Day six, closing out our Irish adventure

We woke up this morning in Roscrea without a real plan for the day, just knowing we would be making our way back to Dublin to deposit the rental car, check in to the hotel and check-in on the airline website. We headed towards Kildare.

We stopped at Achaboe Abbey. Again, not really on our radar but worth a stop. This church was built in1382 but there has been an abbey on this site since 784 (plundered and destroyed and rebuilt), left in ruins and then partially restored in 1984.

We continued towards Dublin and found Rock of Dunamase. The castle was built in the 12th century on the ruins of a 9th century fort. It passed hands through families until the 14th century when the head of the Mortimer family was arrested and beheaded by Edward III for treason. There was a brief period in the 18th century where it was partially refurbished as a residence for a speaker in the Irish parliament.

We climbed up the hill to the top, and the views of the surrounding countryside were amazing. I tend to think these ruins are just as good or nicer than the ones that are controlled by the office of the public works.

From the Rock of Dunamase, we travelled towards Dublin. We thought we would return the car early, check in to the hotel and take the bus in to town centre, perhaps seeing Dublin Castle, which we missed on the first day. Denise likely needed a break from driving also!

Dublin Castle is a beautiful castle right in the middle of the city centre. As you walk in through the gates, it’s like you completely lose the crowded streets behind you. And it was busy. As today is a bank holiday, and the beginning of summer travel, the streets were packed.

Leaving the castle area, we walked back towards Trinity College, stopping briefly at the Irish Whiskey museum. We have packed a lot in to the past few days and exhaustion had caught up! Along the walk in the city today we also happened upon an Irish dance competition

We headed back to the hotel. We have this bus thing figured out now! Denise received a message from a friend, so we were very privileged to get a personal car tour of the Dublin beaches area and the community of Howth, located on a head that spreads out into the ocean. Laurie and Ciaran also brought us to an old Irish pub called the Bloody Stream. This pub is located literally under the last train stop.

It was a great visit, and we had wonderful conversation about Ireland, Canada, Spain and the Camino. And the food was good too – I finally had an Irish stew! Now for the flight home and back to reality!

Day five, boy we packed a lot in to the last few days!

We had a great rest last night at Ardilaun Guest House in Ennis. Supper down the street and the walk home as the sun was going down helped to end the day.

Lots of sleep to help us catch up! We had a quick continental breakfast at the hotel, then headed downtown Ennis. Surprisingly we found that downtown Ennis is pretty cool too.

We walked through the downtown and then tried to make a plan for the day. We knew we wanted to head out towards Limerick and then work our way towards Roscrea where we were booked for the night. Our first stop was meant to be the friary at Quin. There is a castle, and remnants of surrounding buildings. Just step over the cow patties along the way! This was a well built castle originally built in 1280, but attacked by the Irish and left for ruin – in 1433 a friary was built in the ruins of the Anglo-Norman castle. The actual friary was dissolved in 1541 by Henry XII but several friars co to yes living there until late 1700s. What a site! Complete with an intact courtyard. The structure is amazing. The courtyard is stunning.

After Quin we made our way towards Bunratty castle. Along the way we stopped at Knappogue Castle and Walled Gardens. A great property but apparently it is only open for the evening banquets and weddings. These castles are amazing, many of which were built In The 14-15th century. A great show of wealth. The garden doors indicate it was built in 1817, but it definitely has seen some better days than of late.

Then we happened on chance to find Craggaunowen castle and pre-historic park. Today, being a long weekend here in Ireland, there is a lot of people out and about. And today this castle had a full slate of live actors, all playing part in different parts of the regions history. Most importantly Denise and I were able to stand atop of the castle!

The castle itself was built in 1550, and after the collapse of the Old Gaelic Order in 17th century it was left roofless. One thing for sure that we have noticed is the significance of a good roof in these buildings. Nature is quick to take back everything for itself, and I’m sure the endless moisture and rain aids it’s conquest of these amazing structures. This buildings restoration began in the early 19th century.

