hotel into a parallel parking space about 100 feet away, so that we wouldnt have to fight any morning traffic.  Then, we watched television until about 10 PM and settled in for the night.

More To Come

 





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I hear you concerning all the stairs at the airports. We once tried to take an elevator but only employees have a key. I guess you have to be on crutches before you can use the elevator on arrival. Although departing from Shannon you can use an elevator.

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Day 2 dawns cold and foggy, with a light, misting drizzle falling.  We ate breakfast about 8:30, grabbed our over-night bags and checked out around 9 AM.  We arrived to the airport only to discover that the planes were grounded.  Apparently, it was too foggy on the islands for planes to land!  A number of passengers were loaded onto a shuttle bus to be driven to the Ferry, but we demurred.  We were told that it would be no earlier than 1 PM or so before they would likely fly and they advised us that they would call us if the weather cleared any earlier.  With nothing else to do, we opted to go for a drive.

 

Flight Info:  http://aerarannislands.ie/   Price was 49 Euro per person for Return (round trip) tickets.

 

Back on the R336, we headed out to Rossaveal mostly, just to see how rough the seas likely were.  It really didnt look too bad, but the Ferrys earliest sailing HAD been canceled, as well.  Glancing at my OSI Road Atlas, I discovered a tiny, winding Yellow road heading to the North and East from the R336 / Rossaveal crossroad that lead diagonally to Oughterard. 

 

Clearly, this was unchartered territory somewhere that we had never been before, I told my wife.  As she concurred, we set off to explore.  Although unmarked, the early parts of the road are reasonably wide and freshly paved, because, it turns out, the ESB (National Electric Company) had to do so in order to install a goodly number of wind turbines at a hill (mountain?)top Wind Farm part of the way along the road.  Ive since discovered that this road is referred to as the Seanafeisteen Pass and officially designated as the L1311.  Even as foggy as it was, the views along this road were outrageously gorgeous a rough and tumble patchwork of rugged hills, steeply sloped valleys, rushing and stumbling streams and undulating stretches of wild mountain bog.  Wow!  If you have the interest,  its WELL worth the time.

 

We arrived into Oughterard at the junction to the N59 and followed it up to Maam Cross.  We dropped into the hotel there for tea and scones (They were to DIE for!) in the café and then watched bemused, as first one, then two and then, THREE tour buses pulled up and disgorged their passengers for their obligatory Lunch Stop.  Seeing as it was now slightly after 12:00, we decided to head back to the airport even though we had received NO phone call.

 

We followed the R336 Southward through Kinvara and Costelloe and arrived back at the airport shortly after 1 PM Only to discover that they were about to load up the plane for its Second flight of the day to Inishmore!  I MAY have grumbled a little, but the weighed us, took our bags (and weighed THEM) and then had us watch a quick Safety video.

 

For what its worth, they have a room for secure luggage storage available, although we simply left our large bag stashed away in the car trunk. 

 

After that, it was Out the Door, walk to the back of a pretty small (9 person Max) plane and then the loaded two large men into the second bench row from the right hand side and my wife and I into the third bench row, from the left hand side.  That left an empty row behind us and an empty row in front of the two men.  Shortly after, the pilot taxied us out to a T shaped runway and turned Left, rumbled down to the short end of the T.  After turning around, we sat there as the pilot revved the engines presumably, to warm them up. 

 

After a few minutes, we were racing along the runway, lifting away from the pavement jus 20 or 30 feet before it ended at the water.  We were probably less than 20 feet above the water as we exited land.  At our peak, we cruised along at about 800 feet above the waves.  After just a few minutes (the entire flight only lasts about 9), we flew over the Western end of Inishmaan before lining up for our landing on inishmore.  When we left Inverin, it had been cloudy and gray.  Here, the clouds were lifting and showing patches of blue sky.  My wife breathed a sigh of relief as we raced into a landing at another runway that was every bit as short as the one we had lifted off from. 

 

Some video:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeyBVOSOEQzz-tjsGI8H8sQ

 

Video 00001 was taken at the Wind Farm.  Video 00002 is of everyone loading onto the plane at Connemara Airport.  The final (and much longer) video is of our return flight.

 

The plane is cramped, VERY noisy and both a bit scary AND exhilarating at the same time.  Although my wife was quite nervous, she admits that the slightly less than 10 minute of actual flight was well worth the experience.  By contrast, a Ferry trip from Rossaveal costs only 25 Euro per person but can take 45 minutes each way.

 

It was now about 1:30 PM.  After exiting the plane and retrieving our two small bags, we located the Shuttle driver.  He operates a 15 passenger mini-bus that meets each landing and provides transport into the ferry port at Kilronan, a little over a mile and a half from the airport.  Our B&B host advised us to tell him that we were staying at Pennys (a Guesthouse named Tigh Fitz).  We were charged a very reasonable 5 Euro for two, round trip rides, after advising him what time we would be flying out the next day.

 

Tigh Fitz houses 11 guest rooms, a restaurant and a pub although neither of the latter two is currently operating.  The guesthouse is currently for sale, so we found it to be in EXCELLENT condition.  If youve always had a hankering to own a B&B or guest House and have a spare ¾ of a Million laying about ( ! ), you could do a LOT worse!

 

  http://www.daft.ie/galway/commercial-property-for-sale/restaurant-hotel-bar-for-sale/tigh-fitz-killeany-inishmore-galway-31295/

 

Penny greeted us cordially and showed us to a delightful room at the back of the house with views of the sea.  It was on the second floor (That would be the FIRST floor for us Yanks!), so it was just up a single flight of stairs and straight ahead just a few short feet.  The double bedded room was roomy and the bathroom was adequately sized.  Although a bit baffled when I told her that I chose her establishment based on proximity to Teampall Bheanain, for the Round tower, Penny proved to be a font of information in terms of directions and routes to take.  I suppose it shouldnt be surprising.  After all, the hill top ruins of the mini church are visible from her front door!

 

Typically, when tourist say that they plan to visit the Aran Islands, they actually often just mean Inishmore (the Big island).  They typically land by Ferry into Kilronan, grab a mini tour bus (or bicycle) and visit the Seven Churches, the Seal Colony, Kilmurvey Beach and the MAIN attraction Dun Aonghasa.  If they are staying over, they might also visit the Worm Hole and possibly, the Old Lighthouse and the hilltop ring fort located at Inishmores highest point Dun Eochla.  Then, they hit the pubs and return on the morning ferry. 

 

Many never venture East, to see the Black Fort (Dun Duchathair) or Teampall Bheanain, in Killeaney, which hosts a Holy Well, the remnants of a Celtic Cross, the stump of a round Tower (remnants of a former Monastery founded by St Enda, in the 6th century) and St. Benans Church which is billed as the smallest in all of Europe.

 

Given the now pleasant weather blue sky, sunshine and (relative) warmth, we immediately set out along the suggested route.  Its NOT all that far, but the hill is rather tall and the path up is steep in places.  I took LOTS of photos all organized by travel day!  I also included links to Google Maps for each day, but for some reason, they only register as Cut and Paste rather than being Clickable.

