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Post Info TOPIC: LOST & FOUND IN THE SOUTHWEST. MAY 2010.


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LOST & FOUND IN THE SOUTHWEST. MAY 2010.


After a few days of on and off threats and closures the Irish airports opened in time for us to fly from Toronto on May 10. Actually we didn't take off until almost 1 A.M. on May 11; extra fuel had to be added to detour around the Ash Cloud. Rather than the usual route we were forced to fly over Greenland, North of Iceland then South over the Western Isles of Scotland and into Dublin Airport through the back door. Clear weather gave us a nice view. After a short stop the Air Transat flight carried us on to Shannon. I learned on one of my first trips to Ireland that trying to drive any significant distance after an all-night flight is foolish (for me). The extra couple of hours required for this flight made me thankful we were staying near Shannon.

For the first time I had booked a car rental from Dan Dooley. On three of the previous four trips I used Hertz without any problem but this year their rates were much higher than Dooley's. After the usual speedy trip through "Passport Control" I had a painless time of it with the very helpful woman working at Dooley's. I sort of missed the usual dance with the Hertz office - 'would you like to upgrade for 10Euros a day?' 'NO'; 'Your Credit Card only allows 15 days of coverage.' 'No, here is my contract with the Card, I'm good for 48 days' etc. etc. I always ended up with a nice no-charge upgrade. Dooley's did not question my CDW coverage. (It is still a very good practice to have documentation). There was no charge for not taking their coverage and the 2000 Euro deposit was merely a hold on my Credit Card - a very straightforward and civilized transaction. The car I rented (no upgrade) was a rather well-used (65,000 km) 2008 Fiat Punto Manual with a couple of small dings - one of which I found on inspection. It is very important that this is all agreed before you take possession. Had I not been so tired I might have started the 'I want a different car' game. The car proved to be reliable and fun to drive.

We drove less than 30 minutes to our first night's lodging in the small village of Quin. In the past we have stayed even closer to the Airport but I felt that The Abbey Tavern might be an interesting alternative. We were not disappointed. While not luxurious it is clean and comfortable with a welcoming pub full of friendly locals and much better than average pub food. The location was the clincher for me. It is directly across from the Quin Abbey. The view from our window was quintessentially Irish - a statue of the BVM with a field of cows behind and the impressive abbey behind the cows. Great stuff! After dinner and a couple of pints I took my camera for a stroll through the cow pasture and took a few shots of the Abbey. We made an early night of it. Breakfast was full Irish plus cereal and juice. No alternatives were offered.

On May 12, we left for the drive to Kenmare. I had my GPS with me and had installed a memory card with Irish maps. Throughout the trip it proved to be a mixed blessing. On the narrow back roads from Quin to the M80 it was great. As we approached Limerick (not my favourite city) it was not so great. On previous trips I have not had any problem going South past Limerick by following signs - Cork, Cork, Cork etc. The GPS took us right through the center of the city - the shortest route, no doubt. This seemed to be the usual complaint. Irish drivers I met told me their 'Satnavs' were pretty much useless on the larger Motorways which are newer than the map software. After Limerick the GPS took us to Kenmare without a hitch. The charger cable fit into the lighter socket very loosely but despite my concerns made good contact and worked well.

