IRELAND 2010

The trip included four adults (my wife and I and another couple). The entire trip was twelve days: three days in Dublin, train to Killarney, bus tour of Ring of Kerry, bus to and late afternoon walking tour Limerick, rented car, spending the day at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and staying in Ennis, drove to Galway via Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, three days in Galway/Connemara, dropped off car in Limerick and took train to Dublin, one last night in Dublin. My wife and I had been to Ireland twice before (the last time was eighteen years ago). This was their first time for our friends. I plan on adding more posts in the future about the post trip hot wash and the lessons learned we had in case anyone reading this wants to benefit from our experience.

To prepare for the trip, I used “Rick Steve's Snapshot Dublin,” (a very good resource), “Time Out Dublin,” “The Unofficial Guide to Ireland,” and Pauline Frommer's “Ireland (Spend Less, See More)” as well as virtual tourist.com and tripadvisor.co.uk. Other Dublin web sites that were particularly useful:

www.visitdublin.com
www.discoverireland.ie
www.dublintourist.com

www.dublinhotels.com
www.menupages.ie
www.heritageireland.ie

The sun rose around 0600 and set at 2200 each day, giving us plenty of daylight for sightseeing. Nearly all the attractions in Ireland close at 1700 so factor that into your sightseeing plans. Our hostess at Chelmsford House B&B in Killarney told us that the mistake most Americans make when they come to Ireland is over scheduling themselves: trying to do too many things in their short visits (even our twelve days seemed short) such that they spend most of their time rushing/traveling between attractions/cities, not enough time getting to know the locals, and without enough flexibility to accommodate recommendations from locals or investigating things that look interesting. My wife and I learned this lesson on our first trip to Ireland in 1991 (6 days, clockwise around island), but corrected it on our second in 1993 (12 days, just a few cities the west/Connemara). This trip was very loosely scheduled with lots of options, despite the way the account below reads.

I have provided some links below to a brief summary of the trip and pictures.

What follow below is a day by day account of the trip.

21 June USA

My dad took us to the Newport News/Williamsburg airport in Toyota and I got extra cash at NFCU on the way. Air Tran flight left at 0750 and arrived at LaGuardia about 0845. Airport seemed a little old and small to me. It was very easy to take a shuttle bus from the airport to JFK. The van trip (with lots of other passengers) lasted only about 20 minutes. We spent almost as much time driving between terminals at JFK as we did driving there from LaGuardia. Terminal 4 was about two football fields wide and had the usual assortment of clothes, sundries, magazines, book stores and bars and fast food restaurants. Pam and I parked ourselves by one of the eating areas to watch the World Cup (Chile versus Switzerland) on a big screen television. We were joined by the Willbees around 1145 after they arrived from the hotel where they stayed the night before (having taken a red-eye flight from Sacramento on Jet Blue airways). We proceeded to hang out in the general terminal area until 1900, spending most of the time at the Palm restaurant, going there right after they opened at 1200 and not leaving until 1630. At 1900, we ran the security screening gauntlet for the second time that day. I had a problem because I had forgotten to take my iPod touch out of my pocket so I set off the alarm a few times until I figured that out. I learned that once the TSA personnel ask you to remove a certain article of clothing to pass through the scanners, you are expected to comply, no questions asked.

We left a little earlier than the advertised 2150 departure on the Aer Lingus A330. It had very comfortable seats and lots of movie and music choices on the in seat entertainment system. We had some real drama shortly after the Captain turned off the fasten seat belt signs as Pam fainted on her way to the bathroom. I was not very helpful to the cabin crew when they woke me up and pressed me for details about her medical condition and personal well being (a bit groggy at first). It was hard to answer their detailed questions clearly and lucidly. Pam quickly recovered (a bottle of O2 helped) and the rest of the flight was uneventful. They fed us a huge meal about an hour after take off (not my preference, I would have preferred something light and a bigger breakfast before arrival in Dublin), but I had no problem falling asleep even before the food tray was collected and did not stir again until the descent to Dublin airport began about four hours later (getting only two hours of sleep the night before per the “Soule plan” was a big contributor – I did not feel tired at all in the nearly twelve hours we waited at JFK before the flight).