 

https://bobs2017irelandvisit.shutterfly.com/

 

Neither the cross nor the Round Tower is a particularly impressive example of their kind, having been substantially damaged by Cromwells troops during their occupation during the 16th century but they are significant reminders of the long history of Ireland and her people.  St Benans Church sits high above, at the top of a steep hill, resting in a very Burren-like, crevasse-filled field of limestone.    The building was likely either a oratory or a hermitage rather than a true Church,   It measures roughly 15 foot by 11 foot, and stands 15 feet high at the gables.  It is roofless.  Unusually, it is oriented North and South, rather than on a typical, East-West axis presumably due to its exposed, windy location.  A small window sits in the West side.  There is an Altar and the short doorway features sloping jams.  There are remains of other structures about: remains of a cashel wall, a dwelling and a small beehive hut.

The structure dates from the 11th Century and is dedicated to St Benignus, a disciple of St Patrick, who occupied the SEE of Armagh and died in 468 AD.  We wandered about the limestone karst, marveling at its rugged, random appearance for a goodly while and then made our way back down to the main road.  We had the place entirely to ourselves for almost the entire time, except for a pair of (20-something?) French girls who arrived after us and only remained for just a few minutes.  From what we could understand, they were pressed for time (having cycled down from Kilronan) and were (I think) already over-due to return their bikes.

 

Feet back on the road, we decided to walk in to Kilronan and locate a restaurant for dinner.  It was a delightful and interesting walk.  We passed numerous funerary monuments that periodically shadowed the sides of the road; sometimes standing solitary, but often, in small clusters, just beyond the roads bordering dry stone walls.  I wonder if they are a singularly Aran island solution to the unforgiving, rocky terrain or merely empty memorials to someones dearly departed.  confuse  confuse

 

The island felt deserted, although we did spot a few souls out walking a three DECIDEDLY unhinged individuals who were out for a swim!  Most of the shops, restaurants and hotels in Kilronan were either closed or closing for the night, so we followed sign to the Aran Island Hotel, which is about 1/3 of the way from Kilronan and Tigh Fitz.  We passed it on the way into town initially.

 

We had a very nice dinner at their restaurant which, by comparison, seemed to be fairly busy.  There were a goodly number of Yanks within, as well.  The hotel also offered free shuttle service for its patrons, we discovered but we opted to walk back in the gathering twilight instead.

 

Penny drove by as we were ambling along and stopped to ask how our visit to Teampall Bheanain had gone and then drove on, as we were within sight of Tigh Fitz at that point.

 

As we settled in for the night, it began to turn Soft and breezy.  We watched a bit of Irish television, availed of the sluggish, but available WiFi and enjoyed a long, comfortable sleep.

More to Come!  biggrin



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Day 3 broke grey, blustery and drizzly, so it proved well that we had taken advantage full of the previous afternoon.  After the departure delay, I had rescheduled our return flight for 11:30, hoping to give us time to make up any missed opportunities on the island but, it seemed that the current poor weather was proving that decision to be a poor one.

 

We had a very nice breakfast about 8:30 and I paid Penny the 95 Euro charge for our stay.   Penny advised us that she HAD been scheduled to fly off the island on the day of our arrival in order to visit Galway, but had to forgo the visit due to late resumption of flights.  She has a young woman who comes in to clean that would have greeted us.  Instead, Penny had rescheduled her departure for today (on our original, 10:15 flight) and offered to give us a lift to the airport on the off chance that there would be space for us on the earlier flight.  Given the weather, it made good sense.

 

There was no luck on the 10:15 flight, as it was fully booked, so we waited around the tiny lobby until the next plane arrived.  They reweighed our bags, but said they used our previous days weights -- which, given the size of Irish meals MIGHT be a bit Optimistic!  The staff were all very polite and helpful and even offered to provide free tea and coffee while we waited. 

 

There were six of us (plus the pilot) for our return flight and we ended up sitting in the first row, immediately behind him.  That gave me good views, particularly of the planes instruments.  Did I mention just how windy it was???

 

The return flight was only slightly bumpier than the flight out, but it was a BIT disconcerting (even for me) to see and feel the plane lining up for its landing approach sidewise and to the South of the actual runway!  It was all good, of course the pilot merely compensating for the strong winds and the landing wasnt particularly rough or unnerving.

 

Back in the car, we set out down the lane way, only to discover a slight delay there was a road crew out, diligently filling and patching all the pot holes!  After we made it onto the R336, we followed the GPS around Galway, turned South on N18 and then, West along the N57, just past Kinvarra onto another of those, little yellow roaads (It was the L1014, it turns out.)  I had a few possible stops penciled in, but the weather remained Soft and blustery, though, so we didnt make many stops.

 

Along the way we passed close to Corcomroe Abbey and the road to the Burren Perfumery (neither of which we have managed to visit previously), but the weather was discouraging, so we passed them by.  The L1014 ends at a junction with the R480, so we did a brief detour North to revisit Poulnabrone, but passing by the previously visited, Caherconnel.  I did notice a new sign advertising Sheep Dog Demonstrations, though so they MAY be due a revisit in the future!

 

After a short, windy and wet visit to Polnabrone, we returned South along the R480, then West on the R476 into Kilfenora, to the R481 to Ennistimon and a return to the N67.  We followed that South along the coast through Lahinch, Miltown Malbay, Quilty and Doonbeg into Kilkee.

 

Whilst we HAD visited Kilkee before, we hadnt spent much time there, so an overnight stay in sea view hotel seemed like a welcome experience.  I had originally booked us into the Strand (opposite the beach), but about a week later, they had canceled our booking to schedule an over-haul of their heating system.  Instead, I booked into The Bay View Hotel for a twin bed, B&B stay.  It was maybe 50 feet further from the beach, but our room had a delightful bay windowed extension (housing a small table and two chairs) that look straight down the road at the pounding surf.  The room was spacious, the bathroom fairly large and remarkably quiet and comfortable.  The rate was 100 Euro -- about 10 more than the Strand, but we were very pleased.

 

We ate dinner in the attached restaurant Hickies Bar a 10 ounce steak, Mushroom Risotto and a diet coke both quite good, for only 40 Euro 70.  During dinner, I retrieved an email from Scattery Island Tours advising me that Due to Forecasted Bad Weather, that they would NOT be sailing on either Friday or Sunday, and would only be making the trip out to the island at Noon, returning at 3 PM.   furious 

 

What bad weather??? confuse  confuse   Turns out that the remnants of Hurricane Marie were rapidly approaching the Irish coast and heavy winds and rain were being expected!  This is SO not fair to a Florida resident particularly one that had just weathered Irma!    furious   furious

 

Since we had a family get-together scheduled Saturday evening in Tralee and would be staying in Kerry, a Saturday trip wasnt going to be possible.  Ah, well . . . Maybe some OTHER trip.    furious    furious    furious

 

We made our way upstairs for a bit of television and research on the weather and then made an early night of it.

