Our Ireland Photo Travel Journal for 2004 Part I
Fraught with new peril, more photos, improved travel tips, additional amazing adventures, and many more cows.
Gallery 2002 | Gallery 2004 | Gallery 2005 | Gallery 2007 | Gallery 2011
If we've given a link to a B&B, we recommend it. It should be easy to spot the ones we don't recommend.
Pricing given in either US dollars or Euros depending
on our whim.
View Map of Route. Clicking on a number on the map will take you to that location in the journal. (when we get it complete)
Took our son Joshua with us the trip. We flew into Dublin on June 12th and stayed for the Bloomsday Centennial on June 16th.
Arrived at Dublin airport after a long flight through surly Atlanta, must be the heat. No mad dashes through the airport looking for a restroom this time, just a rapid trot. The airport needs some renovation soon, it looks a bit more drab and antiquated than in 2002. Oh well, we don't plan to sleep here. We grabbed the bags and headed for the car rental counter for Irish Car Rentals. We remembered to get a cart this time and loaded it up and pushed it down the sidewalk to the rental lot. A quick check over proved the car to not be missing any important pieces (wrong as we later found) and we launched into the Dublin traffic. The silver Audi was smaller than the Ford from 2002. It proved to be maneuverable and had some power when you hit the gas. Steering wheel is still on the wrong side though. We arrived early and had some time to kill before our rooms were available, so we headed for Swords to find the castle. Turns out Swords Castle was closed for renovation. We wandered down the street and then back up and walked behind the castle. Not much to look at, so we headed for Malahide Castle.
The Castle and grounds were easy to find with nice parking. We locked the car and walked towards the castle with cameras in tow. OK, not quite that bad but we did have three digital cameras and a digital video camera. Josh was the resident videographer, Karen and Scott stuck to the old school still images (hey they were digital, we're not that old). The Castle was very picturesque from the front. Inside the corridors were narrow and there wasn't much to see. There was a nice little gift shop. Tours were available for a price, but nothing seemed to be going on. We wandered out the back and through the grounds.
Off for a drive down the coast, still killing time we went through Howth and never found the castle there. We drove up and down a few streets and ended up parking in a lot in front of the bay. Jet lag was starting to set in and Karen and Josh faded off into oblivion. Scott abandoned them and walked down to the sea wall and took a few pictures of stranded boats and other oddities.
Figuring we were OK to head to the B&B we proceeded to head for Drumcondra and promptly got misplaced. We eventually found the road we wanted and made a beeline for Avoca House B&B in Drumcondra. We received the usual warm greeting and were shown to our room after a bit of a chat up. We reacquainted ourselves with tiny bathroom and the warm colors and wood floors that make the B&B a pleasing stop. After a brief rest and laying out of the luggage and misc. other things, we eagerly began the trek down the road to Fagans and Josh's first pint of Guinness in Ireland. We'd hyped it, how it was so much better in Ireland and especially Dublin, so the expectations were high. The Guinness met with general approval (Josh was to grow more fond of it as the trip progressed). Pints in hand we perused the menu. The food had improved in our absence and we ordered and sat back to relax, sip a bit o' the black stuff and look about. The atmosphere was still family oriented with wood and brick and a bit of greenery about. The food proved to be worth the wait and with another pint under our belts we walked through the nearby park and watched the sunset. Tried to take pictures of the duck and ducklings in the pond, not much luck there. We ran across a lady walking her Golden Retriever which immediately made most of us miss Clancy the "still not Golden just Tin" Retriever back at home. We walked back to the B&B for some jet lag recuperation and Irish television.
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We didn't exactly bounce out of bed, but we had a busy day so we alternated with showers and other bathroom activities. Not that we were inclined to share or that there would be room for more than one under the best of circumstances. We tumbled downstairs and into the clutches of Audrey. Well, she says, what'll yis be having, the full Irish I suppose. We would and we did, and tanked up on Bewley's coffee as well. Amidst mild abuse from our Hostess, mostly directed at Josh, we ate and chatted and then prepared to head south to Glendalough.
Scott adjusted to the driving quickly and we tooled along through Wicklow and through the beautiful countryside towards Glendalough. We made a few stops when picturesque scenery presented itself. Of course the obligatory stop for Club soda and Irish ice cream was in order. The first stop was to look across a fence and farmyard to the valley and hills beyond. The morning was a bit cloudy and overcast, but the view was wonderful. As we turned around to head back to the car we saw them. COWS! Karen has an affinity for Irish cows having had some interesting encounters on our last trip, mostly involving petting noses and getting licked. All Scott has to do is say Mooo in an Irish cow sort of way to crack her up. Of course there are variations depending on the mood of the cow, (what does a Chinese cow say? Mao?). OK, moving right along. The cows were suspicious of the enthusiasm and eyed us from a distance. They were a bit poo laden, so it is probably for the best that they stayed away.
The next stop was a old stone house and stable along the road. They were overgrown with weed and small yellow flowers popped out amidst the greenery. There were a few horses in the nearby field. We pulled off the road and hopped out and poked around for awhile. There was a great green painted door on the house that was cracked and weathered. The weather was improving and much relieved (well there is always more than one reason for a stop) we drove on.
You can't really miss Glendalough once you get close. There is a large sign and marker. However, Scott is pretty sure they moved the actual visitor centre and site around because it wasn't where he remembered it. After a couple of false starts, we found the correct car park and walked to the visitor centre. We were going to purchase a Duchas Heritage site pass here, but they didn't have a cash machine and we didn't have enough cash. They let us in for free on our word that we would buy a pass in Dublin. (we did) We took a quick look around the centre and headed for the main entrance. We walked up through the main arch and into the entryway with the large stone that indicated one was safe from pursuers in the good old days.
As you walk past the entrance you are in the main graveyard area. There are headstones everywhere and from a range of dates and times. To the right is the large and fairly intact round tower. Ahead is the ruins of the main church and outbuildings with the top of St. Kevin's Chapel barely visible through the trees. There are packs of people roaming through the site, and many standing on the stones with no more sense of where they are than if there were in their own backyard. With a little patience you can avoid most of them by just moving where they are not. In the end it evens out and you'll be able to see it all and get some good pictures too. There are tours and they can be interesting. We tagged along on one and managed to get inside St. Kevin's, but ditched them afterwards. There are a lot of nooks and crannies to explore and some large high crosses nestled in out of the way spots. The area is surrounded by the mountains and there are lots of trees and plants growing around and amongst the stones. You can go through a lot of film (or memory cards) here. There is a lot of nice scenery and great lighting because of the trees.