22 June Dublin

We arrived in Dublin a little early, around 0900 local time and proceeded swiftly through immigration control (asking the standard questions, such as, “What is the purpose of your visit?” and “How long to you intend to stay?”). The baggage collection did not take very long for the Willbees (Pam and I had only carry on). We bought bus tickets at the tourist information office in the airport terminal for the express bus, 747, to Dublin, O'Connell Street, for €20 for two (normally €13 each). The bus ride featured the 4.5 km Dublin Port Tunnel, completed in 2006. Going through this tunnel was a new experience for Pam and I, but then I had never been to Dublin airport before, having arrived my only time in Dublin in 1990 via ferry from England. The twin tunnels connect Dublin Port, which lies to the east of central Dublin, and the M1 motorway close to Dublin Airport and relieve surface road congestion in Dublin city centre by diverting big trucks from Dublin Port directly onto the highway. At the completion of the 20-30 minute ride, we were deposited on O'Connell Street almost right across the street from Lynham’s Hotel, which became clear after just a few minutes of reconnoitering.

We dropped our bags in the one room that was ready. Pam stayed to rest, while Jeannelle, Mike, and I walked to Trinity College and back. We returned, collected Pam and stopped at Flannagan's (just a few doors down from the hotel) for lunch. I had Irish stew, Mike had “Joint of the Day”, and Pam/Jeannelle had beef in wine/mushroom sauce pie (it really was just had a biscuit on top).

I could not connect to the Wi-Fi at Lynham's Hotel that my devices said was available, but the Dublin City public library on the second floor of the ILac shopping center (off Henry Street between Dunnes and Debenhams Department stores, across from Arnotts department store) worked fine. The library’s hours are Monday-Thursday1000-2000, Friday-Saturday 1000-1700. The hotel had a computer connected to a box you could put coins into, but the Internet Cafés were a better deal.

We talked across the Liffey to Trinity College and got the combination student tour and Book of Kells Tour. The 30 minute tour of the campus, led by a young, female, history student in her third year, was informative (covering history of the buildings and many people and events) and only lasted about 20 minutes before completing in front of the old Library. After a lengthy stay at the Book of Kells exhibit, we walked to Saint Stephens Green via the Grafton outdoor shopping district. On the way back to the rooms, we stopped at the Dublin Starbucks in the Grafton Street shopping area (it was on the second floor in a narrow department store) so Jeannelle could get a caffeine fix. We got back to our rooms at about 1730 and rested there until about 1900 when we went out walking for dinner. After a good walk around the Temple Bar and Grafton areas, we ate at the Acapulco restaurant to sample the Irish version of Mexican food and it was quite good (spicier than I would have expected). Pam and I had tostadas (hers vegetarian and mine chile beef, not flat tortillas but two palm size cup like shells), Mike had a chimichanga and Jeannelle had a fajita (beef) salad. The waitress appeared in absolutely no hurry to bring the check after clearing our plates (this is a difference from the USA that we noted more than once).

23 June Wednesday

Breakfast 0910, full Irish breakfast (toast, one egg, tomato, black/white pudding, lamb sausage, and bacon) for all four of us at the hotel restaurant.  We walked first to Christchurch Cathedral, taking the self-guided audio tour of the church and crypt. Pam and I attended the noon prayer for peace in the main church before descending to the crypt (desiccated cat and rat, history of the castle with many displays, video of church history). Mike and I bought cold drinks on the way to Dublin Castle. We booked the 1410 tour, but had time to visit the chapel and briefly wonder at the courtyard and Bedford Tower, with its flanking figures representing Justice and Strength/Fortitude before the tour started. The tour was informative, but I wished I had made an audio recording of it since a lot of information went by really fast. We stopped by the Dubh Linn (the original name of the town, meaning “dark pool” in Gaelic, corrupted by the Vikings into Dublin) garden and Charles Beatty library behind the Castle after the tour.

We stopped by a grocery store and bought sandwiches, salad for lunch, which we ate outside on a bench in front of the Powerscourt shopping center a few blocks away. We finished at about 1645 and walked to Saint Patrick's Cathedral in the mistaken belief that it would be open until 1800, but it actually closed just as we got there. In retrospect, had we realized the cathedral closed for visiting at 1700, we might have been able to take a cab there or finish eating earlier. We spent some time in the park next to the church taking pictures, and then headed back to the hotel. We took a different route back to the hotel, crossing the River Liffey via the Ha' Penny pedestrian bridge. We promised ourselves earlier that we would stop by two stores on either side of the bridge, “Forbidden Planet” (manga, anime, and action figure store) and a wool store (Jeannelle and Pam). While Mike went in Forbidden Planet, I popped into an internet café to print a copy of the trip itinerary, which I had forgotten to do before departure. We spent a short time back at the hotel before heading to Grafton/Duke Streets south of Trinity College at The Duke for the Literary Pub Crawl. We bought tickets (€12 each) at 1900 and the tour was from 1930 – 2200.