More To Come



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FYI -- The days get a bit shorter after this  --  At least, the reporting, there of!  aww    aww

We made a leisurely start on the morning of Day 4, since our Round tower visit was now off the table.    Views of the water showed large waves that threw up massive, frothy, white spray onto the rocks facing each other at opposite headlands beyond the beach.

After another fine breakfast, we checked out and made it a point to tour around the town, driving along the coastal streets first to the beach, then North, where we passed beyond the Kilkee Golf Club   http://www.kilkeegolfclub.ie/   The wind was blowing rather forcefully (which explains the waves and canceled Cruise, I suppose) which made the views QUITE spectacular.  The best views, however, came after we rounded the beach and parked in the car park at the end of West End.  We only walked a bit beyond the Richard Harris Memorial, rather than taking what was undoubtedly the scenic, 1 mile Cliff Walk -- the aforementioned wind being a BIG consideration! But, I highly recommend the vantage point.

https://www.thebeachguide.co.uk/republic-of-ireland/county-clare/kilkee.htm

 Back in the car, we set out for Killimer, where we drove straight onto the Ferry.  We were the front car in the left-hand row, so we were first off after reaching Tarbert!  We made no further stops until we reached Blennerville (on the West side of Tralee), where the café provided a satisfying light lunch. 

 Although still quite blustery, there was blue sky, a fair bit of sunshine and warm(ish) temperatures, so I decided to tick the box on some previously missed Dingle sites.  It was only as we were approaching Castlegregory on the way to Connor Pass, that we discovered that today was the first for the Dingle Food Festival!  Surprisingly, the town didn't seem terribly crowded being early afternoon on the last Friday in September probably helped I scooted up Main Street in only moderate traffic (although the parking spaces seemed to be mostly filled) and made the error of relying on memory turning off too soon, rather than onto the R559 as I should have.  That probably added 30 minutes or so to my drive, but I kept reminding my wife that we weren't REALLY lost we were just exploring NEW and previously missed areas!   biggrin   biggrin

         Yeah, SHE didn't buy that, either.  

Once I located Kilmakedar church Yard, I followed some rather detailed directions to St Brendans Oratory  -- a delightful, partially restored ruin that should rival Gallarus, but is generally unvisited.    Its a pity, as it likely pre-dates Gallarus and its Free!

 http://www.saintsandstones.net/saints-brendan-journey.htm

After departing the Oratory, I made our way counter-clockwise along the Slea Head Drive, toward the turn off for Reasc Monastic Site.  Although this site is literally, 'Just Off' the Slea Head Drive, it is usually missed as it is NOT signposted (Despite what Rick Steves and National Geographic say!).  There IS a small stone just beyond the narrow lane way that has Riasc carved into it, but it's virtually impossible to read while moving and is only visible coming from the opposite direction that the Slea Head is normally driven.

  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/dingle-peninsula-loop-trip-20272095/

This site includes a decent map:  http://www.dingle-peninsula.ie/home/archaeological-sites/item/reask-monastic-site-an-riasc.html   

 I've been interested in Riasc for a number of years, but continued to miss it due to poor directions /  being unmarked and time constraints.  I was VERY pleased with the site and think it should be considered a Must See if touring Dingle.  The lane way, although paved, looks for all the world to be a farmers drive, but actually loops around and rejoins the R559 a short distance away.  The little Museum in Ballyferriter contains some of the items discovered during the excavations at Riasc:   http://www.westkerrymuseum.com/bearla/home.html

Our next stop was at the outstanding Pottery Shop of Lois Mulcahy where their toilets were enjoyed and a fair bit of Euros were spent on some of their delightful products!  There are excellent views of the Three Sisters (even though none of them has a woman's name!) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Tri%C3%BAr_Deirfi%C3%BAr  

from the shops front yard, as well.        http://www.louismulcahy.com/

As it was beginning to get late, I activated my GPS and followed it into and through Dingle, onto the N86.  That turned out to be LESS than ideal, as there is MAJOR road works being carried out apparently, straightening and widening the road along a rather long stretch, requiring light controlled, single lane traffic.  Although delaying in its own right, being stuck behind a lorry (truck) that was hauling a long, empty, flat bed trailer actually created the worst delays as he seldom exceeded 40 KPH and often slowed to around 20 KPH on the MANY curves along the way!

As it was now 5 PM, I phoned our accommodations from Anascaul to let them that we were running late.  They advised that they closed at 7 PM, but, if we hadn't arrived by then they would unlock our cottage and leave the keys there for us.

We had booked three nights, self-catering, at Banna Beach Resort, located just North of Ardfert, County Kerry:      http://www.bannabeachhotel.net/accommodation/   

The office staff was VERY helpful and couldn't have been nicer!  We actually arrived around 6:30, and were quickly made to feel at home.  They had fliers available with info on the area, numbers for food delivery and recommendations on places to eat.

We dropped off our things at our three bedroom, two bath cottage and then drove down the road to Ardfert and ate at the recommended, Kate Browne's Bar.  Tea for two, a Mushroom Risotto and a Sirloin Steak Sandwich totaled 35.40 Euro and was worth EVERY penny!  My personal assessment: Very good food, excellent service and delightfully atmospheric.   https://www.facebook.com/KateBrownesArdfert/ 

We returned to our not-so-little cottage and settled in.

More To Come . . .  biggrin



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Oh, that pesky Irish weather. It demands we return again to see what we couldn't before. Do you think it is a conspiracy? And a hurricane followed you Floridians to Ireland. It has happened to me before too!

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Indeed, Michele.  Actually, the weather on Friday and Sunday (early) were actually passably pleasant.  On the Saturday they offered as an option, it was rather dreary and intermittently showery and windy.   I think that, sub-consciously, I regularly schedule in TOO MANY activities -- as a way to insure that we MUST return again -- and again!  biggrin  confuse  confuse  biggrin

 Day 5:  A Day for Rest, Recharge and Relatives     (A.K.A. 30 September)

 We made a leisurely start on the day with cold cereal, toast and tea (purchased from a Centra in Ardfert on the previous evening), and started doing our accumulated laundry. 

 My wife discovered that the cottage did NOT provide a hair drier, so we drove up to the office to see if they had one she could borrow.  Although they didn't, they advised that there were several in the ladies dressing room in the attached resort pool and gymnasium and that, as guests, those facilities were at our disposal.   About ten minutes after retreating into the Office, my wife returned with hair suitably dried and volumized.  This became our morning ritual for the remainder of our stay.

 Exiting the parking area, we drove West to the car park at the actual Strand, less than a mile away.  Its quite an impressive (and historically significant) stretch of beach.  It also had the advantage of providing us with a decent, WiFi signal!  The Resort provides WiFi, but their signal doesn't extend to the cottages and neither did our '3' Mobile devices. Now, we had a second 'ritual' for our time in Kerry --pop up to the beach for views and news!

