Kilkenny to Dublin

Well, our journey around Ireland is almost over. 😔

Yesterday we left our wonderful hotel at Kilkenny, but before saying good bye we visited the castle and explored the town a little.

The castle sits above the town with a commanding spot on the River Nore. Disappointingly, there is no photography allowed within the castle – this is very unfortunate because it was beautiful with lots of wonderful things to admire. The portrait gallery in particular was fabulous. The garden was also very pretty.

 After exploring the town (very nice), on the way back to the car, we happened to call in on a music shop, which just happened to have a harp for sale:

 Alas, at €2795 and no room in my luggage, I could not take it home with me. I did however find myself a book of all of Turlough O’Carolan’s sheet music (with 4 cd’s to accompany it) – so I did leave with that. Turlough O’Carolan is a famous Irish harpist from the late 17th and early 18th century for those not in the know.

We called in at the Brownshill Dolmen (it sits in a field, just outside of Carlow) – it has the largest capstone of all the megalithic portal tombs in Ireland (reputedly weighing 150 tons). It is very impressive.

Brownshill Dolmen

Glendalough was our last stop before heading back into Dublin. This is home to an early Christian monastic site originally founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. It is easy to see why he would have chosen this spot; it is so peaceful and very beautiful! 
  

For our final 2 nights I thought it would be nice to finish off with a stay in a ‘castle’ (it was originally a castle but has been rebuilt and reinvented most recently in in the late 90’s as a hotel)- at Clontarf Castle, a little out of the city.  

Our final day in Dublin has been pretty quiet, catching the local bus into the city and just doing a bit of shopping, having lunch in Temple Bar and some more walking around the city. Tomorrow we fly back to Texas and back to reality. For a little island, Ireland sure packs a lot in! It has been a most wonderful trip (I wish it could have been longer) and I hope I can come back soon! 😊

Cork and Waterford

Sadly we had to say farewell to County Kerry too soon and left with sights unseen and adventures missed! There is so much to do in this area – a week would have been lovely!From Kilarney we headed to Cork taking the longer coastal route, stopping at Buntray House (home of the White family [my maiden name] ,the former earls of Bantry since 1739) and gardens overlooking Bantry Bay. This is a magnificent house (no photography inside the house unfortunately) and is still privately owned (it also acts as a B&B).

Bantry House and Gardens

Before heading on to Cork, I had to stop in at Drombeg Stone Circle, dating from the 2nd century BC.

Drombeg Stone Circle

I must admit I did not really like Cork, it appeared a hard and dirty city; it certainly wasn’t quaint and charming. The following morning we headed for Blarney to visit the castle. This was so much more than I expected.

Blarney CastleBesides the castle (and of course, the Blarney Stone, which I did not kiss!) there is a rather large manor house and some rather extensive gardens; one of which was called Rock Close (a hidden grove of ancient Yew trees and limestone rock formations) – this  was a magical wonderland where ivy grew over trees, tree roots were twisted, the moss covered the trees and the rocks, and where there were waterfalls and hidden caves, the Witch’s steps, the Witch’s kitchen and the Druid’s cave. For me, this was wonderland and I could have stayed here for hours!

BlarneyWoods

We did experience a bit of rain at Blarney castle, but quite a good deal more as we made our way to Cobh, which was going to be our next stop. As is was totally miserable here, we didn’t stay and pushed on, calling in at the Old Midleton Distillery (Ireland’s largest distillery) for a quick visit before making our way to Waterford (Ireland’s oldest city) where we stayed overnight at the Waterford Marina Hotel (a great value hotel and I would recommend it).

Waterford's crystal harpI liked Waterford (and again, I could have stayed longer). Our first stop in Waterford was Waterford Crystal where we did a tour of the factory. This was very informative and I enjoyed it, but it was pricey at 13euro each, although I now have a great appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into creating these pieces of art – by the way – there are no seconds at Waterford Crystal- any imperfect pieces are scrapped! I couldn’t afford to buy anything here, but I did admire all that was on offer, including The Barclays trophy with Jason Day’s name on it, The Ashes Cup and the People’s Choice Awards Trophies. Of course, I particularly admired the crystal harp on display!

Just down the street we took a look at Reginald’s Tower (a stone tower dating from the 12th century, this is the oldest civic urban building in Ireland).

ReginaldsTower

We also took a look at the ruins of the 13th century Grey Friars church and Christchurch Cathedral (built in 1770). Before leaving Waterford I happened to find my street and took a photo:

Catherine Street– and then headed to Kilkenny.

However, once again, we didn’t take the most direct route; I had to go via The Rock of Cashel! What an impressive and imposing structure. Once again – I loved what I saw here.

RockOfCashel

The views from this former fortress and monastery are also impressive.

View from Rock of Cashel

To cap off my day – we finished up in a hotel bar (Langtons House Hotel) – old and beautiful, having dinner and a few drinks listening to some live Irish music. For me; I was feeling a bit like ‘a pig in mud’, very happy! 😊

IMG_0634

I tried to upload this yesterday, but had trouble with Wi-Fi!

 

Spectacular Kerry

2 days in Kerry – absolutely wonderful – even in wet weather!

Thursday we ventured to the Dingle peninsular and drove the Slea Head road. It was another very full day. We looked in at Inch Beach (part of Ryan’s Daughter was filmed here)

Inch Beachand then went on to Dingle town (where we had lunch at Denners Hotel).