The pub crawl included four pubs (one was The Duke). Our guides were professional actors Frank and Sarah. Most of the tour members were Americans with a few other countries (England, Australia) represented. Our friend Mike won the t-shirt contest announced at the beginning of the “crawl” by answering two questions (of six) correctly and then the “shoot out” with a young man from Australia (“Which Irish playwright won both a Nobel Prize for literature and an Oscar?” – (Oscar Wilde) via multiple choice.

We walked back to the hotel hoping to get what the Irish call “bar food” since it was obvious that most of the conventional restaurants were closed, but the kitchens of the two establishments we tried were closed so we went to a Malaysian restaurant, Pulau Pinang, on O'Connell street, across the street from the hotel. The food was quite good, but the best feature was that the restaurant was open when most of the others were not. Good food and service were a bonus. We returned to our rooms at 2320.

24 June Thursday

I ran for about 30 minutes, starting at 0733 and ran west to the Museum of Irish History at Collins Barracks along the route of the LUAS trolley. I chose this route because I would probably have less traffic to negotiate this way and it turned out to be a good choice. It started off a bit cool since I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, but I never needed my windbreaker as I warmed up just fine.

After the full Irish breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Café Carlo, we went north on O'Connell street to the Ireland Writers Museum. We spent nearly two hours there (two rooms of exhibits and plaques about authors as well as a gift shop and café) and it provided great detail on Irish writers and their works. This was a highlight of the trip.

We next went south, pausing at Remembrance Garden (civil war memorial) and Trinity College (to find out who is in the sarcophagus in the exam room, but the students giving the tours did not know), via Nassau Street to Kildare Street, passing the National Library and stopping at the National Museum of Archeology. We stayed there until nearly 1500. The exhibits I remember were: Roman/Estruscan life, Egypt, prehistoric Ireland, Medieval Ireland, gold metal work, people found in bogs, and the excavation of Tara. At the end of the day, we walked to St Patrick's Cathedral (arriving after it closed, we should have taken a cab there).

After hearing about it during the tour of Trinity College, I was motivated to do some research on the Sarcophagus in the Trinity College Exam Hall.

From the site: http://www.chaptersofdublin.com/books/ossory/ossory4.htm

The long tenure of the provostship of Richard Baldwin (1717-58) did much to [improve the discipline of the College, which had become very lax during the early years of the 18th century]. He was tyrannical, overbearing, and unjust, and did little for the intellectual development of the University; but he enforced some degree of order, and proved his affection for his College by bequeathing to it not only his savings of £24,000, but in addition real estate to the value of over £50,000.

His monument in the Theatre [which doubles as the exam hall] represents the dying Provost, on a sarcophagus of porphyry [a type of red colored granite], turning affectionately to the University who weeps over him, while an angel points to a crown of immortality which she holds before his closing eyes. The monument was the work of Hewetson, a Dublin artist, who executed the work in his studio in Rome at a cost, including carriage, of £1,500.

We stopped for a big meal at Captain America's restaurant in Grafton Street at 1515 and then did some shopping before returning to the hotel room by 1830. I went out again to look for sunglasses (mine had broken) and moleskin (this time wearing my running shoes). The Gore-tex hiking boots I brought for the Connemara part of the trip were rubbing too much on my left heel. I stumbled upon a shopping mall between department stores and thence upon a library where I could get a Wi Fi connection for both my iPod (no email though) and my iPad (did get email and updated applications from the iTunes Store, downloaded WSJ updates, and did some web browsing). Everyone else just rested in the hotel.

We considered going to The Celt pub on Talbot Street for traditional Irish music, but it was not going to start until 2200 and we did not want to stay out that late. We left the hotel at 2000 for Temple Bar and the Oliver St John Gogarty’s pub because we expected to catch some earlier music. We were not disappointed after we got upstairs. We were early enough to get good seats, but we realized later that if someone possibly could put a chair in front of where you were sitting, they would. Mike bought two CDs of the band's music and gave one to us. We left at 2200. Before going up to our rooms, I made reservations to stay at Lynham’s Hotel for the last night of our trip, 2 July.