Since the weather was so nice we decided to take the hike up to the upper lakes and St. Kevin's Cell. The path is more of a road and varies in width as you go along. There is a stream you cross over twice and there is a great view from the first bridge towards St. Kevin's. The walk is quite easy and there are incredible views of the mountains and countryside as you walk along. You can look back and see the round tower and a meadow full of sheep. There are other ruins of chapels along the way and well worth the look. There is an especially interesting wall with stone steps that are worn smooth and into a cupped depression from constant use. One can feel the history in the rocks and almost visualize the monks going about their tasks here. The first lake is low and easy to access. There is swimming and other touristy mayhem available. The water looked inviting as the sun rose higher and warmer, but we pressed onward. There is a slow rise in elevation as you walk until eventually you can look down into the second lake. There is a wide panoramic view near St. Kevin's Cell that is quite spectacular. It is a bit of a hike up through the trees, but not to difficult. The trail has rails and is well kept up.
We took the walk back which was easier that the walk up. Downhill is easier. The weather had grown warmer and we shed our Columbia Sportswear jackets (these were to prove a great investment as they stuffed into a small pocket and were hooded and waterproof). There was more wonderful scenery on the return trip as you were facing the opposite way and saw new perspectives. Definitely pack water along, as this walk will dry you out on a warm day. We returned to the car, drank a lot of warm Club soda and packed in for the return drive to Dublin.
We took a different route back through Sally Gap which took us up past the lakes on the other side of the valley. As you climbed up there was a view of a waterfall coming from the highest point of the valley and down the cliff face and then streaming down the valley into the lake. Unfortunately there were no good places to get out and take pictures. We continued on through the hills, very rocky, desolate and gorse infested. We drove through Blessington looking for a famous arch, but struck out. We drove back into Dublin, arriving in late afternoon and proceeded to wander about for about an hour. Must buy a better map of Dublin. Finally found our way into familiar territory and then to our B&B.
We walked down to Fagan's and across the street to an Indian restaurant called Jamuna. It smelled good and the food was tasty but not to spicy. Nothing to rave about as we like it hot, but we were hungry from the tramping about and devoured it all and washed it down with some Indian beer and mango juice. Once again we ran into some counting impaired cashiers, but we managed a fair settlement.
We walked back to the B&B and called it a night.
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We crawled out of bed a bit slower this morning. The intent was to spend the day in Dublin seeing the sights and showing Josh around. We went for the full abuse and Irish breakfast again and a great time was had by all. We loaded up our cameras and accessories into day packs and headed down the lane to catch the bus to city center. We made a quick stop at the chemist to pick up some sun block as it looked to be a hot day. Another tip: bring drugstore items from home, it will probably be a lot cheaper. It was about a year and a half since our last visit, but we fell right back into the swing of bus travel and knew our stops.
We crossed over the bridge and disembarked by Trinity College. The original intent was to drop Karen at the National Library to do her genealogy research. She had packed a large portfolio of material and was carting it with her. The National Library was closed for Joyce/Bloomsday preparations. This didn't sit well with Karen, but she recovered, chased Scott and Josh down and we stashed her material in a locker. This was pretty much Josh's excursion and we told him what the sites were and let him decide what he'd like to see. One of his strong desires was to poke through some music stores to locate music that was unavailable in the States. Karen had an agenda to spend some time in the National Archives doing some genealogy research. Scott wanted to visit St. Patrick's Cathedral again and take another gander at the Brazen Head Pub. We came out on Grafton Street and did some wandering through some shops and a music store. Scott was able to find a Waterboys album that wasn't available in the States yet and Josh scored some obnoxious Swedish heavy metal discs.
We purchased City Tour tickets and hopped the bus to St. Patrick's Cathedral. The driver had the usual patter going about the sites we passed and was quite entertaining. We disembarked at St. Patrick's and paid the nominal fee to enter. Photography and tripods are allowed inside, but care must be taken as this is a functional church. Flash use is not allowed, but some eejits don't pay attention. Don't be one of them. St. Patrick's is very impressive inside, high gothic arches and both stone and wood carvings abound. Both arms off the main portion contain interesting historical items and descriptions. Jonathan Swift is buried here among other luminaries. The stain glass is very well done as well as the intricate tile floor. There is a wonderful circular stone staircase that unfortunately you can't climb, but well worth examining. Karen lit a candle for her mom Sue to heal quickly from her surgery.
We wandered out and behind St. Patrick's for a view of the building from the park behind. There are numerous interesting folks wandering about and it is a good spot for people watching. We walked this time towards Christ's Church, but we decided not to go in (5 euro each), and then along some side streets in the general direction of Ha'penny Bridge and Jameson's Distillery. We observed another church as we passed that wasn't as impressive as St. Patrick's Cathedral or Christ's Church, but interesting none the less. The architecture was much more utilitarian and solid. We're still looking for the name.
We continued west and then turned north on the next street. Surprise of all surprises, there was the Brazen Head Pub! Well not that much of a surprise, we knew we were in the vicinity. It still claimed to be the oldest pub in Ireland, and not wanting to pass this by, we popped in for a pint. Actually we've been in other pubs that have made the same claim in other cities. The interior wanders around a bit and is bigger than it looks. We sat in a corner and did some people watching, played with the cameras and looked at the pictures so far. A quick rest break and we were on our way. We headed back to the city centre and purchased a map and looked at a week pass for buses, to expensive.
At this point we thought we'd take advantage of our bus passes so we hopped the bus and rode to Phoenix Park, the largest park in Europe, intending to make it to Jameson's Distillery eventually. We passed by the prominent Wellington Monument to the Duke of Wellington who evidently thought highly of himself. The park is extensive and has a zoo. We didn't visit, but it would have made an interesting side trip. Perhaps next time. It is supposedly the third oldest zoo in the world. The MGM lion used to live here as well. We imagine he's no longer roaring. We stayed on the bus throughout the circuit of the park and eventually came back towards the center of Dublin and hopped off the bus at the Jameson's stop. It is a short walk through some side streets to the distillery, but not hard to find.
Jameson's Distillery dates back to around 1780, but we didn't see any bottles that old. Just as well, we couldn't have afforded a taste anyway. We'd been here last go round, but this was Josh's first shot. We purchased tour tickets and killed some time wandering around and looking at the displays in the lobby area. We coached Josh to raise his hand quickly when they asked for volunteers, and we picked central seating at eye level with the tour guide in the small theater. We watched the short presentation on Jameson's (a fairly interesting and well done short film) and then the group was asked for volunteers. Josh's hand shot up as coached and sure enough, he was picked for the tasting along with two others of the group. It might have been luck or maybe that the tour guide was young and female, either way, he was in. We took the tour through the building and listened to the process of making Irish whiskey (with an e). Each room is a different step in the process and the air is redolent with the smells of fermenting grain. It moves along quickly and is interesting and well done. At the conclusion you come out into the bar area. It is large with a warm feel. Josh sat down with the others and everyone was handed a small glass of Jameson's. The lucky three were able to taste several kinds of whiskey from Ireland, the US and Scotland. The process and tastes were described and favorites were chosen. Josh picked Bushmills as his favorite. At the conclusion, diploma's were handed out to the tasters. Karen was chosen last time we were here, so we're keeping it in the family. We adjourned to the gift shop (through the exit door, how clever) and they relieved us of a fair amount of cash for clothing and product. We picked up a bottle of Murphy's whiskey for our Irish teacher that he had mentioned he liked. We didn't see it anywhere else, so it is a good thing we grabbed it there!
