Trip Report - 20 days in Ireland
OUR SECOND TRIP TO IRELAND IN DETAIL
SATURDAY APRIL 28th, 2018
Our friends, Ruby & Jordan picked us up around 1pm and dropped us at the airport. Both the flight to Atlanta and the flight from Atlanta to Dublin went quite well. Each left on time and arrived a little ahead of schedule. The worst part of this day was dealing with the iPhone we intended to get a SIM for in Ireland. Lucretia had forgotten the passcode and Apple makes it harder to reset an iPhone in this situation than breaking into Fort Knox. But we finally got it reset in the Atlanta Airport.
SUNDAY APRIL 29th, 2018 – DAY 1
Arrived in Dublin at the gate about 40 minutes early (8:20am), we deplaned, went through Irish Passport Control, got our luggage, then walked thru Irish Customs, all this went smooth. Then we went to get our rental car. It took a little while but no real problems and we were able to use our third party insurance for Rental Car Damage. I got a great deal through Fox Car Rental. The final cost came to $297 USD for 20 days, using my own damage insurance, for a compact automatic, and that included an Administration Fee of €25 for using third party damage insurance. Most people pay this amount for a manual shift. And the car was actually provided by Dan Dooley Car Rental, who we used on our last trip. We got a nice small Nissan Micra (only 65” wide, very good for the narrow roads in Ireland). Times for all this took just a little over an hour, so about 9:30 we were driving away from the airport. Next we went to the Tesco store (like a Super Wal-Mart) to see about getting the SIM card for the iPhone. Getting the SIM went well, we got on the Tesco network and yes, the phone was indeed unlocked by AT&T. But we could not get it to be a Hotspot. One woman who was helping us with the phone said that is because Tesco does not allow you to use the phone as a hotspot. Later in the day I looked this up on Tesco’s website and found steps and settings to enter into the iPhone settings and got the Hotspot working. We got a great deal for this. €15 for the SIM card, which becomes a Credit on the Account. It includes unlimited phone calls and texts to number in Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as 10GB Data (on the phone or as a hotspot for our tablet & laptop), and calls to the US were only 2c a minute (taken against the credit). After Tesco, we drove into Howth to do the Cliff Walk we had planned on. It took a little while to find it, but we finally did and parked close to the actual start of the Cliff Walk. We only walked about ¼ of the first part, just enough to be able to see the cliffs well. Then we headed to Cornerville B&B to check in, (hosts were Helen & Andy Webster). That went well, it was here that I got the Hotspot working, so we did not need to go back to the Tesco store the next morning. A little later, Andy drove us to the train station and we took the train into Dublin for the evening. First we made our way to the National Leprechaun Museum. We got there exactly at 4:30 and they said we could not get on the 4:30 tour and would have to wait until 5pm to begin the 45 minute tour, so we chose to skip this. We headed toward our next stop and had dinner at Fitzgerald’s Pub on the way. I had Beef & Guinness Stew and Cretia had Fish & Chips. Next we re-visited the Molly Malone Statue to get our picture taken there, (which did not happen on our last visit). We then shopped in a few souvenir stores, then made our way to Oliver St. John Gogarty’s Pub for the Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl. This was very good, a lot of info given about Irish music and musicians, past and present. Ceol Agus Craic (Drink, Music, Fun). We then went back to the train station and took the train back to Howth. A quick cab ride back to the B&B and that was the end of two long days.
MONDAY APRIL 30TH, 2018 – DAY 2
Got up early, had breakfast, then left the B&B about 8:45. Made a quick stop at TESCO to get Cretia a knee brace and healing strips or ointment. Her knee had been bothering her since last Sunday when we did a Heart Walk with her work team. Then we went and toured Malahide Castle. Very interesting 45 min tour, just the 2 of us, a young lass from Canada and the Tour Guide. She told us her next tour was to be about 50 young school kids and she said she really doesn’t put a lot of effort into those because the kids don’t really understand much of what she is saying, and that’s if they’re even paying attention. So she was really glad to have such a small group of adults. The castle is all about the Talbot family and the lady from Canada is related to Talbot’s there. One real interesting item was a portrait of Oliver Cromwell in the main dining hall, (which has a huge table setup to seat 22 people). There was also a painting of Lady Margaret Talbot and her children, Rose and Milo. The painting was done in such a way that the little boy and girl follow you as you move from one side to the other whilst viewing the painting. Next we made a beeline up to Northern Ireland, near Larne, just up the coast past Belfast, to do the Gobbins Cliff Path Walk. Our tour was booked for 1:30 and we could not be late. So I went as fast as I safely could and we did not make any stops. We pulled into the car park about 12:45, so we were grand. Went inside and checked in, then had a wee bit of lunch. Met up with our tour guide, had our safety briefing (we were a group of 20 or so), then they took us in a shuttle bus to the start of the path. Very nice and we were having very good weather again. All sunny, no real wind, and I would guess about 60F - 65F. The walk was like nothing else. All manner of walkways and bridges into the sides of the cliff, near the bottom of the cliff. From here we could see several places along the coast of Scotland, as well as the Isle of Man. The time spent here was about 2 ½ hours, with another half hour for the coming and going. On the way back we passed a filming location for GAME OF THRONES. A quarry where they still had a large flat wall, brown now, but it was painted white and served as the Great Wall of the North. And on one end of the quarry was the set for Castle Black. When we left Gobbins we drove on to The Dark Hedges. This was another G.O.T. location, which was the King's Road in the first episode of the second season, as Arya Stark, who had escaped from King's Landing disguised as a boy, travelled through the Hedges with other characters to join the Night's Watch. Next we made our way to our B&B, Kilmail Country Chalet (hosts Annie & Bryan Watton). Annie chatted with us a bit and gave us a recommendation for dinner in Ballymoney, which we took and were glad of it. We ate at Carmichaels Restaurant. We shared Steak & Prawns, with extra mashed potatoes for both of us. Cretia had an Amaretto & Sprite, whilst I had an Irish Coffee, then we had dessert, Banoffi With A Twist, a very tasty Banana and Caramel Toffee, with bananas and cream. Before we left town we popped into Tesco and bought a small bottle of laundry detergent and (2) 700 ml bottles of Irish Cream, which we have both taken to drinking straight (or adding to coffee or hot chocolate). Next we went back to our B&B and we chatted for a little with Annie & Bryan, well it turned into 3 hours, talking about our travels, Family Tree and my Irish Ancestors, life, marriage and all sorts of things. Bryan is quite into ancestry tracking and I’m to give him all the info we have on my ancestors who were in Ireland. He said he’d see if he could find out more or go further back. So on about midnight we went to bed. This was a very fun and exciting day.