25 June Friday

Pam and I got up at 0600. There were two fire alarms (or something that sounded like a fire alarm) at 0300, but we ignored them and fortunately did not have to evacuate the hotel. We departed Lynham’s Hotel at 0740, wheeling our bags to the Abby Theater LUAS trolley stop. We paid €1.90 per ticket to Heuston Station (across the street from the LUAS stop of the same name). At Heuston Station, we bought round trip (sort of) Irish Rail tickets to Limerick/Killarney (Dublin to Killarney, Killarney to Limerick, Limerick back to Dublin). We bought pastries/drinks in the station for breakfast since we were concerned about not being able to catch the 0900 train if we had a sit down breakfast in a restaurant, most of which don’t start serving until 0730.

The train to Cork departed from track 6 at 0900, but we had to struggle with luggage when we figured out that the seats were reserved (LED sign above each seat) in all but the last two cars. The agent who took our tickets told us something like this (“enter at the middle since the other seats are reserved”), but none of us had any idea what he meant (other than enter at the middle of the train). Mike had to take his bag off the train and head toward the front of the train with it on the platform since it was too big to move down the aisle. We changed trains in Mallow for the train to Tralee and arrived in Killarney around 1230.

Mike and I left Jeannelle and Pam guarding the bags at the train station while we found a place to eat (McSweeny's Pub) that was not too far away, but we took a cab there to make things easier. We ate a nice meal there and then took another cab to Chelmsford House where we met Pat (Louise's husband) who gave us our room keys and said he thought we were not coming since we arrived later than what I had suggested in a prior email.

After we dropped our bags in our rooms, Pat gave us some tips on walking to Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. It was about 2 km to the castle (actually a Tower House). We arrived around 1630 and Mike bought tickets (€6 each) for the last tour of the day, which took about 40 minutes. On the tour with us was a young couple that we were to see several other times during our trip. On our return, we exited Killarney National Park near St Mary's Cathedral and entered Killarney via New Road, going into the Danny Mann tavern (Pam and her dad had gone there while I stayed with Bryan on our last trip to Ireland) for dinner (Irish Stew, Shank of Lamb, Shepherd’s pie, profiteroles, and Bailey's cheesecake with caramel topping, an awesome dessert). We stayed until 2030, but the music was not due to start until 2200 so we called it a day and walked back to Chelmsford House.

The Wi-Fi at Chelmsford House was very handy. My iPad could not connect, however.

26 June Saturday

Bus Tour of the Ring of Kerry

Breakfast at 0830. We met Louise, the proprietress of Chelmsford B&B, at breakfast. She was very friendly and provided lots of recommendations about things to do and tours to take from Killarney. We had plenty of time to finish breakfast and waited only a few minutes for the bus to arrive for the Ring of Kerry tour. Louise had arranged it with O'Connell bus tours when I made our B&B reservation with her before leaving the states. Louise is the kind of person to whom you should tell all your plans because she has lots of suggestions to make your trip better.

The small bus arrived at 0945. It also went to other B&Bs and hotels to pick up others. We were the first stop and thus the first ones on the bus. The driver, Dennis, strongly suggested we get on the main bus first to get the best seats, which Mike, Jeannelle and Pam did while I paid for the tour (€20 each). The bus made plenty of stops along the way to take photos.

The “ring” is a road encircling the Iveragh (I-veer-a) Peninsula. After a few minutes on a bus tour travelling the ring (at a cost of about 30 euro) in a counterclockwise direction, the first sight comes into view. The Macgillycuddy Reeks, with its folds and rugged terrain, is a mountain region that forms the backbone of the Ring of Kerry, and includes Ireland’s highest peak, Carrantuohill, at 1,050 meters high, and the Gap of Dunloe, a glaciated valley.

The Landscape of the Ring of Kerry

We stopped at the Red Fox Inn (half way between Killorglin and Glenbeigh on the main Ring of Kerry route) an old traditional road house situated adjacent to Kerry Bog Village museum, home of the Kerry bog pony. The Bog Village is a “step back in time to the early 18th century to recapture the way life would have been at that time.” The village preserves the real Kerry life as it was, in the heart of Kerry's bog land. I passed on this tour and waited for the others to finish. The land surrounding the mountains, particularly closer to the town of Killorglin, is comprised of peat bogs. Peat (the result of water-rotted vegetation), or turf as it is usually called in Ireland, is harvested from bogs and is still used as domestic fuel in the winter. Evidence of its gathering lies across the bogs as stacked peat “bricks,” filled plastic bags, and cut-out sections of land.

The Carragh River, which flows into nearby Dingle Bay, is past the bogs. The next stop on the tour was the sheep-dog demonstration put on by local farmer Brendan Ferris. Once you pay your €5 fee and walk up the hill, you can see a flock of sheep widely dispersed on the side of the mountain. Brendan gives a fascinating demonstration of how he uses his sheep dogs, border collies Max and Bess, to bring in the sheep on his farm. Responding to Brendan's whistled commands, the dogs guide the sheep downwards. Miraculously, by the end of the demonstration all the sheep are calmly gathered in a pen beside you. The dogs are the real stars of the show.

