Completing the Ireland Circle

Bye bye Bunbeg house! This one we weren't sad to leave behind, it became the joke of the whole trip. So what's on the agenda for today? The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland! It was about a 3 hour drive from Bunbeg. But there would be stops along the way, not a doubt in our minds...

We entered Northern Ireland but no one was prepared to catch a "snap" of the sign so Rick found a spot to turn around and what greeted us? A big sign for a "car boot sale"! We'd seen signs previously and didn't know what they were so Sarah researched it - it was a flea sale of sorts. People had stuff to sell and they sold it out of their car boot - or trunk, as we call it. Being this rainy part of the world, though, it was indoors and was mostly just tables, a few cars with open boots but mostly just tables. Sarah and I enjoyed looking for treasures and found a few!

We decided to travel along the coast and saw Mussendem temple - kinda. Northern Ireland is not as free with their relics. Everything is inside a wall with an entrance fee. The whole area was too "improved" and we decided we preferred the old Republic of Ireland with its narrow, twisty, wall-lined roads and relics and ruins everywhere you looked, most with free access and friendly people who are eager to help you find them. We did see a lot of beauty, the Antrim area is stunning. But we kept our stay in NI under 24 hours.

One good reason to move on was the exchange rate. The republic uses euros which have an exchange rate of 1.32 dollars to a euro. NI uses British pounds. The exchange rate for that is 1.55 USD to a pound. Ouch!

We drove on enjoying the views as best we could as the rain increased until we finally reached the Giant's Causeway. We had flown over 6000 miles and just driven for 3 hours to see it so, rain or no rain, we were going. It was a 15 minute walk to the columns. I had my rubber boots and was gonna use them! At least that way my feet were dry! The rest of me? Well, I put on 2 pairs of leggings to start the day, they were all rather thin and it wasn't warm so I double layered them. In all that rain I decided to add a pair of light denim jeans. So my legs would be dry. I was wearing a sweater over a lightweight turtleneck. Then I put on my so-called water-resistant jacket. That was about as good as I could do. I grabbed a plastic bag to keep my camera in and we headed off.

We got little audio players to describe what we were seeing and in the introduction it mentioned that the screen might be difficult to see in "bright sun or driving rain". Haha!

We walked out to the columns and did our best to explore and take pictures. But, boy! was it raining! Our pictures all came out blurry, my camera even began to malfunction somewhat. I was soaked to the skin and we were just about to head back to the car when the rain stopped and the sun came out! All of a sudden everything had color!

There is a swinging bridge or rope bridge called Carrick-a-rede right near the Causeway and Sarah wanted to check it out. It did look like fun but, as was the norm for that part of the island, there was a fee, a little too much to cross a footbridge. We opted to pass.

We kept driving on Causeway Road a bit til we could head south in Ballintoy. Dunseverick Castle was a little ruin on a hill surrounded by cliffs and right on the shore and there were sheep grazing in and around it. Quite a stunning sight, one of my favorites.

We drove through more of the Antrim forests and finally started looking for a room again. We passed a B&B on the edge of a town, then some cottages and never stopped. That was all we could find for 3 towns. It was becoming panic time again. Sarah and I spotted a hotel in Armagh - the Charlemont hotel. We made Rick stop and see if they had a room, even though it didn't look too good from the outside. It was actually nice once inside so we got a room. It felt good to get out of the car: They had a reasonably priced restaurant so we grabbed dinner and crashed. 

Tomorrow is our last day...


We started to leave without having breakfast when the girl at the front desk questioned that decision and informed Rick that he'd paid for breakfast. Whew! Glad she said something! It was our most expensive room (considering the exchange rate) and we almost wasted some of what we paid for!

After breakfast we drove the rest of the way out of the country and were glad to be back in the prettier country. Just 3 more sight I'd planned for the day. Then we could go back to Dublin if we felt we needed to.

We found the Fore Abbey and it was in another very delightful setting. The weather was working with us this day, it was beautiful clouds and comfortable temperatures, no more rain (at least not until later).

There was a lot to see at this sight, on both sides of the road. There were the oddest looking striped cows grazing in front of the abbey. I researched them and found them to be "Dutch belted" cows. We wandered and took our share of pictures, then headed back a few hundred feet to the town so I could use the restroom. Sarah visited the little shop and bought herself a piece of rhubarb pie. I visited with the owner lady and asked if she knew where our next destination was. It was the ruins of a church in the woods called St John the Baptist church, near Devlin. She hadn't heard of it so she went to google it and was still gone when Sarah finished her pie and we left. I wrote her a quick thank you note on a napkin.I had rather detailed instructions on how to find this particular spot but was still not seeing it so I just went to a couple doors right there and asked if they knew where it was. They did and were more than happy to give me directions.

