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Flying Goannas

Jenny and Joan in Ireland

IRELAND | Wednesday, 20 May 2015 | Views [653]


Thursday 17 May (Dublin to Moira):

After way too many hours in planes and airports, we arrived in Dublin and picked up our hire car. A stroke of luck there, with a free upgrade to a 4WD. We had one place to visit today and then intended to drive until jetlag kicked in, so that's what we did. Only visit of the day was to the burial mounds at Knowth, and my first taste of the beautiful greens of Ireland. We made it there despite the detailed directions given to us by the nice man at the garden centre. He even drew us a map - to somewhere, but not to Knowth. The first thing I discovered about Ireland is that every Irish joke you ever heard is true. The second thing I discovered is that they're nowhere near as funny as the real thing. Nothing you want to find is signposted and asking directions gets you pointed in the wrong direction, but in the most charming way. My Irish genes must have surfaced today: Driving north on the motorway at the regulation 100km/hr, I was surprised to suddenly see the speed limit reduced to 60, and equally baffled as to why everyone was flying past me. It took a few moments to realise that we were now in Northern Ireland and, being part of the UK, 100kmh had changed to 60mph. The first time I've gone from one country to another without even realising it. Jet lag kicked in at Moira, where we found a B&B with the help of the ladies at the Banbridge Information Centre, had dinner at a nearby pub and were less than impressed by having to pay £3 for a small bottle of very ordinary Australian wine.




Friday 18 May (Moira to Portstewart):

Driving to the Causeway Coast via the beautiful Glens of Antrim (or at least one of them), I've made another discovery. No matter how narrow and winding the road, it's OK to stop anywhere. Taking photos is no problem here. Just pull up, snap and move along. Today we stopped at Garron Point, from which you can see the Mull of Kintyre. Well, I may have glimpsed it through the haze. It wasn't the best day for it. The the lovely Moravian village of Gracehill. Somewhere along the way we deviated from the main road and ended up having a very twisty, hilly drive. This gave us our tagline for the trip: "We never take wrong turns. We just take the scenic route." It served us well, as we took quite a few "scenic routes" over the next weeks. At the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, it was windy enough that they had considered closing it, so I was a bit dubious about the crossing, but decided I would. It wasn't too bad on the way across because I was the only one on the bridge and just had my own rhythm to deal with. A different story on the way back with others in front of and behind me, but I made it. The bridge was traditionally erected each year and used by salmon fisherman to cross to the island. At 20 metres across and 23 metres above the water, it's not the most challenging adventure in the world, but hard enough for those of us who are a bit dodgy about heights.

Carrick-a-Rede BridgeCarrick-a-Rede Bridge

The weather worsened on the short drive from Carrick-a-Rede to the Giant's Causeway, but I managed not to slip or get blown away whilst on it. Would love to see it on a fine day. It's geologically fascinating, but the legend is much more fun.

Giant's CausewayGiant's Causeway

Our accommodation for the night was at Rick's Hostel - an independent hostel in Portstewart. Interesting place which definitely has "character". We weren't entirely sure that the sheets were clean. Like most hostels, though, we met fun people - a man and his son from Donegal who were there for the surfing, and Phil and his mates who were in town for Phil's stag night.

Saturday 19 May (Portstewart to Donegal):

Mostly driving today, with the specific aim of getting to Donegal. We stopped at Mussenden Temple which looked really interesting but was, unfortunately, closed - Australians just get going too early. We walked through the ruins of the house which naturally had no roof to protect us when it started to rain.


Roe Valley Country Park, where we had morning tea, looked lovely and would have loved to walk, but the rain put us off. We had planned to stay at the Youth Hostel in Donegal, but after driving through the hills to get there it looked quite deserted and was unstaffed till 4.00pm so we headed towards town where we found an independant hostel that ran rings around the previous one in Portstewart. Well kept and inviting with friendly hosts. For the first time in my life I watched the FA Cup final in daylight - with Tony from Glasgow and Matthew from Colorado. Afterwards, we went for a drive to Killybegs to see where Frederick Beattie (my Great Great Grandfather) signed up for the Royal Marines. We can't find any record of him earlier than that. Much to Mum's disgust, I think, I insisted on investigating a couple of cemeteries. I love old cemeteries, even if I don't have any connection. The first one we stopped at seemed to be Catholic which was unlikely to have any connection. The second was at the Church of Ireland in Bruckless and I did find a Beattie grave, so maybe there's a connection there. Haven't found it yet.