We also saw an ancient stone ring fort and some Beehive Huts:

Beehive Hut

Unfortunately the rain did fall for a considerable part of the day and we did get wet. However, it was still very nice. We saw lots of rainbows – the best I have ever seen – they were complete and very vibrant.

Rainbows in Dingle

Friday we did the “Ring of Kerry” – and, yes, there is plenty of spectacular scenery.

Kerry Coastline

There are also lots of tourist buses and lots of narrow roads! But, we went to some places the tourist coaches don’t go. We had great fun crawling through the ruined remains of Ballycarbery Castle – this was awesome!


We also clambered over a couple of 2500 year old stone forts!


All in all – it was a great day and topped off with my first tipple of Irish whiskey!

I must add; the hotel we stayed in at Kilarney was very nice – The Lake Hotel (even if the bed/mattress wasn’t, and completely stuffed my back) – the room and views over a part of a ruined castle were lovely:

I wish we could have stayed longer – I could have spent a week here easily, there is so much to see and do!

Bunratty and Limerick

I apologise for the lateness of this post; I have been fighting a cold for the past week and the last 2 days it has been fighting back aggressively!

After leaving Galway we headed to The Burren (literally ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic) – and the countryside is just that! Very different to other areas of Ireland. I was keen to see some more of ancient Ireland and we called in on Poulnabrone Dolmen, dating from 2500-2000 BC.

Burren-Dolmen

Afterwards we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. Very spectacular!

CliffsOfMoher_a

Kilfenora_HighCrossWe didn’t really have as much time as I would have liked to explore this region, however I did manage to squeeze in some more High Celtic Crosses at Kilfenora:

– we needed to move on to the town of Bunratty, where I had booked us a 4 course medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle. This was fabulous.

Upon arrival at the castle you climb the narrow spiral staircase to the great hall where we were greeted with a goblet of mead (this was delicious, by the way) and a violinist. We then enjoyed a welcome from our hosts (all the staff are in period costume) with a history of the castle and some more music and song.

Bunratty_GreatHall

Bunratty_performersEveryone is then ushered down stairs to the banqueting hall. The only implement provided for eating is a knife, so the soup – you had to sip from the bowl. The food was very good, and during dinner entertainment was provided by a fiddle player and a harpist; there were also interludes of singing and story telling. Overall though, my favourite was the solo by the harpist. Just wonderful! It was a great night and I’m glad we did this.

The following day we headed into Limerick for a look around. Again, not enough time, but we went to King John’s Castle (sitting on the banks of the Shannon River), which provided a great interactive display of history of Ireland, Limerick and the castle.

KingJohnCastle_RiverShannon

Limerick_StMarysWhile in Limerick we also visited St Mary’s Cathedral, originally built in 1172 – this is probably one of the best ancient churches I have ever seen. This stone building has wonderful stained glass panels, an oak barrel vaulted roof and is probably best known for it’s 15th century oak misericords (a form of seating used by the clergy) with each one having a different figure carved into the underside of the seat (they fold up when not in use).

Limerick_Misericords

On then to Kilarney!

Derry to Donegal Town

We have seen and done so much in our first week in Ireland.

Yesterday (was, it only yesterday) before we departed Derry we walked the city’s walls.

Ireland_Derry_wall

This was really worth the effort and I’m glad we did this even though it had not been on my ‘must do’ list. Derry was a very pretty town and I really enjoyed it. Of course, I could have done with an extra night there, but that is always the way!

From Derry we drove to Letterkenny where there is a most beautiful cathedral – St. Eunan’s. This Neo-Gothic building is absolutely gorgeous with some excellent celtic stone work, lovely vibrant stained glass windows and a vaulted ceiling that is very grand. The cathedral also boasts a 65m steeple. I am so glad we stopped here!

inside St. Eunan's Cathedral

inside St. Eunan’s Cathedral

After our quick stop at Letterkenny we took the coastal route along the part of the “Wild Atlantic Way” road. Yet more spectacular scenery – we called in at Horn Head (and the pretty little town of Dunfanaghy) and drove through The Rosses (an area with more than 100 lakes).

driving through The Rosses

driving through The Rosses

This was a lot of driving through narrow, winding, country roads. I didn’t see as much as I would have liked since we didn’t leave Derry until midday; we spent quite a few hours in the car, not arriving at Lough Eske (Donegal) until just after 6pm.

Lough Eske Castle is very nice! This place was a ruin until 2006 when it was rescued and given a new life as a hotel.

 

Ireland_LoughEskeCastle

Today, we took a look around Donegal town and took a tour through the castle, which is pretty much in the middle of town. Although, not particularly old as far as Irish castles go, it was still interesting.

Ireland_DonegalCastle

After the visit to the castle, we drove some more of the Wild Atlantic Way – to Killybegs (a little town, with a big fishing port), and then on to Glencolmcille – the Glen of St Colmcille (had to visit here just because of it’s association with said saint – AKA St Columba), but this is one of the prettiest valley’s I’ve seen.

On our way back to Lough Eske Castle, we called in to visit Slieve League (one of the highest cliff faces in Europe) – it is very spectacular! However, it was quite a walk out to the cliffs (about a 6km round trip) – we didn’t realise that it was possible to drive right to the top as there was a carpark at the bottom and it was gated, so we assumed you had to walk (until we saw cars coming back down). Oh well, we got our exercise in for today!

Ireland_SlieveLeague