Ireland, days 11-12: The Cliffs of Moher and Connemara National Park

For some reason, all of us had failed to realise that this hotel came without breakfast when we did the booking, so the next morning our first stop was the shopping centre close to the hotel where we bought meal deals from Tesco. A pretty decent sandwich, drink and snack for €3 is pretty good value!! I picked up two meal deals… one for breakfast and one for lunch. Jan chose to get his breakfast from the place next door – The Gourmet Tart Co. Then we were on our way.

We stopped at Dunguaire Castle, on the south-eastern shore of Galway Bay for photos. Apparantly this castle is thought to be among the most photographed in Ireland.

Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle
Galway Bay, viewed from beside the castle
Galway Bay, viewed from beside the castle

Opposite the castle, we found a ruined cottage that nature was doing it’s best to take over. Much more interesting to me than yet another castle 😉

OK, the picture doesn't look like much... but inside was cool!
OK, the picture doesn’t look like much… but inside was cool!

Then it was on to the Cliffs of Moher! This is where we encountered the only true unfriendliness of our time in Ireland… pulling into the carpark, we noticed a sign saying it cost €6… which seemed a lot just to park! When we got to the ticket window, the woman told us it would be €6 admission per person! We asked what it would cost just to park and were again told “the admission fee is six euro per person.” Well yes, but what if we just want to park? “The admission fee is six euro per person.” Were we dealing with a robot or what?! After being told a third time that the admission was €6 per person (but not whether it was even possible to just park) we decided to just pay up. We then got leaflets that actually told us what the admission was for (the visitor’s centre mainly). Then finally we were allowed to park and go look at the cliffs!

The Cliffs of Moher "experience"... this is what we payed 6 euros for.
The Cliffs of Moher “experience”… this is what we payed 6 euros for.

The cliffs were definitely just as amazing as I’d been told! If you walk to the right, there’s a little tower (which you have to pay another €2 to climb. HA! As if!) and a field of cows. To the left there are more fields. And, of course, at both sides there are cliffs. We went to the right first, took photos of the view and the tower, and us girls saw a puffin!! jan saw it too, but not clearly enough to see that it really was a puffin so he just has to take our word for it. I know it was 100% a puffin though… I saw its beak!

Cliffs
Cliffs
Cliffs and dandelions... me trying to be "artistic"
Cliffs and dandelions… me trying to be “artistic”
The tower that we did NOT pay €2 to climb...
The tower that we did NOT pay €2 to climb…

Apparantly one of the Harry Potter films was filmed here, but it’s one I haven’t seen so no idea. We were also told a few days later that the Cliffs of Moher were used in the Princess Bride, but I didn’t recognise anything so clearly it’s been tooo long since I last saw that film and I desperately need to watch it again!
Jan, K and I then walked back down to where we’d started and took the path to the left. Once you reach the end of the visitor’s area, there are signs warning you that the cliff walk could be dangerous… there are no fences out there to make sure you don’t fall off! But we were pretty sure we could take care of ourselves,  so out we went 😉

Cliffs of Moher 3

Charlie enjoyed the cliffs too...
Charlie enjoyed the cliffs too…

We had a lovely walk, saw plenty of seagulls and also what may have been more puffins – they were quite far down so it’s difficult to tell. Jan said they were like flying penguins, which is actually a pretty perfect description! Whether what we saw were puffins or some toher black and white sea bird, they were fascinating to watch!

That rock on the very left is where the birds like to nest
That rock on the very left is where the birds like to nest

After walking for quiiite a while, we turned back to find the other two guys and get our lunch from the car. We enjoyed our meal deals sitting outside the visitor’s centre, then went in for a look at the gift shop and exhibition. I bought my grandma a gift, purchased a few postcards and tried to get stamps, but they had sold out (the second place – I’d asked at the gift shop in Adare as well and they also said they’d run out!). The exhibition wasn’t that brilliant – none of the buttons you could press actually worked and there was waaaay too much to read! The wildlife photos that were displayed around the walls were good though.

After leaving the cliffs, we tried to visit Caherconnell Stone Fort, but they were just closing for the day as we arrived (and had also run out of stamps!!) so we moved on to Poulnabrone dolmen, a portaltomb that probably dates back to between 4200 BCE and 2900 BCE. That is old!! The two photos below were taken by Jan as my camera battery had run out on the cliffs…

The dolmen
The dolmen
Some of the cool limestone surrounding the dolmen
Some of the cool limestone surrounding the dolmen

Once we’d finished taking photos of the Dolmen, we got back in the car and drove back to Galway, where we parked in town and went to find food. We had already agreed that tonight would be pie night, so to The Pie Maker we went… and had an amazing meal for only €9!! LESS than the night before and much, much tastier! Here is my pie which has a filling of sausage in veal gravy. Soooo good!

Pie, glorious pie!
Pie, glorious pie!

I took the photo using my friends camera.
And, in case delicious pies aren’t enough to convince you, here’s the ceiling decoration at The Pie Maker:

Inside The Pie Maker
Inside The Pie Maker

If you are ever in Galway, go here!!!! (If you think I’m enthusiastic now, you should have heard us advertising to everyone who came in after us! Some pies had run out after we ordered and she’d put a new batch in the oven, so she was telling people it would be about a 20 minute wait. We were sitting there saying “It’s totally worth the wait! Definitely hang around!!”. Haha). For dessert, Jan, K and I shared the rhubabrb and ginger pie, which was YUM!! I would have loved to trie the pistacio fudge pie, but I couldn’t have managed a whole one so we decided to share and went with one of the “safe” options (too much lactose in a fudge pie).

After our delicious pies, it was off to another pub – Sehan Ua Neachtain. I have no idea what that means or how it’s supposed to be pronounced, but the pub is just fabulous! You go in and it just looks like a small bar, but then round the corner is another seating area, then there’s another bar, and near the toilets are little individual booths where you can sit privately with your group. My words cannot do it justice and unfortunately my camera battery was still dead so no photos. There also seemed to be a decent mix of tourists and locals in there, and they did a decent range of beers as well. I had a local beer (Nimmo’s) and then tried an Irish cider, produced in Cork. After our drinks, we went and picked up the car then drove back to our hotel.

The next day, after picking up our meal deals from Tesco, we drove north of Galway to the Connemara National Park. It was another hinking day, but this time not in the rain.

Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park

We did the blue trail (easy) then the red trail, which involved climbin Diamond Hill…. and in some places it literally was “climbing”… up a staircase of stones! It was a sunny day as well, and I was very glad of my suncream! Annoyingly, the sun kept coming at me from the side and below, rendering my hat useless. Every time the breeze was blocked by part of the hill I thought I might die from the heat, but eventually we made it to the top (“we” being the girls – the three guys had raced on ahead!). The views from the top were worth the climb:

The view from the top
The view from the top – I have no idea why all my pictures are so cloudy… I swear there was sun!!
More of the view... the building you can see across the water is Kylemore Abbey
More of the view… the building you can see across the water is Kylemore Abbey
Of course there had to be a CHarlie photo at the top...
Of course there had to be a CHarlie photo at the top…

We also saw this adorable puppy up there, and the equally as adorable little boy who was accompanying him. (Oh, and there was also an adult with them of course ;-))

Gorgeous puppy!
Gorgeous puppy!

Later, we saw the puppy tied up outside the visitor’s centre crying for his owners. Awww! Naturally I had to go over and give him a stroke.

The visitor’s centre was interesting. We found out that peat had been formed from people burning charcoal for fuel… and that peat itself is now endangered due to its being used as fuel itself!

The guys wanted to go for some more hiking at Killary Harbour, one of only three glacial fjords in Ireland, but I decided I’d already had enough hiking in the sun for one day and K didn’t want to hike up a mountain, so we split up. Jan stayed with us girls, which surprised me as I thought he would have wanted to hike…
We parked the care in Leenaun (also known as Leenane), a village on the shore of Killary Harbour.

