A Travellerspoint blog

When Irish skies are raining

See what I did there?

rain 14 °C

We got up very early on Thursday morning, still weary from the previous night’s antics, and packed up the car in preparation for our drive around the picturesque Ring of Kerry.

There were a couple of reasons for setting off early. One was that we had a considerable amount to see in one day, and another was that we wanted to beat the tourist buses that block the narrow roads and make driving even more treacherous.

The weather was rubbish, unfortunately. Wet, windy, cold and pretty miserable, but we didn’t have another option – we had to push on. It probably meant that the roads were less crowded than they might have been otherwise.

I was struggling to believe that this was supposed to be summer

I was struggling to believe that this was supposed to be summer

Our first stop was Kells Beach, which didn’t prove all that worthwhile. It was a tiny beach strewn with litter and a few rocks, and the weather made swimming a ridiculous suggestion (not for Mum, though – read on).

We had another stop at Caherciveen (not sure how you say that) where there’s an old prison barracks, in which we had a quick look around, enjoying the views from the tower. There’s also a small strip of shops, where we stopped and had a warm drink in an attempt to stop ourselves from catching pneumonia.

Mat pretends not to be cold so that Mum can take a photo

Mat pretends not to be cold so that Mum can take a photo

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Another hour or so of driving followed by a short ferry ride and we were on the island of Valentia (not Valencia), a beautiful little spot with views across the sea to the mainland. There’s an old slate quarry there, which was one of the strangest spots we’d seen – it looked like a huge cave, and on the outside, perhaps twenty metres above ground, there was a small, colourful statue of Mary, I think, which looked completely and utterly out of place.

The island’s cliffs might have produced brilliant views, but it also made for treacherous driving, particularly on the wet roads, and Dad did well to keep us safe.

We hummed along to the lilting tunes of Riverdance as we drove across the bridge to the mainland and Portmagee, another pretty little town on the coast, without much but a couple of pubs.

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A stop near here (it might not have been near here) prompted Mum to get out of the car and run down to the beach, where she had the brilliant idea of going for a quick swim. The girls soon followed, and then even Dad, and funnily enough when they got back in the car they complained of being cold and wet.

Mum goes for a swim

Mum goes for a swim

More driving took us to Ballinskelligs, where we had magnificent views – it was a shame that it was too cold to stay outside for more than a couple of minutes. I suppose, though, that it’s the wild and varied weather that creates these sort of dramatic landscapes, and so you can’t really complain. Well, you can. I will, for one.

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We drove towards, and eventually found, Derrynane House, the home of and now museum dedicated to Daniel O’Connor, known as ‘the Liberator’ of the Catholic underclass. His rise in politics and the effect he had on society was outlined in some detail, and then we got to see some documents, newspapers and portraits from the time, as well as the abode in which he spent most of his time.

Our final stop was the Torc Waterfall, a lovely spot just outside Killarney (we’d done a big loop). The rain had subsided, so we went for a bit of walk through the lush green parkland, occasionally spotting the river that fed the waterfall, or seeing the Ring of Kerry spread out below us.

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Finally, we got back in the car and drove, via Killarney, to Dingle, our stop for the night, finishing our day’s driving, which tallied up to around six hours.

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We found a spot for dinner, and then went to a pub, but I was feeling a bit crook and so went to bed early.

Posted by sammyhez 22:52 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland ring_of_kerry Comments (0)

Tra-la-la-la-lee

We meet some friends at the end of a very wet day

rain 16 °C

On Wednesday morning we hired some bikes and set off on a ride. The weather looked good, we were keen for some exercise after sitting in the car for most of the previous day, and it was a good chance to go out and explore.

So off we went to the historic Dunmore Caves, donning our fluorescent safety vests and getting our directions from the bike hirer.

It was a lovely ride on our way there, if a little bit hilly, and we joined a guided tour to go underground. At first there was just us and one other couple, and then a busload or perhaps thirty American tourists turned up, making for a slightly more crowded descent.

They were ‘tourist’ caves, which had been widened for public view, but very impressive. Over the years, a large number of archaeological finds had been made there, including bones, coins and ancient artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age.