 While at the Strand, we received a message from the cousin hosting the party.  She advised that although the event was scheduled to begin at 7 PM, she would be delighted if we would come earlier, so that we might have a chance to visit prior to the madness.  She included her mailing address and EIRCODE, so that we could use one of our myriad GPS devices.  At our Day 1 'greeting', one of the Cousins had insisted that we take her newly purchased GPS in addition to the one built into my Nokia AND the one built into my Samsung tablet so we had directional over-kill!

 We drove into Ardfert and spent a few minutes wandering about the grounds of Ardfert Cathedral, since the interiors were not open to the public.  It seems we had missed the season by three days . . . Still, its an impressive site and was well worth our time.

 http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/shannon-region/ardfertcathedral/

 Moving on from Ardfert, we returned to our cottage, where we rested and prepared for our anticipated late evening.  Properly primped and polished, we drove to the Strand, checked messages and emails and I entered the address into first one, then two and finally, all three of my devices Each time, resulting in the dreaded, "Address NOT Found"!  Not on Nokia Drive; Not on the Cousins Garmin and Not on Google Maps.  All we knew, for certain, was that they lived on a back road, somewhat nearby to the Kerry Institute of Technology.  furious   furious

 We had only visited this Cousin's home one time previously, some years prior.  The route we followed then can only be described as circuitous as it was during the building of the Tralee Bypass and a number of roads were closed off by construction.  We were following another cousins car, so I had little time to register landmarks along the way, if I had any hope of keeping up!  The Irish (my wife's cousins, at least) ARE rather Speedy drivers!  biggrin  biggrin

 Somewhat subdued, we drove into Tralee and followed dubious directions to the Kerry Institute of Technology and (mostly) avoiding Tralee city center, in order to get closer, before conceding defeat and calling for help.

 Arriving at the school, I pulled off the road and perused my maps both paper and online.  I discovered a marked road with a similar, but differently spelled name as ONE part of the cousins address and decided to Chance My Hand following it, rather than merely surrendering to that most fatal (to Male ego) concession of asking for directions.  doh  As it turned out, the pull off that I had randomly selected actually connected with the road and within five minutes, we were actually AT the cousins house! 

n  Side Note:  Cousin's husband was actually AMAZED that we had located the house!  When I told him that the address didnt appear on any of my devices, he chuckled and said, "I know.  When we bought the house, there were hardly any others on the road and the fellow who sold it gave us the address that he MADE UP because he thought it made the area seem more valuable!  The REAL location isnt part of either Townland!"  

n  The Irish Gotta Love Em!! 

 Confident, now, that we had found our way to the party in the early evening twilight (and would be able to find our way Home Again, in the decidedly, late-night dark!), we settled in to a delightful party and an evening of meeting and greeting most of my wifes extended family.   About 10 PM, a chartered bus arrived and collected the newly minted, eighteen year old and a small hoard of her friends and set off to some local Bar or Club.  About 11, we said our good-byes and made a slow, but relatively unremarkable return to our cottage.

More To Come   



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Day 6:  1 October 2017, in the Rest of the world

 Despite the late night, we made an early (ish) start to the day and drove into Killarney. We parked in the 'Pay and Display' Lot alongside the Tourist Office.  There's Free parking on Sundays -- something I discovered just AFTER purchasing my 1 Euro ticket!  furious  furious  We grabbed an early lunch at the Caragh restaurant (a personal favorite for many a year) and then set out shopping along High Street.

 From there, we drove to my favorite small town in Ireland, Millstreet, County Cork.  Its only about 30 minutes or so from Killarney, following the N72 to Rathmore and then the R582, from there.  This is the area where my wife's Grandfather and his family were born and raised, so it has a Special attraction.  After a brief stop into the Catholic Church in Rathmore (Where her G-Grandparents were married, in 1865), we meandered into and through Millstreet, stopping periodically at some of the familiar places and then exited town following the Old Butter Road (Modern Day, L2758) through Aubane, to Ivale Cross.  Here is the Kerryman's Table and a commemorative plaque for the 18th Century Turnpike, known as the Butter Road. 

 http://www.millstreet.ie/blog/history/kerrymans-table

 We turned Right at the Cross and made our way to St Johns Holy Well, where we paused for a visit.  This is a special place for us, as my wife's Grandfather (also named John) was born very close by, on June 23, 1890.  There is a Mass held here (Usually, on, or near St John's Eve) that we have attended a few times.  It draws quite a crowd.  In recent years, a platform has been set up for Platform Dancing, just down the road, in remembrance, perhaps, of the old Pattern Day.

 http://www.millstreet.ie/blog/history/st-johns-well

 After continuing down the road, just past the entrance to Millstreet Country Park, I turned Right, onto an unnamed and unnumbered road merely signposted, "Knocknakila".  Here, about 1,000 feet down the road, on the left, is entrance to a boggy, often sheep-filled hillside and a relatively small, but chock-a-block filled, megalithic site.  There are remnants of a stone circle, stone row, a cairn and TWO standing Stones (although, one is laying on the ground).  There are quite a few other sites in the general vicinity (including INSIDE of the Country Park), but this has always been a personal favorite.

 http://www.megalithicireland.com/Knocknakilla%20Stone%20Circle.html

 Continuing along the road, we gradually returned to Millstreet where we ate a light dinner at the always memorable, Wallis Arms.

 http://www.wallisarmshotel.com/

 There are a TREMENDOUS number of worth-while sites and attractions in the vicinity -- WEEKS worth, in fact!  For those so inclined, this website offers just a few:   

 http://www.foundmark.com/Ireland/Cork-Kerry/Tours/nctour/Duhallow.html

 Departing Millstreet the weather began turning less and less inviting.  The breeze began to 'ratchet up', becoming QUITE brisk (and, Chilly!) as the sky turned greyer and greyer.  evileye

 We made our way back to Banna and out to the strand, but didn't stay long as the wind had become rather ferocious and I honestly thought that the wind-driven sand might actually scour the paint off the car!

 Back in the cottage, we straightened up, packed up and generally, made ready to depart in the morning, as we had a long driving day ahead of us.  The front door of the cottage had a mail flap and maintenance had taped it down, but there was some slack, so we drifted off to sleep to the muted, but regular beat, as Ex-Hurricane Maria pounded the Kerry coast.   hmm  hmm   hmm  hmm

MORE TO COME . . .  



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Day 7:  Monday, 2 October 2017 Road Trip!

 Overnight, winds reaching speeds of 75 80 KPH scoured the Irish West coast, but, by morning it was merely brisk and overcast.  After checking out and making a brief Data Stop at the strand, we followed the R551 through Ardfert and around Tralee.  The N21 led us through Farranfore (past the Kerry Airport) and onto the N22, to Killarney, for access to the N71. 

 There were no detours this day.  In fact, our first stop didn't come until we reached the shop near Ladies View, with a subsequent dalliance at Molls Gap.  Our goal for the day was to reach Drimoleague, just East of Bantry, but I had a few 'New' experiences in mind even over such a frequently traveled route.