We arrived in Kenmare quite early but were able to check in to
O'Donnabhains right away. For us it is in a perfect location - right in the center of the beautiful little town of Kenmare. Our room was up a couple of flights of stairs but was roomy and, modern and quiet. Jer Foley, the proprietor is one of the most well-organized and hardest working people I have met anywhere in the hospitality industry; thank you Michele for the recommendation. We spent a leisurely afternoon getting re-acquainted with Kenmare. Nice shops, many restaurant choices and lively pubs and surprisingly cosmopolitan to say nothing of the wonderful location. We ate dinner downstairs in O'Donnabhain's. The 'Gastro Pub' is friendly and the food is good and reasonably priced. The people we met there were mostly North Americans on Vacation. Breakfast was excellent. Jer's wife,Vanessa was there offering a wide variety and seemed willing to modify anything on the menu. Before breakfast was over Jer had chatted with everyone there and offered advice to anyone who wanted it. I have never 'done' the Ring of Kerry but have driven part of it a couple of times. After breakfast we set out in a light mist to drive a bit of the Ring. As we drove through the beautiful scenery beyond Sneem the fog got heavier and heavier. It was particularly foggy through Coomekasta Pass and I was very pleased that the road had been much improved over the years. We stopped a couple of times for the view when things cleared a bit then continued on to Waterville where we had a nice walk by the sea. We then returned to Sneem where we took the R568 inland (which I find more scenic) to Moll's Gap where we stopped - I took some photos while Lorraine went into the tea house. Lots of tour buses. That night we went to Foley's B&B and Pub across the road from O'Donnabhain's for pints and another good dinner. Lorraine, being sensible, then called it a night. I went up the street a few doors to an old favourite, Crowley's Pub. The place was quiet ( it was still very early in Irish Pub terms) but there were a few friendly locals. I learned that Mrs Crowley, who we had gotten to know a few years ago had finally retired - she is nearly 90 years old. Her son and grandson now share the duties and continue to keep Crowley's a traditional, no food, welcoming pub with scheduled as well as spontaneous music sessions. No music tonight so I left at a reasonable hour.

more to follow.....

-- Edited by stewh on Monday 28th of June 2010 10:02:01 PM

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Great start to what sounds like an excellent trip!

Thanks.

Bob

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Stewart,

Thank you! I am enjoying your report and looking forward to more. Glad you enjoyed O'Donnabhain's. Don't they have a small elevator? I thought I remembered one. I stayed in one of Jer's self-catering cottages and it was wonderful. Very nice guy.

Sorry to hear about the fog on the ROK. You never know what you will get with Ireland's weather.

Keep it coming.

Michele







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-- Edited by stewh on Tuesday 29th of June 2010 06:29:35 PM

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PART 2

After another good breakfast Friday morning,we decided to drive the Ring of Beara for at least the third time. In my opinion the breath-taking drive around the Peninsula is far more satisfying than the Ring of Kerry. The day started blustery with intermittent rain but improved as the day wore on; it was warm and clear by afternoon. We saw very little traffic once 'rush hour' was over. For the single lane portion of the drive we encountered one piece of farm machinery and no automobiles. It was easy to pull over or just stop the car on a clear section of road to take pictures or just enjoy the spectacular scenery. On the return route we drove through Castletownbere and over the Healey Pass - a real adrenalin rush with more single lane and plenty of switchbacks and scary cliffs - absolutely stunning. We took advantage of the lookout at the top to shoot a few photos. When we were back on the North side of the Peninsula I challenged the GPS a bit by turning onto the smallest roads I could find until we were sort of lost. The GPS took a very long time to acquire satellites and was unable to realize we were on a road. I think the proximity of the mountains and the  small size of the road made signal reception difficult and baffled the map software. After a few minutes and turns we were found again.

Back in Kenmare we browsed around town a bit. We stopped in at PF McCarthy's for a drink. Though it didn't seem like a traditional style Irish pub McCarthy's proved to be very friendly and the patrons eager to chat about the hard times. It was the consensus that towns like Kenmare, where almost every job is tourism related are more susceptible. This is of course an arguable proposition; Kenmare seemed lively and busy in May even though there were some closed businesses and vacant buildings. I was pleased to be served a pint of Rebel Red Ale, a craft brewed beer from County Cork. It must be quite a challenge to run a successful micro-brewery in a small country like Ireland while competing with the likes of Guinness. Good LucK!
After dinner at O'Donnabhain's we called it a night. I must say we enjoyed our three days in Kenmare very much. Jer Foley is a dynamo, running a very big B&B with a busy restaurant and pub attached and, as Michele points out, numerous Holiday Homes around town. He and his wife Vanessa seem to work constantly and are very attentive to their guests. They also have three young children. So much for the stereotype of the 'feckless irresponsible Irish'.

On Saturday May 15 we set out about 10 AM for the short drive to our Self-Catering in West Cork. I had almost forgotten how scenic the drive south on N71 through the rock tunnels to Glengarriff really is. The roads have been very much improved. My plan was to stop in Bantry at the Farmers Market for local produce,cheese and other provisions. After driving repeatedly around the narrow streets I finally asked someone where to find the market. It turned out Market day in Bantry is Friday, not Saturday - I hate it when I'm wrong. We continued on through Ballydehob and into Schull. The directions I had been sent by the woman we were renting from ('pass a large pub on the left then the small pub on the left, four doors beyond') got us easily to her house she came up the street with us and showed us around the Red House. She gave us keys and some local tourism information as well as advice on restaurants, pubs etc. The house is on the quiet end of Main Street on quite a steep hill. Reversing into the driveway was a bit of a challenge at first but I did get quite adept with practise. We moved our luggage in, had a cup of tea and headed down the hill into the center of the village.

