Ireland and Northern Ireland Travelogue and Photos
1997: Days 1-6

The flight over was very smooth, lots of elderly people complaining about the food and such. I listened to the 'things coming up in Ireland' station, and then to Irish music until I fell asleep. We arrived fresh in the morning. Barbara + Tom met us at the airport, where there were HUGE ravens, and we drove home to Millstreet. We slept for a while, then rode into Millstreet (about a mile, but their house is by cow pastures and such, while the town has a long main street) to go to the library. I looked a while in various books, and found Tom's grandma and grandpa. We had a good dinner. I walked down to the stream and saw robins, wrens, spotted brown birds, tiny grey birds with long tails, and a black bird with an orange beak. In Tom's back yard there are magpies and blue tits.

Tom, Pat (male nephew, Eileen's son) and Pat Farmer (female cousin, English who does costuming for the BBC) went with us to the Hotel Pub (newly done, very pretty) and then McCarthy's, all on the central street in Millstreet. Everybody knows everybody here. Closing time is really 11:30 everywhere but we stayed until 12:30 anyway. Mary the bartender was rather old; there were 2 guitarists there playing 'new' music - Brown Eyed Girl, No Woman No Cry, Free Fallin'. Some pubs do get busted for staying open too late so we snuck out the back. All the pubs "looked" closed by this hour by they were suspiciously very merry sounding (they close their blinds).

Apparently both banks in Millstreet were held up only 2 years ago by the IRA in the space of 10 minutes.

A Killarney-Dublin train goes through town, nice to see, and they raise the gates manually. It's a very pretty town, voted nicest town in many polls. They have a big castle on one end, a horse-show area "Green Glens" at the other. Lots of pretty shops and pubs in the middle. The street we live on, in the countryside, is full of Tom's relatives and cousins and such.

We slept late due to last night's adventure, but I still got out of bed at 9, took a shower, and wandered down towards the stream. Then I decided since Bob was still sleeping that I might as well research. Barbara dropped me off at the library and I unsuccessfully hunted names until 12:30 when Bob came to get me.

Barbara drove us down to Cork and we got a green compact car. We drove down along the coast to Kinsale, with lots of boats there. Then off to the old friary at Timoleague which was quite beautiful, full of doves and blue tits. Around along Butlerstown and North Ring to Clonakilty! Very pretty, we had fish + chips at a restaurant while I think a wedding reception (small) was going on. The tide was out so all the boats were beached. Roscarbery, Skibbereen, Ballydehob. Then out on the lowest peninsula past Mount Gabriel with its observation towers, Schull, Goleen, the tip of Crookhaven and then Mizen Head. Lots of 1 lane (i.e. 1 car only, no chance of 2 passing) very steep roads through INCREDIBLE rocky vistas. We saw two deserted seagull eggs at Mizen, and a big fox along the route. We were stopped by cows once, all numbered.

By then it was eight and stil sunny. Up the other side to Bantry. I hate touristy Killarney (refuse to want to go there!) but Bob thinks it will be quicker to get home. So up past Clongariff. We notice as we approach Kerry that instead of cows there are sheep ... tons of rolling, rocky hills with trillions of baby sheep! And often no fences so they wander in the road. The mountains are beautiful, and tunnels are cut through them, bare rock on the inside. Kenmare and then Moll's Gap and we hit the "Ring of Kerry". After the amazing mountains, "Lady's View" is tame and quiet. We see a deer by Killarney Park, and then see the lights ... Killarney Proper approaches.

After the wild, natural beauty, it was truly disgusting to drive the streets of Killarney on a Saturday night. Hordes of tourists, flashy and out of place. The oh-so-poked at jaunting cards I was disgusted ... but then I thought, wait! None of these people were at Clonakity or especially little Goleen. Their fishing villages were quiet and peaceful. Maybe it was just as well Kilarney existed, the fly trap of Ireland to capture all these buzzy types and stick them in one place. And to think it wasn't "tourist season" yet.

After we escaped it was a quick trip through Rathmore back to Millstreet. The gang wasn't at Reardon's (where they said they were going to be) but we found them at their favorite place at the Corkery around 11, got some dinner and hung out at chatted. Eventually we wandered home.

We woke late - noon - and showered and dressed to go out to a point-to-point in Mallow. We followed Barbara + Tom out stopped 1/2 mile out at an elderly friend's (Margaret White, wife of Tom's cousin) cottage to pick her up, then off to the races.

It was great fun! It was a huge field with a big oval track, with hedge-jumps scattered around it. Everyone was in the middle, with the food trucks and betting booths and such. We all guessed wrong on each race. On the first race, one of the horses balked and the jump and almost went into the crowd! (the course is only marked with ropes) Various jockeys got kicked off their horses and escaped before they were trampled. My horse in the 3rd race fell after the last jump. We went back for tea and sandwiches at Margaret's house. It was a really small house - probably quite old.

Horse racing, up close and personal

From Mallow we went to Mitchelstown, all flatish farmland and cows. Past the Gally Mountains, with fields on them. Much different from the mountains of southwest Cork!! Into Cashel. You could see the "Rock" coming into town - it was very impressive looking with the castle on top! We got there at 6 - it had just closed - so we got to wander all around it without hordes of tourists. There was a smaller abbey down in the fields too. Then we went on past Durrow, Port Laoise, Kildare (much too late for the Japanese Gardens) and finally Naas.

Our B&B, the Dun Aengus, was right in amongst the sheep farms - very quiet and comfy. We found the Manor Inn for dinner - delicious lamb and Guinness beef. We chose well for the area.