 Our first was at the small and innocent appearing, Lorge Chocolatiers, where products were sampled and Euros changed hands Treats for the Grandchildren, a small gift for the Cousins and, yes there MAY have been one or two munchies for my wife and I!                  http://lorge.ie/

 Continuing South, just beyond Lorge is the famous (or infamous?) Molly Galivan's, in Bonane.    I cant tell you how many times Ive driven by without ever stopping always too much in a hurry to get to our next destination and presuming the place to be just another Tourist shop.  Still, it WOULD be a Fresh and New experience!

 In fact, we found the place Delightful!  Due to the lateness of the season, their little tea shop was closed and we appeared to be the retail shops only customers.  They offer self-guided tours of the extensive farm, a short guided tour of Mollys original, one-room cottage and assorted events and demonstrations (including one on the making of "poitin" (Irish Moonshine). 

 https://www.irishtourism.com/historic-sites-buildings-in-ireland/molly-gallivans-cottage-farm/1438

 The retail shop stretches from the main building, through the rear farm yard and into rear outbuildings.  In addition to many of the regular, mundane tourist offerings, they feature knit ware, pottery, wood carvings and art sourced from local artists.  My wife selected a fine pottery bowl that was the work of an 80+ year old Kenmare potter and I found my traditional Irish Sheep, as well. 

 The staff was delightfully friendly and accommodating and we chatted for a while as we waited out a brief period of soft rain.  I would have enjoyed the short, self-guided walking tour of the farm, as well, I'm sure but, well the rain . . .  hmm  hmm

 If you HAVE the time, I heartily recommend the place.  Its several cuts above the average.       https://mollygallivans.com/

 With the drizzle easing off, we resumed our journey into Glenngarriff, where we paused to refresh with a pleasant enough, light lunch at the hawthorn Bar (although, memory suggests the name had been changed to Jacks?).  Food and service were adequate, but Ive discovered reviews online that suggest that either we got lucky or we aren't as discriminating as we thought!  confuse  confuse  confuse

 On into Bantry and we located an Off License to purchase a nice bottle of wine for one of the cousins that we were meeting.  Now, neither my wife nor I are drinkers (wine, or otherwise).  She rarely, if ever drinks alcohol and I seldom do, so it was quite a hoot for the owner (and us) as we solicited advice on what to buy.  We may be re-visiting that conversation for years to come!

 "We're looking for a nice bottle of wine as a gift."

 "Well," your man says, waving about, expansively at the large shop.  "It's good then, that I happen to have some."

 "We don't really know anything about wine, though, but I think she might prefer a Red rather than a White."

 "Well, that's a good start, then.  Does she prefer dry or sweet?"

 "Um, its for my cousin . . . "

 "Oh!  That's really helpful," says he, smiling, but TOTALLY dead-panned.  "Why didn't you lead off with that?" 

 We finally settled on a highly recommended bottle of a dry Red and then allowed our borrowed GPS to lead us on what turned out to be an amazingly round-about journey from Bantry into Drimoleague -- Google says 19.2 KM and 17 minutes along the N71 / R586, but our sketchy Garmin never took us anywhere near either, so we explored vast stretches of tiny, single-track lane ways for the next 45 minutes .  I kept reminding my wife that she was the one that wanted to see New and Different! 

 Once we arrived at the cousins house, we made a brief side trip to the nearby Centra, where we purchased a few staples and then let ourselves into the house.  The two who had met us in SNN would be joining us the following afternoon and my wife had promised to have dinner sorted and waiting.  

 As I was putting away our groceries, I found the refrigerator totally empty except for three bottles of WHITE wine!   

More To Come . . .  

 



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Day 8:  Tuesday, 3 October 2017

 The day started out rather nicely, so we set out for Skibbereen.  We revisited the Heritage Center there, taking the full tour and then chatted with the staff.  Its a very impressive facility -- particularly for those who have ancestral ties to West Cork.           http://skibbheritage.com/

 Moving on, we made our way to the large car park adjacent to the Super Value Grocery store, where we took advantage of the conveniently located, free parking.  A narrow, pedestrian walk way presented us with a pleasant craft shop, where I purchased my new, favorite souvenir a thin, wooden outline of Ireland which includes a drawn detail of County Cork simply labeled:  Cork, and NOT Cork.  I had seen a smaller, refrigerator magnet version at the cousins in Tralee, so I had been on the lookout for one.  Apparently, its a bit of a thing!  biggrin  confuse  biggrin

 Reaching the street, it took us a while to orient ourselves as we searched for the nearby Church Restaurant.   http://www.thechurchrestaurant.ie/  We first ate here back in 2004 and were devastated when an irate, Moldovan immigrant employee torched the building in 2005.  Happily, the owner resurrected the thoroughly gutted, 150 year-old building reopening in 2009.  Its actually quite a remarkable story:    http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/holy-smoke-arson-ravaged-restaurant-rises-from-the-ashes-86126.html

 We had a terrific lunch -- BLT on a toasted bap, with chips. Tuna melt, with cheddar cheese on ciabatta. Both included potato salad, Cole slaw and mixed greens. Water and a Diet Coke all for less than 20 Euro.  Delicious, to boot!

 Back in the car, we made our way into Drimoleague and the North, into the hinter-lands through townlands like Deelish, Castledonovan, Seehanes.  This is NOT Tourist Central by ANY means but, that doesn't mean that there isn't MUCH to see.  We made our way to the Mass Rock at Top of the Rock, and surveyed the valley beyond. 

 https://www.irelandxo.com/ireland-xo/history-and-genealogy/timeline/jeremiah-o-donovan-rossa-arrives-apple-fair-top-rock-and

 Castle Donovan has recently undergone a lengthy repair and stabilization process only recently having been made accessible to the public.  Its remained heavily shrouded by scaffolding for years and years so seeing it all exposed again (and knowing that it is now STABLE) makes it WELL worth a bit of time spent wandering about.

 http://www.heritageweek.ie/whats-on/event/guided-tour-of-castle-donovan

 The Drimoleague Walk Way has an impressive array of amenities for walkers:

 http://explorewestcork.ie/walking/the-drimoleague-heritage-walkways/

Basically a continuation of the Sheeps Head Way it continues onward to Gougane Bara to the North and to Bantry via Kealkill to the West.  We arent much for hiking but the rugged beauty of the Wild West Cork Hills make for excellent, leisurely Off The Beaten Path drives.

 We returned to the Cousins house for a brief rest and then made our way back to the Centra to purchase our planned items for dinner.  When we had stopped in the previous night, my wife had seen a goodly number of roasted chickens on offer that she thought would make an excellent, low-effort basis for dinner with the cousins.

 Unfortunately there were NONE available THIS night!  Apparently, EVERYONE in Drimoleague eats roasted chicken on Monday nights and NO ONE does, on Tuesdays???  confuse confuse confuse confuse confuse confuse  After scrambling about frantically we finally settled on purchasing two pre-made casseroles a fairly decent lasagna and some sort of creamy chicken -- which proved, later, to be only marginally edible . . .   bleh  bleh  bleh

 After the Cousins arrived and dinner consumed (with much humor and a fair bit of self-deprecating derision), we presented gifts to our hosts.  For the owner of the house, we provided two highly appreciated tea mugs of unique style.  For both, we offered up a nice Sampler box of Lorge Chocolates.  And, then, with MUCH trepidation, we regaled the other Cousin with the tale of acquiring her bottle of Red wine and our subsequent discovery of the three bottle of White, in the house.