TUESDAY MAY 1st, 2018 – DAY 3
Up early, breakfast, then we headed off to visit Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. The rope bridge was very interesting. A walk of about .7 miles to the bridge. Then you walk across, the bridge moves up & down and a slight swing. It crosses over what was an ancient extinct volcano. From here you can see Rathlin Island and also across to Scotland. This is pretty much the most Northeastern Point of Ireland. Next we went to Dunluce Castle. This is a castle ruin and the most impressive feature is how it is built on the very edge of the sea cliff. The admission is for a self-guided tour and the weather was getting windy so we just took some photos on the outside, showing the castle on the cliff edge. Then we headed off to see a wee bit in Derry. We planned to do one of the Derry Wall walking tours, but didn’t know where we needed to go. So as we drove into the City Centre, I spotted what was certainly a Shopping Mall (Foyleside), which had a car park, so I decided we’d drive into the car park, go in the mall, grab a bite of lunch and find someone to ask about the Walking Tours. Well it turns out, one of the most popular walking tours starts from just outside this mall. So we ate, looked around the shops, bought our tour tickets and met the guide just before our 2pm tour. The tour was very interesting with lots of historical information, both general and specific to “the troubles”. But it had gotten quite cool and very windy, which took away from the enjoyment of this a bit. But at the end they took us into a small café for a free hot tea and coffee. Then we headed out of Derry and on our way back to the B&B we ate dinner at Elliot’s Bistro in the Lodge Hotel in Coleraine. I had a burger and Cretia had a chicken sandwich. Then back to the B&B, where we caught up on some personal finance tasks (it being the first of the month). Then we sat and chatted with Bryan for a few hours over genealogy and miscellaneous topics. It was a grand soft day, so it was.
WEDNESDAY MAY 2nd – DAY 4
We rested a bit longer and started our day a bit later, after the 2 late nights of socializing with our hosts, and given that the itinerary for today was lighter than what we’d done so far. After breakfast we headed off to drive back into The Republic of Ireland, at County Donegal in the Northwest. Our first stop was Grianan of Aileach, a ringed stone fort on top of a high hill. This was a very interesting fort. Great views from here, it had a very nice car park and there was no admission to walk into and see the fort, even to go up onto the various levels. Unlike many lesser attractions we came across later in our trip, which did charge fees. Next we went to Fort Dunree, which was one of several forts along Lough Swilly used to defend against invaders set on landing in and taking siege of Ireland. Quite a unique fort, built right along the cliffs edge, with large cannons as the main defense. Next we took back roads and made our way up to Malin Head. We were going to check in to the B&B first, but the weather was sunny (and it hadn’t been on and off during the day), so we decided to see the sights here first. The hill and area at the extreme end of Malin Head is known as BANBA’S CROWN. There is a structure here on the cliff top that is a small fortified tower and was used for communications. They also have 80 EIRE in large white rocks along the coastline, at this location. The 80 just means that Malin Head was designated Station 80, and of course EIRE is Irish for IRELAND. This was for Allied World War II pilots to know they were over Ireland and not to bomb there. Visiting here is essentially the most Northwestern Point of Ireland. It was nice here, although it was quite windy. We took some pictures and then headed over to Whitestrand B&B to check in, (host was Mary Houghton), very nice and she gave us a suggestion to see another attraction, The Wee House of Malin, a natural spa and small cave (called the Wishing Chair), where folks go and leave a stone with a prayer for a departed loved one. Mary also recommended Seaside Tavern for dinner, it was very nice, and large portions. Cretia had Cod, Prawns & Mussels with Cream Sauce and I had Sweet Chili Chicken Stir Fry with noodles. We really had a great day that was a little slower pace, with a lot less walking.