Sunday 20 May (Donegal to Cong):

The craft village was closed on Sunday, so we stopped to ask directions to the castle. A lovely Irishman said he'd direct us there if we gave him a lift. He jumped in the back seat and pointed us in the right direction. We were a bit concerned about our handbags on the back seat, but shouldn't have worried. I think he was too drunk to formulate the thought to steal anything. Had we been breathalysed, we may have been done, just from the fumes. He did assure us he wasn't a murderer. Who could doubt a drunk Irishman at 9.00am on a Sunday morning? Donegal Castle was smaller than I expected. We had a really interesting and informative tour guided by Christina. After a fine morning, being Ireland, it started raining again. Luckily this was another mostly driving day. We had lunch at a nice pub in Sligo before heading to Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery where we were lucky with the weather, managing to walk round with just a light sprinkle. This was very different to Knowth, though equally interesting. A self-guided tour which is never as good as a personal guide, but still good.



On to Foxford to see the woolen mill (no, it's not a mill made of wool) that was started by nuns during the famine to provide work for men who couldn't make a living otherwise. Despite the odds, the mill succeeded and is still operating. The audio-visual tour was well done with commentary, photos and models. Next stop: Cong Youth Hostel, run by a lovely couple who couldn't decide if we were Australian or New Zealanders. He asked us to say "fish and chips", so of course I said "fush and chups" and he declared us New Zealanders until we presented him with an Australian flag. Luckily the Irish get the Australian sense of humour. The John Wayne movie "The Quiet Man" was filmed in Cong, and the hostel plays the movie every night. Guess that's a lot easier these days with DVDs than the old style movies. Anyway, we did watch it. Can't say it's the best I've seen.

Monday 21 May (Cong to Doolin): Leaving the hostel we drove through the beautiful grounds of Ashford Castle and into town, where we walked through the old abbey and around the town - a lovely little village and lots of fishing in the area.




After leaving, we drove through the Connemara - have you ever seen so many rocks and rock walls? Morning tea by the roadside at Furnace Lake. There were heaps of buses which were generally pulled up in inconvenient places, releasing hordes of tourists to scare the cattle. Our best weather so far was reflected in the beautiful aqua of Gallway Bay. We weren't particularly impressed with the Aillwee Cave, though we did learn that you can get a YHA discount, even if it's not on "the list". The lady on the gate used to be a member and gives a discount to anyone who asks. Travelling towards Doolin we passed through The Burren - a remnant of the Ice Age with amazing Arctic vegetation.


Tonight was a pub crawl. There are 3 pubs that have traditional Irish music every night. There is one new and rather clinical looking place, but it was deserted. I suspect it's aimed at the cattle-scaring bus passengers, but no atmosphere. We started with dinner at McDermott's where we waited for the music to start and listened for a while. Moved onto McGann's and then to O'Connor's and finally made it back to our B&B about midnight. If anyone tells you that you can't do a pub crawl with your 70-ish mother, don't believe them.



Tuesday 22 May (Doolin to Killarney):

Mostly driving today. One place we did visit was Craggaunowen Village with recreations of prehistoric and early Christian aspects of everyday life.




I really enjoy outdoor museums as they seem to really give you a feel for the times they are depicting. We stopped in Adare - a lovely village with a row of beautiful thatched cottages. Mum says that last time she was there there were hardly any visitors. Now, sadly, well and truly on the tourist track.


We avoided the Cliffs of Moher where they wanted €8 just to drive in and look. I can't imagine cliffs that are that great. I'm sure we'll see others. Today we drove through a town called Castleisland, which doesn't appear to have a castle and most definitely isn't an island. I love Ireland. Our accommodation for the next 2 nights is at Killarney Youth Hostel. Looks great.

At Killarney Youth HostelAt Killarney Youth Hostel

Wednesday 23 May (at Killarney):

We drove out to the Dingle Peninsula, around Slea Point and through Connor Pass. It would have been lovely (I know because I've seen the postcards) but most was blanketed in fog, so we only had glimpses. We had morning tea in Dingle where we didn't quite get lost, but did have to carefully retrace our steps to find the car. At Slea Point we stopped at a famine cottage. Walking up to it through the fog and looking at the conditions they lived in I can only think how depressing life must have been. No wonder so many people wanted to escape for a better life. Had a lovely chat with the Garda when we were pulled up for a random rego and licence check. Just like work - there's no escape for these things. Blennerville seems an odd place for a windmill, but there is an explanation. I guess you could google it, but why not go there and find out. They also have a display about the famine, emigration and the coffin ships. Today we got caught in a tourist trap. We drove out to Muckross House and pulled in where we saw a sign for parking for the house. We were immediately accosted by a jaunting car driver who offered us a 1 hour ride for €20 each.We turned him down and walked into the grounds, intending to walk to the house. Turns out this was not the main parking area and the house was 2 miles away. The driver followed us and offered a discount. We kept walking and after about fifty yards the price was €10 each for a half hour ride. We were a bit of a captive market so took him up on the offer and had a lovely short ride.