She laughed, hysterically.  Then she added, Of course there are bottles of White in the house People keep bringing one --- and no one will drink it!     :woot:  

 We spent the rest of the evening, late into the night laughing and chatting and catching up.  I think we finally went to bed around 1 PM.

More To Come . . .

 



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 Day 9:  Wednesday, 4 October, 2017

 Despite the late night, the cousins rose and departed early for East Cork, where we would meet them later in the day.  After a leisurely mini breakfast and packing up, we set out along the R586, passing through Dunmanway (which features in one or two chapters of Pete McCarthy's EPIC McCartthy's Bar) and then, onward, around Bandon, where we intersected the N71.

 We stopped for lunch at the delightful, Found Out Café https://www.facebook.com/The-Found-Out-Cafe-184766799933/  And I cant recommend the place enough.  Wow!  Quirky, homey, small-town atmosphere, good service, and EXCELLENT foods -- many of which are made on the premises! All that and they even have reasonable prices.  They're located on the South side of N71, in the heart of Inishannon a picture-postcard Irish village nestled alongside the Bandon River.  If you are coming from Blarney, or have rejoined the N71 after leaving Kinsale, its a great lunch stop.

Back on the road, we continued East and passed around Cork city along the South Ring Road and through the Jack lynch Tunnel, to join the N8 toward Dublin.  We exited at Watergrasshill and made our way to the Cousins OTHER house where she, and a LARGE lunch was waiting.  I nibbled a bit, trying to be polite and my wife ate a full meal for much the same reason.  She would pay dearly for HER attempted civility, though . .

Whilst there are LOADS of interesting sights (and sites) either along the days route, or in the vicinity of where we stay, we have yet to see MANY of them, I must confess.  For us, THE attraction is focused on a grand house in the hinterlands of East Cork and communing with those that reside (or visit) within.  If "Home Is Where The Heart Is", then this house IS our East Cork Home.

We talked and visited for hours, with our hostess and several other relatives that stopped by.  Around 10 PM, my wife began feeling particularly ill and eventually, she purged seemingly everything that she ate over the past few days! In the morning, however, she was perfectly fine?   confuse   confuse

 

Dont you HATE when stuff like that happens?????

 



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 Day 10 Thursday, 5 October 2017 -- "It's - a - my Birthday"!  

 Early on, I crept from bed, dressed and made my way outside where I and the cousins faithful dog walked the property and took in the hill top views.  Its a remarkably peaceful place in the early morning. There's almost no traffic on the small road that runs by -- and few neighbors.  Its been a morning ritual of sorts, the past few years and I enjoy it almost as much as the dog SEEMS to!   biggrin   biggrin

 Back inside, my wife confessed to feeling perfectly fine, but reluctant to attempt breakfast after last nights experience, so we visited for a bit and then said our Good-byes.  I had been rather explicit in requesting that the cousins NOT make a Big Deal about my birthday and was pleasantly surprised that they had complied.  Normally, they are all-about birthday celebrations and I suspect that the short notice and the mid-week, last-minute scheduled visit probably contributed to their compliance . . .  

 Offering my wife the New and Different battle-cry, we followed along the road to the R626 and followed it past Bartlemy, into Rathcormac, to connect with the old N8 / Dublin Road, now known as the R639 changed once the M8 came into being a decade or so ago.  So NOT entirely new but we haven't seen this stretch of country for a LONG time!  confuse  biggrin  confuse

 We made a brief stop in Rathcormac for tea and scones, as my wife was finally feeling a bit peckish.  She asked if I had mentioned our meal in Inishannon, because she didn't want the Cousins to know and think that we were being impolite.  I told her that I was certain that we had told them that we wouldn't arrive until AFTER lunch, but apparently, they must have forgotten.  confuse  confuse  confuse  confuse

 Shortly after, we resumed our journey and joined the M8, which we diligently followed into Cashel.  After a bit of drive around (noticing that the greatly admired, Ryans Daughter café appears to have closed  ), we followed the R660, into Holycross.  The Abbey there is QUITE remarkable and I'm not sure how we have managed to miss it over the years, so it definitely fit the 'New and Different' parameters!

 http://www.holycrossabbey.ie/

 It's a restored and working church, but there are still significant ruins both semi-and un-restored around the grounds.  No tours were on offer on the day, but we spent an hour or so wandering about both, within and without the restored Cathedral.  Its well worth a visit.

 Back on the road, we continued on, through Thurles and turned off, onto the N62 toward Roscrea as none of this was familiar territory.  Its a pleasant road and Templemore seemed quite lovely, but we didn't pause to visit the large church ruins in the town park.  Not terribly far beyond (and JUST short of Roscrea which we have previously visited), we joined the M7, heading West. 

 My wife seemed quite amazed when I exited at Moneygall and drove into the Barak Obama Plaza.   http://barackobamaplaza.ie/   

 It's a full-blown Service Plaza, but they have a delightfully interesting (and Free) Museum / Visitors Center in a large, up-stairs area that is well worth a look regardless of your political perspective as it details many Irish-American historical links.  The village itself hasn't seemed to have enjoyed any long-term benefit from the notoriety, but the Plaza has certainly offered employment and income benefit.  Plus, its a handy location along the M7!

 Back on the M7, we continued onward, into Nenagh and made our way to the Great national Abbey Court Hotel, around dusk.  I had booked us here for my Birthday night, as we had stayed here, back in 2010 and found it nice.   Despite NOT being 'New and Different', it suited our travel plan.  We were NOT disappointed!

 The place was certainly busier this trip, but we were pleased that change seemed to be the only difference.  The room was still comfy and clean and the in-house restaurant (where my wife treated me to dinner) remains reasonably priced and provided good food with EXCELLENT service.

 Back in the room and connected to WIFI, my wife's phone began to 'Bing' repeatedly -- mostly, with messages from her siblings that were disturbingly, a day or two OLD.  She has an iPhone that's connected to Sprint in the US, so while in Ireland, she places it in Airplane Mode and then only activates the WIFI connection.  That way, email and text messages from other Apple Phones come through but WITHOUT incurring Roaming charges.  I'm NOT sure what causes the delay in delivery, though. 

 As it turned out, we found that her Cousin had messaged us the previous morning to tell us NOT to stop to eat as she had planned the sumptuous Late-Lunch /Early Dinner on behalf of us and her husband (who needed to leave for County Kildare shortly after). 

 Given the delivery DELAY, however, we wouldn't find THAT out until the message finally came through . . . the NEXT afternoon!  furious  furious  furious  furious

More To Come . . .  