THURSDAY MAY 3rd, 2018 - DAY 5
We got up early, had breakfast and then headed off to our first stop, The Great Pollet Sea Arch, over on the next peninsula (Fanad Peninsula). The GPS did not have this as a Point of Interest, so I Googled it and then entered the coordinates. The GPS brought us to that position, but we did not see any signs for Pollet Sea Arch after leaving the main road. We thought maybe we were in the wrong place, so we looked at the GPS Map and drove to where it looked like it might have been. We wound up at Fanad Head Lighthouse. The woman there told us that the property owners are in a dispute (not sure who with) and they have blocked access. I later looked up the location on Google Maps, with the satellite view, I could confirm that the blockage we had arrived at, at the end of the road, (You have one gate in front of you, one just to the right on the driver's side and another on the same side, set about 10 feet back) is where you would enter. They also had all sorts of NO TRESPASSING signs. I could not find anything out about this DISPUTE with online searches. So we had gone to the correct place and just could not enter. So we headed off to our next stop, Creevykeel Court Tomb in County Sligo, an ancient stone burial tomb. After seeing this site, as the weather had eased some (we had a lot of rain on our drive down, which had all but stopped), I rang up the stables and they said if we arrived earlier, we could start earlier, (whilst the weather was better), as you never know when it might start raining heavier again. We got there in about 10 mins. It was going on 3:30 and they had a group going out. So they quickly got us geared up with riding boots, helmets and a rain jacket for me and we all headed out, Cretia & I, 2 guides and 3 young German girls. We walked the horses down the road a ways and then to a path which led to the beach. We rode along the beach going into a trot and canter every so often. As we neared about 45 mins, one guide and the 3 girls headed back (they had only booked an hour). The other guide, Isabelle rode with us and we continued along the beach towards Classiebawn Castle, doing a few more trots and canters. Then we started back and another group of riders came along in a fast canter, so our guide had us move to the water side, we took the horses a little way into the ocean, whilst that group rode past and rode on. After a bit, we started back and started to do another trot and canter. Almost immediately after we got into a canter, my horse “Mo”, tried to pass the guide, so I tightened up on the reigns and restrained him. Well Cretia’s horse “Tom” (they were behind me), either didn’t like that or felt crowded and he jolted off to the right and Cretia fell off on his left side. We all stopped and came back. I saw her fall and thank God she fell onto wet sand and no rocks (there were many rocks along other parts of the beach). Also, thank God they had us wear helmets. She initially landed on her left hip. It was sore, but she was able to walk, she even got back on the horse a little later and we walked the horses all the way back to the stable. They gave her some ice and she started taking ibuprofen. Also, thank God that the knee pain she had been having had gone away a day or so ago. After this we headed off to our next lodging, Glachamara B&B (hosts Christina & Tom McGarry), which was less than 1km away. We went in, talked with our host and got some suggestions on places to eat and a chemist (what they call pharmacies here) to get an ice pack and a bit more advice on Cretia’s injury. We got an ice pack and some extra strength ibuprofen. Then we went to dinner at Harrison’s in Cliffony. We decided to just share a cheese pizza. I wanted to go into Sligo, but we settled on Harrision’s as we knew we could park right at the restaurant, going into Sligo might have involved parking and walking a few blocks to a place to eat. After dinner we went back to the room and rested for the evening. A good day, except for Cretia’s fall.
FRIDAY MAY 4th 2018 - DAY 6
Up early, breakfast and then we headed out. Cretia was feeling a little better this morning. First we drove as close to Classiebawn Castle as we could and took some pictures. We had photographed this from the highway on our last trip and wanted to get some better pictures. It is a private residence, so no touring this one. Then our next stop was Donegal Castle in Donegal Town, just north of where we are staying. Very interesting self-tour; so I read the Tour Guide sheet aloud to us both, complete with an Irish brogue. Then we headed to Glencolmcille to see Clocha na hEireann, a stone sculpture that is the map of Ireland, with each county indicated and made from a separate stone from that county and with markings unique to that county. Then just across the street we went thru the Glen Folk Village. A collection of cottages from different periods in Ireland’s history, filled with era appropriate articles and such. Very well done. Next we headed off to see Slieve League Cliffs, which are much taller than the Cliffs of Moher. Great views from here and we took a lot of awesome pictures. A hint if you ever go, drive to the second car park. There is a gate just past the first car park, but you are allowed to open it, just close it behind yourself. Although they are much taller than the Cliffs of Moher, the cliff face here is along the side of a small mountain, so Cliffs of Moher are probably more dramatic, with that straight, flat cliff edge. After this we headed back towards our B&B, but we still had some extra time, so we visited nearby Glencar Waterfall, very nice. On the way to the falls, we came upon a bunch of sheep that had gotten out of their fenced enclosure and the owners and their help were trying to get them back in. After the falls, we went into Sligo Town and had dinner at Fiddler’s Creek Pub, Cretia had Fish & Chips, whilst I had Fisherman’s Pie (like Shepherd’s Pie only with fish and shrimp). Then we took a picture of a nicer sign in Sligo for Connaughton Road, (we had photographed a picture of a different sign for this road on our last trip). The weather by this time was very warm and sunny, much nicer than the downpour on our last visit in 2015. On our way back to the B&B we got a great picture of Benbulben, a large flat-topped hill, similar to Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Australia. A very good day with a slow pace.
SATURDAY MAY 5th, 2018 – DAY 7
Up early, we ate breakfast and then headed off. Today will be a light day, especially good as Cretia is quite sore from her fall, more so than yesterday. Our first stop was the car park at Knocknarea, near Sligo. We came here on our last trip and this time we meant to climb it and visit Queen Maeve’s Tomb. Due to her hip, Cretia did not walk up, I went on my own. As a representative of the Connaughton Clan, I placed a stone on Queen Maeve’s Tomb, as per local legend. It took me about 40 minutes to climb, see the tomb, take some photos and descend. Next we made a short stop at Carrowmore Passage Tomb, and just took some pictures from the car park. After this we headed off to County Galway and Kylemore Abbey. We went in, toured the rooms they allow visitors in and took several pictures. After this we drove the short distance into Clifden and our stay at Kingstown House B&B (hosts Regina & Jim Hopkins). I talked with Jim a little and then we drove off to see the Sky Road, a dramatic drive along the edge of the peninsula, up along the cliffs. Most notable were the scenic views and also seeing Clifden Castle. Then we went back into Clifden, parked and went to dinner at Guy’s Pub, (the same place as our last visit to Clifden). Very good once again, Cretia had Fish & Chips, I had Beef & Guinness Stew topped with Mashed Potatoes and we shared a Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. This was a very nice, slower paced day.
