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Bunratty Folk Park

Posting pictures has been causing problems with posting the blog. You will find pics at the end of the post. Sorry about that. 

We regretfully left Doolin on the way to Bunratty, our last stop in Ireland. It was a fairly short drive and we decided to stop at the Avarest B&B to let them know we were in town and would check-in later. We met Deirdre who said our rooms were ready and we could leave our bags there if we cared to, so we dropped the bags and headed over to Bunratty Castle.

Yea, that’s right, we decided to do the full tourist thing the last day, visiting the Bunratty Folk Park and having dinner at the castle. The park is anchored on one end by the restored Bunratty Castle and on the other by the georgian manor house. The rest of the 23 buildings are also authentic, having been moved from their original locations to the folk park. There is even a church that was moved stone by stone to its new location from Ardcroney. I will let the pictures of the park speak for themselves.

The castle, built in 1425, is the last of a series built on the same site. The main block of the castle has three floors, all of which are great rooms. Those great rooms are decorated with old tapestries and period furniture with elaborate carvings. The towers on each corner have six floors which have the kitchen, bedrooms, chapels, and etc. An interesting tidbit, Admiral Sir William Penn was besieged at Bunratty in 1646. It is believed that his infant son, William Penn the founder of Pennsylvania, was at the castle during the siege. The castle, which was falling into ruin, was purchased in 1954 by the 7th Lord Gort who restored the castle over a period of time and opened it to the public. It was willed to the state upon his death.

The dinner at the castle was great fun. Is it touristy and a little kitschy? Absolutly, but still a very good time. The entertainment is well done with great humor, the food is good and the mead is tasty. You are received on the second floor in the Great Hall for a cup of mead and entertainment by very good violin and harp music in addition to other frivolity. You procede downstairs to the Main Guard for the banquet. As in medieval times your sole eating utensil is a dagger, actually just a sharp knife. The entertainment continues during and after the meal with choral singing accompanied by violin and harp. It was all very enjoyable. I have read reviews online that greatly disparaged the dinners, but I think that those who can’t have a good time there would also probably drown in a drizzle. 

 

 

Small fisher / farming house

Small fisher / farming house

These houses have open hearth fireplaces, making the place quite smokey.

These houses have open hearth fireplaces, making the place quite smokey.

A wealthy farmer's house from the Shannon area.  It originally stood on the site of the main runway at Shannon Airport.

A wealthy farmer's house from the Shannon area. It originally stood on the site of the main runway at Shannon Airport.

Playing with macro.  A flower in front of the farmhouse.

Playing with macro. A flower in front of the farmhouse.

Interior of wealthy farmer's house.

Interior of wealthy farmer's house.

One of many horse drawn implements at the park.

One of many horse drawn implements at the park.

The manor house, believed to be from minor gentry.

The manor house, believed to be from minor gentry.

Ardcroney Church moved stone by stone to this location.

Ardcroney Church moved stone by stone to this location.

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

Irish elk, stood about 7 feet tall with a 12 foot antler spread.  Antlers found well preserved in peat bogs.

Irish elk, stood about 7 feet tall with a 12 foot antler spread. Antlers found well preserved in peat bogs.

Many elaborate carved furniture pieces from the 1500s.  Sorry, no flash allowed.

Many elaborate carved furniture pieces from the 1500s. Sorry, no flash allowed.

A carved table leg, very ornate.

A carved table leg, very ornate.

One of many ancient tapestries in the castle.

One of many ancient tapestries in the castle.

Some of the players at the banquet, actually a very good singing group.

Some of the players at the banquet, actually a very good singing group.

More of the players.  We had a great time!

More of the players. We had a great time!

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Inisheer and The Cliffs of Moher

Picture posting has been screwing up my blogs so I will be placing them at the bottom of the post. Sorry bout that.

We stayed at Nellie Dee’s in Doolin. It is a very nice B&B with beautiful rooms and great breakfast. It is a small place, only four rooms to let, but Jimmie and Loraine are great folks and very helpful. It’s also a short walk to two of the village pubs; the village is strung out over a distance and OConnor’s Pub is on the other end.

We took the ferry out to Inis Oirr (Inisheer), one of the Aran Island. It was another beautiful day but there were six to eight foot swells out of the south west so we were taking them quartering on the port bow. The grey waves would march on until smashing themselves on the coastal cliffs; some made spouts that must have been seventy feet up the cliffs. It made for an interesting ride, some of the passengers availed themselves of the bags marked “For Your Comfort”. It didn’t bother any of us three, but I don’t think that those using the bags were very comfortable.

