Day 3-4 we were to stay at Kilronan Castle which is near Carrick-on-Shannon. At the advice of my Trip Advisor friends, KillyWilly I believe, we decided to go "in and then up", so essentially Gort, Clonmacnoise, Athlone, Carrick-on-Shannon then to Kilronan Castle.
We had no problem driving the highways to Gort, then finding Thoor Ballylee, which, as Tony2phones wrote, is closed because of a flood. We walked around the tower, took some lovely scenic pictures of the bridge, fall foliage, etc, then got back in the car headed to Clonmacnoise.
Clonmacnoise was really beautiful - what a view! The sun was shining (we had perfect weather all week) and the light sparkling on the river and shining over the stones and green grass was gorgeous. It was very peaceful and quiet; there was only one other family there, and a small neighborhood dog who apparently comes to visit the tourists. One thing we did learn is at the chapel down by the river, there is an offering plate built into the stones that is filled with coins - apparently people make an offering there for help with their migranes.
Next up - Athlone to Sean's pub for a driving break. We wanted to go here at "the oldest pub in Ireland" and we are glad we stopped, though they weren't serving food. There was only one other regular in the bar, and a nice bartender Steve who served up a nice pint and had a cozy fire burning. After a rest , and picking up a cappuccino a few doors down at a coffee shop, we were back on the road toward Kilronan.
Now, my plans were to drive through Carrick-on-Shannon, check in to the hotel, then catch a cab to Boyle for dinner, these plans did not work. We stopped for a break at Carrick and had a beverage at The Oarsman which was a nice place. By the time we were on the road to Kilronan, the sun was setting in gorgeous pinks and purples, mist was rising over the fields and we got some beautiful photos of the landscape. Once checked into the hotel, we found they had a 'drawing room' which was more casual than the restaurant. We could wear our jeans and a nice shirt /sweater and feel comfortable so we decided to stay and relax there. The bartender was wonderful and attentive, they had a nice basic menu to choose from. My sister had a ceasar salad with chicken that I was envying, my husband and I had roasted chicken with a potato gratinee type thing that was delicious and my sisters husband had pan fried cod with potatos too (I think). They were all delicious and beautifully presented - and we felt at home sitting on settees with a coffee table grouped in front of a fireplace. We finished dinner with a cheese plate, cheesecake dessert and whiskey for medicinal purposes.
Our rooms were beautiful, each had a crystal chandelier and marble spa bathroom. We had rooms in the original castle that had windows that had views over the rolling green lawns, down toward the lake. We really felt spoiled.
Breakfast was served in the breakfast room/restaurant and you had your choice of the continental buffet or having the 'full irish', day one we had the former, day two we had the latter. Yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, croisants, brown bread, cereals, etc all elegantly. We prefered tea to the coffee.
Now, the first activity was super fun - and different! I had made reservations at the Lough Bo Shooting Center to try clay pigeon shooting - it was definitely challenging, but definitely fun! To get there, you had to drive down a single lane road through the country (my sister was driving, lucky me!) we did have to back up 100 feet or so to a pull off area b/c another car was coming in the other direction - so that was interesting, but we survived. The shooting center has a clear sign, and a locked gate that you wait at. There was a little confusion over the booking - I was supposed to call to confirm the reservation that I made over email, which I didn't, but it all worked out. We were first greeted by 3 dogs, a black lab Roxy, yellow lab Sandy and boxer Sally. They were so nice, and essentially let us know where to go.
The center building itself is a rustic one room cottage with fireplace - and the shooting lesson happens right in the area outside the door. Clay pigeons look like small round tea saucers and there are 5 stations or challenges to try. First everyone is given earplugs! Our instructor was Jerry and he was FANTASTIC! What a nice guy - and in our honor he had on his NRA hat with large American Flag logo on the side! The two guys in our party had fired bebe guns as kids, and the two girls had not fired a gun at all. Jerry helped each one of us individually and we each were hitting the pigeons!
There are 5 challenges, and only one person shoots at a time. Jerry stands by your side (you are in a cage like thing) and instructs you on how to hold the gun, adjust your stance, grip the gun, etc. Just to brag, I will say my first shot I hit the pigeon! Wow!
First the pigeons are going away from you, the second they are coming toward you, third is up and toward, fourth is up in the air and the fifth is called the rabbit - it is essentially rolling over the grass. It took about 2 hours, you get 5 shots at each target. We were lucky to see Shane, the owners grandson show us how real shooting is done - two launched at once a rolling rabbit and one like a bird shooting across the sky and he could hit both in what seemed like one swift graceful movement - it was incredible to see. We took a few pictures, and they got some extra guns for us to hold for our photos. I can't tell you enough how nice the family was, how great the instruction was and what a great experience we had. The only downside was that it was very misty/foggy so we couldn't really see the beautiful scenery to its full extent.
After that excitement we were headed to Drumkill to see Yeats grave where I read two poems at his graveside. (had to have some reason for going there..) We then drove up to see Creevykeel which wasn't as exciting as New Grange, but was interesting to see and speculate on. I think I was confusing it with another site I read about on TA.
Next up was Sligo where we found a parking spot and headed to Hargadon's for late lunch. Once again our timing for food was off, so we ended up sitting there relaxing for 30 mins or so until they started serving dinner at 4pm. We had a delicious late lunch of bangers and mash, sandwiches or chicken with Guiness and/or tea.
We drove back to Kilronan and had a leasurely walk on the grounds, checked out the beautiful pool and gym area ending our day with dinner again in the drawing room.
Next up on to DUBLIN!