SUNDAY MAY 6th, 2018 – DAY 8
Up early then we headed off to Rossaveal to catch the ferry to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. It is a people ferry only, so the car will stay parked, making this a day I will probably do the least amount of driving, about an hour to get here and then a half hour to our next B&B after we get back. We originally planned to rent bikes and see the island on bicycle. But on the ferry, in part due to Cretia’s fall, we both were thinking about splurging and doing the horse drawn cart (pony & trap) tour. So when we got there I ran off, found someone offering a tour in a van first, and listened to what it included and found the price to be €15 pp. Then I ran off and talked with one of the pony drivers, same thing, but €25 pp. I probably would have paid more. So I told him yes, and a few minutes later Cretia came along. We also had 2 women from France and one younger woman from Toronto riding with us. We were so glad we decided to do this. First the bike ride would have been tough. Whilst we had nice weather, it was a bit cool and windy, especially at first. Besides, we now had a driver/guide (Patrick Hernon) who was born and raised on Inis Mor, to regale us with all the history and folklore as we rode along. The horse’s name was Sam. We headed out toward Dun Aengus Fort over the high road. Stopping for pictures and such. Once we arrived there, we had about an hour and a half to have a bite to eat and visit the fort. We first went into the café, I bought a bowl of delicious vegetable soup for myself and a hot chocolate for Cretia and we ate the sandwiches we had packed before leaving our B&B. Then we got tickets and headed to the fort, about a 20 minute walk up the hill (and the same down). We got some fantastic photos, especially of the cliffs by the fort. Then we got back in the trap and continued on with the island tour, heading into Kilronan on the low road. The whole tour lasted about 3 hours and 30 minutes, well worth the cost. Better than the bikes and riding on the gravel and rocky roads and better than the van tour with people piling in and out at each stop. We lingered around the village and about 4pm, we queued up to be on the first ferry back. After the ferry docked in Rossaveal, we quickly made our way to the car and drove off to check-in at our B&B in Spiddal, Ard Aoibhinn, (host was Barbara O’Malley). Then we went to dinner at An Cruiscin Lan, where we split a plate of roast beef, potatoes and vegetables and then split a Warm Bramley Apple Crumble dessert. The food here was excellent. Then we headed back to the B&B, where we visited with our host for a little while before going to our room. This was a very nice, slow-paced kind of day.
MONDAY MAY 7, 2018 – DAY 9
Up early and had breakfast, then we headed off to the Doolin area, where we have several things planned for the day. First we visited Corcomroe Abbey, an old abbey now ruins, with many gravesites and tombstones. Next we tried to get to Gleninagh Castle, but although we made it to the location, we did not find the path. We did see the castle from a distance, but did not try to get any closer. We originally planned to visit the 2 caves in this area, then we thought we would only go to 1. But we heard the weather today would be much nicer than tomorrow, so we moved our visit to Kilkee Cliffs from tomorrow to this afternoon and decided to skip both caves. So we went into Doolin and caught the 12 noon Cliffs of Moher Boat Tour. This was very exciting. We visited the top of the cliffs on our last trip, (visitor centre, footpaths along the top and O’Brien’s Tower). Now we got to see all of this from the sea, below the cliffs, AWESOME. You get close to the large Sea Stack, you can kind of see a cave used in one of the Harry Potter movies, and you get a better view of Hag's Head at the southern end of the cliffs. After this we had a quick lunch of sandwiches we made at breakfast, then headed down to Kilkee to do the Cliff Walk there. Along the way, we happened to pass right by Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland, in Doonbeg, County Clare. The Kilkee Cliffs are, in many ways, even more impressive than the Cliffs of Moher. The walk is free and there are more different types of formations and the ground is different as these cliff faces are mostly black. We took many pictures. There are far less people and the views are far more stunning and up-close. Yes, the cliffs are actually higher at the Cliffs of Moher, but you can get much closer to the view at Kilkee. You can actually feel the power of the waves as they crash into the shoreline. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Then we headed off to the Ennis area and our 2 night stay at The Inn at Dromoland (on the Dromoland Castle Estate, where we stayed on our last visit). After checking in, I searched on Google and found a family restaurant, Sherwood Inn, which it turned out was in a shopping mall in Ennis. The food was very good, but the restaurant was a little quirky in that they did not accept credit cards, and you paid in cash, at your table, when you placed your order. But no waiting for the check, so that was good. Cretia had a Pork Chop and I had Shepherd’s Pie, with extra mashed potatoes. Then we headed back to our room. Another fun and easy day, with many breath-taking views.
TUESDAY MAY 8th, 2018 – DAY 10
We were able to lie on for a bit this morning and then we had breakfast in our room, tea, coffee and chocolate muffins. At 9:30am we went over to Dromoland Castle to do our Archery Experience. David was our tutor for Archery and he helped us learn a lot. Cretia had an easier time, as she was basically learning fresh. I had a couple self-learned bad habits to break, like how I held the bow and my draw of the string. But David was patient and got us both shooting pretty good in a short time. After this we headed into Limerick and we toured King John’s Castle. A very impressive castle on the bank of the River Shannon. It was a self-guided tour with a lot of audio and visual displays and information. Next we had lunch at Katie Daly’s Pub, right by the castle. Cretia had chicken fingers and I had cottage pie. Then we headed out of town, stopping at McCabe’s Pharmacy to return the knee brace we had bought for Cretia at the start of our trip (it was too uncomfortable to wear). After this, we continued out of Limerick and visited the gravesite of Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries, who only recently died and was buried in Caherelly Graveyard near her home town of Ballybricken, County Limerick, Ireland. The grave marker was not there, I don’t know if it was away to have her name added along with her Father’s or if it had been vandalized or stolen. But there were many mementos on the ground, including a photo of her. I took some pictures here and then we headed back to our hotel room. There we had a little time to catch up on a few things and then we headed out to our evening at the Bunratty Medieval Dinner Banquet. This was quite fun, good food and much of it, along with mead and wine. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel. We had another fantastic day. It is hard to believe our trip is now halfway over. But on the positive side, we still have 10 more days, longer than many people spend in Ireland entirely.