We left Jameson's with full arms and lighter wallets. We trudged back to the bus stop and rode the tour bus to O'Connell Street Bridge. We walked across the bridge and grabbed a late lunch at Eddie Rocket's on the main drag. Irish/American fast food. The burgers were good and the onion rings were big and tasty. Well greased up, we queued up for the bus a bit further down the street. The Dublin Millennium Spire loomed in the background. We speculated the meaning of the large needle jutting up in the middle of the city. We're sure the Dubliners have a clever name for it as they do for most statues and monuments (the spike is the name). Evidently there is some conspiracy theorists speculating that it is a giant transmitter or energy beacon. Whatever!? The Irish are basically polite in the queue, this can't be said for other tourists as you'll see later in this epic. We stood and waited while full buses zipped by. Eventually one stopped, and we piled on and headed back to Drumcondra and the B&B. We talked to our host Jack about speaking Irish, he is fluent, we're not. Picked up some interesting information though. He also said he had learned to play the tin whistle and would give us a rendition later. We never managed to coax it out of him.
We decided to try something different and walked down past Fagans looking for another pub. We found the Cat & Cage about a mile and a half down. We had a pint or two and played some cribbage. The place was loud and full of regulars and seemed a bit seedy. Josh learned how to play cribbage, we may regret this. Made a rest stop at Fagans on the way back, and called it a night.
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An early rise, full Irish again and we were off on a road trip to the sights North of Dublin. We were headed in the general direction of Trim to see the castle and town and intended to visit Kells at some point. Anything in between would be our usual, "hey look a ruined something" followed by a quick swing off the road to investigate. We were on a main highway and zipped along quickly. The weather was slightly overcast, but didn't look to threatening. A typical day in Ireland. We navigated successfully towards Trim. As we got off the main road and headed towards the town we saw some large ruins to the left in the trees. A quick turn off at the next road led us right to a bridge next to some ruins and a bigger turn out across the bridge next to more ruined buildings. We parked alongside the road and loaded up the camera gear and sallied forth. The sign across the road next to the entrance said St. Peter's and Paul Cathedral. A path led through some trees and we followed it out into a large open area. A ruined cathedral surrounded by headstones and weeds invited us in. We walked around and looked at the cathedral. It was in fairly good shape although the exterior was in need of a good weed whacking. There were a number of interesting sculptures and an alter in the middle of the floor. Intriguing niches in the walls held nothing but weeds. At that point we heard other people coming down the path and through the trees came some older people with weed eaters and other implements of organic destruction. It turned out that there were occasional services held here and they had come to do some maintenance. We chatted for awhile before venturing further on through the graveyard to more buildings beyond. Evidently this was Newtowntrim Cathedral. From here you could see Trim castle in the distance and other buildings (not much more than a wall). There were horses and cows grazing along the river. We took quite a few pictures and headed back to the car. We crossed over the bridge on foot (dodging the odd truck or car) and entered through the interesting gate. This was the Priory of St. John the Baptist. This one had a tower and more complete structures. You could clearly see the floor plan and some of the rooms still had ceilings or floors above. We wandered about and it became evident that this building was in use as well. The numerous beer cans and odor of eliminated beer was quite strong in some areas. Guess there isn't much respect for anything. We walked back to the car, stowed the gear and zipped of towards Trim.
We drove into Trim and after some wandering about, found a place to park. There was a good deal of construction going on and much of the streets were blocked or restricted. We did a wee bit of shopping for beverages and ice cream to fortify ourselves for the visit to Trim Castle. The town and castle are on a hill and it is hard to miss from anywhere in the countryside. The town was larger than many, but seemed quiet and nicely kept up. We walked to the castle and entered across a walkway and into a entryway where the ticket booth is. We had still not purchased Duchas Pass so we purchased them at the castle booth. There was a tour starting shortly so we wandered around the grounds (after using the woefully deficient facilities). The grounds are a bit to pristine for our taste, but signs and markers showed you the general layout of the site. When the tour started we climbed a set of stairs up to the main entryway. Large wooden doors were unlocked and relocked behind us. The main room is where one divests oneself of weapons and other armaments. We didn't have any so we proceeded into the next room. The guide has a good knowledge of the history of the castle and well as the events surrounding it. There are models in the main room of the construction over time. There isn't much left but walls and passageways. You can get a good feeling for what it was like to live in the castle and you have a lot of freedom to roam around. The stairwells are narrow, but it is a very safe tour. The best part of the tour (for the brave soul) is the climb up to the top of the castle. You are let out into the open air and can walk around the perimeter. There is a great view of the town and surrounding countryside. The wind was blowing a bit, but it was worth the effort. In the distance we could see a man walking a horse across the field. The horse was following, but not excited about going. He eventually had to come back and lead it to the next field. The castle top was probably the best part of the tour. Eventually we were released from the castle and permitted to leave the grounds. We returned to the car and packed up everything. We refreshed ourselves with the inevitable Club soda and hit the road for Kells. We took some back roads in the hope of finding some interesting sites.
Just a short distance down the road we spotted a small sign to Bective Abbey. The odds were that this would be something ruined, so off we went. We passed the entrance, no more than a gate in the hedgerow, and had to turn around and park at the nearest wide spot in the road. We carefully navigated our way along the narrow road on foot and made it to the gate unscathed. The gate itself was interesting with an old lock. One entered via a smaller gate in the larger. Once inside the area it was apparent that this was a large and significant site. The ruins are amazingly well preserved and much of the wall is still intact. The second floor and even part of a third are present. You are able to walk through all of the site. You can climb up to the second and third floors with a little pluck and guts. There are no stairs in some places so climbing and hoisting yourself up through narrow holes is the only way to go. Josh and Scott were off like a shot, Karen stayed on the ground level. The cloisters are intact and the arches are well carved with a lot of detail remaining. We scaled the outside wall up to the second floor and walked around. We had to enter a small hallway and hoist ourselves up (pullups) onto the next floor. From here the going was tough with very little area to walk in. Josh just about soiled his shorts when he walked out into a room, and the birds nesting there took off suddenly. In the walls you could see where the beams for the floor support had been placed. Long since rotted away. We covered every explorable inch of the abbey. Josh felt that this was the best place we visited in the entire trip. The weather turned a bit and we had some sprinkles as we walked back to the car and drove to Kells.
