My husband and I recently toured Ireland for 3 weeks. It was a great trip that we were finally able to complete. A prior 16-day trip last September had to be aborted after only 26 hours in Ireland due to a family tragedy. That trip was completed only in my mind and I longed to return and actually complete it in reality.
May 4, 2010: We flew into Shannon, luckily landing 1 hour before they closed the airport because of the volcano ash. We picked up our “spanking brand new” rental car from Hertz, which had nary a scratch….hhmmmm. We declined the CDW as we used our World Master Card, took a deep breath, crossed our fingers and headed out with me driving our manual shift car. In fact, it took hubby over 3 days before he tried his hand at the wheel, but I digress.
We had several near misses heading to Adare while our Garmin GPS took us through the “allyways” of Limerick….was this really the way to Adare? But, we were on a mission to find the childhood home of a friend’s father in Adare. Amazingly, it is still standing as well as other buildings in old family photos. However, the birth house is now a novelty shop. New photos of these sites taken, it is off to Cashel. It is with somewhat trepidation that I drove to Cashel, as this is where my prior trip ended with a tragic phone call before I ever had the chance to see “The Rock of Cashel”! So superstitiously, I needed to get past Cashel before I could start to relax and enjoy this trip. I’m sorry to say, “The Rock of Cashel” did not give me that “awe feeling” that I thought would inspire me…but the cell phone did not ring which was upper most on my mind. I breathed a sigh of relief; relaxed somewhat and we were off to Cahir Castle a short distance away.
Being a history buff, I love castles and Cahir Castle delivered. But, better still was Swiss Cottage that was nearby, not a castle, but a charming historical bungalow…loved it! By now though, jet lag was taking over fast, as we searched for our B&B, Silverstream, that was nestled between farms in the nearby Village of Goetenbridge. After a very warm welcome, tea, scones and cookies and a walk among the peaceful farms, animals and countryside, our heads finally hit the pillow.
May 5, 2010: We were up bright and early, had a delicious Irish breakfast and was off to Carrick-on-Suir to see Ormond Castle…this actually became one of our favorite castles as we were the only people there and even got to tour the attic. We used our Heritage Cards that we had bought the day before at Cashel and were able to use them just about everywhere. They paid for themselves before the end of the first day.
Next, we set off for Inistoige, but got “side stopped” by Jerpoint Abbey as we passed it. The abbey, even in the rain is hauntingly beautiful and an extremely interesting site. Checking the time on our watch, we mistakenly foregoed Inistoige and headed to Graiguenamanagh to the Cushiondale Woolen Mill. Our GPS taking us beyond and above the town on a “cowpath”, before we finally found the mill. Somewhere, I thought I had read that they gave tours…NOT!! All that way, just for a tiny woolen shop…hubby was not smiling. So, I promised him that the next stop would be more interesting…Bennettsbridge to see pottery being made and a woodworking shop for my wood working husband. Well…the woodworking shop was closed, “gone to Australia” and the pottery, while lovely, was far too pricey and the viewing window left much to be desired. So far…batting 2 for 0…..
We finally arrived at our B&B in Kilkenny for the next 2 days, Carriglea House. We joined another couple from the B&B at a pub for dinner. As the bartender took our order, he asked, “do ya all want Guinness”? I replied, “I don’t think so…I’ve been told that it is very strong and that I wouldn’t like it”. He looked at me strangely and 5 minutes later brought me a glass of Guinness and said, “now try this will ya’ and tell me what you think of it”! After a few sips and finding it “pretty darn good”, I decided, that you shouldn’t believe all that you are told. A few minutes later, the bartender was back carrying 2 more glasses…this time, a Smithwick and a Kilkenny saying, “ now try these and tell me which ya’ like the best”! Delicious…feeling no pain, I downed them all…not a problem about liking them!
May 6, 2010: We walked to Kilkenny Castle right after breakfast. So different from the other castles we had seen, as this one is fully furnished, though of a different period, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. We spent the rest of the day exploring Kilkenny, The Design Center, a farmers market and The Black Abbey where we saw some of the most incredible stained glass windows ever. We really liked Kilkenny.
May 7, 2010: This was supposed to be mostly a driving day with stops along the way at various places with our final destination being Clonakilty in Co. Cork. As we headed out of Kilkenny with me driving still, I “needled” my hubby about wasting all that extra money for him to be the extra driver, if he was never even going to attempt to drive. “Well…perhaps this road was wide enough for him to try”, he said. So, we switched places and it was now me cringing as we brushed the passenger side of the car with the hedges. I stupidly decided that it would be fun to stop in Ardmore, which is on the seashore. As we attempted to drive through the extremely tight streets of the village, hubby veered sharply to the left to avoid an oncoming car in his lane, knocking into a short yellow metal pole that snapped our left windshield back. Shaken, we stopped the car to inspect the damage, remembering that we had no CDW. Luckily, the windshield snapped back into place and there was only the tiniest mark of yellow paint residue on the mirror. We breathed a sigh of relief, but hubby handed me back the keys. We quickly left Ardmore and headed for Cobh where my ancestors embarked for the USA.