WEDNESDAY MAY 9th, 2018 – DAY 11
Up early, a quick breakfast in our room and then we headed over to Dromoland Castle for our Falconry Experience. Michael was our tutor for working with the birds and today we worked with Darby. Darby (a female) is a Harris Hawk, which is actually a type of buzzard. The American norm of considering buzzards and vultures the same thing is actually not correct. We learned many little things like this, including the fact that many common terms we use in daily lingo come from falconry. For example, “under my thumb” and “wrapped around my little finger” have to do with positioning the string leash tied to the bird’s feet. Anyway, we both got to have Darby fly to our hands many times and I got to just hold her “manning” and walk with her on my hand, “carriage”. After this we headed off for our stay on the Dingle Peninsula. During the drive we had some heavy rain. But just a little before reaching the scenic Conor Pass, the rains ended and we had clear sunny skies. Some fantastic views as we drove through Conor Pass. On arriving in Dingle, we arranged to take a Dolphin Boat Tour and see Fungie, the famous dolphin of Dingle Bay. We saw Fungie several times, although obtaining a picture of him was nearly impossible. By the time you saw him surface and trained the camera on him, he went under. Still we had a lot of fun in a small boat. If we’d have seen a shark I would have said “we need a bigger boat”. We also saw the lighthouse and more cliffs at the mouth of Dingle Harbor. After this we made our way to our next stay at O’Neill’s B&B in the heart of Dingle. Our host was Stephen O’Neill. Dingle is a small village so we walked to dinner. We ate at the Marina Inn, Cretia had Roast Beef and I had Bacon & Cabbage with Mashed Potatoes. Then we shared a Warm Chocolate Ganache Cake for dessert, most scrumptious. A very enjoyable day.
THURSDAY May 10th, 2018 – DAY 12
Up early, had breakfast. Then we left do the Slea Head Drive, which takes in some of the most scenic points on the western end of the Dingle Peninsula. We saw many more awesome sights such as cliff faces, the Blasket Islands and we were even able to see Skellig Michael (a Star Wars filming location) off the Ring of Kerry Coast. After this we stopped back in Dingle for a little souvenir shopping and some ice cream at the famous Murphy’s Ice Cream of Dingle. We shared a large serving of a very tasty butterscotch/caramel cream flavored ice cream. Then we headed toward Killarney. Along the way we stopped for lunch at Inch Beach. We actually drove our car onto the beach. They had an area where they allowed it and several other cars were there. When we finished eating we noticed an RV that had driven down there. It had not gotten very far onto the beach and was stuck in the sand, with a lot of folks around trying to help get them out. I helped push when they were ready. We pushed it about 3m back, out of the big hole the front wheels were in, but still it was not free as the heavy front end was pushing it into a rut. Folks kept trying and eventually they were able to get it to go forward onto slightly harder sand, where he turned and drove off the beach. NOTE TO SELF: never drive our RV onto a beach. We continued to Killarney and visited Muckross Traditional Farms first. They have replicas of a small, medium and large farms as they were during Ireland’s early days. Along with village staples such as a carpentry shop, saddler, blacksmith, schoolhouse, lime kiln and more. A lot of animals to see and pet here, so Cretia was in heaven. We also visited with Hugh in the schoolhouse, who taught us some Irish, Bi’ Curamach (Be Careful) and To’g go Bog e’ (Take It Easy). Next we drove to Ladies View, a vantage point to see the Killarney lakes, made famous when Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting were taken here in 1861. Then we went to Torc Waterfall for a look and a picture. Very nice waterfall, but very small car park, we had a hard time finding a spot and this is “shoulder season”. Along this road we had a close call with a bus that came around a curve very quickly and was way over the line. Luckily the bus driver and I were both looking sharp and we stopped instantly, then I worked my way over and he went by. Right after that we encountered 2 more buses, luckily each time there was an area I could pull off most of the roadway. They should not allow these huge, full size buses on some of these roads, as they cannot drive them and stay in their lane, even at a crawl. They should be forced to use smaller shuttle style vans. Next we went back into Killarney and our next lodging, Mountain Dew B&B (our hosts were Eileen & Joseph O’Carroll). After we settled in, we walked into town centre for dinner. We ate at Tatler Jacks, (the same place we ate on our last visit to Killarney). I had Cottage Pie and Cretia had a Philly Steak Sandwich. Then we walked back to the B&B, but on the way I tried to find the depot for O’Connor/Wild Kerry, (it was supposed to be up the street from our B&B). I found where it should be, but it was just a house. I saw a gentleman opening the gate and went to chat with him. Well wouldn't ya know, it turned out to be the very same Barry I originally talked with over email, when I set up our excursion, so it was, and we chatted a bit before we walked off, back to our B&B. We had another very fun day.
FRIDAY MAY 11, 2018 – DAY 13
We lied on a bit today, as our tour is not until 10am. We had breakfast and put together laundry that Eileen said she would wash and dry during the day. A little before 10am we left and walked to the start of our tour, about 150m up the street from our B&B. They drove us out to Kate Kearney’s Cottage where we arranged a Pony & Trap ride thru the Gap of Dunloe. Our driver/guide was Derry Tangney and the horse was named Buck. A very reasonable fee €25 pp for the Pony & Trap ride. Derry gave us a lot of info about the gap and the area and we had a nice ride, with great views thru the Gap of Dunloe and down to the lake head at Lord Brandon’s Cottage. We did have to get out and walk a little way up a hill, a section that was a bit too steep for the horse. When we got to Lord Brandon’s Cottage we ate lunch, a couple sandwiches we brought along and I got a bowl of vegetable soup and an Irish Coffee and Cretia had a hot chocolate. After lunch we walked around this area a bit and then met up with our boatman to take us thru the three Lakes of Killarney, back to Ross Castle. Along the trap & pony ride, as well as the boat ride, we had mostly nice weather, but a couple times we got a bit of wind and rain, but they never lasted more than a few minutes, so this was good weather. Overnight it had rained heavy and was quite windy, so we were glad the weather broke our way, once again. Back at Ross Castle we left the boat and they shuttled us back to our B&B. A very fun and exciting excursion. We went into town and had dinner at Hannigan’s Bar & Restaurant, we shared a Roast Beef & Mashed Potato dinner as well as a Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Then we did a little more souvenir shopping. Whilst returning in the shuttle from Gap of Dunloe/Killarney Lakes/Ross Castle Day Tour, I saw a sign for “Celtic Steps – The Show”. When we got back to our B&B, I looked it up and asked our hostess, who highly recommended it. She even helped us get tickets at a discount. We were SO GLAD we decided to attend this show. It was absolutely phenomenal!! The music, the dancing, all of it was truly amazing. If you stay even one night in or near Killarney, this needs to be on your itinerary. “Celtic Steps” is an Irish Dance & Music show, which was spectacular & very fun. Besides helping us with our tickets to the show, our host Eileen did our laundry for us whilst we were out during the day. This was very nice and going the extra mile on her part. She also had the most options for breakfast off a menu and many drink and snack options in the sitting room. I would say this was our overall very best B&B experience in either of our two trips to Ireland. We had another lovely, grand day.
