October 17 – Carrots, Castles and country roads

First up today was the Galway city market, where we saw all kinds of treasures, including giant carrots and parsnips, 50 pound bags of peeled potatoes, vats of olives and pestos and hummus and antipasto, cookies, cupcakes, chocolates, and fresh baked blueberry and white chocolate spelt muffins which had SCAATY written all over them.  It was the coldest morning of our visit, but we bundled up and strolled down to Eyre Square while listening to street musicians along the way.   We broke tradition and our scone addiction, and replaced them with the warm muffins.

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We roared off down the multilane highway, wondering at first if we were lost as we were not used to such big roads.  Then we got bored with that and meandered along the smaller roads with natural archways of overhanging trees, charming villages, and beautiful rural scenes that we had become accustomed to, on the way past Athlone and on to Trim.

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Trim is a town in County Meath, which is dominated by a medieval castle built in 1173.  This is the largest Norman castle in Europe.

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We continued through the countryside, and back to Dublin where it all began. After a quick stop at the car rental company to “straighten” things out, we checked into our hotel for our last night in Ireland.  We had dinner at the Ivy Pub to celebrate our last night.  Al, just count the number of pints in this picture – you would be so proud…

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A peculiar thing happened to all of us as we travelled around Ireland — we fell in love with this country and started to turn into leprechauns from the toes up…

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October 16 – Ponies, Parks, Pints and Peat

We spent today in the country, taking in the beauty of the Connemara region on the west coast. Our first stop was in the village of Clifden, where we enjoyed our regular scone, tea and shopping therapy.

On the advice of a local shopkeeper we drove the upper Sky Road along the coast for some amazing views and some extremely windy bendy roads.

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We happened upon some of the famous Connemara ponies, who posed long enough for us to get some wonderful photos.

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Unique features of this area include these ponies, peat bogs, many scenic lakes, and the Abbeyglen Castle.

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The number one attraction in western Ireland was along our route.  Kylemore Abbey was originally a private residence, but since 1920 has been home to a community of nuns who have worked to restore the Abbey.

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Our day ended with a nice dinner at a pub along the road, which of course included pints

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October 15 – Rocks, rocks, and more rocks

We departed Park House after our replacement van was delivered, and headed for the local Woolen Mill. Dropped a few euros and then back on the road again to Ennis, which is a delightful town.  We wandered the cobbled streets for a bit, checked out several bakeries, and then had a scone stop.

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Time was flying so we got back on the road and drove to one of Ireland’s most famous sites, the Cliffs of Moher.  These cliffs loom over 800 feet above the sea, and are truly an amazing sight.image
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We stopped at another woolen mill near Doolin, and a couple more members picked up some lovely sweaters.  Then we drove through another amazing natural feature of Ireland, the Burren area which has terrain in stark contrast to anything we have seen so far on this trip.  This is a vast cracked pavement of glacial era limestone, cliffs, caves, and rock formations, and covers approximately 250 square kilometres.  As Oliver Cromwell’s surveyor said about this area in the 1600’s: “There isn’t a tree to hang a man, water to drown a man, nor soil to bury a man.”  It seems not much has changed since then.

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Clearly the inhabitants were innovative and resourceful when they needed to define property lines and contain livestock.

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October 14 – Two weeks, three vehicles, ?? pints, and “the incident”

Our day started out great, with a wonderful breakfast cooked by a chef, who is the husband of the woman who runs the B&B.  We then headed back out onto the “wild Atlantic way” and drove to Kilkee, a favourite summer resort for the Irish. We hiked along a trail between the ocean and a golf course and got some gorgeous pictures of the waves crashing on the cliffs.

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Back on the road we headed to the most westerly point of Ireland at the Loop Head lighthouse, and saw more precipitous cliffs and crushing waves.

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We hopped back into the van, hoping for a quick trip to the nearest tea and scone shop, when our day changed dramatically and we came to a grinding halt, in the middle of nowhere due to a shredded tire. Four hours later, after the vehicle was deemed unsafe to drive, we were finally on our way in a taxi to Shannon airport to pick up a replacement vehicle.  All that was available was a small Corsa, so we took it for the evening and headed off to the medieval feast at the Bunratty Castle, which was already in progress.

It was a great way to end a trying day, and the wine helped too…

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October 13 – limericks from Limerick

Reluctantly, we packed up and left Atlantic Waves and headed north. Our first stop was the village of Adare, which was purported to be the prettiest village in Ireland. It was pretty, but they are all pretty.