Once again it seemed that we hit Kells just as traffic picked up. We managed to find parking near the Kells Heritage Centre. There is a graveyard across the street surrounded by a high stone wall. We found the entrance and spent some time wandering among the headstones. Further up the road we located the Kells High Crosses and Round Tower (map at this link) that we had missed the last time. We didn't bother with the Kells Heritage Centre as it wasn't anything Josh would have enjoyed and we didn't feel it warranted another look. The High Crosses and Round Tower are another matter entirely. This was well worth the trip and didn't cost anything or else is a Duchas Heritage site. The site is surrounded by high walls with two entrances. There is a chapel in the interior with information and donations are accepted. The chapel has some very nice woodwork and stained glass, and the ivy around the doorway is worth a look as well. In the grounds there are some of the finest High Crosses in Ireland. These are interspersed with other gravestones and monuments. The Round Tower is still in good shape as well. Take some time here to examine the crosses closely. All sides are different and the carving is well executed.
It was getting darker, so we absconded from Kells, and headed back to Dublin. We had dinner at Fagans again, mostly because it was late, it was convenient, and we knew it would be good. We called it a night and went to bed
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Another bright sunny morning. Another full Irish breakfast. Fueled and fortified with protein and caffeine we launched forth in Dublin. We had expectations of Bloomsday activity everywhere. There was supposed to be a large breakfast in the vicinity of the General Post Office (GPO) ala Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses. Being as the primary ingredient of the breakfast was organ meat (calf kidney if I remember rightly), we elected to give that a miss. Scott might have tried it, but Karen and Josh were definitely not going to partake. We did get off the bus at the GPO to give Josh a look around at the bullet pocked exterior as well as the art and sculpture inside. Particularly striking was the statue of Cuchulain in the center area in front of the windows. There was a plaque on each side, one in Gaelic and one in English. The GPO was quite active with normal business. We took a look at the Bloomsday commemorative stamps and decided to buy a couple of sheets and get some Joyce postcards with a cancellation showing the date. Don't know if they will be worth anything, but it didn't cost us much and could be fun to have framed or preserved in some way. We walked across O'Connell Street Bridge and took some pictures of the lampposts on the bridge as well as the Charles Parnell statue. The construction signs and chain link fence were not conducive to the picture. We walked across the bridge and down to Trinity College and crossed in front towards Grafton Street.
Our next stop was Lush. Josh was looking for some gifts and Karen just wanted to go because she likes it. Scott refers to the place as an olfactory assault. It is an interesting place, but the odors are varied and intense. Now this may be a wonderful place to go for some people, but as a male, Scott found this to be a nice place to hang out in front of rather than entering. Lush is a shop dedicated to fresh soaps, bath items and other substances applied to the body in various places and times. The smell hits you as you walk in the door, and the riot of colors and shapes is overwhelming. The odors are floral and fruit primarily and pretty much punch you in the nose, drag you around by the said appendage and then hold you down and rub it raw. Scott found a headache developing after the first few minutes. Karen wandered oblivious through the piles of product, occasionally holding something out to me and saying “doesn’t that smell nice?” Scott’s thought was, “no it doesn’t” and he couldn’t tell if it did anyway because it was overwhelmed by all the other smells.
There were a couple of old gentleman dressed for Bloomsday, some of the few that we saw around town. Overall there wasn't much activity around Bloomsday. Perhaps the hype surrounding it had gone on so long that the actual day was anticlimactic. We had escaped from Lush, but had to return for some reason. Either something was not purchased or left at the counter, we don't remember. Double assault!
We took a quick walk through of the courtyard area of Trinity College. Josh didn't have any desire to see the Book of Kells or the Library. We walked down to the Molly Malone statue for a couple of quick pictures. We found an underground (literally) record store and descended a flight of stairs below street level where Josh looked through CDs for obscure, loud bands.
We hopped a City Tour Bus and headed off for Kilmainham Gaol. I don't know if I'd recommend this tour for people with weak stomachs, vivid imaginations or young children. The front of the building is foreboding enough before you find out the history. The entry way is small and cramped. This is a Duchas Heritage site and we used our cards to get in (we hoped they'd let us out). There is a small tearoom and restrooms to the right. To the left is the entrance to the museum. We took a quick look while we waited for the tour to start. It is extensive, 3 or 4 floors of displays. We recommend you go through the tour first, the museum will have more meaning after the tour. The tour enters the prison and goes down an open area before entering the main building. The spikes on the downspouts foreshadow the grim reality of the place. There is a short but well done presentation in the chapel that provides images and history as well as what daily life was like. The gaol saw a lot of activity over the years from the famine to the 1916 Rising. During the famine, people would commit crimes to get in and be assured of one meal a day. Often the whole family would camp out in the cell or corridor. The cells have been left pretty much as they were with some cleaning. The walls are incised with messages and names. If a well known figure occupied a cell, their name will often be on a plaque over the door. The cells and corridors are cold and damp, even in the summer. We could only imagine what it was like in the winter. After the Easter Rising the ringleaders were held and executed here and a marker in one of the courtyards marks the spot. Another courtyard we were told hold the bones of countless dead. The stones were taken up and the bodies buried with lime and then taken up again to bury more. The walls around the courtyards are high and little sun gets in. It is a very oppressive feeling. The corridors inside are mazelike and one always feels a little lost and glad for the guide. The guides provide historic information throughout the tour and are very knowledgeable. The tour finishes back at the museum. Once back at the museum, you are free to peruse the many floors of documents, artifacts and multimedia presentations of the history of the gaol. There are books showing the records of prisoners. Dates they entered and the crime they were guilty of and their sentence. Several were striking in that the people were quite young, crimes minimal and the sentences many years. Stealing a flower or a loaf of bread could be five or more years. Since the life expectancy in the gaol could be months or a year to two, this could be a death sentence. We spent a couple of hours wandering through the exhibits and left very sobered.
The only logical next stop when that sober was the Guinness Storehouse. We boarded the bus around the corner from the gaol and rode to the entrance of the Guinness facility. There was an old gent with a wagon and horse in front of the entrance. Posing and asking for the price of a pint no doubt. The wagon didn't look like something one would want to ride. We slipped in the main entrance and assessed our options. We were not impressed with the self-guided tour last time and this time the price had risen and proved no more attractive. Josh wasn't interested in the tour so off to the gift shop we went. The gift area is a homage to everything Guinness. Clothing of all kinds, hats and luggage occupy one section and the rest is anything you could imagine with a Guinness imprint. Glasses, bar trays, mirrors and posters abound as well as candy and other edibles. The lines are long but move quickly, relieving you via credit card or cash. The sign over the entrance should be "abandon all hope, ye who enter here". Pockets lighter and bags heavier, we departed the shrine of consumerism and went in search of a place to sit down. We found a little pub just down the street, next to a gravestone manufacturer and sat in their back outdoor courtyard for a pint. We figured the Guinness must be good as it was only a few hundred yards from the brewery. The pints were excellent and the surroundings relaxed. The sun warmed the courtyard, but the umbrellas at the tables provided good shade. Somewhere along the way we'd neglected to pick up something at Guinness, so back we went for another pocket lightening experience. Much poorer and heavy laden with packages (could we look more like tourists?) we caught a City Tour bus back to O'Connell Street.