SATURDAY – MAY 12, 2018 – DAY 14
We lied on a bit, again. Then got up and had breakfast. After we headed out to visit Kanturk Castle, it was nice, but it is a ruin. The stone structure is intact, but the interior floors were all wood and are gone, so it is just a shell. It is kind of unique among castles we have seen as it is a large rectangle with 4 rectangular towers, one in each corner. Next we visited Drishane Castle. Not much of the castle is left, just one main building with a church and the banquet hall, as well as a tower (the keep). But it is currently being used for refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other nations, so it was limited as to what we got to see. After this we headed to Kinsale and first toured Charles Fort, a harbor fort built to defend Kinsale Harbor. Way back when we were planning our trip I had read the story of The White Lady and that was one more reason we wanted to visit, and put this on our itinerary. In the many months that passed I had forgotten that reason. But being here, walking around the fort and seeing the far southeastern bastion (as we walked from the direction of the lighthouse), it hit me that I thought this was the place that was supposedly haunted and recalled the story. I asked one of the staff who confirmed this, and gave me a sheet detailing the story of Wilful, her father Colonel Warender and her beau, Sir Trevor Ashurst. So that was very interesting. Then we went to our next stay at Ashgrove B&B in Kinsale (our host was Margaret Kelly). We walked in to town to find out about the ghost tour we planned. They do not do the ghost tours on Saturday night. Very odd. We have gone on several ghost tours, and many only run on Fri & Sat night, so for Saturday night to be the only one they don’t run it, seemed strange. But this whole town seems very strange. We found most of the restaurant prices considerably higher than most other places in Ireland. Many restaurants do not accept credit cards and many of the shops (like souvenirs, etc.) closed up at 6pm. We have not been too impressed with Kinsale, so far. It reminds us of Tipperary on our first trip, which also seemed to shut down early on Saturday night (which was when we went there). We were in Clifden last Saturday and did not experience this. Anyway, we will try the ghost tour tomorrow night. For dinner, we went to Mario’s Pizza. Still a good day with some really nice weather, sunny, warm (most of the day I only had a thin long sleeve shirt on) and not much wind to speak of. At one point I noticed there was not a cloud in the sky.
SUNDAY MAY 13, 2018 – DAY 15
Up early and had our breakfast. Then we headed off for our day exploring West Cork, starting at Drombeg Stone Circle. Very interesting, more so than Grange Stone Circle we saw on our last trip. I think because the arrangement and verticalness of the stones is more intriguing. Grange is just a much larger diameter, but the stones themselves are not so unique or have any distinguishing shape, and for the most part, they are set close to a grass hill that surrounds it. Drombeg is not like that, the stones stand quite tall, all by themselves. Next we came across Altar Wedge Tomb, a burial dolmen. This was unplanned for but interesting, with a great ocean view of Mizen Point. After this we drove on to Mizen Head and the Signal Station. This is located in extreme West Cork and is the most Southwesterly point in all of Ireland. Many stunning sights to see here, and lots of pictures. I even walked down to see the Sea Arch that is along the southern side of the cliffs here. We also saw a seal sleeping on a large boulder. After this we started back to Kinsale, stopping to see Kilcoe Castle along the way. It too is privately owned, by actor Jeremy Irons, we only came to find out. So no going in or touring it, but we stopped there and took some pictures. Back at the B&B we put stuff down and then made our plans for the evening. We walked by and took pictures of Desmond Castle, right in Kinsale Town. Then we checked out some gift shops and next had dinner at Kitty O’Se’s Pub & Restaurant. I had Cottage Pie, Cretia had Fish & Chips and we shared Bailey’s Proffiteroles for dessert, (little pastries filled with cream and Bailey’s Irish Cream). Then we went back to the room for a couple hours, after which, we walked back in to town for the Kinsale Ghost Tour. The ghost tour was a lot of fun. Not a real serious ghost tour, but some of the history of ghosts in Kinsale and a lot of skits and comedy. It was a blast. We had a great day and I think Cretia had a great Mother’s Day today.
MONDAY MAY 14, 2018 – DAY 16
Up early and had our breakfast. Then we headed off to our next stay in Kilkenny. Once we got to town, we toured Kilkenny Castle. It was very impressive with a full restoration to what it was in medieval times. And I liked the section that talked about the work & effort that went into restoring it, but yet maintaining authenticity. After this we returned to Duckett’s Grove Castle, which we went to on our last trip to Ireland. It is supposed to be haunted by a Banshee, as per the TV Show Destination Truth. This time, I had been in contact with Eileen O’Rouke at County Carlow Tourism and they unlocked the castle so we could walk thru the interior. We got many pictures in the castle. At one place I felt and thought I saw breath (like when someone breathes in the cold) and the picture had a mist all around it. We also got several orbs in the photo of another room. Also interesting was the crypt room. After this we returned to Kilkenny and checked into Celtic House B&B, our next stay, (hosts were Angela & John Byrne). Then we walked around town and visited Talbot‘s Tower and a section of the medieval wall that was built around Kilkenny. After this, we did a little shopping, then had dinner at Kyteler’s Inn, (a restaurant and tavern I had selected before we ever travelled here). I saw some pics of this pub online and put it into our plan, both the building's exterior and the decor inside are very unique & interesting. It also has an interesting story as regards the original owner, Dame Alice de Kyteler. I had Irish Stew and Cretia had Breaded Filet of Chicken. We shared a Homemade Banoffi Pie for dessert. Just after we ordered our food, a traditional Irish Music Band, “Abbey Folk”, began playing, they were very good. We had another great day. The weather was not as nice as most of the other days. It was overcast most of the day, and we got a sprinkle now and again. But it was not a total rain out day, so that was good.