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We passed through Limerick and stopped at Newmarket-on-Fergus for a quick and yummy lunch.

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We visited an old abbey just down the road, called Quin Abbey, which dates back to the early fifteenth century.

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We took the “scenic” route to our new home, Park House in Bunratty, and settled in. Then we had a dinner date to meet Linda’s Irish cousins at Durty Nelly’s, right across the street from Bunratty Castle. We had a lovely meal and a visit; then moved into the snug to hear what we hoped would be traditional Irish music.

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To our amazement and surprise, the first song they sang was Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds” – we had no idea this is considered “traditional Irish”!! After some prompting they did eventually sing some songs of the type we had been waiting for, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

So in honour of Limerick, we couldn’t resist:

Five fabulous women from SCAATY
Who were all a little bit batty,
Found Guinness aplenty
On the way to Kilkenny,
And again on the road to Bunratty.

A lady who wanted to travel
Said to her friends, “Don’t unravel.
Let’s fly ‘cross the ocean
And cause a commotion,
Then escape well ahead of the gavel.”

We made a quick stop in Adare,
But the locals were kept unaware,
That the ladies were shopping
And monies were dropping,
Till all of the shelves were left bare.

We’ve learned some new phrases in Ireland,
Clonakilty, Skibereen, Hook Head Strand,
Gorey, Dingle and Bray
Kilkenny, Inch and Galway,
And many “Slante” and “Sure it’s Grand”!

October 12 – Dingle all the way…

Today we spent our last day on the Dingle peninsula exploring the local area.  The day began with the three gung-ho members hiking down to the sea shore, while Karen and Paula watched from the comfort of the arm chairs, and supervised the laundry.

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Then we were off to Brandon Point in search of leprechauns and other mythical creatures, but all we found were sheep, more sheep,and panoramic views.


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We stopped in a quaint pub for a cup of tea or cappuccino, then scoured the village of Castlegregory for a non-existent art co-op.  Breakfast seemed long gone so we ate some sandwiches at the beach, then stopped for a pastry at the local Spar grocery store.

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Then we were ready for a little off-roading, so went to Glanteensig Forest Recreation Area.  We thought we were going for a short hike but ended up on a 1.8 km circle route on the Irish interpretation of a boardwalk; all the while communing with more sheep.

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On the way back to town we ran into a small scale version of a sheep herding display by two local dogs along the road.

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After happy hour at our cabin it was back to our favourite restaurant, Spillanes, for more yummy seafood.  Unfortunately they did not have sticky toffee pudding on the menu tonight, so we settled with sharing a banoffee pie (banana and caramel covered in whipped cream) which was a passable second choice!

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October 11 – One sheep, Two sheep, Red sheep, Blue sheep

As we cleverly decided to spend three nights at our new home, we had time to sleep in for a change, so we did!  And then we had a leisurely breakfast in our own kitchen (this new home being a self-catering cottage).  We enjoyed sitting and looking out the front window at the magnificent view of the ocean.

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We finally got mobile and headed out over the Connor Pass towards the town of Dingle, stopping frequently for another OMG moment; to squeeze past another oncoming vehicle on the so-called two lane road; or to take yet another photo of the many many sheep.  Karen was already licking her chops in anticipation of another lamb shank dinner!  Once the sheep got wind of this, they seemed to disappear.  They must have heard she was baaaaad news!

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Our next stop was at Inch Beach, where we walked on the sand, watched surfers and enjoyed the fresh sea air.  Inch Beach is 5 kilometres long, or precisely 196,850 inches; all of them gorgeous.  The sun gods blessed us again today and we had lovely weather — who knew you could come to Ireland and get a tan?!

We dragged ourselves away to continue the tour and next stopped at some Famine Cottages, where we learned more about the living conditions during the great potato famine.  Our next stop was at the Louis Mulcahy pottery studio, where once again we did a little shopping therapy.

Then it was off to Dingle town to do a little more retail therapy before everything shut down for the day.

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Next stop was happy hour at the cottage, which included Guinness, Jameson’s, Diet Coke, Bits & Bites, and chocolate – yum!

Our last stop of the day was at the Seven Hogs restaurant (so named as there are 7 islands off the coast).  We had another good dinner, including lamb shanks (those lambs had good reason to be afraid!).

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