The island isn’t very big, only two square miles with a population of 300, but we decided to take a horse cart ride with one of the locals. He was an older fellow that was a fisherman until five years ago when he had a hip replacement, he has been driving tourists since. The traditional fishing boats are about thirteen feet long, wood framed and covered with canvas and tar. Lately they have started using outboard motors, but until fairly recently they were rowed. Judging from the pictures I saw they would run nets out to sea, back to shore in a U and then haul the nets back in to shore.

It is a rocky island, the folk would break up the rock with sledgehammers in small fields and stack them as stone walls. They would then bring in sand and seaweed to make soil to raise potatos to eat and grass for the cattle. Although the cattle were previously family owned for dairy purposes, most now run very small cow/calf operations and a buyer comes around once a year to buy the yearlings to ship to the mainland for fattening or dairy use. That was one thing that suprised me, many of the Irish use the same breeds for dairy and beef cattle, as most of you know there are specific breeds for each use in the U.S.

One of the landmarks on the island is the shipwreck Plassey which foundered off the island in the 1960s and was later thrown above the high water line by a strong storm. All of the crew were rescued by the islanders using a breeches buoy. Our driver said that he had driven an older fellow around a couple of years ago that was telling him about the shipwreck. When asked how he knew, the fellow told him that he had been one of the crewmembers in board when she went down.

Archeological sites have been discovered on the island that date back to 1500 BC. There is also a castle on the island built by the OBrien family that owned the island up until 1585. Like most strongholds in Ireland it was partially destroyed in 1652 by Cromwellians. We walked across the island and visited the Holy Well of St. Edna, a site most revered by the islanders. It is said that seeing an eel in the well is a very good omen; no eel when we were there, so no good omen.

We went to the contemporary arts centre to see what was there; it appears to have been permanently closed.

Boarding the ferry there was some commotion on the dock with music and a large crowd of people. It turned out to be a blessing of the fleet. These are the Galway Hookers, a traditional craft in the area that have been in use for at least two hundred years. The large examples were used to transport peat for fuel to the Aran Islands and brought back limestone for the acidic soil in Connemara. The smaller ones were used for fishing and transport. All of them had black hulls from the pitch coating and red-brown sails with two foresails and a single main; they are a very nice looking sailing craft.

We took the ferry back and stayed on board for the hour cruise along the base of the Cliffs of Mohr. These cliffs are up to 700 feet tall and very dramatic; the interesting thing about them is that they have very definate start and stop points with Doolin port right at the north end. The rock is mostly shale and sandstone with the bottom of the cliff rock dating to 300 million years ago. The cliffs support huge rookeries of birds with 29 species and about 30,000 birds in the area. As you may guess this makes a boat trip at the bottom of the cliffs an adventure; the lady sitting next to mom got the special suprise. After returning to Doolin harbour we drove up to the top of the cliffs. They have built a very nice visitor’s center next to the cliffs; it is built into the hillside and was designed to blend into the surroundings. The views are dramatic and for the adventuresome there is a path running the length of the top of the cliffs once you get away from the visitor center area; slipping is not recommended. 🙂

After supper at the pub mom and Bonnie retired to the B&B and I went down to McDermotts. The music was all very well done trad and a couple of young ladies danced. People pushed a couple of tables back and one of the young ladies did the broom dance to celebrate her parents anniversary. Another got up and danced for grins. It was spontaneous and great fun. Turned in about 11:00 for the drive to Bunratty tomorrow.

Slante, Pat

 

Approaching the dock at Inisheer

Approaching the dock at Inisheer

The horse cart we rode in.  Its a fancy new one, even has brakes!

The horse cart we rode in. Its a fancy new one, even has brakes!

O'Brien Castle on Inisheer

O'Brien Castle on Inisheer

The productive fields on Inisheer

The productive fields on Inisheer

An unprepared field on Inisheer

An unprepared field on Inisheer

The wreck of the Plassey

The wreck of the Plassey

The Holy Well of St. Edna

The Holy Well of St. Edna

Part of the Galway fleet being blessed

Part of the Galway fleet being blessed

A Galway Hooker under sail, nice looking boat.

A Galway Hooker under sail, nice looking boat.

Cliffs of Moher from sea level.

Cliffs of Moher from sea level.

Cliffs of Moher, the structure on the top is O'Brien's Tower

Cliffs of Moher, the structure on the top is O'Brien's Tower

The Cliffs of Moher looking south.

The Cliffs of Moher looking south.

The Cliffs of Moher looking north.

The Cliffs of Moher looking north.