Moving onward, the driver Dennis told us about the Ireland TidyTowns competition, which was started in 1958 and is Ireland's most well known and popular local environmental initiative. The primary focus of TidyTowns was to encourage communities to improve their local environment and make their area a better place to live, work and visit. The competition aspect was an important element in developing friendly rivalry that would help boost standards across the board. The emphasis was always on participating rather than winning as the very act of taking part brought benefits to the community. And with a focus on long-term results rather than quick returns, TidyTowns was soon seen as a unique and far-sighted initiative. Just 52 towns entered in its first year, but TidyTowns rapidly increased in popularity with an average of 700 entrants per year.

The road hugged the coastline and revealed the glimmering sheet that is Dingle Bay. It covers the expanse between the Iveragh Peninsula and the Dingle Peninsula on the other side, with dips and rises in its own landscape wooing explorers. The Blasket Islands, at the end of Dingle Peninsula, are visible on a clear day but shrouded in mist look like part of the mainland.

The Birthplace of Daniel O’Connell

The next main town is Cahersiveen. On its outskirts are partial stone walls, the remains of the house in which Daniel O’Connell, champion for Catholics’ rights, was born in 1775. In town, buildings bear O’Connell’s name, as well as a church, reputedly the only church in Ireland not to be named after a saint.

Back on the bus, the road curves toward the Atlantic Ocean and along the seaside town of Waterville, where we stopped at a pub for lunch. After Waterville, the road climbs up into the mountains and past Silent Valley, so called because of the effect the Great Famine of 1845-1849 had on the area. The ground here, covered in lush shades of green divided by stone walls and punctuated with houses, tumbles down toward the sea, and an ancient, round stone fort still exists in the valley, as well.

Dolmen on the road toward Sneem are reminders of ancient Ireland, but Sneem itself is a small town that boasts brightly painted houses, perfect for a modern-day postcard. The bus stopped for thirty minutes right next to a Quills Woollen store (we almost lost Jeannelle).

Valleys and Views Surround Killarney National Park

The last stop on the bus tour is the area around Killarney National Park. We rode past Black Valley, huddled within dramatic mountains (reportedly the last place in Ireland to receive electricity). A pass over Moll’s Gap takes travelers to Ladies’ View (so named because of the Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting who express their enjoyment of the location during a visit some one hundred years ago), a lookout point over lakes and islets.

The benefit of a day trip of the Ring of Kerry on a bus tour is that you can focus on landscape of the Iveragh Peninsula, from bogs and valleys, to mountains and seascapes without taking your life in your hands on the narrow roads.

We arrived back in Killarney at about 1630. We walked from Chelmsford House to the shopping/restaurant area (New Street/High Street). While Jeannelle and Pam looked at linens, Mike and I walked through the very light rain checking out restaurants. We settled on Bricin (“brick-in,” gaelic for “a small trout”) restaurant (upstairs) and craft store (downstairs), primarily because their desserts looked interesting. We had to wait a bit for a table since they are very busy and many of the seats were taken up by what looked like a pre-wedding bridesmaids party.

27 June Sunday

Louise helped us make reservations at the Glen Eagles B&B in Limerick, very close to the city center (owned by Helen). Louise also helped us make reservations for Clochard B&B on 29, 30 Jun and 1 Jul in Galway, run by a friend of hers (a different Helen). She gave us packages to take to both (business cards for the first one). Louise suggested that we could have picked up the rental car in Killarney on Sunday if only we had arranged to do so at the Kerry airport (not clear to me when I was making the reservation). She also suggested that we take the bus to Limerick instead of the train (two hours instead of three and a half), but we could not easily tell online if the first bus to leave Killarney was at 1400 or 1200 (it turned out to be the latter). Louise suggested that we would have had time to take a bus tour of the gap of Dunloe if we had picked up the rental car at the Kerry airport because we could easily have driven to Limerick afterward with the rental car. This was a good idea, but I had already paid for the rental car so we could not change plans. This is another reason why you should not over plan and seek help from the locals, if possible, when making plans.

We took a cab from Chelmsford House to the bus station (right next to the train station) and got tickets for the bus from Killarney to Limerick City (€18 each, obtained from a vending machine because the ticket office did not open until 1200) instead of the train to save Mike and Jeannelle having to manhandle their luggage over two train transfers (one in Mallow and the other in Limerick Junction).

