Ireland 2009

Ireland 2009

Early in 2009 I ask my 78 year old mother “If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?”.  Her answer – “Ireland !!”

So, my wife and I started planning a twelve day trip to “The Emerald Isle” for May 2009.  We decided to stay mostly in the western part of the country to see the natural beauty of the landscape with its beautiful green pastures divided by centuries old stone walls. Here are the participants.   

We flew into the Shannon International Airport in southwest Ireland on May 9, 2009, rented a right hand drive straight stick car and began our nervous drive to Kenmare.  Shifting gears with the left hand and keeping the car on the left side of the road while sitting in the right hand “passenger” seat was a little nerve racking at first, but I got the hang of it fairly quickly.

We intentionally stayed away from Dublin – just another big city says Ma (though I would like to go there some day).  We rented a house in the town of Kenmare, County Kerry, with a view of the Kenmare Bay of the Atlantic Ocean – population 1,700 – perfect small town atmosphere. This town was centrally located about an hour south of Killarney for our planned day excursions.  We typically rent homes as opposed to hotels, so we can get a better feel for the local culture and have some room to “spread out”.  The home was four bedrooms, three baths, nicely appointed for a mere $540 for the week !!! 

After settling in, the rest of the day, we began our journey  in this area with a drive to Killarney and visited the Muckross Castle.  During our stay in Kenmare we also drove the famous Ring of Kerry, a 111 mile journey, seeing a lot of the beautiful country side.  We took day trips to some of the more famous castles and forts – the best probably being the Charles Fort in Kinsale, County Cork.  There we had lunch at the world famous Fishy Fishy restaurant.

After our  week in Kenmare, we drove to the town of Dingle, County Kerry where we stayed two days in a B&B.  It was here where we started the “pub scene”.  While in Kenmare, we were about two miles out of town on real narrow roads and I was still getting used to the car and right hand driving and didn’t want to “drink and drive” at night under those conditions.  In Dingle, we were in town and walking distance.  The pubs were great !!  There was always live music and the locals engaged us in conversation – very friendly.  In fact, in all the pubs we visited there seemed to be about a 50/50 split of locals and tourists.  We were made to feel very welcome.  LOVED IT !!

We drove around the Dingle Peninsula which has more sheep than people.  It was given worldwide exposure by the 1970 film Ryan’s Daughter.

Lastly, we drove to the little town of Doolin, County Claire stayed in a B&B where we visited the famous Cliffs of Moher.  We took a boat ride (on the Happy Hooker) to the Aran Islands and the famous cliffs at Dun Aengus castle ruins on the island of Inishmore.

Though there were a fair amount of rainy days- Mom, son and wife had a great time !!

Muckross House at Killarney National Park, beautiful grounds.  Built in 1843, visited by Queen Victoria in 1861.
Carol (Mom) and Karen (Wife) smelling the rhododendrons in the expansive gardens at Muckross House.

Cahergall - circle fort built about 600 AD with "dry stone" - no mortar.

Ballycarberry Castle - this abandon castle was built in the 16th century and faces the sea.  It was "fenced off" with no trespassing signs, but that didn't keep us or about a dozen other spectators away while we were there.
Clochans a.k.a. Bee Hives - these dry stone constructed huts some constructed as early as 2,000 BC (4,000 years ago !!!) were used by monks as well as some being secular dwellings.  We saw many on these on our drive around the Dingle Peninsula.

Cliffs of Moher - a great, easily accessible place to visit in County Claire.  The cliffs are between 390 and 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.  About a million people visit the cliffs annually !!

Blarney Stone - Blarney Castle, County Cork.  Built in 1446, there are 127 steps to reach the top level and the Blarney Stone.  This was one of the places Mom really wanted to see, and she persevered the steep climb, then laid on her back to kiss the stone. Legend is that kissing it will give one the "gift of gab"; we all smeared on heavy lip balm and did the deed.  Some would say I didn't really need to kiss the stone as I already possess the "gift" ! Ha !
An Droichead Beag pub (The Small Bridge) - one of the great pubs we visited, was near a small stream and bridge in the town of Dingle, thus the name.  Like all the pubs, it was loud with talk, laughter and live bands; sometimes several musicians would come in separately and just start playing together.  It was here that an old Irish gentleman seated in the crowd, probably mid 70's plus, began singing a ballad "a cappella" and the entire pub became instantly quiet and let him finish his slightly off key song - then a big round of applause.  It was a beautiful thing !!
Mom + Vacation = Alcohol - Mom NEVER drinks except when she is on vacation with us.  Here - Irish Coffee (made with Irish whiskey) as seen between Karen and my stout beers.
Bunratty Castle - This is a very nice fully furnished castle near Limerick close to the Shannon Airport.  First built in 1270 AD, it was destroyed several times by enemies, with the current version being built in 1425 AD.
Beautiful stone walled fields - They were everywhere in Ireland.  Lush green pastures kept in place by centuries old dry stone walls, mostly limestone material.
A walk near the ocean bay - This was on our drive around the Ring of Kerry.  Mom and son - a beautiful day !!
Cliffs at Dun Aengus fort - This is on the island of Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.  The cliffs are some 330 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.    

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