TUESDAY MAY 15th, 2018 – DAY 17
Up early, had breakfast and then left for our first stop of the day at Leap Castle in County Offaly. It too, is supposed to be haunted and we arranged a tour with Sean Ryan, who we learned owns and lives in the castle. On arriving we sat with Sean by a nice warm fire in the castle and talked about ourselves, our journeys to Ireland, himself and the castle. After a while, we got up and he showed us around a bit, the views where they would watch for possible attackers back in medieval times. Then he gave us a flashlight and let us go on our own into the upper levels to have a look around. He said when he bought the castle it was all a shell and he has been restoring it ever since. When we came down, we sat a bit longer and Sean played an Irish tune on the tin whistle. Very nice visit here. Next we went to see Castlestrange Stone. A large boulder with carvings used for various pagan rituals dating back over 2000 years. After this we visited the Elphin Windmill, which is a fully restored 18th-century tower mill, viewed as a rare piece of Irish industrial architectural heritage, and possibly the oldest operational windmill in Ireland. After this, we decided to stop in Leiterra, (which we learned back on day 2, from Bryan Watton, was the birthplace of my 2nd great-grandfather, Patrick Connaughton in 1845), and see if we could find any records. Well even though the town came up on Google Maps, it no longer exists. We wound up in the nearest town (about 1km away), called Keadew. We looked for a potential place to find out some info, even if only where we should go. We saw a school and I thought we would go in and ask in the office. Before we got in there, we saw and spoke to a man outside the school, who sent us to talk to a man named Oliver in the butcher shop, who then sent us to talk to a Mr. Doyle, who lives on the road near where Leiterra was. He said he was born in Leiterra and knew much about it, but hadn't heard the name and suggested we check with the folks at County Roscommon Council. Oliver told us he thought Leiterra was in "crossni" parish. And Mr. Doyle told us "Ard Cren" parish. We are not sure of either parish name or spelling. But later in our room, we looked a few things up on the internet and came to find the parish name is most likely “Ard Carn”. We got an email address for County Roscommon Council and sent them an email with all the details to see if they can help us. So we will wait and see. Anyway, after the attempt at ancestry searching, we went to visit Arigna Mining Experience. This is a coal mine that closed down in 1990. After it closed, they set it up for touring. We had a very interesting tour with our guide, Gerry (a retired miner who worked in this mine), nobody else was on the tour with us. He gave us a ton of info on how the mining was done throughout the years, places their coal was used, etc. We visited many caves over the years, but the inside of a mine was quite unique. Then we went into Boyle and our next B&B, Abbey House, (host was Christina), which is right beside Boyle Abbey. We walked thru the Abbey straight away. It was an old Catholic convent and monastery in medieval times. Then when the Protestant English took it over, they made it a castle. It is now in ruins. Next we went to dinner at Krimo’s Café, I had spaghetti and Cretia had pizza. Another interesting day, weather was overcast, but not much rain, but the temps dropped a lot and the wind picked up about the time we got to Boyle.
WEDNESDAY MAY 16th, 2018 – DAY 18
Up early, had breakfast. Then we headed off to visit Cavan Burren Park. We walked the trail and saw a few megalithic tombs and a large glacial erratic (a displaced boulder carried to this place millions of years ago, by a glacier). Next we continued our drive, crossing back into Northern Ireland, and along the way we came across Enniskillen Castle on the banks of the River Erne, and we stopped for a picture. I was most intrigued by the twin round tower design of the side facing the river. After this we toured Marble Arch Caves, which had many interesting features typical of most caves. While here, they take you on a small boat ride along the underground river in the cave. Then we headed off to our next stay, crossing back into the Republic of Ireland, to stay at Ross Castle, County Meath. This is a medieval Norman Tower House and we stayed in Sabina’s Room, the Upper Tower Room. This place was spectacular. Restored enough to have modern bathrooms, newer staricases, etc. But the walls and most of the flooring, ceiling, and such were still original. So it was much more like staying in a castle, whereas most of the more well-known castles you can stay in, have been done up so that on the inside, they seem most like any hotel. After checking in with our host, Jackie, she convinced us that since it was still afternoon, to drive over, (about 15km) and see Loughcrew Megalithic Tomb. The tomb is much like any cairn tomb you’d see in Ireland, but it was atop a very high hill, so you could get some fantastic views, especially with the nice, clear, sunny day we were having. After this, we went back to the castle and up to our room to dress for dinner in the castle. We had Stuffed Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Carrots. Jackie’s husband, Richard, served us and we talked a lot with him, during our meal. On arrival, later at the tomb, and at dinner, we met another couple staying at the castle, Dominick & Rebecca who live in Perth, Australia, so we talked with them extensively. After dinner, the 4 of us walked down to the lake, Lough Sheelin. Back at the castle, we talked with Richard & Jackie and Dominick & Rebecca for probably another hour or so. We had another fantastic day and great weather once again.
THURSDAY MAY 17, 2018 – DAY 19
We lied on this morning, owing to the late night we had and the fact that breakfast was scheduled for 9am. After we ate and said our goodbyes, we headed off to our next stops at Roche Castle and Proleek WedgeTomb, outside Dundalk. Then we went to Old Mellifont Abbey near Ardee. After that we checked into our B&B, Carraig Mor, (host was Sheila Magennis). Then we went into Drogheda and saw Magdelene’s Tower, St. Laurence Gate and then St. Peters Cathedral which has the head of Oliver Plunkett (who was beheaded), preserved there. We did not find anywhere we wanted to eat dinner in Drogheda, many pubs or restaurants that looked as though we might like them, turned out to be actually closed down, or were pubs that did not serve food. So we wound up eating at Sizzler Café in Ardee, right near our B&B. I had Stir Fry and Cretia had Fried Shrimp & Chips. Then back to our room to rest for the evening.