Cobh is a very interesting town and actually quite colorful. To be quite honest, I wish we had spent far more time there then we did, doing perhaps the Queenstown Story, The Titanic Walk and climbing up to see the church etc. But, I thought that I also wanted to spend some time in Kinsale and the afternoon was passing too quickly as it takes far more time to drive from here to there in Ireland then you think it will take. So, we took the ferry to Milltown and were soon in Kinsale. It was full of tourists doing the touristy shops, but the town was nowhere as interesting as Cobh. How I wished that I had spent more time in Cobh rather then hurrying to get to Kinsale. We walked around a bit and then, not finding much to interest us, decided to head to Clonakilty. As we neared Timoleague, the ruins of Timoleague Abbey could be seen silhouetted in the distance. It was strikingly beautiful and we were compelled to stop. Walking through the abbey with the birds flying over our heads not happy with us disturbing them, all I could think of was the destruction Oliver Cromwell had strewn throughout Ireland. So far, we had already seen much of his handiwork, but would see far more in the following weeks. Finally tearing ourselves away from the abbey, we made our way to Clonakilty and our B&B for the next 3 days, The Glendine Irish Home.
May 8, 2010: After a great breakfast, advice and extra maps from our hosts we set out to explore the southwestern area of Co. Cork. We first went to Inchydoney Island on the Atlantic Ocean where we found people actually surfing the waves, albeit in body suits. The wind coming off the ocean was so cold, we soon left it to drive along the ocean on extremely narrow roads, stopping at Dronbeg Circle till we found ourselves at beautiful Glandore where it was warm and sunny. We stopped there for tea, scones, jam and cream on a table outside over looking the delightful harbor. We must have relaxed there for over an hour, drinking it all in…it was picture perfect. We continued on to Union Hall, Castletownshend, Skibbereen and finally Baltimore. The entire area was lovely and we enjoyed our day. As it was getting late, we headed back to Clonakilty, hubby driving some now too. We were greeted at Glendine with tea and rhubarb muffins and warm conversation, as we were each day we were there.
May 9, 2010: Another delicious breakfast and we headed for The Mizen Head Peninsula. We stopped for a while at a Sunday farmers market in Schull, which was most enjoyable. We love farmers markets. We continued on to Crookhaven where being a wonderful warm day, we again had tea and scones outside on the docks. Delightful..learning to love tea. We continued to Barley Cove and walked the floating pontoon walkway across the inlet and then continued to Mizen Head to the lighthouse sharing the road with the sheep. But, it was closed as they were putting a new road/walkway to it. Disappointed, we made our way back to Clonakilty and more tea and muffins.
May 10, 2010: Off to The Beara Peninsula with Kenmare as our final destination. The peninsula is unforgettablely stunning with intriguing sea and landscapes not seen elsewhere. It is also quite large and it took a long time to drive it. We stopped in Allihies for our usual tea and scones along with a smoked salmon sandwich…delicious. We seemed to be the only people in the tiny windswept rugged village. Looking around, I wondered what would bring people to this remote area, but the beauty being outstanding answered my question. We continued on to the Healey Pass…this is a must drive, not hard, but magnificent. We finally found our way to Kenmare and our delightful 2 bedroom self -catering cottage, “The Tigin” for the next 3 nights.
We absolutely loved The Tigin. I had originally reserved it for last September, but had to cancel. Since then, it was badly damaged due to its’ pipes bursting because of the extremely cold temperatures this past winter in Ireland. So, it needed to be full renovated with all new ceilings, woodwork, carpet, and all new paint throughout. It looked and was essentially brand new. We were the first to use it since its’ renovation and it was quaint, but absolutely lovely. The Tigin is on a small farm within walking distance to Kenmare, not far from Watersedge B&B. It is reasonably priced, most comfortable and is fully equipped. It was so enjoyable to have so much room, to look out at the Caha Mountains and be able to roam the hills around the farm.
I tried to review The Tigin for Trip Advisor, but Trip Advisor told me by email “it did not meet their listing requirements.” However, they did tell me “ I was welcome to post my review on the trip advisor forum.”
I hope to have week 2 posted in the next day or so.