 

 



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 Day 11:  Friday, 76 October 2017 --  

 As much as we enjoyed and appreciated the food and service at dinner, sadly, the same could NOT be said for the buffet-style breakfast.  It was perfectly adequate, mind you, but pre-cooked self-serve eggs and breakfast meats in warming trays seem rather anathemic for a Luxury hotel . . .  Although, at 99 Euro, B&B, maybe its ME that's being presumptuous??  confuse  confuse

 Attempting to drive through Nenagh was virtually impossible.  There was a great deal of visible construction work just beyond the R491 / R445 junction and I spotted a sign for a Farmers Market which seemed to justify the stacked-up traffic but, later in the day, a local from out of town assured me that traffic in Nenagh is ALWAYS a nightmare so, who knows?  confuse  confuse  confuse

 Rather than sit in traffic for who knows how long, I shot out the R445 to Junction 24 of the M7 and then followed it to Junction 26 and circled around downtown on the N52.  I didn't stay on it long, though, as just North of town, we turned off onto the R493 hoping to sightsee closer along the Lough Derg shoreline.  For the most part, that required following a few periodic detours, though.  Mostly, we just enjoyed a leisurely drive through the countryside.

 We had done a wide-sweep of the area in 2012 Portumna to Birr to Roscrea but, wev'e only ever driven through Nenagh once back in 2010 so a drive closer in to the Eastern shore of Lough Derg definitely fit into the "New and Different" theme. And, if you are getting a bit TIRED of hearing that phrase, you should probably know that my wife was TOTALLY 'Over It' -- by Day 3! 

 Our basic route followed along the R493 until it rejoined the N52, before crossing into (and through) Portumna.  We made shoreline detours just before and just after Portumna that were QUITE photogenic.  A highlight of the drive was a stop into Puckaun.  I follow a page on Facebook (among MANY others that are Irish-related!) known as IRELAND AND PEG'S COTTAGE   https://www.facebook.com/irelandandpegscottage/      So, when I spotted Peg's Cottage in the center of the village I was inclined to stop!  My wife also spotted Sarah's Cottage (Our daughters name) so, in the True Spirit of Pete McCarthy, stopping was MANDATORY!  biggrin  biggrin  biggrin

 We didn't meet the operators of Peg's Cottage, but we did meet the owner of Sarah's -- and a few others.  She and her husband operate:    http://www.sarahscottages.ie/    and they are now on our Short list for Self-Catering in the future!  Leila gave us a full tour of Sean's Cottage and regaled us with tales of the former owners "quare ways".   It seems that Sean (an old bachelor that Leila and her husband looked after in his declining years) would make a point whenever tourists were about of removing his socks and washing them in any handy pot hole!  Invariably, many of the tourists would then hand him a bit of money.  When Sean died, Leila and her husband inherited his old, ramshackle cottage and lovingly restored, modernized and expanded.  In the process, they discovered nearly 50,000 Pounds that Sean had collected over the years!

 "Sadly", said Leila with a smile.  "We didn't get any of the money, though it sure would have been handy for all the repairs!" 

 As we were exiting the village, we spotted another Self-catering compound:   http://www.loughdergthatchedcottages.com/index.html   This one shares close links with Actor / Dancer / Singer, Gene Kelly.  Puckaun also was where famed singer/songwriter Shane MacGowan of the Pouges spent much of his childhood!  Wow!  That's a LOT of history for a village consisting of two pubs, 1 store, 1 church, tennis courts and only 300 people!  

 After departing Portumna on the R352, we followed on through Mountshannon (with a brief stop into the Marina) and into Taumgrany for a visit into the previously missed, Wilde's Irish Chocolates:  https://wildeirishchocolates.com/

 Although they have shops in Doolin, the Killaloe Farmers Market, the Limerick Milk Market and the University of Limerick Farmers Market this is the location of their FACTORY!  Its VERY low-key.  There is NO fancy, display window, NO massive shop (or shop front) its located in a steel building and has a small sign next to a window-less, steel door and the SHOP is roughly 4 feet by 20 feet but, Boy, Oh Boy does it ever SMELL sweet!  There were about a dozen secondary students inside when we entered, so it felt a bit like diving into a Mosh Pit -- particularly, since the sole clerk kept offering up small plates of free samples . . .

 My supply of Euros now diminished, we continued onto Killaloe for a brief stop then dashed across the single-lane bridge into Ballina for a quick return along the R494 to junction 27 of the M7.  Yes, roughly 13 miles from where we started the morning drive at Junction 26 ! 

 We followed the M7 Eastward, avoiding the city proper and then passed through the Limerick Tunnel (Toll is 1 Euro 90) along the N18 and into Bunratty.  We stopped for a fine dinner at JP Clarkes (Diet coke, water, Turkey Steak and an 8 oz sirloin with pepper sauce 35.80 Euro) and then made our way to Kathleen Browne's EXCELLENT, Headley Court B&B:    http://headleycourt.net/

 We've stayed her a few times, but not as often as we would like, since Shannon flights are infrequently suitable in price or convenience.  It's one of my personal favorite, Top 5 Irish B&Bs and like most of my other faves courtesy of Michele's EXCELLENT Lodging recommendations. 

 The day had turned dull and soft as it came to a close although it had been quite sunny and bright (if cool) most of the day, so we settled in for a relaxing, quiet evening.

More To Come . . .  



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Day 12:  Saturday, 7 October 2017

Morning broke dull and dreary, but Kathleen's breakfast brightened the day considerably!  I must confess that after all those Full Irish Breakfasts, her French toast was a welcome sight and a delectable change of pace!  biggrin   biggrin

Today was to be dedicated to Limerick -- a city often bypassed (and, in the early years, driven through) -- but never actually explored.  On the day's agenda -- King John's Castle, St. Mary's Cathedral and, if time and energy permitted, the Hunt Museum:  https://www.shannonheritage.com/KingJohnsCastle/

https://www.limerick.ie/discover/eat-see-do/history-heritage/churches-settlements/st-marys-cathedral  

http://www.huntmuseum.com/

It was -- as always -- an aggressive schedule.  I like to "over-plan" and then, adjust 'on the fly', Doing so accomplishes TWO goals:  It allows me to compensate for unexpected difficulties with weather, traffic, unforeseen closures and lagging personal energy.  Equally important is that "over-scheduling" virtually ASSURES that we needs must DROP some sites ? making a revisit almost mandatory!  It's how I manage to justify return trips -- and still keep it (All Together Now )  "New and Different"! ! !  

 We followed the N18 South toward the Tunnel, but veered off onto the 'Old' N18 (Now renamed R445, or Ennis Road) that USED to run straight through Limerick on our first few trips.  The R445 splits off the 'Old' road (going straight, it transforms into the R857) and we followed the route through, past Thomond Park, over the Bridge onto King's island and past the Castle grounds to a wonderfully spacious -- and Free! -- car park.  From there, it's a very short walk to the Castle.  biggrin    biggrin

It never really rained, but the air was QUITE moist from time to time.  Thankfully, the bulk of the self-tour of the castle is indoors.  It's actually much more impressive than I had anticipated.  As a consequence, we dallied for much longer than anticipated.  Both the city and the castle have played integral roles throughout Ireland's storied history and the museum displays are chock-a-block full of interesting and significant details.  WELL worth a visit -- and two hours, at a minimum should be allowed.