The visitor center at the Cliffs of Moher.  Nicely integrated into the terrain.

The visitor center at the Cliffs of Moher. Nicely integrated into the terrain.

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Enroute to Doolin, The Burren

Picture posting has been screwing up my blogs so I will be placing them at the bottom of the post. Sorry bout that.

We headed north out of Killarney, across the Shannon River by ferry, toward Doolin, our next resting place. We toured through the Burren on the way, an amazingly diverse area; it ranges from solid limestone rock to farmland, they even have 27 varieties of native orchid growing, in many places, in the crevasses between solid rock.

Just before getting to the more desolate area of the Burren we stopped at the Dysert O’Dea Castle. Its a typical square stronghold that was built between 1470 and 1490 by Diarmuid O’Dea. Although much of the battlements and stairs were knocked down by the Cromwellians, enough of the castle remained to enable its restoration by the local development association. There are many historical sites in the immediate area including an 11th century round tower, an abbey and St. Tola’s High Cross.

One of the significant local events was the battle of Dysert O’Dea in 1318. A Norman, Richard DeClare, attempted to conquer the area. He met a body of O’Dea’s troops at a ford near the stronghold. When they retreated DeClare rushed forward and was ambushed and killed; it is said he was felled by the axe of Conor O’Dea himself. Many other influential English Knights were killed in the battle and the area remained free of English domination for another 200 years.

We drove northwest to Kilfenora and visited the 12th century Cathedral there, part of which is still used for worship services. In the roofless chancel there stands the Doorty Cross, a 12th century High Cross that is lavishly decorated and remarkably well preserved.

We travelled north to Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen which is one of the best known dolmen in Ireland and is only one of two portal dolmen in the country. Carbon dating indicates that the site dates from 2500 BC and was used as a burial site. We spoke to a parks fellow that was on site who told us that the the capstone on the dolmen weighs five tons. Makes you wonder exactly how they got it up there over 3500 years ago. There were remains of 23-29 people in the dolmen as well as many other artifacts. Archeologists determined that most died before 30 with the oldest around 40; reminds you of how far we have come over the ages.

This area shows great examples of the karst limestone that covers much of the Burren; most of the soil overburden was removed by the glaciers of the last ice age.

We moved on to Doolin where we are staying at Nellie Dee’s B&B; more on that tomorrow. We ate supper at McGann’s pub (definately try the seafood, the mussels were great) and stayed for the trad (traditional) music. You had better enjoy the company of lots of people if you decide to do this. Doolin has become the mecca of trad music in Ireland and the three pubs overflow after 8:30 pm because the music starts at 9:00 or 9:30. It was a great time with fiddle, guitar and drum playing. Mom decided she was done so we took her back to the B&B. Bonnie and I went to McDermmot’s pub and closed the place with a stag party that was going on. Stag parties are bachelor parties in Ireland, but they apparently last days and are very raucous; we got involved in a singsong (singalong) with them. The music at McDermmot’s is also great, a mix of trad and contemporary tonight. More tomorrow.

Slainte, Pat

The ferry across the Shannon.  Two ferries run, takes about 20 minutes.

The ferry across the Shannon. Two ferries run, takes about 20 minutes.

One of the narrow roads.  It has small pullouts so you can let another by.

One of the narrow roads. It has small pullouts so you can let another by.

O'Dea Castle

O'Dea Castle

The great room in O'Dea Castle

The great room in O'Dea Castle

Cathedral at Kilfenora.  You can see the gable end of the part still in use.

Cathedral at Kilfenora. You can see the gable end of the part still in use.

The Doorty Cross.  They erected a clear cover to protect the crosses.

The Doorty Cross. They erected a clear cover to protect the crosses.

The Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen.  The capstone weighs 5 ton.

The Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen. The capstone weighs 5 ton.

Karst limestone of the Burren.  It could be called the Barren in these areas.

Karst limestone of the Burren. It could be called the Barren in these areas.

Near another wedge tomb.  Stone commemorates Paddy Nolan who discovered a collar of gold while digging in his garden.  It now resides in the National Museum.

Near another wedge tomb. Stone commemorates Paddy Nolan who discovered a collar of gold while digging in his garden. It now resides in the National Museum.

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Adare and Muckross House

Picture posting has been screwing up my blogs so I will be placing most of them at the bottom of the post.  Sorry bout that.

We drove up to Adare from Kilarney to start the day, just a bit under an hours drive. It’s a lovely little town, often referred to as the most picturesque village in Ireland, with the castle and the 1800s thatched buildings the main attractions.