The bus route included: Kerry airport, Rathkeale, and Adare via the N21 highway (what the Irish would call a “motorway”). We arrived in Limerick City at 1410. We took a cab from the combination bus/train station to Glen Eagles B&B (well marked, good directions from the proprietress) and met Helen's sister, who let us in and gave us some advice on things to see. We walked from Glen Eagles at1518 to King John’s Castle, passing the Treaty Stone on the way, and paid for admission (€9 ea). We walked from King's Island to O'Connell Street, but struggled to find an open restaurant on a Sunday evening. Even most of the pubs were not serving food.

We stopped at the Texas Steakout restaurant for dinner.

After returning to Glen Eagles, we met Helen, the proprietress. She will make breakfast to suit your time. She also did laundry for us (no establishments are open on Sundays), for which we paid her €10 Monday morning.

28 June Monday

Helen was a great hostess and made all the breakfasts herself (several of the B&Bs had hired help). She told us about the upcoming Las Vegas wedding of her niece (Apr 2011) and how everyone's children have been struggling since the collapse of the “Celtic Tiger.” She made a comment about how someone once told her that she was raising children for “export” because the economy in Ireland was so poor twenty years ago.

After our 0800 breakfast, Mike and I took a cab to the car rental agency and picked up the Opel Insignia. It needed to be large enough to accommodate our luggage. There was some confusion about whether the car required unleaded versus diesel that we got cleared up before we left. We had to take a “test” before renting the car (list questions). We waited a bit after returning to Glen Eagles for our laundry to dry and then decided to depart for Bunratty Castle no matter what its condition was. Helen was very helpful with recommendations of things to do and places to go.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park are on the N18 road from Limerick City to Ennis. We got there at 1043 without much difficulty since the road signs were so good. The name Bunratty, Bun Raite (or possibly, Bun na Raite) in Irish, means the 'bottom' or end of the 'Ratty' river. This river, alongside the castle, flows into the nearby Shannon estuary. The Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland.  Built in 1425 it was restored in 1954 and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art that capture the mood of those times. Alongside the castle is the extensive Bunratty Folk Park that features reconstructions of historical cottages and buildings, recreating the general feel of the 19th century with a period style village main street. Old tools, furniture and artifacts are displayed, with the village kept alive by some inhabited shops, an old home bakery and peat fires in cottages. At the far end of the 26 acre site is the formal Bunratty Walled Garden, modeled on the original Regency period garden which supplied fruit, vegetables, and flowers to Bunratty House built in 1804 and now refurbished in typical Victorian style.

While at the park, we made reservations for Knappogue Castle Banquet (there are two others, BunrattyDunguaire, but they were full), check in time 1815. Reservations cost €50 each, payable in advance, non-refundable. You can also book these online, but I thought it best to wait until we were actually in Ireland and see if that is what our group wanted to do. and

After touring extensively, we stopped at Dirty Nelly’s, next door to the castle/folk park, for a late lunch: Pam had grilled ham and cheese, I had a burger (so did Jeannelle), and Mike had roast beef. I could not get my burger done medium rare because there is an EU rule against it (sigh).

We stopped in Ennis at Glenorma B&B after driving through the city center (pretty spooky for me seeing how close Mike was coming to cars parked in the street on the left hand side of the car) to try to find a tourist information office. We did not see one.

The drive from the B&B to Knappogue Castle Banquet (1815 – 2130 or so) was a death defying race across narrow backcountry roads with few signs to get there. We thought we had plenty of time to get there, but that evaporated rapidly as we drove on the narrow roads. We had more trouble than we expected finding both Quinn and the Castle, arriving just in the nick of time. Of the three long tables, we had the best seats since we sat between the only two windows in the banquet hall.

http://www.shannonheritage.com/Entertainment/KnappogueCastleBanquet/

http://www.discoverireland.com/us/ireland-things-to-see-and-do/listings/product/?fid=FI_12410

Knappogue Castle was built in 1467 by Sean MacNamara, son of Sioda (who built Bunratty Castle) and it has a long and varied history. In 1571 the castle became the seat of the MacNamara Clan, Earls of West Clancullen. In 1641 it was occupied by Oliver Cromwell's troops, but later returned to the MacNamara Clan who sold it to the Scots in 1800. The Castle has been host to two Irish presidents, as well as other heads of state, including General de Gaulle. A wonderful feature of the castle and its grounds is the beautiful walled garden, dating from 1817 now restored to its former splendor.