We took a quick walk around the Temple Bar area. Strong odors of used beer in many doorways. Seemed very alternative and the pubs were crowded and load. We were not impressed and after a couple of visits to record stores we wandered back to Grafton Street in search of food. We were hungry so we took the easy way out. Scott and Josh went to Burger King and Karen went for Scottish food a couple of doors down. We are pleased to report that Burger King and McDonald's food is just as mediocre as it is at home. After seeing Supersize Me, we avoid these places now. Along the way back to O'Connell Street Scott spotted some brass sidewalk plaques commemorating scenes from Ulysses. Shortly after we spotted the James Joyce statue not far from the bus stop. Feeling that we had done or seen something related to Bloomsday we went further up the street to catch the bus.
We caught the bus back to Avoca House B&B and spent some time in the room removing the dust and dirt of Dublin. Dublin is a dirty town, both because of it's age and traffic. Scott and Josh were suffering severely from allergies to the dust and pollen. Fair warning to those with allergies, bring your medication as it is expensive in Ireland and may not be readily available. Scott had to remove his contact lenses and go back to glasses because of the dust. Somewhat recuperated, we had dinner and then embarked on a futile search for the Gravedigger's Pub.
The evening started something like this. We’d been out all day in Dublin, sampling Guinness, viewing the sites, breathing the dust, pollen and general dirt. Dublin is a dirty city. It is small, busy and old, but like an old Irish farmer, rises every morning and shakes the dust off and gets back to work. We arrived back at the B&B, tired, dirty and thirsty. All that sampling makes you thirsty for more. We asked Audrey our hostess where another good pub might be found. We’d been to Fagan’s (highly recommended) several times already and once to the Cat and Cage up the road (not highly recommended). She said that we must try the Gravedigger’s Pub, not to far and a lovely pint. She described how it backed onto a cemetery and the gravedigger’s went there for a pint after as well as mourners. Evidently there is a hole in the wall between the pub and cemetery and a shovel is passed through the hole and returned with pints upon it. She said it was easy to find and gave us specific directions. It was at that point that we knew we were doomed. When you receive specific directions in Ireland, there is little chance of finding the place.
We set out in the car, armed with a Dublin city map, and the specific directions (I believe they were left, then right, right, then left and straight on and there it is). We made the first left, then the right was questionable. The road veered to the right, but was it a true right turn or just a job in the lane? The road also jogged left and straight. We wandered through a maze of streets and returned back several times to the B&B to start over. As the thirst increased, tempers shortened. Karen gave up and went silent. As we had no address, the map was of little use. Josh took over watching for signs, examining the useless map and making remarks like, “that street looks familiar, again.” Mobi was the one street that seemed to reoccur most often. After covering every possible permutation of the directions, we still had not spotted anything resembling the Gravedigger’s Pub. Scott pronounced the final verdict. It doesn’t exist, it is a ruse to get the American’s out of the house and lost. We then speculated if the pub did exist, it vanished and reappeared ala Brigadoon. Perhaps it was only visible to Irish eyes and everyone else saw an unappealing butcher shop or other useless storefront. About two hours from our start, we stopped at the next pub we saw, walked in, collapsed in the nearest booth and played several games of cribbage while downing pints of the black stuff. It was a fine pub, but paled next to the lofty expectations painted in such glowing terms by our hostess. The next morning over a hearty Irish breakfast, Audrey cheerily asked how the pub had been and was it just as she described? Scott snarled something about the its lack of existence and were we sent on the proverbial snipe hunt? Audrey, true to her nature, doubled over in laughter, leaving us none the wiser.
On arriving back home, We did a web search for the Gravedigger’s Pub and found that it indeed did exist. Several statements concerned us however. One being the following.
Did you catch that? Can be hard to find at times? Does it move, vanish or change in some way? Our worst fears were confirmed and we realize we have little hope of visiting it the next time we're in Dublin. The fact that it is also known as Sean Kavanagh’s, and is most likely signed that way doesn’t help in finding it either. We could find no directions or pictures on the web either, so its transitory nature stands confirmed.
Postscript: We were able to dig up (pun intended) more information eventually. There are several bars in Dublin named Kavanagh. This one is distinguished by being nicknamed The Gravediggers. It backs on to Glasnevin Cemetery and has a hatch in the back wall through which muddy gravediggers pass a shovel, which is returned loaded with glasses of Guinness. This is one of the finest traditional Dublin bars, often used as a film set but unspoilt despite its fame. It has swing doors, a wooden snug and a long main bar divided into cubicles. It is a good stop for a last pint on the way to the airport but find time to visit the cemetery, the final resting place of those fierce antagonists, Michael Collins and Eamonn De Valera, along with Charles Stewart Parnell, who was a Protestant but was given the singular honour of being buried in a Catholic cemetery. There is a monument to Daniel O'Connell, the first Irishman to sit in the British parliament. The cemetery is also the last resting place of Brendan Behan: trust him to be buried by the back door of a pub.
We packed up as we were leaving the next morning and fell into bed while visions of gravediggers danced in our heads.
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| Thursday 6/17
We tumbled out of bed and did the usual morning struggles in the small bathroom. Back down two flights of stairs for the customary full Irish. We paid up, said our farewells and loaded up the car. Our first stop was a look at Glasnevin Cemetery. We avoiding the dreaded Mobi Street, found some parking and walked towards the entrance. There is a large stone archway and just inside the gate was an old gentleman selling flowers. The sky was cloudy interspersed with blue. Rain threatened, but not in the immediate future. We packed along our waterproof jackets just in case, a good choice as we were to discover.
Glasnevin is a very large cemetery between the airport and Dublin city center. It is easily accessible from several entrances although we found the main entrance easy to find with plenty of parking. Be aware that this is still an active cemetery and at any point during the day funerals may be occurring as well as excavations for future tenants. There were two separate funerals going on and the time we were there. Orientation can be difficult in the cemetery as it covers many acres. The best way we found was to orient to the tall round tower (O’Connell Tower) by the main entrance. You can pretty much see it from anywhere in the cemetery.