We awoke in Naas and ate breakfast at 8 there in the B&B, quite nice. We took off into Dublin and found a spot right on St. Stephen's Green. We walked through the green and went to St. Patrick's, very nice but it had a shop inside for tourists! It was early yet for them. We saw Swift's grave there. We next went into Dublin Castle and saw where the scenes from Michael Collins were. Next, Trinity College where I went in to see the Book of Kells exhibit. Very very pretty. We had planned on stayin to see a friend in Dublin but it was now 12 and we were content with what we'd seen so we headed out.

Newgrange was neat from the outside, but they required a 45 minute tour to see the inside (which wouldn't start for another 20 minutes) so we bought the information booklet, saw what we could and headed out again. We drove up to Dundalk which it turns out was the location of a bomb attack the day before, by loyalists (Sunday). They were trying to get the Sein Fein office. Then across the checkpoint to the north, which had a soldier with an AUG on the 'going south' side but nobody on our side. On to Belfast.

Bob needed money, and we went from ATM to ATM while he (in his combat fatigues no less) hopped out trying his bank card. Eventually we found one an hour later, and headed up the coast. The coast here is VERY pretty.

Carrickfergus had a nice castle. Larne, Ballycastle. Very lovely coastlines with steep but grassy sloped mountains, sheep in square fields. Sort of like the Swiss Alps! The roads at the NE tip were really misty and sort of spooky. Then along the top, to the rope ladder bridge of "Carrick-a-rede". It was closed (too late) but pretty to walk out to. We then booked over to the ocean-side hotel we had reserved. It was gorgeous! The ocean was crashing, it was still light (9pm), and they made us sandwiches and served them in their private lounge with large windows overlooking the ocean.

Our room was also on the ocean side, with a beautiful view. We could see big fishing ships come across from there. Eventualy we went to sleep.

View from our window

We had a yummy breakfast and left the hotel early - it looked like the tide was coming in, so we wanted to get out to the causeway - and made it there before 10. They didn't open the shop until 10 so we wandered the cliff path to the left, by the sheep pastures. Then we went right down to the causeway. It was really neat - piles and islands and mountains of hexagons. There were lots of slugs and snails, especially snails in pairs. The waves were crashing in prettily on the hexagonal groups. We hiked as far as we could further to the right, past the 'organ' (a la church organ) of tall hexagons. We went to the shop to get our North Ireland 'stuff' and a squashed penny, then headed out.

Giant's Causeway, from the ocean side

We drove back through Bushmills, past Dunlace castle, then Coleraine and to (London)Derry. We got lunch there - fish and chips - and "crossed the border" into Donegal. There was merely a sign there! We crossed near Burnfoot.

Up to the Grianan of Aileach, a neat round "colluseum" 4000 years old. It was rebuilt in 1870. Hardly any tourists here - on top of a huge hill/mountain that you drove up zig-zag. Beautiful view of the area. I then voted for the "mountain" route and we drove through the miles and miles of high mountains in Glenveigh National Park. No people, no walls, occasional sheep. We hit Mt. Errigal and Bob wanted to hike it (the highest mountain in Donegal) so we got most of the way up before it was too boggy. Lots of deer tracks there.

Next we drove round the "Rosses", through Donegal city around 8pm and on to Bonduran where we checked into a seaside home. Very elegant - very "English" decor. Right on the ocean, by a horse farm. This is a "Irish summer" town - where they go to vacation - but it was nice and quiet still. We went in for dinner on the ocean and the waitress had worked in Boston (in the North End at an Italian restaurant!) for a while. Eventually we headed back to sleep (quite soundly).

We began by driving south through Sligo. I quoted Yeats when we drove by his gravesite under Ben Bulben and Lough Gill (Inisfree). We saw Queen Maeve's grave cairn on a mountain that we circled to the west, and thought it looked like a fun climb. There were sheep all along the top of the mountain. We found a trail and from there it was only 30 minutes or so of sort of steep climbing through the sheep pastures. There were special gates so the people could get in and out of the pastures but the sheep couldn't. It was a great view from up there. We climbed down and drove through Easky to Ballina. Had fish and chips for lunch.

Down to Castlebar, then Kilmaire. We saw the Ballintubber Abbey which was small and quiet. Then we went on a hunt for Ross Abbey. It was on our map, and we could see it (gorgeous!) in a field, but we couldn't get to it! No signs on the road. We finally just kept "aiming" for it, came out next to someone's house and it turns out the Abbey is IN a cow field. We could only get as close as the outer fence, after some climbing. We saw some wood pigeons there, though, and a bullfinch and some blue tits who swooped at us (protecting their nests no doubt).

Ross Abby, see the cows?

We went through Cong, where they filmed "The Quiet Man". Very pretty, tho the "to be expected" touristy things like a "Quiet Man" pub and "Quiet Man" inn and so on. Then on to Leenane where "The Field" was filmed. The actual "field" wasn't there marked off, but yes, there was a "Field" pub. Ah well.

Connemara was really pretty - the mountains were great. We drove around to Clifden - touristy town, but lots of good restaurants and quiet yet. We had some superb lamb stew at the corner restaurant. The roads in this area do have a few loose lambs, which are fun to watch. We went across to Oughterard to our B&B which was right on the river. It's a fishing B&B, so they had boats and tons of information on the lake and area. The dad was home with this cute 2 year old who keps running around and talking to everyone. Apparently May/June is when the Mayflies are out and is the best fishing time of year! We went down to the local pub, the "Thatch Pub", where we had a pint and saw all the "big fish", heard fish stories. We got home around midnight (when the cheerful tyke was still quite happily awake!)

Days 7-14
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