...MORE TO FOLLOW...


-- Edited by stewh on Tuesday 29th of June 2010 07:31:56 PM

-- Edited by stewh on Tuesday 29th of June 2010 07:32:44 PM

-- Edited by stewh on Tuesday 29th of June 2010 07:33:08 PM

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Stewart,

Did you stop at Josie's for tea after Healy Pass? I just love the little roads out there. Sounds like your GPS was really challenged.

Looking forward to hearing about the Red House and Bantry.

Michele

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We noticed the sign for Josie's but it just didn't fit with our plans, maybe next time. Yes the GPS was challenged that day. Later in my report I will do a summary evaluation. Until I have more time...
Stewart

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Stewart,

I know what you mean. Whenever I'm near Josie's it is not really "meal time". That's why I just get the cream tea. Next time, however, I am making time for dinner there. It will be a special trekk from Kenmare. I guess I should do it when the days are long so I have some twilight for driving back.

Michele



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Part 3


I must say that we were pleased to be in our self-catering accommodation; for many years we have preferred the freedom and convenience that self-catering provides. The Red House is one of a number of holiday homes in and around Schull that is managed by Moira and Deirdre Collins http://schull-holidaymakers.com/. The house is a modern compact holiday home with an open concept Living Room/Kitchen plus a Dining Room and 1/2 Bathroom downstairs. Upstairs 3 Bedrooms and 2 Bathrooms. There was not much outdoor living space - a small patio area with a table and chairs. From the upstairs windows there were views of a beautifully landscaped garden across the road and to the rear a very well-kept vegetable garden. The house was fairly plain but quite well-equipped. The only complaint was that some of the dishes had not been washed as well as they should have been - (?)possibly because we were not renting directly from the owner.

In the late afternoon we went to the nearby An Tigin pub for a pint then further into the village for dinner at the Waterside Restaurant - good food with a European Owner/Chef, not the friendliest man in town. We returned home early and watched a few of the approx 200 available Television channels. On Sunday Morning we walked to the local Farmers Market down by the harbour. As expected we saw the people from Gubbeen Farm. They are real leaders of the fresh food movement that is very popular in County Cork and we had tried their products while staying in Clonakilty a few years ago. We stocked up on local foods and returned to the Red House for a great lunch. In the afternoon we drove west for a cursory tour of the Mizen Peninsula with stops for photos and a couple of beach walks. Looking across the water from Crookhaven we saw a Fire Truck with siren and lights going, leading a long line of cars. When we were driving back toward Schull we met the convoy. There were at least a hundred antique and vintage cars on some sort of an outing; this is something we've seen regularly in the British Isles. Later in the afternoon Lorraine relaxed with a book while I walked down the hill and went into the Black Sheep pub. A man I met sitting at the bar told me that the cars I had seen earlier were a club from Clonakilty taking part in some sort of charity event. He was from Rosscarbery and himself a collector of antique tractors. By the time the old cars returned through town the conversation had been joined by two local farmers, one 'retired at present' and a younger neighbour. The talk was wide ranging, some politics and a lot of economics. I found it very difficult to understand the language (English) when the pace picked up so they all agreed to 'talk easy' with me. The West Cork accent, particularly among rural people has a distinctive cadence that can be hard to follow for the untrained ear. After a while I left my companions and returned to the Red House to get Lorraine. We decided to return to the Black Sheep for a bit. The conversation was still in full swing and by now quite lively. Once again 'talking easy' the three welcomed us. While the two older men had a serious talk about the farming business the younger man told us his donkey had given birth to a foal that morning at 5 o'clock. He asked if we would like to visit his farm and see the new filly. After getting directions and agreeing to bring a camera Lorraine and I went home for a light dinner.

