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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Irish Spring

Carl left this morning, it's past midnight and I've already written school reports for 10 hours today.   I need to get this written tonight since I have more company coming from the US tomorrow, so I imagine this blog will be lots of pretty pictures with very few words.  But who knows, I can get carried away.  Let's get started.

The week before my  midterm break, Carl joined me at my home in Tonbridge.  While I was teaching school, he went off to Paris Disneyland, but if you want to know about that, you'll have to get him to write his own blog.  When we discussed where to go for the school break, Carl said he would like an Irish Spring, so that's what we did.  We focused on the southern part of the country, particularly counties Kerry, Cork and Clare.  We drove to Wales and caught the ferry to Ireland at Holyhead.  We ended up in Dublin, but since I'd been there for St. Patrick's Day, we drove on to Galway.  First stop, the Crane Pub for some cheerful Irish music. 
Sampling the Local Beverages
Musicians at the Crane Pub in Galway

We got up early the next morning to head to the Cliffs of Moher.  Since I'm used to driving on the left, I did all the driving in Ireland, which gave me the freedom to jerk to the side of the road when I'd see a pretty castle and hop out to take a photo.  I'd never heard of Dunguaire Castle, but when I ran over to take a photo (with the car engine still running; I really thought it would be a quick snap) I noticed a sign that said 2 things I couldn't resist:  Traditional Crafts and Medieval Banquet Tonight.  Needless to say, I fetched Carl from the car to make a closer inspection. While Carl was purchasing banquet tickets for later that night,  I bought my mom a birthday present from a man who had been making jewelry in the same little castle room for 22 years.  He said he liked it there; he could watch the swallows from the window.

Dunguaire Castle

Now I wasn't really sure why Carl was all hyped up to go see some cliffs, but I got it once we were there.  The Cliffs of Moher are pretty spectacular.

Cliffs of Moher
Another one of the Cliffs

We returned to the castle for the banquet where there were 60
Swedes from a tour bus and us.   There was entertainment including
storytelling and harp playing and
singing of Swedish songs;  all was fun.

The next day we took a ferry out to one of the Aran Islands.  When I got off the boat I was greeted by Patrick who asked me if I'd like a tour of the island by horse cart.  I said I'd need to see if my husband would like to do that, and Patrick patiently waited while a couple hundred other potential customers got off the boat.  I was beginning to think Carl had jumped overboard (we couldn't sit together, as we were about the last people on the ferry and there weren't seats together anywhere) but finally Carl, who had fallen asleep somehow on the bumpy ride, emerged.  Much to my relief, and Patrick's too, I'm sure, Carl agreed that this was the way to see the island.  As we were trotting around Inishmore Island, I asked Patrick how long he had lived there, and he replied that his family had lived on the island for over 400 years.  He definitely knew his way around! 

Carl, Me, Patrick and Brownie
Leprechaun House on Inishmore Island
Dun Aengus Fort
Thatched Cottage

Having a Wonderful Day in Ireland!

Aran Island Sheep

The next day we drove the Dingle Ring Road around the Dingle Peninsula.  Here are a few of the sights we saw along the way.

Famine Cottages

Famine Cottage Interior

Dunbeg Fort, Built in the Iron Age

More of Dunbeg

12th Century Beehive Huts

Beautiful Seaside!

Both Carl and I like old churches, so we set off to find Kilmalkedar Church, built in the 12th century.  One of the features mentioned in our Rick Steves guide to Ireland was the Ogham Stone located in the churchyard.  Evidently it's a holy spot where sacred promises are made and couples touch their thumbs together through the hole in the stone to renew their marriage vows.  Carl knows I'm a sucker for a good photo opp, so I went ahead and renewed!
Ogham Stone

Sealing the Deal

Klimalkedar Church
I hope Mary is praying for me if I just signed up for more years of marriage!

First this way....
We noticed a sign near Kilmalkedar Church that told about a "Monks Walk" pilgrimage path that passed nearby.  In a state of newly remarried bliss, we decided to follow the monks.

....then that way....

....through the sheep pasture.....
....and back this way....
....past the mossy rocks....

....through another field.....

...and back again.

We never did find the carved rocks that were supposed to be along the Monks Walk, but we did have a fun time romping through the fields with the sheep, so it was all good.

The next day we drove around the Ring of Kerry, beginning at  Killarney National Park where we toured the castle there.  It was pretty nice, but being a farm girl myself, what I really enjoyed in the park was the Muckross Traditional Farm.

Killarney Castle

At Muckross Traditional Farm

Bread Baking over the Fire

Farmhouse Bedroom

Main Room in one of the Farm Houses

I drove very carefully as we continued on our way, as you never know when the wee folk might be crossing the twisty roads...

...luckily, no Leprechauns were hit while I was driving.

Ring of Kerry Views

More of the Beautiful Coast along the Ring of Kerry

Cahergal Ring Fort

This Stone Ring Fort Dates from 600 AD

From the Ring Fort we could see this castle, so we decided to go investigate.