Desmond Castle - the ramp is the drawbridge location

Desmond Castle - the ramp is the drawbridge location

We toured the Desmond Castle which is a great example of a Norman defensive stronghold; it was originally built in 1202. It is the only castle in Ireland with an operating (obviously restored) portcullis, the drop-down gate inside the curtain wall entrance to the courtyard. It also has the classic moat and drawbridge that leads into the keep. The tree growing in the courtyard is a yew tree. They were grown in castles and graveyards; in the castle for bow making stock and in the graveyards as a disincentive against the common folk grazing their animals. The needles dropped by the yew are mildly poisonous to the livestock.

The thached cottages date from the 1805 timeframe and are still in use, mostly as shops, but as you can see they are for rent (to let). The thatching is interesting, it is basically bundles of dried reed that are layered on the roof framework about a foot deep. They overlap and are installed from the bottom up so they overlap like regular shingles. In windy areas they have a rope net that is tied over the roof to keep the thatch in place. From what I was told they are actually pretty servicable as roofing although they can leak a bit if you get heavy rain.

There is a very nice town park with a thatched gazebo and the restored clothes washing pool complete with the worn stones that were used to scrub the clothes. We had a nice picnic lunch and I made the mistake of feeding one bird that had a bad leg which ensured that we had plenty of company until we finished and left.

We headed back to Kilarney to visit the Muckross House just southwest of town. This is a large manor house, gardens and grounds originally built for the Herbert family. The house has 65 rooms, 25 bedrooms plus rooms that were built with no purpose, just to make the house bigger and demonstrate the owners wealth. The house was built over four years and completed in 1843. Queen Victoria visited the area and stayed in the house for two days; the family had six years notice of the visit and extensive renovation of the house and gardens was undertaken. The cost of the renovations and the death of Henry Herbert caused the family economic hardship and the house was sold in the late 1800s to Lord and Lady Ardilaun. It passed to the Bourn Vincent family who presented it to the government with 11,000 acres, starting the Killarney National Park in 1932; the first national park in Ireland.

The Muckross Traditional Farms are also located at Muckross House. This is 75 acres of farms, blacksmith, carpenter’s shop and etc that are working places of buisness and show the way of life prior to electrification in the 1930s. We didn’t have time to visit both the house and the farms so we toured the house. With all the scenery and attractions in the area, you could easily spend a week in Killarney and still not see it all. That has been the story of this trip, to much to see and not enough time. Having a great time though.

Slante, Pat

The portcullis at Desmond Castle

The portcullis at Desmond Castle

 

Thatched cottage in Adare

Thatched cottage in Adare

 

Care to rent a classic small home?

Care to rent a classic small home?

The community water source at Adare

The community water source at Adare

Clothes washing pool at Adare.  The scrubbing rocks are to the left.

Clothes washing pool at Adare. The scrubbing rocks are to the left.

Muckross House main entrance

Muckross House main entrance

Muckross House rear view

Muckross House rear view

There are many large specimen trees at Muckross

There are many large specimen trees at Muckross

In the gardens.  May not look remarkable, but the leaves are three feet across!

In the gardens. May not look remarkable, but the leaves are three feet across!

 

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Adare Delayed

It was a lovely day today to visit Adare and Muckross House; I have a few pics to share.  It is after midnight, we are headed north tomorrow and I am to pooped to post.  I doubt we will have a connection in Doolin, but if we do I will post something.  I may not be seeing a connection until we get back to the States.  If so, check back next Wednesday as we get back Tuesday late.

Slainte Pat

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The Ring of Kerry

The morning looked lovely so we decided to do the Ring of Kerry today since poor visibility would really kill the experience; it really is a visual experience. 
Lower Lake Killarney

Lower Lake Killarney

We did the ring anti-clockwise, as they say here, heading toward Killorglin. Just out of Killarney there is a marvelous view of the lower lake from the golf course. We continued until reaching the turn off to Ross Bay and the beach. I haven’t seen a beach quite like this one before.

Ross Bay beach

Ross Bay beach

When the tide is out there is a wide gently sloping sandy beach that ends at the rocks. When the tide is in the beach is the rocks; at least they move the big rocks out of the public beach area. The sand is a little strange, very fine, it almost sticks to your fingers if you pick some up because it is actually glacial clay left behind after the last glacier retreated from Ireland.

After a bit of play on the beach we moved on to Cahersiveen, admiring the views, and took the bridge out to Valentia Island. It is a small island, IIRC it is nine miles at its widest. This is the most westerly inhabited area in Europe or so we were told. Stopped at a small cafe for a cuppa and a bite. I know it was the family house, I am pretty sure it was their dining room we sat in. Had her homemade soup and brown bread, absolutely marvelous. Bonnie got the recipe from her for the bread, she was that impressed.

Stone bridge at St. Brendan's Well, look at the road deck

Stone bridge at St. Brendan's Well, look at the road deck

We stopped at St. Brendan’s well to have a look, there is a small shrine and a well; there are many small places here that have claim to something or somebody that is holy. As one fellow had said a few days ago, “If you collected together the pieces of the one true cross that everyone owns, you could build fifty.”. I did see this bridge which we crossed to get to the well that I thought was nicely done. You will note that it is stack stone pillars and solid slabs of rock as the roadway. Not seen anything quite like that before.

 

 

 

Thatch roofed cottage

Thatch roofed cottage

We had previously seen a thatch roofed house which we were assured was still in use. I had to take a picture of this little white cottage where we had seen people departing. So I guess that proves it, they really are still in use in a few places. We finished our wandering around the island with a visit to the site of the lighthouse, which is now inaccessible to the public. However the site it sits on used to be an old fort from Cromwells time and some of it still is there.

 

 

 Went a visited a candle maker’s shop. It was down a one and a half track road right to the end. A quiet fellow was the one and only living there I think. Bonne bought candles and I had a nice conversation with him about drying peat along with other matters, seemed to be a nice fellow. 

 
Coast between Cahersiveen and Waterville

Coast between Cahersiveen and Waterville

We took the ferry back to the mainland and headed south toward Watersville. More great views of the coast even with the forty mph wind that was blowing through the area. We blew east thru Kenmare and caught a great look at the upper lake in the

Upper Lake Killarney National Park

Upper Lake Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park when we stopped. Some of the trees here have great character and I had to show you one posing with Bonnie.

 

 

 

Bonnie loves trees with character

Bonnie loves trees with character

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Travel Day to Kilarney

Tuesday June 9

We bid adeau to our lovely hosts at the Harbour Hill Farm and started west on the coast road through light rain. There are much faster routes to Kilarney, but none more scenic. We travelled through the village of Skibbereen (I just like that name) and on to Mizen Head where we stopped to visit the historical light house. The visitors center has a nice cafe which is a good place to have a hot cuppa after walking out in the wind and rain.

This is the most south-westerly point in Ireland and the rocks around the coast are a ship graveyard. IMG_0601There have been hundreds of shipwrecks; a partial listing is at the visitors center and shows the last wreck was in 2003. The lighthouse has been converted to run automatically and most of the buildings turned into a series of displays about Irish lighthouses and the people that tended them. At the entrance there is a ships propellor from the wreck of the SS Irada which was recovered by divers in the 1990s. She ran aground in fog just north of Mizen Head in 1899. The propellor shows the damage from striking the rocks.

The path out to the Head includes nintynine steps or you can take a longer path with no steps.

The bridge to Mizen Head Lighthouse

The bridge to Mizen Head Lighthouse

The path is less invigorating but a good walk non the less. If you don’t care for heights I would suggest you not look down when crossing the bridge.

The displays show the life of a lighhouse attendant in addition to other information about the history of Irish lighthouses. They include video demonstrations of past-times like building a ship in a bottle.

Mizenhead Lighthouse the light is on the far side

Mizenhead Lighthouse the light is on the far side

I always wondered how they actually did that. Essentially all of the rigging is built so it can be folded down flat and narrow enough to fit thru the neck of the bottle. I had figured that, but the way it is done is very clever.

A visit to Mizen Head is a good stop on the way to Kilarney and I recommend it.

The remainder of the route takes you over mountain (for the Irish) roads. Although they don’t have the hairpin turns of the Beartooth Highway they are steep and narrow with serious drop-offs. I wish the visibility had been better, the views would be marvelous I am sure. Due to the weather enroute and the fact that we forgot to charge the camera battery the only pictures I have are of the Mizen Head area and I will close with a couple of those.

We arrived at our new home, the Rossarney House in Kilarney late in the afternoon. After settling in a bit and getting recommendations from Triona, our hostess, we walked to High Street and had earlies at the Fiske resturaunt. Earlies is just an early dinner which is a bit less expensive; I think it’s intended to increase traffic before the real dinner rush around eight or so although they were not lacking for customers. I had the sea trout which was excellent while Bonnie had the lamb chops. I tasted hers and was impressed with the flavor and tenderness. Good place to eat and reasonably priced for the area. More about the Rossarney House later.

The coastline around Mizen Head

The coastline around Mizen Head

View down the ~200 foot cliff

View down the ~200 foot cliff

 

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