On Monday morning we set off down the Coast Road with my camera and a bag of carrots. We found the farm without any trouble; Noel was pleased to see us and we walked into a rather meager field to see Lucy and her one day old filly. They were in this field so that Lucy would not overeat before giving birth; it was also right next to the farmhouse. A bit shy at first Lucy soon gave in to the carrots, the foal stayed very close to her. I took lots of photographs. We then took a bit of a tour of the dairy farm. Noel pointed out the different varieties of cows and explained their relative strengths. After admiring the potato patch we followed Noel in our car to another- very lush - field to see his Connemara Pony, Dolly and her two week old colt. A beautiful dapple gray, Dolly was a very gentle horse with a hunger for carrots. More photographs. The colt, not yet old enough for solid food chewed on Lorraine's sleeve while she fed his mother. Noel is hoping the dark brown foal retains his dun colour - very desirable in the world of Connemara Ponies. He will soon have to send a blood sample for DNA analysis to be recorded by the Registry. A great day, just the sort of thing that can happen in Ireland. I emailed a number of pictures to Noel's sister and niece in London and just this week finally sent 37 prints to Noel.

-- Edited by stewh on Tuesday 6th of July 2010 01:13:10 PM

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Stewart,

I must read things closer. For some reason I thought your self-catering was in Bantry but it was really in Schull. I prefer renting from the owners too. I think most of them take real pride in their cottages. It tends to be a mixed bag when renting a cottage that is "managed". But even so, the first thing I usually do is put the dishes in the dishwasher and turn it on. You never know how the previous renters washed them. I also love settling into a place to call "home" if only for a week.

Sounds like you met some interesting people in the area. I love seeing the newborn animals in the spring. You did what most people going to Ireland want to experience - interacting with Irish people. And you never know when you are going to make a new friend.

Michele



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Part 4

We spent the rest of the damp, dreary Monday around Schull and had a very good dinner at the Bunratty Inn, a large friendly Pub/Restaurant busy with visitors and locals.

Tuesday started cloudy with a light drizzle falling - soft weather. We set out with no destination in mind and drove West, then North then East through Durrus. Being close to Bantry we decided to go into town so Lorraine could check out the shops. We looked for a large Supermarket type store but never saw one. The more I see of Bantry the less I like it. It sits in a great seaside location, in beautiful surroundings but somehow seems gloomy. Away from the main road it is a warren of unattractive, steep streets - I hope I am not being unfair. We eventually found ourselves on a country road and just kept going - lost again. After a while I turned on the GPS and went South through Drimoleague and into Skibbereen, a much more pleasant town. We walked around in the pouring rain and did a bit of shopping. We had an unmemorable lunch in an unmemorable little restaurant and drove back to Schull. I walked down the hill and joined the Co Cork Public Library for about 2 Euros. I spent 1/2 hr online answering emails etc.; I do not travel with a laptop and have found Irish libraries a great way to access the internet. I went to the rather Bohemian Hacketts Bar for a couple of pints where I met a young Canadian (with dual citizenship) who had just come in from scattering his father's ashes from a boat in Roaringwater Bay. Chatting with the young barmaid, originally from Australia, I was amused when she commented on my opinion of Bantry - "there's no love in Bantry". A commercial fisherman from Castletownbere joined in and eventually reccomended that we try the fish pies made by the local fish monger. I stopped at the fish store, owned by a young Frenchman who spoke English with difficulty, and picked up a couple of the pies. They were excellent for dinner. I learned later that the store is a big hit with the locals - a wide variety of fresh seafood and great pies and chowders made on the spot.

Wednesday, May 19 started gray but not wet. We headed out through the scenic peninsula; it was quite foggy in some areas. We were disappointed when we reaches Mizen Head. The bridge is being rebuilt, the Visitor Centre was also closed and it was so foggy we couldn't see a thing anyways. The crashing sound of the ocean was about it. We turned around and drove back to Barley Cove - a big beautiful beach with extensive dunes. There is a large Resort Hotel overlooking from one direction. The fog was not nearly so thick here and it was quite warm. Surprisingly,even on a Wednesday in late May, we had the entire beach to ourselves. Our only companions were hundreds of rabbits all over the dunes and colourful land snails on the trails. We had a very pleasant relaxing day at the beach. On the return route we stopped at an "OSKA" Fashion Outlet. Lorraine was surprised and pleased to find such a place in such a seemingly remote location. While she shopped I walked the area with my camera; I long ago learned that I get 'the willies' in that type of shop and Lorraine is better off without my help.  For dinner that night we returned to the Black Sheep Pub. Sitting at the bar with a few friendly patrons  we learned from the chatty barmaid that the place had recently come into the hands of a young chef and his brother from Co Galway  - Connemara Men. The electrical power went off suddenly and one of the brothers (not the cook) came in and started checking breakers etc. The barmaid enjoyed winding him up, which, she said was very easy to do. The power was off in the whole downtown area for about an hour. More people came in and joined the fun as did the friendly owners. When the electricity was restored we sat at a table to have our dinner - steak for me and seafood pasta for Lorraine. Very good, again pub food that really goes beyond the idea, something we saw a lot of on this trip.