We got closer....

....and closer....

...and since no one was around, we climbed right up and made ourselves at  home!
Can you find Carl in the Castle Ruins?'

Okay, we've driven the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, so there was just one more peninsula to go, Beara Peninsula.

Beautiful Beara Peninsula

Despite the fabulous views, I was a little tired of doing a lot of driving on the curvey roads, so when we saw a sign advertising a boat trip out to a "Garden Island," I was all for it.

The boat passed by some of the locals.

This fellow seemed very interested in the visitors. 

I liked the view standing on the outside ledge on
boat as we zipped across the water.

Garinish Island

Gardens on Garinish

Carl and me on the Garden Island

After the welcome break from driving, we continued around the Beara Peninsula and ended up in Kinsale, which Rick Steves described as the "Sausalito" if Ireland.  We had to agree that this was a very apt description, and felt quite almost like we were back in California.  We had a lovely meal then headed to a local pub for some more traditional Irish music.

Kinsale Harbor

The next day was the day I had been waiting for and Carl had been dreading: Blarney Castle.  I could hardly wait to kiss the famous stone, which Carl thought was disgusting and unsanitary.

Blarney Castle

Carl was afraid that there would be long lines of people waiting to kiss the stone, but I really wanted him to go with me to take my picture even if he didn't want to risk any deadly diseases.  Since he had just promised undying love a few days ago, reluctantly, he came along to the top of the castle.  It was our lucky day, and there was hardly anyone there as they closed off the entry to the Blarney Stone right after us because a film crew was setting up to do some kind of travel show.  It was perfect!
Kissing the Blarney Stone!

View from the top of Blarney Castle

Gardens at Blarney Castle

Carl and Me at Blarney

Since I got to go to Blarney, Carl got to choose the next stop, the Rock of Cashel.  I'd never heard of it, and it's 2:00 a.m., so I'm just going to cut and paste a bit from the tourist information site:

It's huge, it's complex, it's iconic, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world and it's right here in Cashel at the heart of Tipperary. The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick's Rock, is reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. Long before the Norman invasion The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster. Most of the buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church. The buildings represent both Hiberno-Romanseque and Germanic influences in their architecture.

So there you have it, the Rock of Cashel.

I liked the heads adorning the ceiling...

..and the carvings on the tombs.

View from the Rock of Cashel

Graveyard at the Rock of Cashel

Another night of Trad Music.  Sorry, the pub lighting wasn't good for photos.

The next day was the final day of our Irish Spring.  We had spent the night in Kilkenny, so in the morning, of course, we toured Kilkenny Castle.
Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle Fountain

We couldn't leave Ireland without visiting one more church, so we went to St. Canice's Cathedral.  The Round Tower at St. Canice's is one of only 2 Round Towers that visitors can climb in Ireland, and is the oldest structure in Kilkenny, so of course, we had to climb up!

St. Canice's Cathedral and Round Tower

At the Top of the Tower.

It was a long, steep climb and our last night in Ireland, so it was a 2 band night.

Here's the first band from the Kyteler's Inn, one of the oldest pubs
in Ireland established in  13th century by the notorious Dame Alice deKyteler
who was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned.
Luckily for Alice, she escaped execution, but her maid was not so fortunate.

The next band we saw ended up being one of the highlights of our trip.  We thought we would have a quiet dinner at our hotel and make it an early night, since we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get to our ferry in the morning.  During our meal, the waiter asked us if we would mind moving to another table so the band could set up.  "What kind of band?"  I asked.  "Reggae"  was the reply.  Intriguing.   So we stuck around.  Well, it certainly was not reggae, but it definitely was entertaining!!  When the delightful sounds of Zydeco music filled the air, I was hooked and Carl just knew there was no leaving now.  I love Zydeco!!  It makes me think of gators, swamps, gumbo and all things Cajun.  It seemed ironically out of place, but the band members were having such a great time and were absolutely hilarious, particularly the fellow below with the washboard vest, who also played other percussion instruments and the accordion.  He was a crack-up.  We learned that the band members were all teachers from the UK cutting loose on their midterm holiday just like me!  We all had to enjoy the end of our break before heading back to work, so we ended up staying up until 1 in the morning.  One of my mottos this year has been, "I can sleep next year."

There you have it.  Now it's almost 3 a.m., so I'm not going to edit this before I publish it.  Yes, I know, I can sleep next year, but I am responsible for people's children in the morning, so I do need a bit of a nap before heading to work.  If you managed to get through this blog, I hope you enjoyed this taste of Ireland as much as Carl and I did!  


  1. You guys look so great together! It sounds like you were busy but happy with lots of fun thrown in for good measure. So glad you made it out to Dingle and got to go to a medieval banquet. (BTW your outfit on the garden island is super cute!)

  2. Thanks, it was a fun time. The outfit is a charity shop skirt and a tie dye top, glad you like it.


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