The Knappogue Castle & Walled Garden, built in 1467, is located in County Clare, Ireland. It was built by Sean MacNamara, and is a good example of a medieval tower house. It was one of forty-two castles owned by the MacNamara clan. It has a long and varied history, from a battlefield to a dwelling place. In 1571 the castle became the seat of the MacNamara Clan ~ Earls of West Clancullen. Donagh MacNamaraIrish Rebellion of 1641 and Knappogue remained in MacNamara hands throughout the Irish Confederate Wars of the 1640s. However, after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649-53) it was confiscated by Oliver Cromwell's parliament and granted to a ‘Roundhead’, Arthur Smith. was a leader of the

After the monarchy was restored in 1660, Knappogue was returned to its MacNamara owners. The MacNamara Clan sold the castle to the Scotts in 1800; the latter carried out major restoration and extension work. In 1855, the castle was acquired by Lord Dunboyne, who continued the restoration work. The castle’s history is imaginatively related on colourful panels throughout its rooms. During the War of Independence, Clare County Council held their meetings at Knappogue Castle where they were guarded by the East Clare Flying Column. Michael Brennan, Commander of the East Clare Brigade also used the castle as his headquarters during that time.[1]

In the 1920s, a local farmer leased the Knappogue castlelands as grazing land for his cattle. One of the cows wandered into the castle, which by this time had fallen into disrepair. The cow wandered up the stone stairs, stepped out onto the crumbling wood floor, and fell to its death on the stones below. As compensation for the lost cow, ownership of the castle and its surrounding lands were granted to the farmer, who continued to graze cattle there. In 1966, the castle and lands were purchased in 1966 by the Hon. Mark Edwin Andrews of Houston Texas. He and his wife (a prominent American architect), in collaboration with Shannon Development, carried out an extensive and sensitive restoration. Their work returned the castle to its former 15th century glory while encompassing and retaining later additions that chronicle the continuous occupation of the Castle.

The Andrews were the last occupants of the Castle. Shannon Development purchased the castle in 1996 with the intention of preserving the building for future generations. Dating from 1817, the beautiful 1.248 acre (5,000 m²) garden is now restored to its former splendour. The tall and imposing walls of the garden have now been refurnished with climbing roses, grapevines and many varieties of clematis.

Rocket Lettuce

arugula [uh-REW-guh-la] = arrugola = (in Britain ) rocket (salad) = tira = Italian cress = Mediterranean rocket = rugola = rugula = roquette = rucola   With its peppery and slightly bitter flavor, arugula is a terrific green to throw into an otherwise boring salad.  It can be gently braised, too.  Some supermarkets sell it in small bunches, but you're more likely to find it combined with other greens in a spring salad mix.

The show was really well done and featured music and entertainment (singing, dancing, harp/violin). They anointed several guests from the bus tours that came as “kings” of Ireland's four kingdoms.  I took lots of video. The menu was smoked salmon, bread with butter, tomato soup (with special ingredient “lovin”), chicken, potatoes, and veggies, with dessert, mead, red/white wines, and dessert. We sat next to two families from Pittsburg (we saw them again at the cliffs of Moher and in Galway).

29 June Tuesday

We ate breakfast at 0830 and met Mary, the proprietress of Glenomra. We were off by 0945 for the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Doolin, and Galway.

We drove straight from Ennis to the Cliffs of Moher, drinking in the gorgeous sites. We parked across the street from the new eco-friendly visitor center (€8 fee). The cliffs were still impressive and we also saw (heard the tremendous roar first) a rock slide from the cliffs into the ocean. This is just another reason to stay far from the edge as all the signs warned. The visitor’s center includes a gift shop (of course) and the Atlantic Edge interpretive center.

We stopped for lunch in O'Connor's pub in Doolin, then drove through the Burren (a rock strewn landscape in northwest County Clare, one of the largest karst landscapes in Europe) on our way to our home base for the next three days and two nights: Clochard B&B (€35 per person per night) in Galway. We had some considerable challenges (driving into the city center from the east (B&B was on the west) of town) finding the B&B we had reserved.  The B&B business card we got from Louise had a small map on the back, but it did not give any guidance for how to get to the intersection near the B&B (we should have checked a Galway map on line in advance to figure this out or asked for directions over the phone when I made the reservation). We found signs for University Hospital, a major landmark mentioned on the business card, and that helped us get to the intersection noted on the back of the card, but we passed the street on which the B&B was located multiple times since it was enclosed on three sides by a stone wall and the street “sign” was a small rock with the street name carved into it and the lower line of text was obscured by flowers. We met the owners, Helen and Pat Hanlon.

