22.02.2017 - 28.03.2017 12 °C
Thanks to some fantastic 'local' knowledge and advice from Stephen Boyle, we had been provided with a very comprehensive ten day itinerary for our whistle stop trip around Ireland. Stephen had also suggested reading "McCarthy's Bar" by Pete McCarthy. Denis could be heard chuckling away as he turned the pages leading up to our trip!
Sadly Stephen wasn't able to control the weather and our experience began with a very rough ferry sailing, through Storm Doris, on our way from Cherbourg to Rosslare. We had heard the forecast and Lynelle was trying hard to ignore it! This became hard to do when the Captain announced that the crossing was likely to be rough to very rough with 4-5 metre swells! (We can almost hear your groans Mandy and Trish!) We managed a bite to eat as we left the relatively sheltered waters of Cherbourg, secured our essential kit and got our heads down in our cabin.
As the night wore on Doris expressed her rage and we were rocked around our bunks! 'Able Seaman' Denis had no problem rising, negotiating the rocking ferry floor and tucking into a hearty full English breakfast the next morning. He reported that the galley kitchen was far from run off its feet!! At the other extreme, Lynelle would have likely been tossed overboard had she been competing for a spot sailing with Popeye! She spent about 16 of the 19 hours lying flat on her back on her cabin bunk! There was great sense of relief when Denis announced he could see land in the distance and the sea became calmer as we approached Rosslare harbour.
We decided we would drive straight through to Cork on our arrival and spend three nights there. It meant for a good base to explore the South and South-west region.
We had booked an Airbnb apartment on the outskirts of Cork and it was fantastic! We were warmly greeted by Gerry and Maureen and introduced to one of their daughters and gorgeous little grand-daughter. The apartment was very cosy and comfortable and we were so fortunate to enjoy Gerry and Maureen's company over the time we were staying. They were certainly the perfect introduction to Ireland's warm, friendly and welcoming people and set the tone that was to continue for the rest of our time in Ireland!
We set ourselves a plan for the two full days and morning of the third.
On the first day we headed to Cobh (pronounced Cove) harbour. Cobh was called Queenstown after Queen Victoria, but reverted to its Irish name when the English left. Titanic's last port of call was at Cobh on the 11th of April, 1912. Of the one hundred and twenty three passengers who boarded here, only forty four survived. Today, the original buildings, streets and piers of a century ago are still standing.
From Cobh we took the short car-ferry ride across the channel and continued our drive out around the coast. We stopped at the picturesque seaside town of Kinsale and continued on the coastal road to Bantry Bay. It was obviously a Paddy's Market Day in town, and we resisted any temptation to add further to our restricted luggage allowance! We got back to our apartment in time to see Ireland win their Six Nations match against France.
The next morning we set off for a drive around the renowned Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry. Its 179km-long, circular route takes in rugged and verdant coastal landscapes and rural seaside villages.
We had a good laugh as we followed a signpost off the main road up to what is boasted as the highest pub in Ireland, the Top of Coom. Thinking this would make for a memorable coffee stop, we turned off. We proceeded to drive the 10-15 minutes up into the fog only to find the highest pub in Ireland was in fact closed!
So we carried on to the lovely town of Kenmare for our coffee stop. From there we passed through a number of towns including Parknasilla, Sneem, Caherdaniel and Beenarourke, finding our way to a great little pub in Waterville for lunch. The drive offered superb views along the way.
We parked up along the water front in Waterville beside a statue of Mick O'Dwyer, a famous Gaelic football player and manager from the town. We spotted a pub along the street called O'Dwyer's and thought it fitting we should pop in for lunch. As described by Wikipedia: "Michael "Mick" O'Dwyer (born 9 June 1936) is an Irish retired Gaelic football manager and former player. He most famously managed the Kerry senior team between 1974 and 1989, during which time he became the county's longest-serving manager and most successful in terms of major titles won. O'Dwyer is regarded as the greatest manager in the history of the game."
We enjoyed a lovely lunch of fish and chips and a chat with a couple of locals. They said Mick popped in most days and was keeping well for his 81 years of age.
It was then back to Cork through Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh, Killorglin, Killarney and Macroom.
That night we had a lovely invitation to join Gerry and Maureen for a glass of wine and had a great time chatting and laughing until we noticed the time had got away on us!!
After our farewells the following morning we took a drive into Cork, out to Blarney Castle and the Irish Woollen Mills.
The rain was very persistent, so it wasn't a day for wandering around. From Cork we decided to head to Limerick. We'd had two pretty big days touring and needed a relaxed drive. As recommended by Stephen we took a slight detour into Adare on the way. The annual fun run was on and the town was packed. On our second 'lap' we scored a park in the Main Street. The rain had stopped so we enjoyed a walk along the street and found ourselves a nice little cafe for lunch. Adare is known for its row of thatched houses. Sadly three were destroyed by fire some years ago, however their restoration is now underway.
We arrived in Limerick in good time and enjoyed a walk through the town and out along the river to Thomond Park. It was on this ground that the All Blacks lost to Munster 12-0 in 1978.
The next day was another big day on the road, however the spectacular scenery meant for a fantastic trip that didn't seem at all long.
We followed Stephen's advice and headed out of Limerick with a quick stop at Banratty Castle and the adjacent woollen mills for a great coffee and scone. We then headed out through Ennis, stopping to stretch our legs. The river there was running very high!
It was then on to the much acclaimed Cliffs of Moher. We drove through heavy rain and hail and as we pulled up into the car park we were greeted with a snow shower! We could see blue sky wasn't far away so we sat out the shower and stayed dry.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the Ireland's most visited natural attractions and certainly provide a magnificent vista. The Cliffs rise to 214m at their highest point and range for 8kms along the Atlantic Coast. The Visitor's Centre is a very unique piece of architecture, cleverly camouflaged into the hill.
On leaving the Cliffs the drive took us through the extraordinary region that is The Burren.
The word "Burren" comes from an Irish word "Boíreann" meaning a rocky place. This is an extremely appropriate name. It covers an area of 160 square km, has no bogs and very few pastures. Instead there are huge pavements of limestone called 'clints' with vertical fissures in them called 'grikes'.
Because our time was limited, we had to skirt around Galway, content in the thought that we would visit 'next time'. Our journey carried on to the West and out to Clifden. We took the detour, Stephen had advised, along the narrow Sky Road. It was late afternoon, the clouds had parted and we were rewarded with the most magnificent views! We were delighted to be able to recommend this road to a couple we met further on in our travels as well.
As we drove the rest of the distance through heartland Connemara, to our destination of Westport, we were treated to views across rugged and unspoilt landscapes and gorgeous reflections in the water ways. It was one of those days on the road where it's sometimes difficult to know where to look in case you miss something in another direction. And, one of those days where we were reminded of some very sensible words from a photographer we met on the ferry to Santorini, "Make sure you take time to look at things with your own eyes, not always through the lense of some device!"
To top off this memorable day we were warmly greeted at Willow Lodge B&B by our enthusiastic and cheerful host, Angela and her little daughter Katie. Angela gave us a great rundown on the town and we headed in on foot for a wander and a bite of dinner. She told us about the pub called Matt Molloy's which is well known for its great traditional Irish music. The pub is owned by Matt Molloy who is an accomplished flute player. He has an impressive musical record, among which was being a member of the popular group The Chieftains.
After a hearty Irish breakfast we were back on the road, through the rain, bound for Portrush on the north coastline of Northern Ireland.
Ahhh Ireland... you're GRAND!
The Woodsies xx