There are also guided tours of the grounds. The walking tour lasts one and a half hours and takes the graves of Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Eamon DeValera, James Larkin, Maud Gonne MacBride, Countess Markievicz, Ann Devlin, Brendan Behan, Michael Collins and many other graves of interest. The tours take place every Wednesday and Friday at 2.30pm. All enquiries and bookings can be made by e-mail or telephoning the Cemetery at: (01) 8301133.
The grounds are extensive with many trees and a wide variety of stones, monuments, crosses and sculpture. We split up and agreed to meet back at a specific time to avoid looking for each other. Scott estimates he covered about a quarter of the grounds in the two or more hours we were there. As we were was walking among the graves there were many photo opportunities of ancient headstones covered in ivy. As Scott was walking through one section he observed a man digging with a shovel. Evidently the graves are primarily dug by hand. This would account for the Gravedigger’s Pub nearby to quench the thirst of the diggers and mourners. While we never found the pub, it is said that quite a few mourners stopped there prior to a funeral and quenched their grief to the extent that the coffin remained outside the pub forgotten, and the burial had to be rescheduled for a following day.
There are many kinds of graves. Some with simple headstones, others with large high crosses and many large mausoleums holding from a single person to whole families. The range of dates on the stones were extreme as well and mixed with old and new side-by-side. There were few people on the grounds other than the funeral in progress and the grounds were quiet. There wasn't the feel of overly manicured lawn as in many cemeteries in the US. Often there was just dirt around the stones with a few weeds, but mostly trimmed. Trees grow throughout and are often covered with ivy.
Josh swore that a black cat was following him through the graves in the lower part. Every time he stopped to take a picture it would appear and stare at him. This is probably not a place we would like to spend the night, but it is very interesting to visit due to the history and beauty of the stones and location. We would have stayed longer, but a heavy and consistent downpour forced us back to the car.
There is a map of the more popular graves. Glasnevin Cemetery is easily accessed from Dublin City Center. Bus numbers 13A, 19 and 19A can be taken from the city's thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, to Harts Corner (which is approximately a 5 minute walk from the cemetery's main entrance on the Finglas Road). Bus numbers 134 (from Corn Exchange Street) and 40, 40A, 40B and 40C (from Parnell Street) stop directly outside of the main cemetery entrance.
Somewhat dampened and hungry, we stopped to fuel up at a station across the way and picked up an assortment of candies, snacks and beverages to fortify ourselves on the trip to Athlone.
We arrived in Athlone and made our way to Athlone Castle in the city center. We had not had a chance to explore it on our last trip. The castle is on a hill and has a good view of the town, river and countryside. We climbed up the walkway and were disappointed at how little there was to see. We availed ourselves of the facilities and poked through the gift shop. We found out that they could also help us find a B&B which kept us from making a lot of calls and leafing through our books. We described what we needed and they quickly located an available place and provided the booking and directions with a minimal surcharge. This out of the way, we purchased a couple of small items and went out to explore the town around the castle. We walked a large loop, looking for laundry facilities and somewhere to eat that evening. We found a laundry and dropped of the clothes and parked the car again and took off to explore. We walked all the way around the large barracks complex in the town. Athlone has a military barracks and the town is lively for that reason. We encountered a dog that seemed to want to follow us indefinitely until we shooed it off. The typical small black and white Irish dog one sees everywhere. We wandered along the river a bit, but didn't find anything to exciting. We went back into the city center and popped into Sean's Bar. We knew it well from our last visit and sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender. It was mid-late afternoon and the place was empty. After a pint, we went back to the car, retrieved the laundry and drove to the B&B and checked in. The rooms were nice and quiet in a more residential area. After settling in, a short lie down and we were ready to find some food. We were in the mood for something different and had seen a Thai restaurant just up from the castle. We made our way back, found some parking and trudged up the hill to Kin Kao Thai restaurant. Inside the smells were promising and the place was pretty crowded. The owner and most of the staff appeared to be Thai, another good sign. We were seated upstairs and ordered from a fairly extensive menu. We asked for hot and we received just that. They were not afraid to apply the heat, perhaps they didn't get the request often and made the best of it. The flavors and quality were excellent, service was good and the overall ambiance was great. We slurped and chewed our way through our respective dishes (Pad Thai for Karen and Josh and something more odd and deadly sounding for Scott). Breathing fire and garlic we went in search of a good pub to quench some of the flames. We walked down to Sean's Bar first, but it was so crowded that people were waiting out in front. Directly across the street was The Castle Inn that appeared to be less crowded. We went in and grabbed a table. A lone guitarist was playing a variety of music, much of it original. The volume was pretty intense, but a little shouting made conversation possible. We were joined by an odd character and his girlfriend at some point as tables were at a premium and his girlfriend was in a cast. His name was Derek and he had delved deep into the Guinness vat prior to our meeting him. His girlfriend was drinking Coke, but couldn't translate his ramblings anymore than we could. We could only understand about every sixth word he was saying, but that was OK as he was only pronouncing every third word intelligibly. His conversation went something like this. Guitar - - play - - good - - fun - - long - - drink - - another - - ? Derek felt it necessary to carry on a monologue about the music, his life and pretty much everything in general. We just let him go and he didn't seem to care if anyone was listening or could hear. Josh was paying attention to the guitar player and trying to see some of the fingering he was doing. He ended up filming some of the best songs and chatting with him. After a couple of hours our ears gave out, and the Guinness on top of the Thai food was playing havoc with our digestion. We packed it in and drove back to the B&B for some sleep before heading out the next day for another drive to Clonmacnoise and ultimately the Cliffs of Moher.
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We were up early with some miles to cover. We stocked up on the usual protein fest and then headed out for the short drive to Clonmacnoise. This is pretty country with many scenic views along the way. Clonmacnoise is another Duchas Heritage site, but worth the admission regardless. There is a large car park so parking won't be a problem. The short walk to the entrance has several interesting sculptures. The center is large with many interesting exhibits as well as the high crosses that have been brought inside. You can easily spend an hour or more here. There is a short film offered in several languages. It is hit and miss getting the proper language. You may have to come back in later. Go through the center first, it gives you a better appreciation for the site and buildings.
Once outside there are restrooms and a tea shop to the right. Straight ahead and for quite a ways it the site and graveyard. The entire site is surrounded by a stone wall with cows grazing just the other side. There are a number of ruined chapels and two round towers. To the left is the Boyne river and a good view of the Boyne River Valley. It has rained every time we've been to Clonmacnoise, bad luck perhaps, but bring protection. Several buildings were being renovated while we were there and the construction material and barricades were a bit intrusive. Take the time to wander down to the lower area, especially the small chapel. There are interesting details in the building. Many of the buildings have interesting carvings and decorations that are worth a close examination. When you're through, the tea room is perfect for warming up from the rain or wind off the river. We had a cup of hot tea and a mystery pastry each. They were good, we just couldn't figure out what flavor they were supposed to be. Tea is always good in Ireland. Especially tea, whisky, sugar and lemon on a wet cold day as we were to later find.