There was an arch with a gate and it was locked. The lady in the bungalow across the street was supposed to have the key but she wasn't home. Well, I was wanting to see this for months and had come all this way. I wasn't letting a locked gate stop me, the people were all of the opinion that we could go in so I looked and we cold just walk around the arch!

I went in and climbed through a fence into a cow pasture because the woods was behind it. Rick and Sarah walked on the other side of the fence. We ended up meeting right at the entrance to the church, them on one side and me on the other.

We wandered and got some shots and I decided to go out the way they went in. I saw a gate with a sign on it (from the back) and said "what does it say?". Rick said it says church property. I got to the outside and it basically said stay out! Oops! I didn't see it on the way in. Oh well, we didn't do any harm.

Now we were pretty much free to do whatever. Oh - wait! the Wonderful barn in Lucan, right on the way to Dublin!

I thought it was more surrounded by apartments, but instead it was actually in a nice park-like setting. And the clouds were perfect for photographing with an old structure.

We finished up there and chose to head in to Dublin. We felt we were ready to try to navigate the Monster Dublin. Sarah had a specific shop she wanted to get to and it was closing at 6 so we had to hurry. We managed to find everything in time and then grabbed some dinner in another pub.

On our last night I booked a room at the Smarmore Castle in Ardee. On the way there we pass through the town of Slane which is completely encased in temporary fences with openings only at each home's driveway. There was no construction or anything visible to explain the fencing. When we arrived at Smarmore I asked "What's up with Slane?" Our hosts, Peter and Eileen, tell us that the night before there had been a Bon Jovi concert and there were 45,000 people in attendance in the Slane Castle. This is a town with a population of less than 2000. Eminem will be there in August and some concerts there have had as many as 80,000 in attendance!

The room I'd reserved (the Earl's Room) wasn't available so they offered us a choice of 2 other rooms for the same price. We picked the one that had a separate room for Sarah, the Count's Room. It was beautifully decorated and comfortable. We just wish we'd had a little more time to spend there. Their internet left a lot to be desired, but other than that it was perfect! Sarah and I decided to wander out in the dwindling light to try to get some pictures before it was totally dark.It was sprinkling so we put on our coats and went out. And closed the door. And didn't have the key. And didn't want to disturb the owners.

We got a few nice shots in the evening light and then had to figure out how to get back in. We found the window to the room that Rick was in and decided to find something soft to throw at it to catch his attention. But first we tried shooting our flash at the window to see if he'd see that and check out the odd light. No chance. So we found some small sticks but had to throw from the corner of the house. I finally hit the glass and ran back to see if he'd come check out what made the noise. It worked! He came to the window and I signaled to him to open the door. So that wraps up our trip. We drove a total of 1770 miles. Now all that's left to do is get to the airport and onto the plane.

THAT is a story in itself.

<--- castle cat

Ireland Road Trip, Installation #3

On our exploratory drive toward Sligo we ran across Newtown Castle on the N67. It was another one of those refurbished castles (mortar!) which are less interesting, too clean and unrealistic. The keeper of the castle opened it up early once again. Most of the towns are asleep until late, Irelanders (they're not all Irish) seem to be much more laid back than those of us from the States. Anyway, I think we enjoyed the resident chickens and cows more than the castle.

We drove on into Galway to try to find an Enable Ireland Charity Shop (thrift store) and ended up right in the middle of the tourist section of town with lots of street musicians and colorful buildings. Sarah could finally do some serious shopping and we found another Murphy's Bar, whaddya know 'bout that!? (Sarah's mother is a Murphy, FYI). After spending a couple hours enjoying the chaos we headed to Headford to try to locate another obscure ruin I'd found and wished to photograph - Ballycurrin Lighthouse.

The lighthouse is the only inland lighthouse in Ireland, situated on Lough Corrib next to Ballycurrin House, which I neglected to get a picture of. It was a nicely maintained old house with a cottage on the lake that I'd wanted to rent for a night, but this time of year they only rent it by the week. When we got there it was once again a pretty day and there were kids swimming in the lake right at the lighthouse! I got my shots but it'll take some work to remove the kids!