The displays in the surrounding forest were really good, it felt like we were on the set of Robin Hood at times. From there we travelled through a display of a Crannog, Iron Age displays of road work and cooking sites, a replica dolmen – a stone passage monument or portal tomb, a ring fort depicting early Christian lifestyles (yes, when there is a ladder that leads to the underside of the village, I went down), the display of St. Brendan’s boat (and a question as to who really discovered the new world) and then Denise made a new friend…..

We didn’t stay for the full battle medieval fighting display, instead moving on to the next ‘attraction’. Bunratty Castle and folk park is huge. The castle itself is huge and one can climb from the main floor up to the top and every floor in between. This castle dates to 1425 but there were castles and fortresses built here by 1251. We spent quite a lot of time here. It’s set up like a working museum, similar to Fort Edmonton or Heritage Park, where the characters and displays depict the different phases in time in the region.

After we moved on, we headed towards Cashel and the Rock of Cashel. We were unsure if we would get there in time for entrance being it takes the last entry at 4:45 and being a bank holiday weekend, it would be busy. Then we missed the turn and circled the castle an extra time…. needless to say, we made it at 4:43. Check that off the list, what a great castle!

Long drive today. Lots of stuff packed in to the day! We are stopped in Roscrea tonight at the Racket Hall Country House. Good meal and some sleep and tomorrow we will try to make the best of our last day of our Irish adventure!

Cheers Mom, I miss you to the moon and back. Two full years have passed since you left, and a lot of chaos has happened since. Much of it out of my control. It’s been hard, really hard, but I take comfort in that I know you are hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa. Mind Grandpa cheating at cards though will you! Miss you all.

P.S. I’m doing the best I can to keep your sister in line, but I think she hates my Google maps and navigational skills (or lack of)… and my mild obsession with brushing my teeth. 😉

Day four, to the Cliffs

We had a late night last night, but got on the move early today. We drove down to downtown Athlone to see the castle on the river Shannon. The locks for the river are right in front of the castle. The castle is undergoing renovations so we only walked around outside – and we were too early to gain entrance anyways.

Our travels then took us to Portumna, through some windy country roads (theme for the day). We stopped at a cafe for breakfast, then checked out an old cemetery. The Portumna Castle and Gardens was built in 1618 but nearly destroyed by fire in 1826. The family who owned the remains of the building, the four main walls, left it for ruins. The castle continues to be renovated by the office of public works. The gardens and surrounding buildings are being restored to original state. And all done with precise archeological techniques.

After leaving the castle, we made our way to Gort, which is south of Galway. We stopped briefly in Gort to plan out our next few hours. We charted a route on Google maps out to the Cliffs of Moher. We stopped at Abbey, and walked around the ruins of the abbey. When the crazy black crows/birds started flying out of the building we left.

Along the way, which was not the traditional route at all, we found a gem of a stop.

Kilmacduagh Churches and Round tower were off the beaten path a bit, but definitely worth visiting. We wandered around the ruins. The monastery was founded in the 7th century and likely plundered in the 13th century. The round tower is a 12th century ruin, and it would have been a secure place for the monks to hide and defend if attacked. The church to the side was built in the13th century. The remains are in surprisingly good shape and the grounds are well taken care off. Unplanned visit, but so worth it!

Then, with Google guiding us, we drove out to the Cliffs of Moher. Google has a sense of humour however, and we ended up taking some of the craziest, most narrow roads in the country. Denise handled it well, but I think she needs a rest tonight! Lol! We stopped at the Burren and took some photos. The Burren is just that, exactly like the Burren in Newfoundland. Just like driving cross country from Eddies Cove West to the St. Anthony airport.

We continued on, finding some wider roads and some with less tractors. We stopped at the Cliffs of Moher and walked up the hills. The Cliffs are impressive, as were the crowds.

From the Cliffs we drove down the coast and back in land to Ennis, where we will stay tonight. We have packed a lot of stuff in to the last four days. Time for a good long rest before we get back at it tomorrow. We have a river out the window, some cattle in the field beyond, and everything is green 🙂

Not to end on a sad note…but tomorrow marks two years since Mom passed. And also my sisters birthday.

I miss my Mom more than ever, but happy to be spending this week with her sister 🙂

Hoping to make the best of our last few days here.

Day three, making our way across the island

We had a great supper last night at ‘The Church’ in Dublin. This is an actual old church that has been transformed in to a restaurant/bar right in the middle of the city. Food was really great and the atmosphere was really unique.

This morning we slept in. Likely we should have gotten up earlier, as the line at the airport car rental counter was nuts. After getting the car, we ventured out on to the freeway. It’s a bit strange to be on the other side of the car, and other side of the road. All in all, it worked out though.

We made it to Newgrange without issue. Then ended up having to wait for a later tour. We got tickets for both the Knowth and Newgrange tours. The bus took us out to Knowth first, where we learned about the megalithic symbols and mounds from 5000 years ago. The history was explained in full and we were able to view the stones and stand on top of the main mound. Knowth is the biggest mound out of the Irish passages tombs.

From there we took the bus back to the bus stop and were put on the bus to Newgrange. Newgrange is the more well-known passage tombs, and it is set up to allow you to go inside the mound. We were taken on a tour, explained the history of the region and then were able to go inside the mound. There are multiple stone carvings, and three recessed chambers in the main area. And the 5000 year old structure, and 220 tonnes of rock and sod above our heads, was amazing.

From Newgrange we ventured towards Galway. We stopped at Trim Castle, but missed the gate times for the day. It is still super impressive from the outside. We had a break for a bite to eat, then carried on.

After leaving Trim, we headed farther across the country, with Athlone our stopping place for tonight. Thankful we had decent weather again, and happy to be where we are! We had supper at the hotel, then ventured out to Sean’s Bar, the oldest pub in the world, for a pint and some live music. Super fun, a bit loud at first but it tapered down, and we really enjoyed the music and atmosphere.

Tomorrow we are off towards Galway, and we’ll play it by ear. Maybe see some castles, and rivers, and ….

Day Two, Northern Ireland

This morning we were up really early, and caught taxi to Starbucks near Trinity College. This would be our pick up point for the Wild Rovers bus tour to Belfast. It was 6:30 and The streets were very quiet, with only a few tourists waiting for buses, and local street cleaners and city workers doing their jobs. Then when 6:45 came around it was like someone snapped their fingers and all the traffic chaos started up for the day. Trucks, buses, pedestrians and cyclists all fight for space on the streets. It’s kind of scary.

Leaving Dublin at 7 am, we made our way up to Northern Ireland. The tour guide gave us a great history of the region, including many stories from the ‘troubles’, the fighting between the Nationalists and Unionists. The was a pretty good set up for the Black Taxi tour we took in Belfast. We were put in a black taxi with a couple from Chicago and a couple from Japan. Our driver, Jarod, was a former freedom fighter or nationalist, and had spend some time locked up years ago for attempting to blow up some government buildings. He was very passionate about explaining the ‘troubles’ from his point of view. Like he said, it is just a part of his history and he can’t change it now.

The tour took us to the ‘peace’ wall in Belfast, that split the Nationalist and Unionist parts of the city. There was terrible violence in the city during these times, and those who were locked up for their involvement, and those who died for the cause are memorialized (on both sides of the conflict) through murals. It was very interesting and our guide was very passionate as this was all very close to his heart. We signed the wall. Denise drew a picture of Scruffy, just like she did on my bedroom wall when I was 5.

After the tour, the taxi tour driver dropped us off at the bus which was parked at the Titanic museum. The museum is located next to the docks where the great ship was built.

After boarding the bus at the Titanic Museum, we were driven out to the coast at The Giant’s Causeway. Close to the sites we were able to see the remains of Dunluce Castle. It amazes me how well set up these National Trust sites are. Plenty of amenities, ample parking and clean. They have invested a lot of resources in to looking after these treasures. The walk down to the Causeway was pretty busy. They gave us audio sets to listen to the history and folklore of the area.

From there we went out to Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. A kilometre walk down to the bridge, and then walking across the hanging bridge, 100 ft over the crashing waves. It’s only about 60 ft across but in a very windy location. Originally the bridge was put in, a few hundred + years ago, to gain access to a small island for salmon fishing. Now it’s a big tourist attraction.

Now we head back to Dublin, through Belfast. We’ll grab a meal somewhere and get some sleep, then tomorrow we’ll set out for the country. Just when we figured out how to get around in Dublin, we are headed out 😉

Missing my Mom this week. The last time I saw her alive was two years ago. She passed suddenly a few days later. Thankful for that last visit and embrace. Pretty sure she’d like the atmosphere here, doubt she’d enjoy the

amount of walking we’ve been doing!

Dublin, day one

After a long flight from Canada, Calgary to Halifax and then Halifax to Dublin, we arrived at DUB at 7:30 am. After collecting luggage, we jumped on the bus to downtown. We are both tired already, but know we have a busy day a head.

We made our way from the downtown bus stop to the Camden hotel. This will be our home for two nights. They allowed us to stow our luggage for the day until check in.

From there we travelled on foot towards St. Stephen’s Green, a remarkable park in the middle of the city. We grabbed a bite along the way at a small sandwich shop. The owners were super nice and that breakfast sandwich hit the spot!

A few months ago I had purchased a Dublin Pass that would be good for entry in to many of the city’s attractions, as well as one of the hop on /hop off tour buses that travel through the city. We jumped on the bus and headed out towards St. Patrick’s cathedral. This is a very beautiful cathedral, with a lot of history. The buses come around every 15 -30 minutes, so we could jump on and off whenever.

From the cathedral area we went towards the Guinness Storehouse. It wasn’t really on our list of things to do today, but it was well worth it. What an amazing tour, self-guided, through the world of Guinness. This whole property is amazing, and huge. We worked our way through the exhibits, learning about the ingredients and processes of making Ireland’s beloved brew. One one of the higher floors we participated in a Guinness tasting. A small glass of Guinness for everyone (of age) and a brief explanation as to how to drink it. In the actual tasting room, Denise was able to ring the bell, to symbolize the tasting session that happens every morning at 10 am in the actual brewery.

From there we made our way through more exhibits, the history of Guinness advertising, and then to the top floor which is a bar with glass walls where you can look out over Dublin. Top that with a free pint of Guinness.

After jumping on the bus again, we travelled to Killmainham Gaol, the famous jail where leaders of the revolutions were executed. We missed the tour so didn’t get to see the actual jail, but they gave us free admission to the attached museum. Interesting artifacts and history.

The bus then took us back through the city, high lighting much of the architectural history of Dublin. The last stop for us for the day would be Trinity College. When we entered we were able to grab the last student led tour of the day. We learned of the history of the college, which was founded by Queen Elizabeth I, the expansion and architectural history, and a bit about the students of Trinity.

The last part of course was the famous library, the Long Room, and the Book of Kells. Both fascinating. This was my only main ‘to-do’ thing in Dublin, so everything else was a bonus!

We made our way back on foot to the hotel, and checked in, got cleaned up a bit, and went out in search of supper. At the end of the block, we found a small pub/restaurant. When I say small, it was normal sized !?! But packed! We found a spot on the second floor, ordered fish and chips and a Guinness each. This was he first meal we had since breakfast, and it was so worth it. Leaving the pub, we headed for the hotel again. Pretty sure both of us were sound asleep by the time our heads hit the pillow. Tomorrow we are up early and jumping on a bus tour to Belfast! Excited to see some more of this beautiful, green and lush country!

The reason for the adventure

Last fall I was the very luck recipient of two Westjet gifts of flight. As I have always wanted to travel to the UK, and specifically Ireland, that is destination I chose. In the planning phase I couldn’t settle on a date for Ally and Grant to come along.

Ireland has been on my Aunts bucket list for years. She and my Uncle have travelled everywhere, almost literally. Recently my grandmother, my Aunts mom and one of my best friends, left us and the last few months have been tough. I think we all thought she was invincible. So, I asked my Aunt to come with me to Ireland 🇮🇪! She said yes!

I’ll do my best to blog about our Irish adventure. It’s a lot of things packed in to a week, but we are game for it. Mostly I’m blogging for Brianne, who has requested this numerous times lately 😉