On Thursday we drove out through Bantry (no love there) and the Pass of Keimaneigh to Gougane Barra. It was quite foggy again but by the time we reached the Lake it was sunny and quite warm. There were a lot of people, including busloads of giggling schoolgirls, near the Hotel and the little island chapel. We drove past to the magical part - the shady, moss-covered forest. When we first saw Gougane Barra about 10 years ago I was quite taken aback by the beauty; two subsequent visits have not lessened the impression. We saw barely another person in this part of the park. Walking around for a couple of hours here is a very peaceful experience ( see the photo below). The incredibly lush forest is surrounded on three sides by near vertical rock mountains. I was pleased to see some re-forestation happening. On the way out we stopped at the little church to 'light a candle' for our fathers.

At Ballingeary we picked up Sandwiches and soft drinks from the grocer's and stopped to eat them overlooking the River Lee. We drove on to Inchigeelah, an old favourite, and noticed a lot of new houses and a Lee Valley Outlet since our last visit. I was pleased to see that the four pubs in the tiny village looked unchanged. We drove through Dunmanway (not my favourite town) and arrived back in Schull in late afternoon and took it easy the rest of the day.

-- Edited by stewh on Wednesday 7th of July 2010 12:28:29 PM

-- Edited by stewh on Wednesday 7th of July 2010 12:49:17 PM

-- Edited by stewh on Wednesday 7th of July 2010 12:53:23 PM

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PART 5

On Friday, our last day in Schull we had a fairly quiet time - email at the library, filling the Punto with gas, a bit of laundry etc. We took one last drive through the beautiful West Cork Countryside and returned to Schull through the Mt Gabriel Pass - a very nice view of the village and the islands. For dinner we went again to the Black Sheep which had become our favourite, well-run and welcoming with excellent food.

Our longest scheduled drive was Saturday, May 22, from Schull to Killaloe Co Clare. It is a distance of approx 235 km (145 miles). Rather than a dull overland route through Dunmanway we took a more scenic drive through Glengarriff, Kenmare & Killarney. It was an easy relaxed trip on good roads. We turned the GPS off when Motorways came into play past Adare - I didn't need another tour of Limerick. We arrived in Killaloe in early afternoon, parked the car and went into the first pub we saw. The barman knew the owners of our Holiday house and phoned them to meet us. Within 10 minutes we were moved into Sheena just a few doors away. Alan, who owns the house gave us a tour and instructions. It is a charming old buiding, very nicely refurbished and meticulously clean and tidy. There are three floors with an exceptionally large bedroom on each of the two top floors. Each bedroom has a double and a twin bed as well as a bathroom. There is a small walled area in the back yard that has a seating area in an old stone outbuilding, protected from the weather by a clear roof. After settling in we walked around town, did some banking and went to the Wooden Spoon (recommended by Alan's wife Noreen who works at the Tourist Office) for a late lunch - excellent homemade food, trendy and very busy. Late in the afternoon we returned to Reddans Pub for a pint. Pat Reddan, who had made the phone call for us was home for a break while his 86 year old mother was running the Pub. Mrs Reddan made us very welcome, she has been running the pub for more than 60 years and certainly knows the business. We had dinner at home and an early night.