We walked back to the car with cameras full of memories and brains equally packed. We began the trip down towards Co. Clare. We drove through winding country roads, small towns and made frequent stops when the mood and scenery struck. The sun broke out intermittently through the clouds, highlighting the hills and clouds. We stopped along one roadside view, parked the car and walked across the road to the stone wall. The sun was breaking through the clouds and illuminating the green fields. To the right was a herd of cows, grazing in the field. We took some pictures and as we prepared to go, looked down at the vine-covered stone wall. There were scores of snail shells, some new, some old, covering the wall. We spotted a few live ones as well. Evidently they had been quietly going about their lifecycle on this wall for years. If you look at the picture carefully, you can see some of the old shells. We made other stops along the way for snacks and a turnaround when it became apparent that a road was narrowing and leading nowhere. Another driving tip: if the road goes from a normal two lane road down to a rutted cow path, chances are you're going the wrong way!
We were not going the wrong way when we spotted Kilmacduagh. We were nearing the Burren, in fact you can see it in the background of some of the photos. We were on the lookout as always for anything that looked ruined and was more than a wall or two. Of course we'd stop for a wall or two if we didn't see something better or it had been more than 15 minutes since the last ruin. You never know what you might find! We could see what was apparently a fairly large set of ruins with a round tower. We found out that they were much more extensive then we first thought. We went to the furthest set of buildings first as there were a gaggle of tourists walking around the closest buildings. They were making a lot of noise and wouldn't help the pictures at all. We took a long walk back to the buildings in the distance. We climbed a fence and walked around the back. The sky was blue with fluffy clouds and some dramatic light that we took full advantage of. The countryside was very green and had a mix of vines, trees and low plants. The ground had been recently mown and made walking around easier and didn't stir up the pollen like some sites with longer grass. The single standing wall with a window and doorway was perfect for framing images of the sky and round tower. The rest of the building was not to interesting from the back. We walked around the front and saw a number of tall windows slightly above eye level. There was no way to reach them, but they didn't open outside as they were dark. The entire building was inaccessible. All doors and windows were locked and barred or to narrow to enter. Scott held up his camera and took several pictures through the window, trusting to auto focus and the flash to show something. Many of the pictures did not come out, but the few that did revealed a stone coffin in a small barred room. It makes one wonder who might be in there? Further down the wall, larger windows opened into the roofless nave of a church. The tops of the columns and arches could be seen. Disappointed that we couldn't see more, we headed back to the main area and the round tower. The tourists had dispersed and ours was the only car in the small car park. A sign near the entrance gave us the official name of the site and brief information about the grounds and history. There were many buildings spread over the grounds. All of them had locked or barred doors, probably as the site was unstable and unsafe to walk around in. There was plenty to see in spite of the barriers. The graveyard was extensive and as usual, had a wide range of dates on the stones. The round tower was in very good shape and easy to walk around and examine. Several large windows allowed for cameras to be put past the bars to photograph the interiors of rooms. Below the graveyard a empty field held the remains of an old tractor with a liberal patina of rust. Looking over the fields, we could see the limestone top of the Burren as it met the green countryside. We spent a couple of hours here easily and could have spent more. This would be a good site to return to in different seasons. It is well kept, but not overly restored or polished. A good chance find!
Reluctantly we left Kilmacduagh and began the drive into the Burren. Limestone rock began to appear amongst the green and rocks became more plentiful. Not that they are not plentiful in Ireland on any account, but if there was a mother load of rock, we were headed for it. As we drove along with a valley off to the left side and a hill to the right we noticed another ruined something as we passed. We took the next turnout and parked and trotted back. A short climb up the stone steps and through a iron gate revealed a small chapel, covered in ivy, surrounded by a small graveyard. A chest high stone wall surrounded the entire area. Much of the wall was overgrown with ivy and fuchsia bushes. Inside the chapel were many small alcoves and decorations, again, much overgrown with ivy. Parts of the outside were almost impassible because of the overgrown condition. One of the graves was marked with a simple iron cross, much rusted. It is so different from the usual stone, we wondered if it had some significance.
We continued on the road towards Kilfenora with several more stops to take pictures of the hills, stone walls, and clouds. This is a very beautiful part of the country and the day was particularly striking. The road signs were often confusing and took a complete stop to comprehend all the options. It is highly recommended that you pull off the road or as far off as you can get as vehicles travel fast and would not stop in time.
Our next stop was Lemaneagh Castle, the O'Brien clan stronghold from about 1480. There isn't a lot to see except the shell of the building. It is large and looks more like a manor house than a castle. You can't get very close as it is on private property, and there is a farmhouse and outbuildings right next to it. Josh and Scott went up the road in front and took a few pictures. Scott used an infrared filter to try a different effect with fairly good results. The problem is that there is almost nothing visible in the viewfinder. You have to compose the picture, than put the filter on and do a good deal of post processing.
Kilfenora was just down the road and we wanted to see the high crosses and cathedral this time. We were distracted in 2002 by a lecherous old man in 2002. Our first stop was the Burren Centre. We made a quick pass through the gift shop and looked at the available maps and literature for the area. The gift shop is better than most and actually has some good quality items. A quick check out the window revealed no old men lurking about and we walked down the road to the Kilfenora Cathedral. The cathedral was still undergoing some renovations and we couldn't enter. We were able to see through the windows and walk through the surrounding graveyard. We then followed the map we had picked up at the Burren Centre to find the high crosses. We had a short walk across some small roads and over a stone wall to the largest cross. It is standing by itself in a field and is quite large and impressive. We wandered back to the main road and walked through the town, stopping in at several craft shops on the way.
We drove across the Burren to Lahinch. On the way we spotted a farmer taking the cows in for the day. We stopped in Lahinch for a good dinner in The Cornerstone Pub. We walked out to the seawall after to take some pictures and see the ocean. The air was clean right after a rain shower and the sun was dropping in the sky. We walked back and looked at a few shops. Lahinch is a touristy town because of the golf course, and many of the shops are quite upscale. We found an interesting Celtic T-Shirt Shop and bought a couple of shirts. One had a original graphic of the Tain bo Cualnaigh, very nicely done. Check out their site and buy something to encourage good quality work! There were a number of very nice pub signs as well. We took a few pictures of those too. On the road towards Lisconnor and around Lahinch we saw a number of ruins on both the seaside and landside of the road. It was getting late and was a little dark to try and stop. It had been a long day already so we filed these for future reference in 2005. We continued the drive along the coast until the road headed a little inland right before our B&B. We drove up the drive to our B&B reservation at Moher Lodge, just a short distance from the famous Cliffs of Moher. This is a highly recommended B&B and we will be staying there again in 2005. The rooms are spacious, clean and very nice with great views of the countryside. The breakfast is one of the best we'd had with extensive options. Again, highly recommended! We walked in to the smell of a peat fire and were welcomed and shown to our room. We had a incredible view out the window to farms, cows and hay fields in the setting sun. We talked to our hostess's sister about things to do. We mentioned that we would be going to view the cliffs in the morning. She responded that we should go now as there were no crowds, no charge to get in and we'd see the sunset. We didn't realize we could go after hours, but jumped at the chance.