 We grabbed a snack in the café (adjacent to the Gift Shop) and I noticed some interesting pottery items including a few particularly striking goblets on display.  I was told that they weren't for sale, but were available from the resident potter at Bunratty Folk Park.  A few minutes later, the café cashier came up to our table and advised that the Folk Park had a NEW potter and that the goblets would NOT be available there.  Because of that, I was offered the option of buying as many of the new, old-stock items as I wished -- at 15 Euro each.  I immediately picked out two that struck my fancy and we departed happily. 

https://www.limerick.ie/discover/eat-see-do/history-heritage/historic-attractions/king-johns-castle

Taking advantage of drying conditions, we walked the few, short blocks further on, to St Mary's Cathedral.  Whilst it remains a working, Church of Ireland structure, the site (and bits of its architecture), began life as a Viking Meeting House.  On that location, Donal Mor O'Brien, King of Thomond built a palace.  In 1168, O'Brien gifted the place to found St. Mary's -- so it pre-dates the 13th century Castle by a fair bit!  biggrin

Again -- A LOT more to see than anticipated -- So, instead of continuing on, to the Hunt Museum, we made our way back to the car and returned to Bunratty.

 http://www.limerickdioceseheritage.org/StMarys/chStMarys.htm

Once in Bunratty, we dropped into the Creamery for dinner and then drove along the High Road toward Headley Court.  Since the weather had improved -- somewhat -- we continued past our B&B and followed the road North until it intersected with R471, which we followed into Sixmilebridge.  From there, the R462 brought us to Kilmurry and the R469 brought us to Quinn. 

Along the way, we passed the entrance to Cragganoween (sadly closed for the season) and we actually drove into Knappogue Castle, but our MAIN thrust was to visit Quinn Abbey.  I parked in the rear lot of a small convenience store and we walked into and around the Abbey.  Wow!  The grounds are beautiful and the ruins are VERY impressive.  We even had a brief encounter with a curious cow or two in the adjacent field!

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/quininterest.ht

http://curiousireland.ie/quin-abbey-quin-co-clare-1433/

Back on the road, I continued along the R469 until its Junction with the N18, which we followed back to Bunratty in the twilight.  Once settled in for the night, we adjusted our luggage in preparations for our return flight the next day and called it a night.

MORE TO COME . . . 

 



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Day 13:  Sunday, 8 October

With a scheduled Noon departure, we had the luxury of a fairly leisurely breakfast prior to our short commute.  Once again Kathleen didn't disappoint and we even had time for a delightful chat about the recent history of the area.

 Shannon airport was first constructed in the late 1930- 40s for land based aircraft, replacing the earlier, Flying Boat base at Foynes.  The TOWN of Shannon was created to provide housing and services to the workers and builders of the airport.  In what seems historically paradoxical, given Irelands Extensive Megalithic and pre-historic richness, Shannon has only been a designated town since 1982!  confuse

It actually grew slowly, but there was a fairly decent Boom during the 60s as the Airport scrambled to accommodate those pesky, new-fangled, JET airplanes!  While all of this was fairly well-known, what I have only learned recently (thanks to our hostess, Kathleen) is that the growth coincided (and partially precipitated) with a fairly significant influx of refugees from Northern Ireland that were looking for opportunities to raise their families away from the threats posed by the escalating sectarian violence.  Indeed, there are many Northern Ireland expats residing in the vicinity.

 After heart-felt good-byes and a quick stop at the shop across the way to 'Top Up' the diesel, we made our way to the airport and returned the car to the on-site Dooley Depot.  Dooley had moved off-site for a while, but because of our infrequent SNN trips, I never actually have used any other location so, the change was a non-issue.  The return went smoothly, once I showed the employee that the front fender scrapes were, in fact, documented on my blue, Damage report, as pre-existing, rather than new.  smile

 Inside, the line at the Check In counter was surprisingly short and the new, streamlined Security (a Single screening for ALL of Terminal 2, rather than two, separate ones) found us at our gate, slightly shocked, with over an hour of wait time!  SO much better than previous trips!   

 I'm still not sure if it was the lateness of the flight, the time of year, or improved efficiency, but whatever the reasons, this was beyond all doubt the EASIEST transition through the Security / Customs / Immigration gauntlet that we have EVER experienced!  biggrin  biggrin  biggrin

The gate area was FILLED with bleary-eyed, coughing and sleepy-looking passengers and it wasn't long that I was feeling rather queasy myself.  I chalked it up as psychosomatic, but it turned out that I was QUITE wrong. doh   bleh    doh

 Our Aer Lingus 757 flight (EI 135) was filled to the brim, but there was no drama on the flight to Boston beyond my personal, increasingly deteriorating condition.  We had a long layover in Boston (almost 3 ½ hours) and we made an attempt to eat and rest as much as possible.

 Our incoming Jetblue flight suffered delayed debarkation whilst Medical Services removed an ill passenger, so our scheduled, 5:27 PM departure ran about 30 minutes late.  We made up MOST of that lost time on the flight to RSW and, then, lost it when an ill passenger a few rows ahead of us had to be escorted off the plane! 

At that point, feeling nauseous, exhausted and aching all over, I wasn't feeling terribly sympathetic and as soon as possible, I stumbled off the plane, gathered our luggage and headed to the car hire lot in the adjacent parking garage.  As a 'FastBreak' member of Budget, I bypassed the counter -- but, then discovered my name ABSENT from the board.  disbelief  disbelief

After trudging back to the desk and waiting in line, the gentleman calmly informed me that my reservation was for the PREVIOUS day a notion I quickly disabused him from by presenting a printed copy of the reservation which showed the correct date.  With little more than a brief mutter of, "I guess we must have mistyped it"  -- he made up a contract and directed me to a parking space holding a Toyota Corolla.  A quick inspection, tossing the bags into the trunk (and a brief stop at the exit gate of the parking garage where my contract and drivers license were verified) and we were FINALLY on the road about 10 PM.  So much for Budget's highly touted, 'FastBreak'!    furious    furious

It took us a bit over an hour to get home from that point and about another 30 minutes to unload the car, grab a quick shower and collapse into bed a place that I would predominantly occupy, for the next two days . . .   

Ill try to tack on a few, specific Grouses, Gratitude, Grumbles, Cheers and Jeers later -- But thats pretty much the whole of it for this trip! 

 



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Bob,
I can empathize with you! In 6 trips to Ireland, and 1 to Eastern Europe, I have returned with a head cold 5 times. Nothing that put me in bed for 2 days...and I chalk it up to being in close contact with a couple hundred people all breathing and sneezing virtually the same air in a small aluminu tube! Also potential germ contamination from thousands of people in close proximity in 4 large airport terminals in a 2-4 week period. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to scare anyone out of traveling....it's just the nature of the beast, but I was plenty miserable arriving home in a tired and jet-lagged state.
Enjoyed your trip report! We Hope to go home again in 2018!
Dan

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