On Sunday morning we went to the 9 o'clock Farmers Market which eventually got going shortly after 10:00. We chatted with some of the friendly vendors while they set up - a very relaxed and pleasant time. The market was very good; we bought cheeses and pate from a Belgian couple, fishcakes from a French Irishman, bread from a Limerick bakery, strawberries from Co Laois and fresh eggs and vegetables from a local. After a lunch of cheese, pate and baguette we took a drive north along the shore of Lough Derg. We stopped at McKernans where Lorraine bought a beautiful scarf/shawl thing for one of our daughters. The weather was so sunny and warm (26C+) that the pavement was melting in spots. When we returned to Killaloe Lorraine went to the nearby grocery store and I went to Reddans. As soon as Mrs Reddan had served me a pint of Guinness she ordered me to go outside to the 'beer garden' and talk to the 'Canadian Man' - there's no arguing with Mrs Reddan. The Canadian turned out to be retired from a town about an hour away from us in Ontario. He loves Clare and particularly Killaloe. He introduced me to a couple who own the Restaurant just down the road and to another friend. When Lorraine arrived about an hour later we were all great friends - three Canadians and three very sunburned Irish.

On Monday morning, I took my camera for a walk down the hill to St Flannans Cathedral, in continuous use since c.1200. The door was not open yet so I just walked around the grounds and along the river. After breakfast we set out to drive up the east side of the lake to Portumna. When we tried to find Hanly's near Nenagh we couldn't find it, got lost on the backroads of Tipperary, were forced to take a detour around construction and came upon the shop. It is a big weaving operation with a small shop on site. The woman working there told us she has been trying for months to get the owner to replace the road sign directing drivers to the shop - it was knocked down. When I noticed that she was packing a large box full of wool scarves labeled 'LL Bean' she comment "Ah, you've caught me". We bought scarves for everyone it seems.

We arrived at Portumna castle around 2:00 PM. Lorraine was particularly anxious to visit the large walled kitchen garden that we had seen a few years ago when restoration was just started. The garden is still very impressive but seemed a bit overgrown. The castle renovation goes on but the guide said that there is not a lot of money in Ireland for that sort of thing. They are wisely trying to preserve the building rather than 'make it new'. We completed our cicumnavigation by returning to Killaloe along the Western shore of Lough Derg. We Takeaway Indian food from a small restaurant down the street; it was very good. When we went for a pint later Mrs Reddan was holding down the fort. The bar was full so everyone shifted around to make room for us beside one of the people we had met the previous day "we're all friends here". They were all interested in our day and were keen to offer advice. There was a very tweedy old man sitting at the corner of the bar with a big smile on his face. He was intrigued that we were from Canada and would come out with the odd appropriate phrase - "Mounted Police" he blurted at one point. After a while he broke out singing 'Springtime in the Rockies' in a pleasant, strong voice. He finished to applause, the loudest from me. The evening continued with very friendly chat and a bit of a sing along - good Craic. Back at our little house we watched the last episode of 'Lost' and promised a quieter day tomorrow.

On Thursday we kept our promise and enjoy a quiet restful day around town. While Lorraine checked out the local shops I took my camera into the Cathedral. I was impressed. There is a High Cross that was rescued from Kilfenora as well as an Ogham Stone. The elaborately carved door (or window) inside reminded me of similar carving at Clonfert Cathedral and the church at Dysert O'Dea. There is also colourful stained glass and a great screen inside. Lots of photos.

Later I went to the Public Library in the same building as the Tourism Office for free internet access. Unlike Co Cork, Clare does not require you to become a member to use the library's resources. For Lunch we went to Wood Brothers Bistro almost directly across the road from our house. We were surprised at how large and stylish it was. Like a lot of places in Ireland it teaches you not to judge by the streetfront. This was the restaurant owned by the couple we had met at Reddan's Beer Garden on Sunday. The food is excellent and the menu eclectic. John has a large vegetable garden where he grows many ingredients and the emphasis in the comfortable bistro is definitely on fresh and healthy. Brenda is very hospitable. I had a spicy (particularly for Ireland) Moroccan Chickpea Stew and Lorraine had Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs. Excellent. A bit more walking in the afternoon and, for the first time we did not use the car all day.

more to come, sorry about the slow pace...

-- Edited by stewh on Saturday 10th of July 2010 09:12:08 PM

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Stewart,

Lovely trip report. Don't worry about the pace. I feel like I'm along for a nice, slow trip through Ireland. It gives most people a different idea for how to travel around Ireland. I love all the little details - and the photo at Gougane Barra.