FRIDAY MAY 18th 2018 – Day 20
Up early, we had breakfast and then left for our last day of sightseeing in Ireland. First we went to Kells to see the Spire of Lloyd. Interesting as it is a lighthouse, but nowhere near the sea. You can climb it, but the times they have it open to climb are quite limited, so we just took some pictures here. Next we toured Trim Castle, very interesting and fun with a costumed knight, (Sir Laugh-A-Lot) to greet us and take some pictures. The tour was very interesting and our guide, Siobhan, did a wonderful job explaining the history of the castle. After this we made our way to Swords where we visited Swords Castle, St. Columba Church and Swords Round Tower. Then we went to our last lodging, Seamount House B&B, (host was Elaine Reilly). We reorganized our luggage to pack all of our stuff, including souvenirs, (we had to drink the rest of our Irish Cream, more’s the pity). Then we checked in for our flights. After we went to dinner at Old Schoolhouse Restaurant in Swords to enjoy our last night here in Ireland. I had Corned Beef & Cabbage with Mashed Potatoes and Cretia had Fish & Chips.
SATURDAY MAY 19th, 2018 –RETURN DAY
Up early, had breakfast, then headed to the airport to turn the rental car in and head to our gate for our flight. Everything went smooth, getting to the car rental return, returning the car with no hassles and the shuttle to the terminal. At the terminal we went to Bag Drop, then thru Irish Airport Security, then we did our VAT Refunds and a little more shopping. After this, we went thru US Pre-Clearance and the US Security Check. So we arrived at the Rental Car Return a little before 8:30 and we were through all processing by 10am. Both flights back went well, on-time. Jordan & Ruby picked us up and we stopped for dinner with them, then home.
This next section is just some general info and observations about things on our trip, no real order.
Grape Jelly – if you like to have grape jelly on your toast at breakfast, you might want to pack a small jar in your luggage or possibly find it in a store when you get to Ireland. Although we saw many kinds of jams and jellies in little packets at breakfast, usually strawberry, marmalade and maybe apple, we never saw any grape.
Hot Food – almost everyplace we ate dinner, they served the food piping hot, (food, plate, the whole lot). So if being served tepid food upsets you, you should have no worries about this in Ireland.
Miles Driven - Just for curiosity I compared our mileage on our rental car and found I had driven us 3905 km (2426 miles) all around Ireland.
B&B and Credit Cards - This is mostly to serve as a warning for folks traveling to Ireland, as regards B&B's and credit cards. On our first trip, Sept 2015, we booked the whole package through Aer Lingus Vacation Store, so our 8 nights at B&B's were all vouchers. We never had any sort of problem with the vouchers, whatsoever. We booked the B&B's in advance, on bandbireland.com, as instructed, the hosts accepted our vouchers and all was well. But for this trip we had a total of 14 B&B's we stayed in. Almost all of them asked for cash. 2 of them I booked directly with and they told me this in advance, so that was nice to know. 3 others I booked directly with, said I could pay by card. But 8 of them I booked thru the same bandbireland.com (their website handles voucher booking and direct pay). When you book with them, you pay a deposit, on a credit card. Although they tell you "some B&B's may not accept credit card", in actuality it is almost all will not. I talked with a few of the hosts about this, and how in this day and age many people (especially young adults) use CC for everything. The most common answer as to why they don't accept them is that they are charged for the CC machine all year, even though they close down in winter. I can understand that, but then they ought to accept CC's via Paypal. I do this in my own business. Now the charge is per transaction and the hosts could pass that fee along, by tacking it onto the charge. They could tell someone, it would be €140 by cash or if they want to charge it thru Paypal, then €145 to cover the fee. At least it would give people a way to charge their stay. Also bandbireland should alert you if a specific property will not accept CC and also give you the option to prepay the whole charge on your CC. In fact, it says in their terms, if you are a no show, they will charge the full amount to your CC. So no show, CC is fine. Show up and, "sorry, you can't use your CC". Fortunately we had a lot of euros we brought along, and $500 USD we could have converted, if necessary. But from the first night when this came up, we decided to charge everything else we possibly could and hold our cash for paying B&B's that would not accept credit cards. So we made it thru, with still about €100 left.
Small World – you know we had many experiences on this trip that remind one, in many ways it is a small world. While waiting for the Irish Music Pub Crawl to start, we were at a high-top table, another couple came over and asked if they could share the table, we said sure. We got to talking, they are from Weston, right next to us in west Davie. On the Derry Wall walking tour, at the end, in the café having coffee and tea, we shared a table with 2 women who were from Atlanta, and it turns out in our conversation, they were actually on the same flight from Atlanta Saturday night that we were on. At the B&B in Northern Ireland, Annie & Bryan are traveling to Pennsylvania for a family wedding in June. Well when Annie rang up the restaurant, Carmichaels, Christina, the girl she spoke with, who also served us, told us she was going to Pennsylvania at the end of May. I thought that she must be related to Annie, (daughter, niece, etc.), but no, she was not, just 2 random people in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, who happened to be going to Pennsylvania within a month of each other. And Annie & Bryan have family in Australia, in fact we shared pictures of our Australia trip with them.
This was another fantastic trip to Ireland. It was so nice to be able to stay here for an extended amount of time. It makes one feel more at home and not as rushed in enjoying the planned itinerary. This trip we did a lot of things that a normal tourist does not have a chance to do. More of the lesser traveled sites. Not much else to say, except that it was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed it all. I hope to be able to come back, perhaps visit the southeast extensively, an area we barely touched on these 2 trips. Ireland truly is the land of Cead Mile Failte (one hundred thousand welcomes).
You can view all of our pictures at this OneDrive Link: