A Travellerspoint blog

A ferry tiring day

We try to leave Ireland, but its charm is too much...

semi-overcast 17 °C

It was our last day in Ireland, and we were determined to make the most of it.

We had booked the spa in the B&B for the morning, and while it was a nice way to start the day, it clearly relaxed us a little too much, because we were out of kilter for the rest of the day. Us kids managed to lock our parents out of the room, and then said parents misplaced a wallet and we spent half an hour cleaning out the bags and the car in a (successful) attempt to find it.

The slightly-mad Dee at brekky

The slightly-mad Dee at brekky

Eventually, after a huge breakfast, we left, and drove to Powerscourt Gardens, a brilliant country mansion with even better surrounding gardens, including a large lake, a number of statues, a rose garden and even a pet cemetery for the companions of the family who once owned the property.

The_kids_i..f_peace.jpgThe_beauti..gardens.jpgPowerscourt_Gardens.jpgPowerscourt_House.jpgA_pet_cemetery.jpgUs being hilarious

Us being hilarious

Another drive and we were having a drink at Foxie’s Pub in Glencullen, a place worth a visit for the pictures and newspaper articles plastered all along the walls. By this time my health had deteriorated significantly, and I had to forfeit my navigational duties (which consisted of typing addresses into the GPS) due to an inability to concentrate on anything. That was where the problems started.

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We drove to Powerscourt Waterfall, the twin property of Powerscourt Gardens, and marvelled at the water cascading over the mountainside. It’d be a great place to camp for a couple of days if one was allowed to.

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And then we drove on to Wimlow on the east coast, a spot with some apparently wonderful scenery. However, we didn’t get to see any of it, because when I was finding out how long we had to stop, based on how long it would take us to get to the ferry, I found that we were already running late. As in, even if we left immediately, we wouldn’t make it to the ferry on time.

That didn’t stop us from trying, and we drove, probably over the speed limit, until we finally, wisely, gave up the chase – you can’t beat the GPS. We called and changed our booking to the late ferry instead, for a small fee, and went to explore Waterford instead.

It’s the oldest city in Ireland, and of course, two of our party equated that with clothes shopping. Thankfully, we did get to see a couple of churches and then climbed up Reginald’s Tower, which played a pivotal role in one of the local peoples’ many battles against Cromwellian forces, and still has an original cannon ball stuck in the outside wall.

In an old church, Waterford

In an old church, Waterford

Finally, about three hours late, we drove into Rosslare. We had a lovely dinner at the pub, a bit of a play on the beach, and then made sure we got to the ferry on time! The night’s entertainment was the comedy film ‘The Green Hornet’, which I thought was quite amusing but left Rosie and Dad rather unimpressed.

Mum volunteered to drive us back to Cardiff, and she did so expertly as the rest of us slept. We eventually got home around 3am, slipping into our beds so as not to disturb Tracey, Richard and Molly.

Posted by sammyhez 21:44 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dublin Comments (5)

Dublin' up

More weak puns as we head into the final leg of our Irish trip

sunny 18 °C

This was probably our best opportunity to sleep in, because it was the first (and only) time of the trip that we were staying in the same accommodation for consecutive nights, so we didn’t need to pack up our bags nor get going early in the morning.

But that wasn’t what tour guide Tony had in mind, and we were up earlier than usual to meet Shane, our guide for the day’s walking tour in the Connemara. The Connemara is a region in County Galway, a rugged area of history and beauty, where mountains meet the ocean.

Our first walk was up through a seemingly deserted valley, through the rocky landscape, with small streams making their way through the stones that covered the bare earth. Shane pointed out the various plants that are unique to the region, such as the insect-eating carnivorous flowers, and we eventually made it to a small clearing, on which sat a tiny church.

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We were told that this natural amphitheatre, with a speaker able to address thousands of people standing in the valley below, had been used by St. Patrick in the third Century, and in later years as a meeting point for Catholics when the religion was outlawed in the 16th Century, who could see the authorities coming from miles away. The Church is still used a few times a year, and large crowds gather in the valley on Easter Sunday.

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Then we drove on to Connemara National Park, had some lunch, and began our main climb for the day. After a long trek, and a chat to our fellow travellers, who had come from everywhere from America to Germany to Israel, we got to the summit of Diamond Hill. We were very lucky with the weather, because apparently it rains here 270 days of the year, and we saw clear sunshine, and as a result, brilliant views of the countryside, from the sea and a few inhabited islands to the west, to mountains and towns to the east.

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It was a great day – very interesting, educational and tiring, and we saw quite a bit of a lovely area without getting rained on.

But all good things must come to an end, so we went back in the car and back to Galway, where we had another nice dinner (candlelit!) and another early night.

We were up early again for the long drive to Dublin. Although it was one of our longest drives by distance, the motorway ensured that it was certainly not one of the longest, although it might have been one of the most boring.

Our B&B was in the northern Dublin suburbs, and our bubbly and enthusiastic hostess Deirdre gave us the longest welcome speech anyone has ever known, bordering on forty-five minutes and covering everything from reviews of a number of local restaurants to the different types of bubble bath one can put in the spa. You’d have thought we were staying there for six months, not one night.

We dumped our bags and caught a bus into town, wanting to see the sights with the very limited time we had.

Apparently the sites included souvenir shopping, but after that false start we were raring to go, jumping on one of the sightseeing tourist buses and zooming around the city. Our first stop was Trinity College, where we saw the magnificent 1200-year-old Book of Kells, and marvelled at the detail and vivid colour of such an ancient publication.

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Panda got a picture taken with the Molly Malone statue, which was a minor miracle given the thousands of tourists surrounding it, wanting to get their photos taken. We didn’t stop at either of the Guinness Storehouse or the home of Jamieson’s Whiskey, but both were tributes to Ireland’s main export*. I was slightly surprised the Liffey River flowing through town wasn’t black with a white layer of foam on top.

  • Alcohol may not be Ireland’s main export.

A_Leprecha..Awesome.jpgMolly Malone in Dublin

Molly Malone in Dublin

The Guinness Factory

The Guinness Factory

We saw old hospitals, churches, libraries, passed museums and art galleries, but couldn’t really stop anywhere due to time constraints. It was already getting dark, so we got on the bus back to Monkstown, where we were staying. For our last night in Ireland we went to a very nice restaurant, in which we were probably extremely underdressed. But stuff it; we were on holiday.

Our evening’s entertainment was at Comhaltas, an Irish cultural centre. We were expecting a large crowd to watch a professional Irish music performance, but instead were the only ones present at what appeared to be a school concert, with kids of no older than seventeen. But they were all really, really good, and it was a surprisingly good hour, even if it was a little awkward being the only audience members present.

Mum managed to cajole/bribe Matilda into singing one of her Irish folk songs that she’d learnt at school, and they listened politely; though to be fair, she did sing it extremely well. A bit of a walk along the coast finished us off for the day.

Posted by sammyhez 20:33 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dublin galway connemara Comments (0)

Moher please

Spectacular scenery and lively cities

sunny 18 °C

On the advice of the hostel owner, we woke up early the following morning, a bright, sunny morning for a change, to beat the crowds to the Cliffs of Moher. And also on his advice, instead of joining the people going to the cliffs via the car park, we parked our car at the side of a nearby road, climbed over a fence and were able to get right up to the cliff face.

It was a bit too close, if anything, with a fifty metre vertical drop to one side, at times just half a pace away – you can see why they don’t advertise it! But we certainly got better views, as shown by the photos. And at one stage our path was blocked by a wandering herd of sheep, another thing you won’t find by the visitors’ centre.

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We did have to walk a fair way along the road to get back to the car, though, but that was OK, because we were just going to be sitting in the car for the next hour or so as we drove to the Burren. This is a limestone desolate, rocky area by the sea, and a complete contrast to the rest of the lush, green countryside. We went for a bit of a walk, with Matty twisting her ankle, so back in the car we went to Ballyvaughan, a small town nearby (and another great Irish name).