Michele

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Unfortunately the Castle grounds come second to other work around the area. Portmna suffered heavily in the Floods last winter when the Shannon broke its banks and was un crossable for almost a week. The heavy rain got into and under many of the roads followed by a full month of sub zero tepratures and extensive damage was done This has taken priority and you no doubt noted the extent of resurfaced roads and cleared ditches as you headed down the Lough Derg Drive (probably got stuck at the road works by the Coose bridge). I would have recomended the Ferry Inn for lunch and a detour via Abbey and Woodford over the Slive. I have a couple of favorite spots with views across Lough Derg to the Slive Bloom's which remind me how lucky I am to live where I do.

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tony2phones wrote:

Unfortunately the Castle grounds come second to other work around the area. Portmna suffered heavily in the Floods last winter when the Shannon broke its banks and was un crossable for almost a week. The heavy rain got into and under many of the roads followed by a full month of sub zero tepratures and extensive damage was done This has taken priority and you no doubt noted the extent of resurfaced roads and cleared ditches as you headed down the Lough Derg Drive (probably got stuck at the road works by the Coose bridge). I would have recomended the Ferry Inn for lunch and a detour via Abbey and Woodford over the Slive. I have a couple of favorite spots with views across Lough Derg to the Slive Bloom's which remind me how lucky I am to live where I do.



We were pleased that they have been able to take care of the castle and grounds as well as they have. We don't really travel to a schedule so the minor roadworks delays were not a serious bother. I am pleased that you are contributing to Michele's site; your local knowledge is very helpful.

 



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PART 6

note: Tuesday, not Thursday as I said in Part 5, was our quiet day.

On Wednesday we decided to go to a larger town for some shopping. Ennis is a town we like but after listening to a radio show that talked about the worsening traffic and parking situation we decided to try Nenagh. I had never spent any time in Nenagh before and was pleasantly surprised. The town is larger than we expected with a good selection of shops and a wide main street. The Country Choice Cafe was recommended as a good place for lunch. The tiny deli has an amazing variety of cheese available and serves good homemade meals. Peter, the owner is an Irish cheese expert. He stopped for a chat and gave us his recipe for 'Pint Bread'.

When we left Nenagh we drove to one of our favourite towns in Ireland, Birr, Co Offaly. It is a very attractive Georgian town, home of Birr Castle and just seems to have a relaxed atmosphere. Spinners Bistro is once again 'closed til further notice' and a self-catering place that we rented a few years ago near the river looked overgrown and a bit rough. Otherwise things seemed to be busy and prosperous.

Thursday started with a soft rain falling. We took the advice of John Wood (chef & gardener) and drove to Scarriff to Irish Seed Savers. We ended up spending more time here than we had expected. The staff are very dedicated, many of them are volunteers. We met staff from Canada and the U.S.A. as well as from Ireland. We got a very informative tour from Dave (knows everything about apples). When he told us of the many virtues of 'the gorse', I asked him if he had ever heard Christy Moore's song 'The Poor Old Earth' which uses Samuel Beckett's words about Gorse. "No" he said but then proceeded to recite the Yeats poem 'The Song of the Wandering Aengus' in its entirety - only in Ireland. I was particularly intrigued by the apple varieties known as Irish Pitchers - you pitch the cuttings onto the damp ground and they take root! More care is taken these days.

That evening we had dinner at Wood Brothers Bistro. Highly recommended. The salad ingredients were all grown in John's back garden. The ingredients were all fresh and prepared to perfection. Lorraine made an early night of it while I went out later for a pint with John at Reddans. It turned into one of those nights. John's brother is a former captain of Ireland's National Rugby team and he was there with another former captain and a couple of local hurlers. Mrs Reddan was very hospitable. A famous local golfer was welcomed later and we all became good friends. I left a reasonable time after we were 'locked in' but I learned the next day that the Craic had continued until Mrs Reddan sent everyone home.

On Friday we got organized, had lunch at the Wooden Spoon again and spent a quiet day. We went in to say goodbye to Mrs Reddan and Pat. She insisted on buying us GAA lottery tickets 'I can send your winnings to Canada'. Reddan's has joined my short list of favourite Irish Pubs. On Saturday morning we went to Wood Brothers Bistro for coffee and John & Brenda very kindly gave us a tour of his beautiful garden overlooking Lough Derg and the bridge to Ballina. We were sad to say goodbye to Killaloe.