We put the pedal to the metal and made it all the way to Sligo (SLY-go). Now we had to find a room. We checked on one and she referred us to another back on the main drag that may have a room for 3 (we learned to ask for help by now). I ran in to check if there was a room to let for 3 travelers and Mary, the hostess, was more than accommodating. We got our room, the best room on our trip up to then, and she proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes or so educating us on the town history, customs, and gave us a map and restaurant reviews and prices. She also shared that the town was celebrating the poet, Yeats, birthday with special meals (Yeats' celebratory Nobel Prize meal of sausages and wine - the only food and drink he had in the house when he received news of the prize in 1923) and that there would be an open air concert in the Sligo Abbey Ruin, right downtown and for free!

We chose to eat at Hardagon's based on Mary's reviews and it was exactly as she'd described. We ate our dinner then wandered over to hear the concert. It was a string quartet called No Crows and the female member also played a piece on the saw! I'd never heard the saw played - it was awesome and haunting. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and wished they'd had CDs on sale there so I could have bought one to enjoy and have as a souvenir.

On our walk back to Pearce's B&B we finally saw an Ireland sunset. I was in love with that town and could easily see myself living there.


Friday we headed out in a northerly direction toward a room I booked months back and was extremely excited to finally stay in - Bunbeg House.  It was advertised as a beautiful house on a harbor and I was really looking forward to it. But we had miles to go before we'd get to experience it.

Since we ended up part of the Yeats celebration we decided we'd have to stop and visit his grave in Drumcliffe, it was so nearby. It was a very pretty graveyard. With a church in the center, of course.

Our next planned stop was at Ahamlish Church ruins near Grange. My notes took us right to it. The church ruins weren't nearly as interesting as they showed on the web. They had been boarded up and now inaccessible but it was, again, in a very nice setting.

We happened upon Mullaghmore and the beautiful Classiebawn House outside Cliffony on a loop road that wasn't advertised as a scenic route or given any kind of announcement even though it was very worthy of such a fanfare. We enjoyed the detour, then got back on track.

Next we spotted Creevykeel Circle, a "court cairn", otherwise known as a large circular pile of rocks with some strange smaller circles. Someone was buried somewhere in there, maybe many someones.

Our next stop was in the town of Donegal, Donegal Castle. Rick and I had driven around this site on Google maps to see exactly where it was and where we'd have park. It was a pretty well preserved and somewhat refurbished structure with one room decorated something like it may have been when it was in use. It added a little to see how it may have felt to live in a castle. Except for the glass windows, well, that era may have had glass, but they didn't have the heaters. But I think once the place was warmed up it may have held the heat well and been rather comfortable. Before glass windows I'm thinking they may have used shutters and then maybe tapestries to cover the windows and block out the cold. Maybe I'll have to research it...

There was a group of crafters' shops just outside of Donegal that we stopped to inspect and the one that caught our attention was the tweed maker, Clare. She collects weaving machines and rebuilds them as she can. She was using one 100 years old in the shop, it was interesting and she had a nice variety of spools of brightly colored wool.

We continue on through some of the "burren" area, lots of rocks and apparently lots of peat bogs. I found a Kingdom Hall on the R262 north of Frosses! Not much to look at but the only one I'd seen so here's a shot of it.

We knew we were in the peat bog area because we found peat logs drying near the Maas area. I forgot that I wanted to see this, again, I wasn't aiming for it but it just was there, in our face!

The time had come, we got to Bunbeg house. It was dreary, rainy weather but that wasn't the only thing that made the House disappointing. It was just disappointing. The room was cold, most residents had turned off their heaters, it was June, summer, you know?!? The water pressure was poor, the shower head kept drooping, there was mildew on the walls and ceiling in the bathroom. Wifi only worked in one room and it was only marginally acceptable. And the harbor was just a small waterway that went around a large concrete parking area filled with dead, dry-docked boats, some sitting on trailers with flat tires. Oh yeah, the hosts were never anywhere to be seen and appeared bothered when you beckoned them via the buzzer they provided in the lobby.

So the room kinda sucked big time - but dinner at Sean Ogs was terrific! We ordered the fish and chips and the filet of haddock that they served was HUMONGOUS!!!

So we're getting near the end, next up - the rest of the story...

Ireland, Days 5 and 6

We had a leisurely, free breakfast of cereal and toast (it was actually nice to skip the large, heavy breakfasts we'd been having every day) and perusing the web on our iPads at the Ballinskellig Hostel. Our host, Frida, was missing and hadn't verified our boat trip for the day. I went ahead and called Joe and we had a beautiful morning and a green light for our trip to Skellig Michael! We finally located Frida to pay for our room and bid her adieu, she had been a wonderful hostess.

The mere minutes of the Ring of Kerry that we did actually get to see with beautiful blue sky and puffy clouds was breathtaking. Now I understand the attraction of buses of tourists to this road. It was a good thing the weather was so bad, we would have taken twice as long to get to our destination, having to stop at every pull out on the road!

We ran into our second cow jam in the short drive into Portmagee. Somehow I hadn't pictured the ocean and shoreline to be part of the Ireland scenery but, being an island, well, of course!

Off into the distance we spotted a small ruin, McCarthy Castle. We stopped for a quick grab with our cameras and had to get back on the road - we had an appointment to see a man with a boat! Sarah now knew we were going on a boat but to see what was still a mystery. She wanted it to remain a mystery just in case it got canceled.

We found our spots on the deck of the small boat along with 7 others and, after a short wait for someone, we were off to the island 8 miles out into the Atlantic. Along the way we were being passed by low-flying gannets and off in the distance dolphins were spotted. It was about a 45 minute ride and everyone tolerated the pitching and rolling well. We had a special needs girl on the boat who was videoing a conversation she was having with her 2 green, stuffed companions. She and her parents were visiting from Utah.

The weather could not have been more perfect for what we were about to do. I had already determined that I wasn't gonna attempt to climb the 600+ steps to the ancient monastery at the top of one of the peaks. Instead I was hoping that the puffins that breed there would be visible and I would spend my time collecting shots of the worried-looking or clownish, colorfully-beaked birds. That still meant some climbing and on some of the type of steps I'd seen that I was hoping to avoid... on the side of a hill with a sheer drop on one side.  Here's a shot of my first puffin sighting. He was making noises from under this rock and when I looked to see what was making it I saw this fellow!

I think our timing regarding the puffins was probably just about perfect, the chicks had hatched 2 weeks prior and the parent puffins were busy flying up and down constantly so I ended up with about 100 shots! After dumping the ones where the bird had flown away just as I was clicking the shutter or my focus didn't lock on him while he was flying away, I still have about 50 pretty nice captures! So I sat for about the 2 hours and Rick and Sarah did the hike to the top. I could easily have sat for 2 more hours.

On our way back to the mainland we got close to the other Skellig island, Little Skellig. From a distance it's covered with white and I was assuming it was the same white flowers that were covering the larger island - instead it was the actual birds! (and their droppings, of course) It's the 2nd largest gannet colony in Europe. There were also the penguin-looking awks but no puffins since there was no soil which they need to burrow into to make their nests. A mother seal and her baby were lounging just above the water's edge on a rocky shelf.

Back in town we spotted a soup and bread lunch for €4 at The Bridge Bar. It sure hit the spot! While the skies were beautiful it did manage to sprinkle on us most of our time on the ocean, heavier on the boat ride back. It was called vegetable soup but was more of a puree-type soup that was just what we needed and served with the ever-present brown bread that's served with every meal.

Sarah visited a gift shop or 2, then we were off for our next destination, Ballycarberry Castle. Sarah had found out about this one from a blog. It was one of the better ruins we got to visit, except for the little biting flies. There was a dude giving a tour to a couple women and I overheard some explanations, one being "the murder hole" that was common, there was one in the Blarney Castle but I neglected to read what it meant. It was above the entrance to the castle and if enemies tried to enter the occupants would pour boiling oil or anything that would cause bodily harm on the intruders via this hole. Ouch!

We hit the road for Dingle and the rain got harder and harder. Bummer once again! There were things we wanted to see and do on that peninsula, but not in that weather! So we made it to town and wandered a bit. Sarah was wanting to visit the famous Murphy's Pub so we found it and ate our dinner there. I once read that the town of Dingle had one pub for every 36 town inhabitants! It was a very colorful village and very worth the drive, but in better weather! She had also found a Murphy's ice cream shop and had a cone - one scoop of Dingle Sea Salt and one scoop of Brown Bread.

On the way out we, once again, had driving rain and fog on the hills. So much for viewing the Rings of Kerry and Dingle!

I called ahead to let our next hosts, Garret and Patricia of the Castle View House B&B on Carrig Island in Ballylongford, know that we would be there around 10PM. When we arrived they were enjoying themselves with dinner guests and while were unwinding in our room the party downstairs was amusing to listen to - the laughs were loud and non-stop!