We walked into Galway around 1930 and had dinner on Quay Street, near the Spanish Arch, at "La Trattoria," an Italian restaurant.

30 June Wednesday

We drove in Connemara, one of the most scenic areas in Ireland, via N59 and then R344. We stopped to tour Kylemore Abbey. This was  a new sight for us since our last trip 18 years ago and has been extensively modernized for tours, including the Abbey, chapel, gift shop/café, and Victorian Walled Gardens. The first and only sustained rain of the trip began just before we went to the café for lunch so we took the tram to the gardens and had to break out our rain gear for a soggy tour of the gardens.  Next, we drove as far west as Tully to take some pictures of thatched cottages. On the return to Galway, we stopped in Cong, where John Ford filmed the 1952 movie, "The Quiet Man." The city of Cong has been really "fixed up" from what we remembered from eighteen years ago to appeal to fans (Cohan’s Pub, gift shops, Quiet Man cottage/museum, and more). We toured the ruins of Cong Abbey. We could not do much more since it was after 1700 and most of the other sights were closed. We had some libations in the replica of Pat Cohan's bar (figures prominently in the movie and has the movie running continuously on a large screen television mounted on the wall) then drove back to Galway for dinner at McSwiggans (a very nice restaurant despite the name). Mike and I got lost after going to the men’s room and had to wander around a bit to find Jeannelle and Pam again.

1 July

Mike and I started the morning by dropping our laundry off at the Laundromat a few blocks from the B&B (Louise had driven me there the day before). Louise’s husband Pat picked it up for us. Following that, we walked into Galway, touring shops and meandering about the city center (Spanish Arch area) looking at antiques and other shops (I took more pictures of colorful doors). We got cash so we could pay for our stay at the B&B because Helen was leaving for Cork later in the day. We were able to stay the night and not have to move to another B&B because she arranged for her hired assistant to cook breakfast (her first time on her own) the next day for us. About 1200 we headed up the coast road through Salt Hill and Costelloe, then north through Connemara again, stopping for lunch in Cong. We at lunch at the Fennel Seed pub in Cong. We stumbled upon Ashford Castle (which we did not notice the day before) and got great pictures of the grounds while we walked about them (you have to pay to walk across the bridge to tour the grounds near the castle, but we got a group discount). We drove back to the B&B and got directions to the An Pucan pub in Galway where we ate dinner and listened to live Irish music. The Pucan takes its name from a class of Galway Hooker boat one of which has been beautifully restored and integrated into the pub as both a seating area and a stage for live music. Inside it is one of the most intricately decorated pubs in Galway with all kinds of photos, musical instruments and memorabilia lining the walls.

2 July

After our Irish breakfast at Clochard, we departed Galway at 0940 and drove the rental car to Limerick to drop it off (I dropped Pam, Jeannelle and Pam at the train station first). We had a little trouble finding the train station (this happens when you don't consult the map), but I dropped Mike, Jeannelle, and Pam off and then returned the rental car after gassing it up. I took a cab back to the train station. The train departed at 1255 and we arrived at Heuston Station in Dublin at 1510. We took the LUAS back to the Abbey Street station and checked back into Lynham’s Hotel. We rested for a few hours in our rooms and spent most of the evening at Oliver St John Gogarty's pub listening to live Irish music (we arrived early enough to get great seats, right in front of the band so no one could sit in front of us).

3 July

We met in the lobby of Lynham's Hotel at 0715, checked out, then stood outside on the sidewalk enjoying the cool breeze until the restaurant opened at 0730. Mike and I ordered the full Irish breakfast while Pam and Jeannelle had something a little smaller. At 0730, even though we could sit down, the wait staff was nowhere to be seen so I walked back into the kitchen to make sure they knew we were ready to order.

We were out at the bus 748 (express bus to Dublin airport) stop next to the hotel at 0825 and the bus picked us up at 0838 (bus leaves every ten minutes after 0815). Mike paid the €12 for our tickets. We got to the Dublin airport by 0858.

Pam and I had to check our carry on bags because they exceeded the Aer Lingus limit of 10 kg, even though they were not too large.

Because we had to pass through three screening checkpoints (one for airline security and two for US Customs and Border Control), this turned out to be only just enough time to pass through the checkpoints and get to the gate by 1000 for our 1030 flight, which started boarding about five minutes after we got there. The gate waiting area was not nearly large enough for all the people waiting