We had a leisurely drive from Killaloe to Kilrush and checked in to Crotty's. Kilrush is an attractive town built around a traditional square but seems a bit down on her luck. Crotty's is a very traditional Pub and B&B that is run by a very hard-working and hospitable family. Our room was large with very big windows looking out on the town square. Not modern but comfortable and roomy. We had to walk up to the 3rd floor. The pub is very busy and friendly with plenty of local character(s). A good selection of food is served.

On Sunday after a very good made to order breakfast we set out on a drive through Kilkee and around loop Head. This is just the kind of drive I enjoy - Thank You, Michele!! The road is mostly narrow but in good condition with almost no traffic and truly spectacular views of the cliffs and the Atlantic. We stopped often and I took many photos. There is Sea Thrift everywhere. This is mostly farmland and has a very far away and isolated feel - the few small settlements are not genteel or even very attractive. We spent most of the drive in brilliant sunshine but it was raining when we finally stopped at Loop Head Light. Walking around I can only imagine what a storm would be like here. We drove through Carrigaholt on our return route - more substantial than anything else in the neighborhood and not unattractive. Kilkee seems full of uninhabited Celtic Tiger Holiday Homes. We drove up the coast of Clare a bit before cutting cross country back to Kilrush. That afternoon we took the short drive to Vandaleur Walled Garden. The place was teeming with families - lots of kids running wild. It was a fund-raising event for the local hospital - complete with bouncy castle and PA system. The attractive garden itself is still a work in progress and we were surprised at the amount of damage from the harsh Winter. Back at Crotty's while Lorraine relaxed I took the advice of the Barman and went down the street to the Bookmaker (1st time) and placed a wager on Cork to beat Tipperary in the televised Hurling Match. A couple of hours later I collected my winnings! We ate a good dinner at Crotty's - sat in the little 'snug' beside the bar.

At breakfast the next morning we met three Canadian couples who were all traveling in a rented 'people mover' - all seemed a bit overwhelmed. After we had packed the car, Kevin the manager (?owner) came over to have a chat and say goodbye - another Irishman working hard in the hospitality business. We took an unhurried drive up the coast through Lahinch (did not visit THE CLIFFS) and then turned inland to drive around the familiar roads of the Burren. We were lost and found more than once near Kilfenora and Corofin. We spent some time shopping around Bunratty before driving back to Quin for our last night at The Abbey Tavern where we had a quiet dinner and a quiet night. I took the 'return the car full' option and bought gas in Shannon Town before returning the Punto to Dooleys. We had plenty of time so I went and collected my 60 Euro refund at the office rather than waiting for it to be credited. Checked in and did the duty free thing with no trouble. Save Shannon. Plane left on time and had a smooth flight back to Toronto. Our most laid back trip yet.

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Stewart,

What a great trip. I'm sorry it ended and I'm sure you are too. Glad you liked Loop Head drive. I hope it is not "discovered". I like it just as it is. Did you know that the keepers cottages at the lighthouse are self-catering? Have I put an idea in your mind for your next trip?

Michele

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"Ireland Expert"  Michele Erdvig

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Thanks Michele, for the info about Loop Head self-catering, an interesting possibility for our next trip. All of the properties available from the Landmark Trust look interesting. It is never too early to start planning.
Stewart

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Hi Stewart:

I am extremely interested in going to Loop Head next time I'm in Ireland, and enjoyed your account of the visit.  Also have considered staying in Kilrush, and with that said, do you recall how much it was to stay at Crotty's?

Do you have any photos of Loop Head that you have online?

Thanks for the wonderful report. 

Monty

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Monty, 

Here's a photo I took of the lighthouse at Loop Head. I have other photos but need to get them online before they can appear on the forum.
 
Michele 



Loop Head Lighthouse Click the link for a larger photo.



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"Ireland Expert"  Michele Erdvig

Click links for Michele's Book or Custom Ireland Itinerary

Visit Michele's Irish Shop for unique Irish gifts and beautiful photos of Ireland.



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Monty
The rate at Crotty's was 35 Euros/pppn. If you send me a private message with your email address I think I can link you to some online photos.
Stewart

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