The harbour
The harbour – see, I told you there was sun that day!

We had parked the car in the carpark of a hotel (with permission!) and decided to go inside the hotel for a cup of tea. We were told we could sit in the loungee (I wish I’d taken a photo… comfy sofas, old books and a real fireplace!!) and she brough our tea to us… with biscuits! Hob Nobs and Chocolate Digestives! So much better than more hiking! It was nice to just sit, have a cup of tea and chat for a while… and the tea ended up being surprisingly cheap as well! So if you’re in the area and fancy a cuppa, Leenane Hotel is the place to go! (Don’t ask me if the hotel part is any good though… we were only in the lounge!).

Once the rest of our party came back, we drove around for a while trying to get to the shore of a lake but only ending up in the driveways of farmhouses, which I found highl entertaining, so eventually we gave up and drove back to Galway. We parked in the town centre again and went in search of food, deciding that as it was pretty much the end of the holiday we would splurge a bit and pick a decet restaurant. We ended up at a place called Ard Bia on Nimmo’s Pier, where we were very lucky to get a place – they said the table was actually reserved that evening but if we could finish our meal in 40 minutes we were welcome to use it until the next group came.

I LOVED the decor… such cute jugs for the flowers, and all the adorable teapots everywhere…

Ard Bia table decorations
Ard Bia table decorations
Teapots at Ard Bia
Teapots at Ard Bia

The food was also really good. I had a starter of courgette and warm haloumi salad, which came with the most delicious bread:

Halloumi and courgette salad
Halloumi and courgette salad

Then I ordered lamb for main, while Jan went for the sea trout. There was a bit of a mix-up with the mains, with the wiatress having written down 3 trout and two lamb rather than vice versa, so my meal was a little late coming. The waitress came over and apologised profusely though, and was so, so nice that I didn’t mind the wait. I forgot to take a photo of my lamb, so here’s one of Jan’s fish instead:

Sea trout
Sea trout

For desert, I had lemon posset topped with raspberries and strawberries. Even though I was technically full, this stuff was so smooth is just slid down my throat. Sooooooooooo tasty! I also tried a bit of K’s raspberry and rose sorbet, which was OMG amazing!! Droooool! This is my dessert:

Lemon posset
Lemon posset

We finished just in time! The people who had reserved our table were just arriving as we paid the bill.
Aaand that was our final night in Galway! We were all too full to even think about fitting any drinks in, so instead we picked up the car and drove to Tesco, which is where I went shopping for the stash I showed you in a previous post.

The next day, we drove back to Dublin to drop the car of and then had one final night in Ireland before flying home… but that’s a story for my next blog post.

Ireland, day 10: Adare and Galway

We’re into the second week of the trip now… day 10, a Monday, saw us on the move again, this time travelling from Killarney to Galway. Check out time was 10 a.m., so we were up bright and early again… although it was closer to 10:30 by the time everything was squished in the car and we were ready to move. We’d decided to take things a bit easier that day and only have one stop en route, for sightseeing, leg-stretching and lunch! That stop was Adare, and I’m so, so glad we went there! The minute we eneded the village I fell in love with the thatched cottages… but first things first…

We had come to Adare to visit the castle (known as Desmond Castle) because it was on our heritage cards. The booklet that came with the cards told us access to the castle was by guided tour only, and to register for the tour we had to go to the heritage centre, so we did. It was 12 noon at this point, and the lady in the heritage centre told us the next tour was at 2. Huh. We still wanted lunch though, and I definitely wanted some photos of the thatched cottages, so we weren’t leaving just yet! First of all, we went into the Holy Trinity Abbey Church, which is right next to the heritage centre.

Inside the church
Inside the church
More of the church
More of the church

The thatched cottages were just across the road from the church, so naturally on leaving the church across the road I went! Just look at the adorableness!!

Adare cottage 1

Adare cottages 2

Adare cottages 3

Once we finished taking photos of the cottages, Jan went back to the car to fetch our sausage rolls and the rest of us headed into Adare Park to find a spot to eat lunch.

In Adare park
In Adare park

These guys came to join us, obviously hoping we would feel like sharing:

Birds
Birds
A bird on a bin!
A bird on a bin!

Once we’d eaten, we continued our walk around Adare village. We found another thatched cottage up the road from the park:

Thatched cottage

I had hoped to buy stamps, but the post office was closed for lunch. The perils of villages.
I’ve no idea what this building actually is, but I liked the look of it, so out came the camera…

Just a house? Or something else?
Just a house? Or something else?

We also came across some scary looking cattle in a field… I swear if we’d got any closer they would have charged us!

"Take one more step and you're dead!"
“Take one more step and you’re dead!”

There was still about half an hour to go before the castle tour, but some people had postcards to write so we decided we would hang around and wait after all. At 2 p.m., a mini bus turned up to take us up to the castle.

The outside of Adare Castle
The outside of Adare (Desmond) Castle

What we were told on the tour was interesting, but the guide did a terrible job of presenting it! I’m not sure whether she was bored or trying waaay to hard to remember what came next, but either way she spoke in a monotone throughout! Oh well, the castle itself and the views of the river and old bridge from the castle made up for it!

Adare Castle

Old bridge, viewed from the castle
Old bridge, viewed from the castle

The river is called the Maigue, which is pronounced May. Makes perfect sense…

The next stop was our hotel in Galway. After parking up, checking in and unloading the car, we decided to walk into town.

I really liked Galway. It is a city, but not a huge city, so it wasn’t horribly overwhelming for me (like London… I hate, hate, hate London!). And the first thing we saw when we reached the centre was water! The River Corrib flows into the sea right near Galway’s city centre. I’m sure I’ve lamented Karlsruhe’s lack of water before, so I was very exited to find out that the sea was right there in town.

Where the River Corrib meets the sea
Where the River Corrib meets the sea

The first thing we wanted to do was find out where the bus home went from. The information from the hotel had been “Eyre Square”, so off we went to find it. To get there, we walked up a street called Quay Street, where most of Galway’s pubs and restaurants seem to be. On Eyre Square, there was part of a building just standing in the middle of the square. It’s called the Browne doorway and is all that remains of a merchants house built in the early 17th century. The house was originally elsewhere, but the doorway now stands on Eyre Square.

Browne doorway
Browne doorway

We found the bus stop, checked when the last bus back to our hotel would be then went in search of something to eat. Personally, I thought some of the places on The Quay looked nice and reasonably priced, but for some reason another member of the group didn’t want to go back down there. He originally picked an “Italian” place that was offering a two-course meal for €10 (hmm, suspiciously cheap!) but we vetoed that on the grounds that every single thing on the menu contained either cheese or cream – no good for our lactose-intolerant friend! I had actually seen some of their “food” on the tables outside as well and was very relieved when the place was vetoed!

We then ended up outside a place called Finnegan’s, which advertised itself with “Eat in a genuine medieval building”. Sound like a tourist trap much? Main meals there were €9!! Again, alarm bells were going off, but by that time I was fed up of trying to talk people out of going for absolutely anything as long as it was cheap, so I went along with it. MISTAKE!!! At Finnegan’s, we ate the only bad meal in the entire two weeks we were in Ireland!! My lactose intolerant friend asked whether there was anything she could eat, and was told even the fish and chips and milk in the batter. The only thing that was safe was apparantly a chicken salad, so she ordered that… only for the plate it to turn up with grated cheese on it. Err… what?! The rest of the sald consisted of a few ingredients (one of which was tinned sweetcorn) thrown hapharzardly next to each other. Some salad!! About 10 minutes later, the hot food the rest of us had ordered finally turned up (why bring the sald first?). The waitress noticed the salad hadn’t been touched and asked if there was anything wrong with it, to which the reply was “Errr, cheese!!”.  So away went the salad to be brought back aaages later no longer with cheese, but also no longer with peppers. Umm, what? My friend then requested the bread that was supposed to come with the salad and was told soda bread had lactose in it – but they did have some little baguette slices if she wanted. Yes, of course she wanted!! There needed to be something substantial to go with the so-called “salad”.