Jaunting car at Muckross HouseJaunting car at Muckross House

Tuesday 24 May (Killarney to Castlecomer):

This morning we headed back to Muckross House and were lucky to get an early tour with an excellent guide. I hope the Queen never comes to visit me - Victoria and Albert's visit in 1861 ruined the family. They spent all their money in preparation for the visit - on amazing things like hand painted silk wall coverings and installation of a fire escape. Did you know that Queen Victoria had a fear of fire and only wanted to stay somewhere if there was a fire escape?


Next stop was Blarney where we scaled the very steep steps to kiss the Blarney Stone. It was one of those things you think you have to do. I'm glad I did, but I don't think I'll go back. Don't really want to go up all those steps again, for one thing, and not too keen on leaning backwards over the void.


Kissing the Blarney StoneKissing the Blarney Stone

We headed for Castlecomer to visit relatives, who insisted on us having "a cup of tea", which actually consisted of of bread, meat, salad and pie, as well as the tea. It was a bit embarassing as they all sat and watched us. Back to Foulksrath Castle, which operates as a youth hostel, where we had secured beds in the female dorm. Sometime during the night, the girls who were on the other side of the room came in and, judging by the noises emanating, it had suddenly converted to a mixed dorm.

Friday 25 may (Castlecomer to Tullamore):

The family graves at the cemetery in Castlecomer were very hard to read and one was broken. Much deteriorated since Mum's last visit, sadly.

On the way to Tullamore we visited the Blackwater Bog Railway , where peat is taken to fuel the power station. The type of fuel and method of extraction may be vastly different, but the destructive effect on the land is similar to other types of "mining". I wonder how long it will take to run out. They been digging it a long time and there still seems to be a lot of it there.

Cutting peat at Blackwater BogCutting peat at Blackwater Bog

Our bed for the night was at a B&B that Mum and Dad had stayed at before and told us about, so I enjoyed meeting Doreen and Christie. Dropped our bags and headed for Suncroft and a drink at Moore's Well - a pub owned by Emerald's Father Dan's brother John. John had just left for a wedding so we didn't see him. Father Dan said later that it was probably a good thing he had just left, and not just come back. Back at the B&B, Doreen had "a little lunch" ready for us. At 6.30 at night? Really? After "lunch" she took us for a drive to a graveyard dating back to 500AD (unfortunately locked up; I'd have loved to have a walk around it) and a drive to Charleville Castle which is very imposing. We were about ready for bed, but Doreen had other ideas, taking us on to Bridge House Hotel for tea. Luckily it was election night so we were eventually able to escape and went to bed while the locals sat up watching the election results. Saturday 26 May (Tullamore to Dublin):

Dropped off our hire car at Dublin Airport, bussed into town and walked to the hostel. We instantly decided we'd be getting a taxi back to the airport. Visited the Dublin Writers' Museum where the first point of interest on the audio guide was No 2. Of course it was. This is Ireland.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town and avoiding the rain. Over the river to Temple Bar to find where the musical pub crawl starts. Alas, too wet for us to do that tonight. Sheltering in a doorway we met a man who knew where our (very) small town is - he used to work nearby. Pre-dinner drinks in the pub as there's no alcohol allowed in the hostel.  Chatted to 2 mad Scotsmen over for the Bank Holiday weekend. Allegedly they were both speaking English, but one had to translate for us. Couldn't understand a word the other said.

Out and about in DublinOut and about in Dublin

Sunday 27 May (In Dublin):

Got the first hop-on-hop-off bus of the day and did the full circuit with live commentary - so much better than the recorded one. On the 2nd circuit we got off at Trinity College which was interesting but didn't really hold any meaning for me. Much more meaningful was the Guinness Storehouse where I poured (and drank) the perfect pint! Pity the poor bugger who owns the land. He's not making any money out of it. Arthur Guinness took out a 9000 year lease at the outrageous price of £45/year. Laughing! Last stop on our tour was the Archaeology Museum where we saw the bog men.

Pouring the perfect pintPouring the perfect pint
The hags with the bagsThe hags with the bags

Pub for dinner where I set the barman the challenge of finding me a wine that wasn't Australian. It took him half an hour, but he did find it.


This was part one of my trip with Mum in 2007. I'll be posting more here eventually, but in the mean time, if you'd like to read the whole thing, here's the link: https://flyinggoannas.wordpress.com/past-trips/2007-jenny-joan-in-the-uk-ireland-and-paris/

Tags: ireland, road trip



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