Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ireland - Part 3

Craft cottage on Aran Island
In - Part 1 - I talked about north vs south Ireland and the history of Ireland In - Part 2 - I discuss the people, best time to visit, planning a road trip and what to do in Belfast and Derry.

Dromagorteen stone circle
From - Derry - we drove up to - Donegal - to see the most northern part of Ireland and then we cut back across Ireland to the southern capital, and the biggest city in Ireland - Dublin. You need as much time in Dublin as you can spare. Lots to see and lots to do. A city walk is a must. A visit the the Guinness brewery - another must. Temple Bar area, a stroll along the River Liffey, the book of Kells at Trinity College and St Stephens Green are also on the list. You will fill every day you allocate to your time in Dublin. For more on what to do in
Dublin follow - this link.

We left Dublin and cut back west taking in the - Curragh - where we saw horses galloping across the plains. We spent the next few nights in Galway, the third largest city in the south. While based in - Galway - we took a ferry to the - Aran Islands, drove through Connemara area and along the beautiful coastline looking out for - killer sheepCladdagh Bay is the place to buy a - Claddagh ring - which is an Irish token of friendship and love.


Harp players at Bunratty Castle
From Galway we drove south via county Limerick and stayed at a guest house near - Bunratty Castle. I was determined to experience a medieval banquet at Bunratty despite the steep price. Bunratty has a park that you can explore before heading into the old castle. Inside it's decorated in 15th century furnishings and lit by candles.

Staff, dressed in 15th century outfits, ply you with mead and bread then escort you to tables where you enjoy a 4-course meal. The staff take breaks from feeding you to sing ballads, dance and play the harp. Some of the lyrics were quite racy. It's all tongue in cheek and lots of fun. I was more than happy with my vegetarian meal.

English Market Cork
From Bunratty we went south taking in the - Cliffs of Moher - which, much like Giants causeway, attract millions of visitors a year. Most of these places are a bit of a walk from the car park, and you have to pay to get to a viewing point. We took our lunch break there. It's also possible to see the cliffs by boat, but we had lots to do and see, so that wasn't an option.

Next we made our way toward county Kerry. We drove the - Ring of Kerry in an anti-clockwise direction. They say that tour buses do the trip counter clockwise, so to avoid being stuck behind slow, scene blocking buses, cars should travel clockwise. You decide. It's hard to find words to describe how unbelievably beautiful the towns and bays in Kerry are.

Leprechaun crossing in Kerry
We missed out on Newgrange stone circle outside Dublin but our hosts at - Druid Cottage - in Kenmare pointed out a few in the region. I have a particular interest in both stone circles and Celtic mysticism. Druids have always fascinated me. The same guesthouse had a book about the Romans accounts of druids.  Druids never kept records. Their craft was passed on by learning rhymes and comitting their lyrics to memory. I was horrified to learn Druids would disembowel humans and 'read' their entrails to predict the future.

Temple Bar area in Dublin
Next on the agenda was - Cork, the second largest city in the south. We loved Cork too. The English Market is an absolute must. Cork has a lovely atmosphere and great foodie scene. We went strolling along the River Lee and got lost simply walking around. We also did a drive out to Blarney Castle. No way in hell was I going to hang unside down off that top of the castle to kiss the - Blarney Stone - so sadly, I did not acquire the gift of the gab. Try to allow two days in Cork if you can.

After Cork we went via - Waterford - up toward Rosslare where we spent our last night. I wouldn't visit Rosslare but we had to be close to it as we took the ferry early the next morning. The ferry arrived in Fishguard in Wales and that was the end of our Irish holiday.

Connemara
This is a mantra for me by now, but no matter how much time you budget for a holiday, it's never enough. We thought two weeks would be ample. But no. The thing is once you get going, you pick up on places you never knew about and hadn't planned to see. It's not like we could pop back. It's now or never. Before we knew it, we were cramming it all in. By the time our holiday was over, we were shattered and needed a holiday to get over our holiday.
But it was worth it.
If you are looking for videos on Ireland find a link here to - Ireland on video.

Cliff of Moher
And by clicking - here - you can visit the Travel Archive Page which has more on other destinations.