Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sla´n Ireland

The drive from Clifden to Doolin takes you out of the Connemara and into the Burren, a strange, barren landscape of rocks and more rocks.
Lifesavers on a beach in the Burren. Slow day for swimmers!
The biggest city in this area is Galway, famous for girls with black hair and blue eyes (so Soph looked like a local) lying between the banks of Galway Bay and the River Corrib. We wandered through the Latin Quarter, a vibrant tourist Mecca packed with traditional and not so traditional buskers and boutique shops.

We saw the Google man!
Our next destination was Doolin as a base from which to explore the Cliffs of Moher. We had great plans of hiking the 7km to the cliffs and taking the bus back or vice versa, but when we got to Doolin the wind was blowing a gale and even my gung ho travel companions were a bit wary of walking along the cliff face so we drove to the information centre and used the safety of the observation barriers to view this amazing piece of nature’s handiwork. I’ve seen lots of pictures of the Cliffs of Moher but nothing beats seeing them in person. Like Niagara, the majesty and magnitude of the sheer, 200 metre drop, needs 4D (3D plus the wind!) to be appreciated. Once again, our timing was great because we didn’t get there till after 6 so all the tour buses had departed and there were just a few other hardy souls to share the experience with. We spent about 20 minutes watching the ferocity of the sea and took a lot of fairly disappointing photos (due to the lack of aforementioned 4D on the camera).
Cliffs of Moher

Get away from the edge!

Back in Doolin, we sought sustenance at O’Connor’s pub, where we had a wee wait but not too long to get a table. Geoff had the roast lamb, Taine had a burger (for a change- he’s averaging 2 a day) Sophie and I both had the guiness Irish stew, washed down with a bottle of red, followed by cheesecake and Irish coffee. It was all excellent. At 9.30 a traditional music session started so we hung around for an hour to tap our toes. We stayed at the Doolin Inn, an up market backpackers and they had the best continental breakfast we’ve come across, including berry smoothies and fruit platters.

If we’d had longer in Doolin we definitely would have taken the ferry to the Aran islands. From the harbour it looked like it would be a hair raising ride on a very angry looking sea. We spent a bit of time ogling the beautiful knitwear in the craft shops. No doubt if there was any room in our luggage we would have bought some.

Our lunch stop was in Limerick and we used the time to visit King John’s Castle. A.A Milne’s poem, ‘King John’s Christmas’ was a favourite of mine as a kid so the idea of seeing his castle was appealing. Turns out King John never actually visited, let along lived in this castle in Ireland but nonetheless it was an interesting history lesson and we learnt quite a bit about sieges and under mining. Now, whenever I feel under mined, I will think of the poor inhabitants of King John’s Castle.

From Limerick we drove to our overnight stop at Dromineer, just outside Nenagh. I’m actually not sure what my thought process was when I booked this. I think I’d planned on Ennis and then went further afield when I couldn’t find anywhere suitable. Don’t bother googling ‘things to do in Dromineer’, because there aren’t any! There’s a great big lake called Lough Durgh but it’s a mighty way around, certainly too far for us weary travellers on a dinghy grey day. We checked into our B and B, a very intimate little house. With no space to bring our cases in and walls thin enough to hear a mouse squeak, we high tailed it into Nenagh to look at some ruins and find dinner. It was too wet to get out to look at the ruins but the meal at the Thatched Cottage made up for the lack of entertainment. Full as googs we opted for an early night.
Family bonding in Dromineer
After a fantastic cooked breakfast, we accidentally drove off without paying the bill. Most of our accommodation has been pre paid so when we couldn’t find our host when we were leaving, and given that he hadn't mentioned payment at check in, we just assumed he’d use the credit card details lodged with, however an email from them saying we hadn’t respected the conditions of the agreement (i.e, we’d done a runner) ensued. Awkward. We’ve spent some time trying to contact the owner to rectify the mistake this afternoon but so far to no avail. I hope we don’t get black listed by B and Bs. Geoff will be thrilled ;-)

Today was our last full day in Ireland and with an early flight tomorrow we elected to drive all the way back to the airport. We took a bit of a deviation to visit Kilkenny for lunch and I’m glad we did. It’s a beautiful old city with a lovely castle and the most extensive grounds ( open free to the public) that I’ve ever seen. We had a bit of a wander and then continued the drive back through County Carlow, with scenery similar to home.
Only in Ireland

Kilkenny Castle

Tonight we’re staying at a guesthouse near the airport. We ate at an old coach house, run by a Bulgarian couple, offering an English carvery with a lot of cabbage. You couldn’t get anything more Irish!

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