The most chilling find was what appeared to be a mass grave of hundreds of women and children. The theory is that they were sent to the caves to hide when the Vikings made one of their many attacks on the surrounding villages, and once they were done with the villages, the Vikings lit fires to try and smoke out those hiding, or kill them. They managed the latter.

Before we had left the cave, however, it started to rain heavily, and our bike seats were already very wet by the time we got going. The rain didn’t let up until late that afternoon, and it was an incredibly slow and uncomfortable ride back, and we were relieved to get out of our wet clothes when we finally made it back.

We left Kilkenny for Killarney, stopping on the way at Cashel for a bite to eat. By this time it was really pelting down (no wonder Ireland is so green), and it was a mad dash across the road to get to the café. A nice bowl of warm soup warmed us up.

Thankfully, by the time we reached Killarney, the rain had died down, and we dumped our bags and went off for a walk in the Killarney National Park next door. It’s a great spot, with the town’s church spires often visible between the greenery.

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In the evening, we hopped in the car and drove off to nearby Tralee to meet some Irish friends, the parents of Rosie and Matilda’s singing teacher Angela, who has immigrated to Melbourne.

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We met John and Ena in one the town’s hotels, hearing and telling stories and absorbing advice from the locals. It was a great meal and a lovely evening, and we went back to their place after the meal and had a little sing-along, and saw a collection of photos and videos from Angela’s past.

Filled with biscuits and chocolates, we returned to Killarney to sleep.

Posted by sammyhez 22:02 Archived in Ireland Tagged kilkenny killarney tralee Comments (0)

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes

Arriving in Ireland

It was bumpy ride on the Stena Line ferry to Rosslare, but it probably only seemed that way because we were going so quickly. We drove straight off the ferry and into Wexford, our first stop. After finding McMeniman’s B&B (the owner was Seamus McMeniman, how Irish is that?) we dumped our bags and decided on our afternoon’s entertainment – a few afternoons at the National Historical Park.

Our guide Josh was quite informative and entertaining, I thought, but the girls weren’t quite as impressed. We went through the history of Ireland from the Stone Age to today, complete with replica houses from each period, in a similar style to the museum at St Fagans.

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On our way back we stopped at Curracloe Beach, a supposedly lovely beach on the southeast coast. It was indeed very nice, and there were literally hundreds of pale-skinned locals coming up the beach with their beach gear, ready to go home. That should have been a warning sign – we couldn’t go on to the beach without a jumper, and yet these people have been swimming – how bad must the weather be here?

We went out for a lovely dinner at a local restaurant, even if the atmosphere was a bit lacking, as we were the only diners there. At least it meant we could be as loud as we liked without disturbing anyone. Then we went off looking for a pub, ending up in a bit of a dive – it may have been lively and buzzing on the weekend, but in the middle of the week it seemed very gloomy.

So we called it an early night.

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We left Wexford early the next morning, but not after a huge and delicious breakfast from Seamus and Mary, for which Seamus kept dropping in to give us cooking tips and travel advice.

Our night’s accommodation was booked at Kilkenny, but we had a few stop offs in mind before we got there. The first was Graiguenamanach (pronounced craig-na-ma-nah), a very pretty little town, with a large church and a wide river, but not much else to speak of. We went for a long walk along the river, chatting along the way Martin, a man who used to run one of the local pubs.

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We could have walked a lot further, but decided that we better get moving, so we got back in the car and continued to Inistioge (pronounced in-is-teej, with a soft j sound). This was even prettier than Graiguenamanach, with an incredible bridge crossing the river in front of a large, tree-covered hillside.

We had a drink by the riverbank, and took photos with Romy, the black-and-white toy dog that was our official mascot of the trip.

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After trying to visit an old mansion-cum-museum at Mt Juliet, but getting slightly mixed up and only managing to see a golf course (it was a good one, though), we followed the GPS to Kilkenny.

We kept our bags in the car and went for a stroll around town, having a coffee in a tiny street, alongside a pub that dated back to the first millennium AD.
I attempted to organise a tour of the town, and even went to the effort of calling the operator to confirm our meeting place and time. But when we got there, we were all alone – apparently, unbeknownst to the owner of the business, the guide had cancelled and gone home sick. So that was a bit of a waste of time.

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Instead, we went on the incredibly tacky but amusing ‘road train’, a small yellow train-shaped car that looked like a toddlers’ amusement ride. It started pouring during the tour, but we didn’t let that put us off the rest of our day.

We had a look inside the castle, which has only three walls and so extends out into vast parkland, which is an interesting change. But by this time, everything was beginning to close, so we went to our guesthouse, dumped our bags, and got changed for dinner.

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Dinner was at Langton’s, the number one pub in Ireland, according to some official-sounding award, and it certainly served pretty good pub grub. I would have been happy to leave it at that, to be honest, but the girls, particularly, wanted to ‘kick on’. After a bit of searching, we found another pub, The Field, which had a one-man band playing music from all around the world.

When he found out we were from Australia, he played ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ and got a few of us to get up and behave like kangaroos. Cool.

Rosie with the pub singer

Rosie with the pub singer

Everyone in Ireland (and it’s true that they’re all really friendly) seems to have a relative or friend living in Australia. I can’t say I’ve noticed that many, but then the population of Ireland is only a few million, and there are probably more Irish descendants than that scattered around the world.

Back to the guesthouse and to bed.

Posted by sammyhez 00:06 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland kilkenny wexford Comments (4)

On the beach, in Wales

Yeah, seriously

The following day, a Saturday, brought pretty decent weather. I know, that is a shock. By ‘pretty decent’, I mean it was quite sunny. At 19 °C, I certainly wouldn’t call it warm, but everyone in west Wales would, and we went down to New Quay beach for the day.

Unfortunately, we had to leave Nana and Grampy at home – Grampy wouldn’t make it down the steep beach to the sea and so Nana had to stay home and take care of him (and the dogs that the brothers had brought along).

It did feel quite a bit warmer than 19, to be fair, and while we didn't swim, Mum certainly would have done if she had been feeling up to it. The rest of us played beach cricket, beach soccer, and later took a trip out on Marc’s boat, seeing the picturesque cliffs along the coast, with thousands of seagulls squawking and nesting. We then turned around and managed to spot a couple of dolphins frolicking in the bay, capping off a nice ride.

Fish and chips on the beach was the order of the afternoon, and then we brushed the sand off and went back to Abers.

We didn’t have long before our evening appointment, dinner at The Hive, one of very few fashionable restaurants in the town. Six of us, the Heselev five plus Ieuan, were ridiculously late (that’s not like us!) for drinks at Diana’s place. Diana is a friend of Mum’s from school, and we were being joined by another couple of friends, Sian Williams and Mair (whose husband, coincidently, is also named Mark).

We had a reasonable dinner, finished off with honey ice cream (which isn’t honey-flavoured ice cream, but ice cream sweetened by honey rather than sugar). Mum, as mentioned, was feeling considerably under the weather, but she managed to get through the evening in style, even if she could hardly walk home.

It was a day of goodbyes on Sunday, but first we took Grampy to the Celtic for one last lunch. Mum, ever organised, brought the video camera and took the shots for Matilda’s bat mitzvah video, so that both sides of the family can wish her well on her big day, even from the other side of the world.

The family with Logan and Lola (the dog) in Aberaeron

The family with Logan and Lola (the dog) in Aberaeron

The family with Gramps down at Aberaeron Harbour

The family with Gramps down at Aberaeron Harbour

Everyone else had to leave that evening, though, and we said goodbye to Morgan, Lowri, Ieaun, Alison, Richard, Dafydd, Logan, and Lola and Fergus, the two dog, as they set off on the long drive England.

We only had to worry about cooking dinner for seven that night.

The Heselevs, were bidding farewell the following morning, too, as we had to set off early for the land of the leprechauns, our next destination and the seventh country I’d been to since leaving Australia, if you count Jordan and Malaysia, my stopovers.

It was a long goodbye for Matilda, Rosie and Dad, but Mum and I would be coming back in a couple of weeks, so it was more of a ‘see you soon’.

We didn’t have to drive too long until we reached Fishguard, the departure point, and after loading the car on to the huge boat, we were off to Ireland.

Posted by sammyhez 23:42 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged aberaeron new_quay Comments (2)

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