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There we stopped for some brunch in a great tea garden, called, funnily enough, The Tea Garden, where we compensated for our lack of brekky with a huge meal followed by a cake. Not a whole cake, obviously, but a couple of slices.

Back in the car once again, and we continued to travel north along the west coast towards Galway, reaching our destination in the late afternoon.

Our B&B was right in the middle of town, and Mary and Donie were brilliantly energetic and amusing Irish hosts. Their tiny dogs, Rambo and Millie, were just as energetic, and demanded our attention whenever we walked through the door, attention that the girls were all too happy to give.

The view from the back garden of St Martin's B&B, Galway

The view from the back garden of St Martin's B&B, Galway

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We went for a walk around Galway city, a very lively, vibrant city, with a collection of street performers lining the main strip, a large market selling everything from olives to jewellery to second-hand books, a number of busy squares and a couple of piers. You could spend all day wandering the streets and not get bored.

Mat_and_Ro.._Galway.jpgKeywest, one of Galway's many street-performing bands

Keywest, one of Galway's many street-performing bands

Fat Tony stands outside a barber shop

Fat Tony stands outside a barber shop

Dad and Mat at a Galway market

Dad and Mat at a Galway market

A man tries to wake his dog, but tragically, it has turned to sand

A man tries to wake his dog, but tragically, it has turned to sand

A drink at Taaffe’s where we watched a bit of Gaelic football and hurling (which is a really cool sport), and then a dinner at a small Irish restaurant (Irish stews all round), and we finally succumbed to fatigue and illness and went to bed.

Posted by sammyhez 20:05 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland galway doolin Comments (0)

Doolin' around

Plus we visit 'the closest bar to New York'

semi-overcast 18 °C

We actually managed to have a bit of a sleep in the following day – our first of the trip! When we did get going, we left Dingle via Slea Head Drive, another scenic route that took us over some steep hills and past some spectacularly green valleys. Whenever we dared to step out of the car, though, the Irish weather sent us back – yesterday’s miserable conditions weren’t going away.

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Cows block the road

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Our drive took us past a group of famine-era houses, where we learnt about and saw first-hand the conditions in which peasant families had to live during the incredibly brutal years of the Great Famine.

The_donkey..eatures.jpgRo and Mat in front of a famine-era house

Ro and Mat in front of a famine-era house

We kept driving, along less spectacular roads, towards Tarbert, where we queued up for a ferry across the Shannon Estuary, out of County Kerry and into County Clare.

We drove off the ferry and around the coast to Loop Head, a cliff with brilliant views of the Atlantic, with seagulls nesting on a few of the rocks just off the coast. Fish and chips at Keatings finished the afternoon, and we got back in the car for the drive to Doolin. Keatings proudly boasts that it is the ‘closest bar to New York’, a claim that would be impressive, but if one includes the hundreds of bars in New York and around New York, you’d probably say that ‘the closest bar in Ireland to New York’ is more accurate. Perhaps not as punchy.

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Finally we got to Doolin, a strange little town, and after a bit of searching and a couple of phone calls managed to find our accommodation, a cosy little hostel by a stream.

Doolin’s shops and pubs seemed to be spread out along one long main road, and as such it took a fair while to walk from one side of town to the other. In that sense it hardly even felt like a town at all, merely a group of country pubs who coincidentally set up somewhere near each other.

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We managed to sample four of these pubs. The first managed to squeeze us in for dinner, which was delicious, but we had just missed the music, so after eating we tried to find somewhere else. Our second port of call, the most highly recommended, was far too crowded – there was certainly nowhere to sit and even when standing we where getting in the way.

The third was good, and we stayed there for a while. It was a bit emptier, there was good music and a nice atmosphere, but Rosie was concerned, and rightly so I suppose, that there were only tourists there, and that we weren’t getting the ‘true Ireland’. So we went to our fourth, the oldest by a long way, and also very crowded, and heard a few Irish tunes before eventually calling it a day.

Posted by sammyhez 23:13 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dingle doolin Comments (0)

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