We spent several hours walking the tourist portion and then walking out along the south side where there is a path but no official access. You have to climb over a stone wall or two and watch your step. It is a long way down, but the path runs a fairly safe distance from the edge. The wind was pretty stiff, but well worth the discomfort. Josh felt compelled to hang over the edge with Scott's monopod and film the abyss beneath. Scott told him that if he fell over, he owed him a new monopod. Karen just shook her head at the abundance of testosterone. The skies were perfect with the sun reflecting on the water and clouds, making the scene even more dramatic. We stayed until the sun had almost completely set. There were only a few other people at the site and we wouldn't have had the same photo opportunities during the day. Thoroughly chilled and wind blown, we returned to the car with literally hundreds of photographs. We did make a stop at the field next to the car park. There were quite a few curious cows, probably wondering what the crazy people were doing out in the wind at that time of night. We drove down to Liscannor, a short distance south to find a place to warm up. Most of the pubs were loud and crowded with fairly intoxicated French or American tourists. Not quite our cup of tea. We found a small pub and went to the back room and played a few games of cribbage and warmed up with a pint or two of the black stuff. We found ourselves rapidly getting sleepy as it had been a long day with many adventures and a lot of driving. We drove back to Moher Lodge, plugged in the battery chargers for the exhausted cameras, and went to bed.
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| Saturday 6/19
Another early morning with a lot of driving ahead. We had a wonderful breakfast and then packed up the car and headed out in the sunshine and fresh air. We took a roundabout route looking for interesting things in the hills above the B&B. We didn't find anything and went to St. Brigid's Well near Lisconnor. Evidently there are quite a few St. Brigid's Wells. Ireland has many holy wells and this one was fairly typical. It had a bit more visibility and decorations as it was right on the road. We parked and looked in the grotto entrance to the well. There were many statues of Jesus and Mary as well as assorted Saints. There were many other odd items like the neck brace in the picture below, stuffed animals, books and playing cards. The well is quite old and has an extensive history of miraculous cures and healing.
Back into the car and off to Doolin. We visited Doolin on our last trip, but didn't spend a lot of time. We wanted to explore the music shops as we had a list of CDs we were trying to find. Parking in Doolin is always a problem as the town is very small. We found one and locked up the car and went browsing in the shop. Most of the shops are typical tourist places, but there are a couple nice stores that sell only traditional music. Doolin is known for its music sessions in the evenings and the people in the shops were knowledgeable. We spent quite a bit of money, and found many of the items we were looking for. One of our favorites is An Raicin Alainn by Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola. We highly recommend this artist!
We decided to have another shot at the Poulnabrone Dolman. On our last excursion we'd wandered around in frustration and had never found it. We were armed with better maps, more endurance and an extra set of eyes. We launched forth into the Burren and wound our way towards where the elusive dolman was reputed to exist. Along the way there are many stunning sites and a few stone forts. We found that many of them were overly cared for and often quite expensive to view. We skipped them and satisfied ourselves with pictures of cows and sheep. Restroom facilities are few and far between out here, so it is either going behind a stone wall or hold on. We wound through some very hilly countryside. We ran into a Traveler family asking for money alongside the road. They said they were low on gas and needed some money. We saw them several times during the day at various tourist locations with the same story.
Eventually we came to an open area of fairly level land and you could see quite a distance. We noticed several tour buses parked ahead as well as a few cars. Looking off to the East we could see the Poulnabrone Dolman against some very interesting clouds. Karen went to visit some cows alongside the road and Josh and Scott tramped out to see the dolman. Walking is rough on the rocks and there are many holes. The slabs of stone shift under your feet, making walking unsteady and strange. There were about 20 or more people spread out in the area, but as the buses left, the number went down significantly. We had our first run in with rude tourists here. Oddly enough, they were not from the USA. A small group of younger people would walk directly in front of you when you were trying to take a picture. They'd look back at you and then turn there back and stand for quite a while. If you moved to a different location, another would move over and block your view. Josh and Scott were getting a bit irate, but managed to get a few good images. The dolman is roped off which removes some of the picturesque quality, but is well worth seeing anyway.
Off across the burren again with Co. Kerry in mind. We made a pretty direct route to Killimer to catch the ferry across the Shannon to Tarbert, and save some time. We also wanted to ride the ferry! It was fairly inexpensive considering the time saved and the cost of fuel. We drove down to the ferry loading area and drove aboard almost immediately. A short wait and we were off. It is about a 20 minute ride across. Karen stayed in the car and Josh and Scott went exploring with the cameras. A large crow was waiting on the deck. We're not sure if he was a bad sign, waiting for us to sink so he could pick us clean or wanting a handout. He got none of the above. The day was fairly clear and you could see a good distance. It was an uneventful trip, but interesting. We drove off 20 minutes later, and found ourselves in Co. Kerry. We still had a good drive ahead of us and headed off towards Tralee. We stopped briefly in Tralee to get some cash and kept moving towards Camp and Ballyferriter. We passed through some beautiful country, especially as we entered the Dingle peninsula and drove into the mountains.
Arrived in Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula and poked around the town a bit. It is a very small town with a few restaurants and pubs. Not much was open and the pub that we had enjoyed on our last visit in 2002 was closed and being remodeled. We drove further west to our reservation at the Suantra Cottages. Great view and a nice hostess. The cottages are nothing fancy, similar to what you'd expect from a beach house, but they are clean, comfortable, solid and weatherproof. This is important with the storms and wind we experienced during the week in that area. Nice little fireplace with peat blocks to burn, a small refrigerator and kitchen utensils, pots, pans and glassware.! There is a great view from the front door and back windows. Dingle is a short drive, Ballyferriter is a shorter drive and there are many walks right outside the door. We unloaded and drove to Ballyferriter for dinner. There are not a lot of places to eat in the town, but the pubs are a good bet. We popped in and found a seat. The menu looked good and we tried the Irish Stew and Guinness. Both were excellent, although Josh found the lamb a bit wild for his taste (it was definitely not grain fed) and said it came back to haunt him in the night. As the lamb was probably kicking up its heels in the field a day or two before, it was probably its ghost or his guilt. We met a nice British couple and she and Karen had a chat. We saw them several more times throughout the week at the same pub. All the driving caught up with us quickly and we drove back to the cottage and bed.
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Last Updated on June 28, 2010