Sometime shortly after breakfast Garret took off and when he returned he informed us that he'd opened the castle for us! Not something you hear every day! Apparently he's the keeper of the Carrigafoyle Castle, just across the way from their B&B (hence the name). We wandered the castle but it wasn't as impressive as some, it had been somewhat restored which meant they used fresh mortar which was white and the dirt floor inside was completely clear of any debris.

But the day had started as beautifully as the previous day so it was a pleasure to drive and see the sights. We were aiming for the town of Limerick and the nearby ruins of Dromore Castle. We found them without too much difficulty but were unable to approach it. We simply shot it from the gate that kept us away.

Along the way towards the Cliffs of Moher, our main sight of the day, we drove through the beautiful village of Quin. A small ancient church and bridge made us stop and get out.

When we reached Ennistimon it was lunch time and it, again, was one of the more interesting towns so we stopped to check out some shops and find an inexpensive lunch. We ended up in a tea house run by some recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, their accents were Russianish. Our seating was like a living room sitting area with couches and a coffee table and there was a mom group with 4 tiny babies visiting each other. It was another good meal, sandwiches this time, and when Rick went to pay they accidentally shorted him €10 in change so they gave him a "blooming tea" as an apology gift. I'm kind of excited to use it!

Rick spotted this fellow while we were checking out the town and I just kept shooting - not something you see around here anywhere!

This was approaching the end of the "beautiful" part of the day and by the time we reached the World Heritage Sight, the Cliffs of Moher, it was raining, although not too hard. We paid and parked and took some shots of the cliffs and O'Brien's Castle, then headed out this trail to who-knows-where. My shoes were not doing too well in the rain, they were acting like sponges, so a bit down that trail I finally said I couldn't see the point of going on so went back to the car. I was happy with my decision because it just lead to some other cliffs still a ways off and the rain was only getting harder.

We continued on in the rain toward Doolin, got some shots of the Doonagore Castle when we arrived since I could see we wouldn't have a pretty sunset to shoot it in as I'd hoped. We got settled in our tiny room in the Aille River Hostel (€54 for 3), complete with bunk bed in the "quiet" room (an addition to the 300-year-old cottage, on the other side of the thick rock wall that encompassed the main house). This was more of what I'd pictured a stay in a hostel to be like: noisy, bustling with adolescents, people speaking various languages while they cooked and served their meals at the tables and benches. The faucets in the bathroom were all push-button type, including the shower! Vary smart! There was a wood stove (probably burning peat logs) that the soggy teenage boys were sitting near, drying their wet shoes. One of them decided to come hit me up with a barrage of questions about my iPad while I was doing some mapping for the next day. And a college-aged girl came to see if we could give her a ride into our next day's destination, Galway. I loaded up the washer with our dirty clothes and we headed out to dinner on foot.

We chose Fitzpatrick's Bar for dinner which turned out to be my favorite dinner spot on the trip (albeit the most expensive, but that's our fault). There was a fellow playing some nice music and we were in the next room so it wasn't loud enough that we couldn't converse during our meal. It was pleasant, not rowdy, music. The food was served on an assortment of utensils - my chicken Kiev was served on a cutting board, Rick's meal was on a stone shingle and Sarah had crab legs on a regular plate. Service was great, ambiance, temperature - everything was perfect. I had a local brew, a "Dooliner" and bought the glass as a gift for one of my offspring.

Whew! This was truly a whirlwind trip but we had our navigation and driving skills honed and were able to enjoy ourselves much more at last. Coming up - our next 2 days on the Emerald Isle!

About Me

My photo
After 2 unsuccessful marriages I spent 12 years as a divorcee, only to fall prey to another man's wiles. We had a fun 5 years together and then he decided he wanted more freedom so once again I'm single.

So I'm freshly divorced at 57 and have 5 great kids and now 7 grandkids. My kids are still a major part of my life but I'm busy helping my aging parents on Kauai.

I've lived in California, Hawaii and Oklahoma before finally settling here in Washington. I love Washington and come back to visit family, friends and take care of my garden often but will be temporarily a resident of Kauai.

I've moved 30 times in my life (no, my parents weren't in the service, at least not since I was about 2) and finally planted roots when I got my little house that I've owned since '91.

My family are Jehovah's Witnesses, I've been one since '72.