The chicken kiev I had ordered was ok, if a bit dry, but the carrots were definitely microwaved and therefore soggy. Pretty sure the mashed potatoes had been reheated in the microwave as well. I tried some of my kale and din’t like it, but put that down to my hatred of all things cabbage-like. However, afterwards someone else said it simply hadn’t been very nice. Our waitress was friendly enough, but very young and totally clueless… hence the having to be sent back to fetch bread. *Sigh*. All in all, NOT a good experience. But I did warn everyone before we went in! Maybe next time they’ll be willing to pay a tiny bit more for some food that’s at least semi-decent! In summary, if you’re ever in Ireland and find yourself passing Finnegan’s DO NOT go in!! You can get much better food for roughly the same price elsewhere.

Anyway, enough about the crappiness! After we’d eaten, we decided to go for a walk and find the cathedral since we had plans for the next two days and might not havy any more time to explore Galway. Here, have some photos:

The Corrib
The Corrib
Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral

A couple of decided we wanted to actually see some traditional Irish music before we went home, so after taking photos of the cathedral, we headed back towards the pubs. This time, at the top of Quay Street, we turned right and went down a parallel street… which is where we spotted The Pie Maker. and its amazing sounding pies (later to be confirmed as amazing tasting too).

We discovered that we would have to wait half an hour until the first pub started its live music, so we took a walk down to the pier, walked around a bit, took Charlie photos and sat listening to a guy who was playing his guitar to himself at the water’s edge. We also saw swans flying, but I didn’t manage to get a photo of them. It was an amazing sight though!

I couldn't get a picture of swans flying, but here's one swimming...
I couldn’t get a picture of swans flying, but here’s one swimming…
Charlie ponders life's mysteries
Charlie ponders life’s mysteries

Then it was back up Quay Street and into a pub for music. I *think* the place we went to was The King’s Head, which is on High Street – the continuation of Quay Street after the crossing. It reminded me a little bit of an Irish pub called Scruffy’s here in Karlsruhe, except cleaner and with much friendlier staff!! The music was pretty good, and of course they played Galwa Girls! Four of us stayed to watch the music, while the fifth member of our group went off to get some sleep.

Musicians 1

Musicians 2

Att 11, we went to get the bus home, but on finding out we had to wait 20 minutes, we decided to walk. It’ll be fiiiine, we thought. We walked into town, after all we thought. HA! The boys (who have smartphones) took us on a detour that went through the nicer part of town. The houses in that area were really, really nice (and big… and posh!). Unfortunately, the detour took us too far south – there was never a right turn where we needed it – so we ended up walking past where our hotel was in a parallel street then having to double back on ourselves when we eventually found a turning. We did make it back before midnight, but only just!

And that’s all for this blog post. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about what we got up to while staying in Galway…

The return of Friday letters

I have to briefly interrupt the Ireland so that I can bring back Friday letters. What? No, I can’t wait alll the way til next week 😉

07-07-07-02 Pretty pink postbox
Pretty pink postbox (Photo credit: MyAngelG)

Dear self. Well done on managing to do some exercise every day this week. Now you just have to keep it up for another three! Oh, and give up the junk food…

Dear weekend. I am sooo glad to see you! It’s been a long and tiring week. I hope I get a chance to catch up on some sleep in between all our plans!

Dear Ireland. I miss you already! Definitely hope to be back some day…

Dear Germany. So, we got sun today (after it having rained since Monday) and on Sunday more good weather is forecast, but tomorrow when I have a daytrip planned you’re sending yet more rain? Thanks for that…

Dear Deutsche Bahn. I have to admit, I love your bonus program! Some new scales (for weighing me, not kitchen scales) are winging their way towards me even as I type thanks to the points I collected by purchasing your BahnCard!

Dear England. We booked our flights last night, so I shall see you in three weeks for T’s christening!

That’s all from me. Have a great weekend everyone! More Friday letters next week (and tomorrow, even more from Ireland. I hope you’re not sick of hearing about our holiday yet…)

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Ireland, days 8-9: Exploring Kerry and hiking in the rain

Although our apartment was in Killarney, we didn’t really see much of the town (other than Tesco and the route to the Tourist Information office), so I won’t be giving any information about it in this post. Here’s what we did instead of exploring Killarney town…

On Saturday we were up surprisingly early considering how late we’d gone to bed the night before!
After a breakfast of porridge (made by the Scottish member of the group – of course!) it was off for a drive around the Dingle Peninsular.

The first place we stopped was Inch Beach, but not for long because OMG was it windy!! I seriously thought I might be blown away! There were loads of surfers out though – perfect weather for them!

Inch Beach
Inch Beach

Next we drove through the town of Dingle, which looked really pretty (but touristy). We didn’t stop though, so I have zero photos. Instead, we drove round to the other side of the bay and up the hill. The plan was to go to Esk Tower for a view over Dingle Bay, but the farmer whose field you had to walk to to reach the tower was charging people €3 for the privilege! Errr, I think not!! So no Esk Tower. I did point my camera between two houses on the hill we were parked on, so here’s a view of Dingle Bay from above with the town of Dingle in the background:

That *should* be Dingle across the water
That *should* be Dingle across the water

We then stopped at another beach – I’m not sure what it was called – and enjoyed the fact that the sun had come out and the wind had died down.

Look . blue sky!!
Look . blue sky!!
View from on the beach
View from on the beach

We stopped one more time when the Blasket Islands came into view and took some photos of them and the water, as well as a seagull that seemed more than happy to pose for our cameras.

Some of the Blasket Islands
Some of the Blasket Islands
Our friend the seagull
Our friend the seagull

Then it was on to Dunquin – the westernmost town in Ireland! We were searching for Kruger’s Inn, where CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) was founded. My dad is a huge fan of real ales and a member of CAMRA, so I wanted to get a photo for him. We also planned to eat lunch there.

Disappointing pub...
Disappointing pub…

Sadly, what we found at Kruger’s was disappointing. Despite all the positive reviews and claims that it’s a “popular bar”, there were precisely 3 people inside, all hovering at the corner of the bar. One appeared to be working while the other two had come in to chat with her. When we asked about food, we were told they do not serve food (despite there being a blackboard in the middle of the room with “soup, sandwiches, tea, coffee” written on it!!) and offered Guinness instead. Err… what?! My guess is it’s been sold and the new owners have changed things… So we headed back to a café/pottery we had driven past on the way to Kruger’s. My chicken pie was very nice, although not worth the price, but then what you were really paying for at that place was the view:

View from the cafe window
View from the cafe window

After lunch, the general consensus was that, although the Dingle peninsular seemed nice enough, we should head back and take in the (apparantly) even more beautiful Ring of Kerry. So we drove back the way we had came until we reached Killorglin then followed the ring from there. Presumable because it was evening by then, the ring wasn’t as crowded as I’d been told and we only spotted two coaches the whole way round!

The first part of the Ring of Kerry wasn’t all that spectacular. We noticed a couple of nice views, but with no places nearby to stop and admire, and drove through a few cute looking villages but for the most part all there was to see was hedge. We made our first stop on the Ring in Waterville, where we took some photos of the beach.

The beach at Waterville
The beach at Waterville
Waterville
Waterville

Waterville’s claim to fame is that Charlie Chaplin liked to take holidays there. The village now hosts as Chaplin festival every year and there’s a statue of him there too – we drove past the statue but didn’t stop for a photo.

We then drove on, passing through the village of Sneem (I love the name!), which is supposed to be very pretty. All I saw of it from the car window was this:

Sneem
Sneem

Our next stop was at Moll’s Gap, which is between Kenmare and Killarney. Apparantly the panoramic stop (where we parked) and its shop are visited by thousands of tourists each year. Well, by the time we got there the shop had already closed and the only creatures we met were some sheep, who we proceeded to have a Meeeaahhh off with (that’s my attempt to spell the sound a sheep makes – because these ones were not saying baaa by any stretch of the imagination! It definitely started with an m and had an eh sound in it!). Oh, and I took some photos too:

At Moll's Gap
At Moll’s Gap

After Moll’s Gap, we moved on to Ladies’ View. We had been looking forward to this, having heard that it’s possibly the most stunning view on the whole Ring of Kerry, and it did not disappoint. We arrived just in time for sunset, and even my crappy camera managed to get some decent shots (still nothing like as wonderful as the real thing though!)

Ladies View
Ladies View
Same again...
Same again…
Looking the other way - no sun in this direction!
Looking the other way – no sun in this direction!

Less fun was the part where we were eaten alive by midgies. I’ve seriously never seen so many of the evil beasts in one place! At one point, I put out my hand and saw literally about 10 little black insects sitting on it!! Eeew, eew, eew! Then, while posing for a photo, one went up my nose. Aarghh! And just to make things more annoying, the boys were barely pestered at all while us girls were literally covered in evil midge-beasts! Two German girls who arrived shortly after us were waving their hands about and screaming as well though, so I’m clearly not crazy… the evil beasts from insect hell were actually there!

It was laaaate by this time, so we decided to skip Torc Waterfall, although I had heard it’s amazing, and head to Tesco instead, where we purchased food for that night and also the next day. Back at the apartment, I made a sauce using the left-over chicken, courgette and tinned tomatoes and we served it with pasta. We ate late again, but at least this time the food was ready before midnight! Then we spent some time planning the next day (hiking day!) and trying to find a tour that didn’t make us book it 24 hours in advance, which obviously was no longer possible…

Day 9, Sunday, had been set aside for hiking. We were getting picked up at Killarney Tourist Information office at 10 a.m. and needed to walk there, so an early start was required! Jan made sandwiches for the hike while the two girls  made breakfast, which consisted of porridge, potato farls (an Irish version of potato scones) and scrambled eggs. Then we were on our way! The mini bus was late picking us up, which resulted in the nice lady at the tourist office phoning the company for us, but eventually a mini bus arrived (with only one other person in it) and we were off! On our way through Killarney, the driver told us a little about the things we were passing (not that I remember anything), then we were dropped off at Kate Kearney’s cottage, which marks the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe.

Typically, the day we had set aside for hiking was the day it rained literally ALL day!! The Gap of Dunloe was still pretty impressive, but I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I would have if I hadn’t been busy getting drenched! Also, my hiking trouser are water resistant but not waterproof, so after about my mile 3 of 7 my legs were soaked! As were my feet… stupid hiking shoes started leaking! Nevertheless, it was a nice enough hike and I felt very virtuous getting my exercise despite the rain 😉

In the Gap of Dunloe
In the Gap of Dunloe
"Yes, up there is where you're walking to next..."
“Yes, up there is where you’re walking to next…”
I LOVED this ruined house we walked past in the Gap
I LOVED this ruined house we walked past in the Gap
Nearly there! This was about 2 minutes away from Lord Brandon's Cottage.
Nearly there! This was about 2 minutes away from Lord Brandon’s Cottage.

It doesn’t look nearly as wet in the photos as it did in real life!
Our hike took us to Lord Brandon’s Cottage, where we all had a nice hot drink while we waited for a our boat. Yes, you did read that correctly! The tour we had booked involved being brought to the Gap by bus, hiking or pony trapping our way down to Lord Brandon’s Cottage then being taken by boat from there to Ross Castle, where the bus would be waiting to take us home. I barely took any photos on the boat ride because it was freezing and I was terrified of dropping my camera in the water, but here’s one I took just to prove we actually were on a boat!

On the boat
On the boat

The driver/guide stopped occasionally to tell us interesting little facts. As we passed under the Wishing Bridge, he said that any ladies wanting to get married should make a wish as we went under it, and he guaranteed he would see them again within a year with a ring on their finger. One woman on the boat then asked if he could go back so she could have another go! Wish granter or not, the bridge looks very cool!

The Wishing Bridge
The Wishing Bridge

We also passed by the Ladies’ View – where we had been the night before – this time from below. An hour later, we were at Ross Castle where our nice warm bus was waiting for us! And instead of taking us back to the Tourist Information office, the driver asked us where we were staying and took us right to our front door! More Irish friendliness (or maybe he just felt sorry for us in our drowned-rat state?). Next on the agenda was warm showers, dry clothes and hot tea all round! Then we took the opportunity to do some laundry before  spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Jan and I even went for a nap (which turned into a longer sleep when he forgot to actually set the alarm!). We were woken up at around 8 p.m. with the information that food was nearly ready – steak and gravy pie with the remaining potatoes. Yum yum!! Some people had thought about maybe going to the Torc Waterfall or to have a look at Killarney itself that evening, but it was still raining so we decided against it and had a quiet evening in. There was packing to be done anyway, ready to move on to our final stop the next day…

Ross Castle... and there's our bus driver waiting for us!
Ross Castle… and there’s our bus driver waiting for us!

Ireland, day 7: Kilkenny–Killarney

On Friday morning we were up bright and early so we could shower, have breakfast and vacate our hostel rooms by 10 a.m. Then it was off to the Rock of Cashel, the most visited Heritage site in Ireland. We parked the car in Cashel town and walked up to the rock, passing this ruined abbey on the way.

Random ruined abbey in the middle of town...
Random ruined abbey in the middle of town…

The ruin is literally right next to a row of houses, which I thought was pretty cool.
Aaaand here’s the main attraction itself – the Rock of Cashel:

Part of the Rock of Cashel
Part of the Rock of Cashel
Round the other side of the Rock
Round the other side of the Rock

We were told the next tour would be in 20 minutes, so we wandered around on our own for 20 minutes until the guide was ready. It turned out to be well worth the wait – our guide was excellent, providing just the right balance between informative and entertaining.

As our tour ended, we started to feel a few drops of rain, but we thought we’d still be okay to take a look at Hore Abbey (and get some photos of the Rock of Cashel from an excellent angle). We went and picked up the car, drove over to the abbey, and then this happened:

Hore Abbey... somehwre behind the raindrops
Hore Abbey… somewhere behind the raindrops

Needless to say I didn’t bother getting out of the car! I wasn’t too disappointed though as I’d had my afternoon of climbing on ruins at Kells Priory.

Here, have a better picture of the Abbey, taken from the Rock of Cashel:

Hore Abbey, also known as St Mary's
Hore Abbey, also known as St Mary’s

Next up was Cahir Castle. That word is not pronounced how you think… C-A-H-I-R is said like care. Because that’s how the Irish roll…

Cahir Castle

It was still raining, but luckily Cahir Castle is fairly well preserved, which meant we were able to spend lots of time inside, out of the rain.
Of course, Charlie wanted to get in on the fun too…

Charlie in a tower
Charlie in a tower

After looking around the castle and admiring the swans and ducks in the river (Cahir Castle is on an island in the River Suir), everyone was hungry so we headed into town to look for somewhere to eat. On the corner of a square – imaginatively named The Square – we found a place that claimed to do sandwiches, so in we went. It turned out to be a kind og newsagents that also had a kind of deli section where the sandwiches were made up. I went for the garlic chicken wrap, which was INCREDIBLE. There was cheese in it, as well as the garlicky chicken, and they warmed it up for me as well. Yum, yum, yum. I think the place was called The Heritage, if I managed to Google map it correctly. While I was there, I also bought a packet of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs because I LOVE them and I wasn’t around at Easter to eat any. I got the very last packet in the shop.

Castle Street, Cahir
Castle Street, Cahir

Having eaten, we walked back to the car through the rain and drove to Blarney. The plan had been to look at Blarney Castle, but on arriving we discovered that the price was 12 euros! That would have been fine for the castle and gardens, but for just the castle it seemed a bit steep and as it was still absolutely throwing it down we didn’t feel like viewing the gardens. If it had just been Jan and I we might have gone in anyway, but other people were on a tighter budget so instead we went in search of a hot drink (and a toilet!). We ended up going to the Half Moon Café, which was cute but when we went to pay for our drinks there was an extra service charge which hadn’t been mentioned in the menu! On the way back to the car I took a photo of this door, because it looked cool:

Cool door
Cool door

When we left Blarney, the sun was actually beginning to come out again, but time was creeping on and we needed to get moving. Our next stop was Bantry, where we took photos of the bay and located a supermarket to purchase that evening’s meal – we knew it would be late by the time we arrived in Killarney and we wanted to do the shopping while we were sure of finding something open! We still had carrots from the previous day, so we bought a pre-cooked chicken and some potatoes, as well as breakfast supplies for the next day.

Bantry Bay
Bantry Bay
This sculpture is called the Spirit of Love and was installed to commemorate people who lost their lives at and around Bantry Bay
This sculpture is called the Spirit of Love and was installed to commemorate people who lost their lives at and around Bantry Bay

We then stopped very briefly at Balleylicky Bay to take a photo of the gorgeousness below (and snigger a little at the name)

Gorgeous view at Ballylickey Bay!
Gorgeous view at Ballylickey Bay!

Our sat nav was bought in 2010 and Jan hasn’t downloaded any new maps for it since then (because that would apparantly cost way too much), so despite being programmed to take the fastest route, we were not directed from Bantry to Killarney via… oh, I don’t know, maybe a motorway? Instead, the sat nav sent us over the Priest’s Leap pass, which is totally AWESOME but I’m very glad we did it in daylight! As you drive along, the road gets more and more narrow until it turns into a single-lane track… and there are no passing places! Also, as the fact that it’s a pass implies, the road goes right across the mountain so there is really no moving out of the way! Luckily, we didn’t encounter any cars going the other way… although we did have to slow down for sheep a few times. The road goes up and down fairly steeply, and while you’re going up there’s absolutely no way of knowing what’s on the other side of the slope! Quite the adventure. The views from up there are spectacular though, and once we got to the top of the pass we stopped for some photos.

Going up...
Going up…
Somehow the road looks so much more tame on a photograph...
Somehow the road looks so much tamer on a photograph…
The view from the top was worth the drive...
The view from the top was worth the drive…

The Priest’s Leap pass runs along the border between Cork and Kerry, so once we got to the end we were officially in Kerry, but still with about an hour to go until we reached Killarney. The journey was uneventful until we reached Kenmare. We had driven through the village and were just emerging out the other side when a deer jumped out in front of our car! Jan (who was driving) swerved, so we only clipped the deer and luckily the car coming from the other direction was far enough away that we were able to pull over without any further incident. It could have been a nasty accident! Nobody was sure what Irish law says about such incidents (in Germany, you would have to call the police), so Jan made a call to the emergency services just in case while the other guys checked the car for damage (us girls decided to get back in the car as it was freezing and there was only one torch available for damage checking – by this time, it was dark). I’m pleaed to report that the deer was able to make its own way back into the trees and there were no traces of blood, so I think it was fine, as were all the people in the car. Finally, we were able to continue on our way to Killarney where we checked into our self-catering apartment at around quarter past 11! We were the last to arrive on that day and the old man we picked the key up from said he’d been starting to worry!

One meal of chicken, carrots and potatoes later (eaten at 1 a.m.!!) we were all ready for bed. It had been a very long day…

Ireland, days 5-6: Kilkenny and surroundings

I know I’ve blogged once already today, but if I don’t get a move on I’ll spend longer writing about our trip to Ireland than the time we were actually away, so have a bonus post…

Having been to Dublin before, I was really looking forward to Kilknenny – my first new Irish city – and it did not disappoint. I loved it there! On Wednesday morning, after a breakfast of Weetabix, toast and tea (all provided by the hostel) we set off to explore. Our first stop was St Canice’s Cathedral, which was just along the road from our hostel. And the first creature we met there was this guy:

Pussy cat... with apologies for the quality of the picture!
Pussy cat… with apologies for the quality of the picture!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not really a cat person, but this one was just adorable… and so utterly soft!

After a while the kitten got bored of us and wandered off, so we turned our attention to the Cathedral. It’s the second largest cathedral in Ireland and the round tower that stands beside it is one of only two in Ireland that can still be climbed to the top, so up we went…

St Canice's Tower
St Canice’s Tower
Kilkenny from above
Kilkenny from above

Once we were back down, we went for a look at the inside of the cathedral and then headed on to Black Abbey. It got its name from the fact that it’s a Dominican abbey  and the Dominicans were often referred to as black friars due to the black cloaks that they wore over their habits.

Inside St Canice's Cathedral
Inside St Canice’s Cathedral
Stained glass in the Black Abbey
Stained glass in the Black Abbey

The photo from inside Black Abbey isn’t great because there were actually people praying in there, so I literally pointed, clicked and ran so as not to disturb anyone!

Continuing on our tour of the city (I got in trouble for referring to it as a town!), we passed by a number of cute houses and a second cathedral – St Mary’s – before reaching the centre.

I love the red front door!
I love the red front door!
St Mary's Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral

St Mary’s is the Catholic cathedral while St Canice’s is Church of Ireland.

From the shopping area, it was just a short walk to Kilkenny’s main attraction… the castle.

Kilkenny Castle from behind
Kilkenny Castle from behind

As it wasn’t raining, we decided to start with a walk around the grounds. We found the National Monument to Missing People, which is a sculpture made up entirely of metal hands. Each hand on the sculpture was cast from the actual hand of a missing person’s relative. Unfortunately I can’t show you a photo because all the ones I took have people on them…

After our walk and some fun with Charlie (we did “horse riding”), we decided to go into the Butler Gallery as the admission was free, but it was closed for installation of the next exhibition, so instead we headed round to the front of the castle to see the rose garden. We spent aaages there while the guys took what felt like a billion photos!

Part of the front of the castle and roses
Part of the front of the castle and roses
The rose garden... not sure why this photo is so dark! It seems to be the only one I took that has  people on though
The rose garden… not sure why this photo is so dark! It seems to be the only one I took that has people on though

The next stop was lunch! We originally wanted to find a café that our Lonely Planet recommended, but it turned out to have closed down, so we headed to Blaa Blaa Blaa Sandwiches instead. An excellent decision! I had the Christmas dinner sandwich, which is basically turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. It was so, so, so good!!And also cheap, especially after the prices we had been paying in Dublin.

Tiny shop, but the sandwiches are delicious!
Tiny shop, but the sandwiches are delicious!

Blaa Blaa Blaa is right next to the river, so we sat on some benches there to eat. Sandwiches done, we headed into the sweet shop, where I found Jedward chocolate bars and also purchased delicious cherry sweets. Then it was off to the car to explore some of the area surrounding Kilkenny.

A lantern on the bridge right next to the sandwich shop
A lantern on the bridge right next to the sandwich shop

Our first stop was Thomastown, where we went to Jerpoint Abbey, a ruined Cistercian abbey from the 12th century. The abbey is notable for its unique stone carvings. We briefly listened in to someone else’s tour and found out that at one point all these carvings had been coloured in!

The sun came out for a bit while we were at the abbey!
The sun came out for a bit while we were at the abbey!
There are carvings all along here...
There are carvings all along here…
A carving of a soldior
A carving of a soldior

Next up was Kells Priory, which was just amazing! You have to cross a field of sheep to get to it, and the amount of droppings is unreal! But if you manage to make it across, the ruins that await you are sheer awesomeness! From the top it doesn’t look like much, but then you get past the first wall and see a huge ruin! I can’t even imagine how big it was when it was in one piece. Also, out the back is a small ancient graveyard, which is incredibly cool… and also slightly creepy.

Doesn't look like much from here...
Doesn’t look like much from here…
... but from here, sheer awesomeness!!
… but from here, sheer awesomeness!!

The priory is free of charge… you just walk across the sheep field and head right in. And there’s nobody around to stop you from climbing on the ruins. So. Much. Fun!

After we’d climbed around for a while, it started to rain so we headed back to the car and drove back to Kilkenny to look for a supermarket. After a brief argument about what to do (the guys wanted to park the car and walk into town while us girls preferred to use the car to locate a supermarket then park elsewhere and walk in if necessary, but not just wander around aimlessly in the rain hoping to find somewhere to shop!) we finally found a place and purchased our groceries, then it was back to the hostel to cook for the first time. We had spaghetti bolognese… with carrots in. While we were cooking, one of the grls who volunteers at the hostel came in and invited us to go out with her that night to watch a band she knew. Three of us decided to go, while the others preferred to catch up on sleep/have some alone time, so after eating we met up with 2 volunteers from the hostel and an American from Utah who was travelling around Ireland with his brother (the brother had chosen not to come along). Unfortunately, when we arrived at the bar it turned out the band had called and cancelled, so instead we went to a place called The Field where a soloist was playing modern rock/pop music (stuff like Of Monsters and Men and Jason Mraz). The good thing about the bar was that it seemed to be mostly local people rather than tourists. The girl who had originally invited us out suggested playing a game, which is how we all ended up playing “I have never”. At around midnight, we all headed back to the hostel and to bed.

The next morning our group decided to pay a visit to the farmer’s market after breakfast. We were hoping to get something for lunch, but ended up not buying anything (although the samosas smelled good and the Baileys fudge was really tempting!). Instead we went back to Blaa Blaa Blaa and bought sandwich to take along. This time I had the Chicken Tikka Deluxe – the deluxe part being the addition of sundried tomatoes and cheese to my chicken tikka filling. DE-LIC-IOUS!!

Our first stop of the day was the Dunmore Cave in Ballyfoyle. It’s a fairly small cave, but the tour we had was extremely interesting… and we were given a tip for remembering the difference between stalagtites and stalagmites. Stalagtites cling tight to the roof, while stalagmites might grow up! Clever, no? Well, I thought so…

In the cave
In the cave

We had out tour together with a group of school children who were incredibly well behaved! One of the girls even thanked me when I let her pass… that would so not have happened on any of the trips I took with school!

The stairs we came down to get into the cave
The stairs we came down to get into the cave

By the time we’d finished viewing the cave, it was lunch time, so we went back to the car to eat our sandwiches. After a grey start to the day, the sun had decided to come out so we drove to the village of Leighlinbridge to take a walk along the River Barrow, Ireland’s second longest river (the longest is the Shannon). I’ve already posted a photo of the adorable bridge over the river, but I took loads so have another one!

Old bridge and castle
Old bridge and castle

Also, behold the blue sky! I was prepared for much worse weather than this. The castle on the photo above is known as Black Castle, but I can’t remember why.
The walk along the river was lovely and really peaceful – the only other people we met were a couple walking their dog when we were already on our way back to the car. Here are some pictures:

The River Barrow
The River Barrow
Looking back the way we had come
Looking back the way we had come

After our walk, we drove back to Kilkenny with the aim of going inside the castle. We had purchased Ireland Heritage cards at the cave, and Kilkenny Castle was included on them. Unfortunately, the book the man at the cave had given us was out of date and it turned out the castle was already closed, so instead we went for a walk along the river and saw some of the local teenagers swimming in it!

Next up was another trip to the supermarket, then we returned to the hostel to make what our Scottish friend referred to as Stovies and what I would have called mince and tetties (mince and potatoes). Basically it was mince, carrots, onions and mashed potatoes… and to try something new we used lamb mince! After dinner, some of us went to spend time on their own while the others quickly packed then headed down to the TV room where the girls from the hostel had invited us to join them again, this time for a film. We watched Driving Miss Daisy, which I had never seen before.

And that was the end of our Kilkenny adventure. Join me tomorrow for the journey to our next destination, Killarney.

And since I didn’t post one above, here’s a photo of Kilkenny’s town city centre.

Kilkenny centre

Ireland, day 4: Dublin to Kilkenny

After the long weekend in Dublin, Tuesday, 11 June marked the first day of the Ireland road trip proper. Our two drivers (of whom Jan was one) got up stupidly early to go and pick the car up while the rest of us had a slightly more leisurely start. After one final full Irish breakfast, we packed up the last few bits then waited for our vehicle. One game of suitcase Tetris later, it was time to check out and say goodbye to one member of the group – he had only been able to get the long weekend off work and was heading back to Germany while the remaining 5 of us went on a tour of Ireland.

Our first stop was Bray, where the owner of our local Irish pub is from. The boys had planned to try and recreate a photo he has on his wall of Bray Head and I had promised him a postcard from one Bray to another (the Irish pub is called Bray Head). It was raining a little when we set off, but by the time we arrived in Bray it was dry again, if a little cloudy, so we parked the car and headed down to the beach, where we met an adorable dog with an incredibly slimy ball!

How adorable?
How adorable?

His owners told us this was the highlight of his week!
Bray Head was partly hidden in the clouds, but we pointed our cameras in its general direction anyway.

Bray Head... somewhere up there
Bray Head… somewhere up there

Then it was off the icecream/sweet shop to buy some postcards before sitting down at The Strand Hotel – formerly a house called Elsinore owned by Oscar Wilde’s father- to write them. We all indulged in some tea and scones, which were delicious but bizarrely came on dirty plates. The carvery looked (and smelled) really good too, but we didn’t have time for that… the time we had left on the car was ticking away! So postcard written and scones eaten, we headed back towards town, stopping on the way to buy stamps and post said card.

Stop number two was Enniskerry, where we had been tasked with going to the local pub and delivering a glass from our Irish pub to a guy named Keith who had misspent his youth with our local pub’s owner.

Mission accomplished! (Spot the glass)
Mission accomplished! (Spot the glass)

The pub seemed like a bit of a local pub for local people, but we all had a quick drink there anyway. And from what I saw of Enniskerry it looked like a cute little village – I especially liked this interesting phonebox.

How cool?
How cool?

After taking a wrong turn and driving round twice, we came to our next stop: The Powerscourt Waterfall. It’s the highest waterfall in Ireland…

Powerscourt Waterfall
Powerscourt Waterfall

By the time we’d taken some photos of the waterfall and of each other posing with the waterfall it had started to rain, so instead of hitting the nature trails we made a run for the car and drove on to our next destination, Glendalough. Pronounced Glen-da-lock, Glendalough is a glacial valley that’s famous for its medieval monastic settlement, founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. There are also two lakes – the Lower Lake and the Upper Lake – and various walking trails.

Saint Kevin's Church at Glendalough
Saint Kevin’s Church at Glendalough
Upper Lake, Glendalough
Upper Lake, Glendalough

Luckily it had stopped raining again, so we didn’t get wet… but all the moisture in the air meant tonnes and tonnes of midgees! Yuk!! The senery was beautiful though, as you can see. And the Obamas went there a few days later while on a trip to Ireland. We saw it first, Obamas!!

It was approaching 7 pm by the time we’d finished walking around, so back to the car we went and headed straight for Kilkenny with no more breaks. By the time we’d found our hostel, checked in and discovered a place to put the car it was after 9 and we were starving! So off we went into town in search of somewhere that would still feed us at that time! Our first stop was Kyteler’s Inn, which seemed like a really cool place and had live music on, but the kitchen there had closed at 9, so off we went to the place across the way – The Marble City Bar (it seems downstairs there is a tearooms as well). The food there was slightly more expensive than what we had been looking for, but worth every single cent! Our waiter went out of his way to be helpful, even offering my friend chips instead of mashed potato after hearing that she’s lactose intolerant! Again, no food photo because I was too busy nomming it.

By the time we’d eaten it was even later and we were all tired, so back to the hostel we went to get some sleep before moving on to day 5 of our Irish adventure..

Ireland, Days 1–3: Dublin

We started our Ireland trip with a long weekend in Dublin, and the very first thing we did on Saturday morning was buy suncream from the Boots near our B&B. Why would one do that in Ireland you ask? Well, this:

Ha'Penny Birdge lantern
Ha’Penny Bridge lantern

The above photo shows one of the lanterns on the Ha’penny Bridge. And behind it? Nothing but blue sky! And the weather continued to be like that for the entire time we were in Dublin. Or at least until we were walking back from the pub on Monday night, which is good enough for me.

Once we were all suncreamed up, we walked on towards town where the first touristy thing we came across was St. Stephen’s Green. We saw swans with cygnets! And also ducks, seagulls and a very cute little girl feeding all the birds (even the pigeons). Then we discovered that the waterfall that’s drawn on the map was a lie, so we went and looked for the statue of The Fates instead, and found out that it had been a gift to the city of Dublin from Germany.

St Stephen's Green
St Stephen’s Green
The Fates
The Fates

Next came shopping because the other female in the group had forgotten to bring a hat out with her and the sun was HOT! We visited TK Maxx first and I looked at sunglasses while she looked at hats, but neither of us found anything. Next stop was Claire’s, where I actually found a pair of sunglasses that suited me (miracle!!) and my friend purchased a fabulous straw hat with cat ears!! Then we stopped by a fancy dress/joke shop, where we had our first encounter with horses heads. We did not buy Charlie at that point though.

Once the girly shopping type stuff was done, we headed towards the river and then on to Leo Burdock’s – Dublin’s oldest fish and chip shop. We arrived at just the right time – there was no queue when we got there and a huge one by the time we left! It being such a gorgeous day, we took our food across the road and ate it on the grass round the back of Christchurch Cathedral, watched by a very well behaved seagull. After he’d let us take several photos of him and not attempted to steal any of our food, we rewarded him with fish. Then we walked into the grounds of the cathedral, where there was a stall selling fudge of various kinds. Jan and I got four varieties: Chocolate, chocolate orange, honeycomb and rum & raisin. Yum, yum!!

Yum yum!
Nom, nom, nom!

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around looking at various things, failing to see Dublin castle because it’s closed to the public while Ireland is hosting the EU presidency, hanging round in a cute little garden near the castle, sneakily using the facilities at the Chester Beatty Library and going inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral before ending up back at the joke shop where we decided we did want a horses head after all.

Inside St Patrick's Cathedral
Inside St Patrick’s Cathedral

Next on the agenda was a cocktail at a bar called Dandelion. The drinks came in plastic glasses and while mine tasted okay it was so weak you could barely tell there was alcohol in it. If you want to drink cocktails, don’t bother with this place! Following our unimpressive cocktails, we went off in search of food, which we found at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I quite enjoyed my avocado and bacon beefburger – at least it had a decent amount of bacon in it! Other members of the group were less impressed with their choices though.

Avocado and bacon burger
Avocado and bacon burger

The food thing out of the way, it was time for a few drinks in a real Irish pub… and for some fun with Charlie the horse.

Charlie stole my hat!
Charlie stole my hat!

And thus concludes day one.

The next day was Trinity College day. We decided to pay 10 euros for the tour plus Book of Kells, rather than 9 for just the book. The tour was interesting and out tour guide (David) was pretty cool. The exhibition on the Book of Kells was quite informative, but the book itself was precisely as underwhelming as our Lonely Planet had warned us it would be – with all the many people crowding around it, there simply wasn’t time to get a proper look at  all the detail on the pages. However, the Long Library which you go through to get from the Book to the exit was AMAZING! So many old books… it was like I’d died and gone to heaven!

Lovely, lovely books!
Lovely, lovely books!

It being Sunday, we wanted to look for a roast dinner, but in the end we didn’t actually find one. We went to a pubcalled Slattery’s where I did have some very nice roast chicken, but it came with chips, which is just not the same thing at all. We also spent quite some time persuading a couple of the boys that it’s perfectly okay to order a soft drink in a pub!

Food done, we walked through the shopping area for a bit and finally came to O’Connell Street and the famous Spire of Dublin (officially the Monument of Light for reasons I am unable to fathom).

The Spire of Dublin
The Spire of Dublin

Again, note the blueness of the sky! We couldn’t have had better weather in Dublin if we’d programmed it ourselves!

The next stop was the Garden of Remembrance, where we watched some local kids climb the statue and then scram when the Garda (Irish police) turned up. Very entertaining! Shortly after that, we were asked to leave because the place was closing, so we went and had ourselves a nice cup of tea instead. Charlie was ready for a cuppa too after all that walking!

Aah... a nice cup of tea!
Aah… a nice cup of tea!

Once everyone was refreshed, we walked back down to the river to take photos of more bridges and check out the Famine Memorial.

A very good question to ask of a bridge...
A very good question to ask of a bridge…
The River Liffey and the Harp Bridge (officially Samuel Beckett Bridge)
The River Liffey and the Harp Bridge (officially Samuel Beckett Bridge)
Famine Memorial in the evning sun
Famine Memorial in the evening sun

We finished the day at another pub, where I chose to drink Swedish cider rather than Irish beer and where we discovered an interesting flavour of crisps.

Very Irish crisps!
Very Irish crisps!

Sadly, the taste was rather disappointing. I’ve no idea what shamrock should taste like, but these just tasted like plain old sour cream flavour to me.

On our third and final day in Dublin, the group split up with three of us getting up early to go to Kilmainham Gaol while the other three had a lie in before going shopping. I was with the Kilmainham Gaol group, as I had wanted to go there the last time Jan and I were in Dublin but didn’t get the chance. Both the museum and the guided tour were very informative and at times I found myself almost feeling ashamed to be British –for example after hearing about how James Connolly, one of the ringleaders of the 1916 uprising, who was unable to stand to be executed and was instead tied to a chair to be shot. No wonder so many Irish people hate us!

The "New" east wing of KIlmainham Gaol
The “new” east wing of KIlmainham Gaol

The serious business of the jail done, it was off to the park opposite where we discovered signs with various animals on. There was a sheep, a hedgehog, a squirrel, a cat and this fox:

Foxy!
Foxy!

We then needed change for the bus back in to town (if anyone is going to Dublin be warned: buses are generally correct change only and no notes are allowed – the only exception is the airport express!). We popped into Spar to see if we could buy something and discovered this:

It's a chocolate bar... with crisps in it?!
It’s a chocolate bar… with crisps in it?!

Yes, that really is a chocolate bar with pieces of cheese and onion crisps in. Surprisingly it worked quite well, although I wouldn’t want to eat a whole bar!

Back in town we met up with the others and the two girls went for a hair cut (something I have yet to bring myself to do in Germany). Freshly cut and blow dried, we headed to the café next door where the boys were waiting and had a sandwich before heading on to our next activity: a tour of the Old Jameson Distillery. For all those who are thinking of doing the tour… don’t bother!! It’s basically a giant advert for Jameson’s and a total tourist trap!! However, the hot whiskey cocktails we had in the bar afterwards were incredibly tasty, so you could always pop along just for that!

Jameson's Irish coffee
Jameson’s Irish coffee

Whiskey drinking done, we walked back to the town centre to spend out last evening eating and drinking at O’Neill’s bar on Suffolk Street. I may not have got my Sunday dinner the day before, but the carvery at this place more than made up for it!! I had turkey and ham with all the trimmings and I also got to try some of my friend’s lamb, which was amazing!! The food was so good that nobody even thought about taking photos until every last bite of all six meals had been demolished. I’m feeling hungry all over again just typing this!!

And that was the end of our trip to Dublin. Next up: ROAD TRIP!!

Ireland – The Route

I’ve spent a few days trying to find the perfect site to create a map of our route, but the closest I could get to what I wanted was this map I created on ZeeMap: Ireland 2013 Map (open in a new tab if you don’t want to leave this post). The red markers are places we stayed in, the purple ones are places we stopped en route from one overnight place to the next and the green markers are day trips from a place where we stayed the night. Unfortunately, what I didn’t manage to do on ZeeMaps was draw lines between the places, so all I eneded up with is a confusing mess of different coloured markers. *Sigh*. Obviously all this advanced technology stuff is not for me. So I was left with no option but to take a screenshot of the map I linked to above and draw in the lines by hand. Here’s the result:

How we drove around Ireland
How we drove around Ireland

Still confusing, but it does give some idea of the route we took. The purple line shows how we drove between the places we were stayingand the green shows day trips from those places. Hopefully things will become a lot more clear once I start posting about the individual places. In the meantime, here’s the list of places we visited, in chronological order but without dates…

  • Dublin
  • Bray, County Wicklow
  • Enniskerry, County Wicklow
  • Powerscourt Waterfall, near Enniskerry, County Wicklow
  • Glendalough, County Wicklow
  • Kilkenny
  • Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny
  • Kells Priory, County Kilkenny
  • Dunmore Cave, Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny
  • Leighlinbridge, County Carlow
  • Rock of Cashel, Cashel, County Tipperary
  • Cahir Castle, Cahir, County Tipperary
  • Blarney, County Cork
  • Bantry, County Cork
  • Priest’s Leap – a mountain pass on the Cork/Kerry border
  • Killarney
  • Dingle, County Kerry (well, near it anyway)
  • Inch Beach, County Kerry
  • Dunquin, County Kerry
  • Waterville on the Ring of Kerry
  • Moll’s Gap on the Ring of Kerry
  • Ladies View on the Ring of Kerry
  • The Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park
  • Adare, County Limerick
  • Galway
  • Dunguaire Castle, Kinvarra, County Galway
  • The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen, The Burren, County Clare
  • Connemara National Park, County Galway
  • Leenane, County Galway
  • Athenry, County Galway
  • And finally… Dublin again

Stay tuned to find out what we did in each of the places on the list…

 

Ireland – My Favourite Things

I will be providing you with a map of the route we took in Ireland as soon as I figure out how, but for now here are some of my personal favourite things from the trip.

1. Irish friendliness. Anything you’ve heard about how friendly Irish people are is 100% true!! In fact, we only encountered one unfriendly Irish person throughout our entire two-week stay (at the Cliffs of Moher, in case you were wondering). Just to give one example of the extreme friendliness and determination to help: On the final day of our initial stay in Dublin, I went with Jan and another member of the group to Kilmainham Gaol (very interesting by the way, and well worth a visit). The bus driver not only announced our stop (Irish – and UK – buses don’t do this automatically), but asked us to wait a few minutes before getting off so he could direct us to the jail. Another passenger who was waiting to get off then interrupted to say he works just opposite and would be happy to show us the way. Not only did he then deliver us right to the entrance, but he also pointed out a park opposite (actually the grounds of an art gallery) where we might like to go for a walk after our tour. All together now: Awwww!

The "New" east wing of KIlmainham Gaol - we were told it's been used in various films/TV series so some of you may recognise it
The “New” east wing of KIlmainham Gaol – we were told it’s been used in various films/TV series so some of you may recognise it

2. Being able to order a cup of tea with milk without either being looked at like I’ve just grown an extra head or – even worse – being brought coffee creamer instead!

3. Buying a horse head on our very first day in Dublin, naming it Charlie (because that way it could be either male or female) and proceeding to take photos of each other wearing it all over Ireland.

Charlie in a field
Charlie in a field

4. The full Irish breakfast at the B&B we stayed at in Dublin (Waterloo Lodge… highly recommended!). And bumping into the butcher on our way out on the first day! No Tesco Everyday Value sausages at that place…

5. The amazing carvery meal we ate at a place called O’Neill’s in Dublin. I have no photo to share with you because I had inhaled it before the idea of photos even occurred to me…

6. Kilkenny. All of it. The highlights being: i) The cute kitty we discovered hanging around the graveyard of St. Canice’s Cathedral. I’m not usually a cat person, but this kitten was soo soft! ii) Blaa Blaa Blaa sandwiches… and the lovely ladies who worked there. iii) The sweet shop next door to the sandwich place, where I discovered Jedward chocolate bars and also bought a bag of the most delicious cherry boiled sweets. iv) Going for a few drinks with an English girl who worked at the hostel we stayed in and playing “I have never”. Fun!

Blaa Blaa Blaa

7. The ruins of Kells Priory, located just outside the village of Kells in County Kilkenny. Basically a giant adventure playground for adults! You have to brave a lot of sheep droppings to get there, but once you do it’s well worth it. My photos do not do it justice at all… this thing must have been absolutely huge when it was in one piece!!

Part of Kells Priory
Part of Kells Priory
More of Kells Priory
More of Kells Priory

8. This bridge over the River Barrow in the village of Leighlinbridge. I took sooo many photos of it! The walk along the river was pretty nice as well.

Google tells me this is a valerian stone bridge, and Wikipedia adds that it's from the 14th century and thought to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe
Google tells me this is a valerian stone bridge, and Wikipedia adds that it’s from the 14th century and thought to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe

9. The tour we took of the Rock of Cashel – our guide was so enthusiastic and informative! I can’t remember half of what he said now, but at the time it was very interesting! I do remember that the reason the monks who lived there eventually abandoned the rock was the weather… and I can well believe it given the wind on the day we were there!

Part of the Rock of Cashel (can anyone else see the face on the left-hand side?)
Part of the Rock of Cashel (can anyone else see the face on the left-hand side?)

10. Taking photos of the sunset at Ladies View on the Ring of Kerry. Although the part where we got eaten alive by midgees was much less fun!

My friend admiring the sunset at Ladies View
My friend admiring the sunset at Ladies View

11. The adorable thatched cottages in Adare.

One of the thatched cottages in the village of Adare
One of the thatched cottages in the village of Adare

12. Seeing a puffin at the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately it was too fast to photograph, so here’s a picture of the cliffs themselves. Also, we were told The Princess Bride was filmed there, so I now need to watch that film again and see if I recognise anything!

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

13. The pies we ate in Galway! If you ever find yourself there, you must go to a place called The Pie Maker!! I was able to try three savoury pies (pork sausage in veal gravy pie, roast beef pie and chorizo, mozzerella and pesto pie) as well as one sweet one – the rubarb and ginger. All four were delicious! And at only €9 for a savoury pie, gravy and mushy peas (or pie, salad and wedges) it’s an absolute bargain, too! A photo will follow once I request it from my friend (my camera’s battery had run out at this point). **Edited to add: PIE!!**

Pie, glorious pie!
Pie, glorious pie!

14. This adorable puppy who we met at the top of Diamond Hill in the Connemara National Park.

Gorgeous puppy!
Gorgeous puppy!

15. The cute little cafe in Dublin that Jan and I stopped at to write postcards shortly before we left for our flight home. The cake I ate there was nice enough, but nothing special, but the cafe itself was adorable… and also cheap!

Cafe Oya... I loved the wall decorations!
Cafe Oya… I loved the wall decorations!

And there you have it… my 15 favourite things from our trip. More Ireland posts will follow shortly…