Ring of Kerry - Ladies View Lookout

Ireland Journal

Well, the Easter holiday has come up on me quite quickly but I have managed to arrange a bit of a break away from my life here in England. Ever since I arrived here about three and a half years ago I have been trying to get out and see various places I have never seen before – including Europe.

The Republic of Ireland is the south of the Irish island, the north being Northern Ireland (ironically). I did not feel too comfortable in the north with the troubles they have had in the past so I have decided to visit the south first, the Republic. The Republic is not part of the United Kingdom but it is a part of the European Union, perhaps more close to Europe than Britain just a short ferry ride across the Irish Sea.

Ireland is really unknown to me, I know very little about it, which is, I feel a great reason to go and see it. It seems that not a lot of people that I know here in England know too much about it which seems a shame considering it is really just a short trip away.

Ireland strikes me as a very rural country so I have chosen to bring my car which also causes some issues since we have recently been faced with the Foot and Mouth epidemic here in Britain. In the journal which follows you must excuse my dwelling on some of these issues of the day as well as my new car which I have just picked up earlier this week (hey, it is a big deal to me!).

Friday, April 13, 2001 - Good Friday - Friday the 13th? Bad Luck????

Dublin - Sandyford (just to the south)

It is Easter and it is time to get out and see a bit more of the world for me. Living in England does afford me the opportunity to see areas of the world that I have always wanted to see such as Europe and, in this case the Republic of Ireland (not to be confused with Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom). I suppose part of the reason I have wanted to visit is the fact that I know so few people that have visited.

Just to make it interesting I decided to take my car with me which will allow me to see more of the country then I might otherwise visit if I came by plane or otherwise relying on public transport. Taking the car also allows me to try out taking a car on a ferry (which I have never done by myself). Always out to try new things…

It is a big day for me, and started quite early with my wake-up call of 4:45 (though, as is normal with me, I beat the alarm on the clock before it could go off). I had pretty much prepared the car for the journey the night before. I have a new company car that I just received earlier this week – a bit unexpected I was thinking that I would have to take my old car. I prepared by removing the back seats so I could have room for my mountain bike but I don't know if I will be able to use it – but I will bring it anyway (lots of room with just me in the car – even if it is only a 3-door hatchback).

In the morning I just had to put my bags in the car. 5:15 I headed off to begin my journey taking the M4 motorway west towards the south of Wales. The ferry I caught leaves from a small place called Fishguard. Other than a minor diversion where I believe there was a small landslide on the motorway, the trip was uneventful if a bit boring – it was miserable weather with a lot of fog so I could not really enjoy the scenery as I went along. I had forgotten that I had to pass over the Severn on my way to southern Wales with a toll on this massive bridge (the “Second Severn Crossing”) – about 3 pounds. You only have to pay this toll the one direction on the motorway so at least when I come back at whatever time in the morning it will be, I will not have to fumble about for change (this time I missed the basket and had to get out of the car to get it!). The traffic in general was not too bad, though pretty busy around Bristol and Cardiff. So, about four and a half hours after I had left I eventually arrived at the ferry port which is at the bottom of the cliff on top of which is the main part of the town of Fishguard.

There was a delay of about 15 minutes before they let us into the ferry with our forming a series of lines that were loaded one at a time onto the ferry. Before we drove onto the ferry they had us drive over disinfectant mats. In recent months the UK has been hit by the Foot and Mouth disease so they are taking no chances. Driving into the ship was interesting with extremely low ceilings and narrow and awkward driving conditions – winding round and around a number of levels before being told to park (and being told to straighten up since I was not quite straight in the lane).

This is a new (Lynx) catermeran that takes only two hours to cross over to Ireland instead of four hours on the older ferry (and this is not much more expensive – though MUCH more expensive then taking the plane).

After parking the car I made my way to the passenger area of the boat – it was quite something. Complete with take-away restaurant (a-la McDonald's though with very unlike-McDonald's prices), video arcade, bar, money exchange agent, store and lots of seats. There were two levels with the bar and two outside walkways on the top level and three outside walkways on the main level.

Leaving England - Fishguard Harbour

The trip was uneventful if a bit noisy since I had, inadvertently, sat close to the baby changing room so there were a LOT of kids. At first I had a bit of trouble with a headache but after simply relaxing I felt a lot better and got used to the gentle movement of the ferry – it was moving very quick and the ride was very smooth.

In the two hours I began to study the maps of Ireland to see where I would be going at first. When driving by myself I have to be exactly sure I know where I am going pretty much before I head out.

It was very foggy the whole trip so it was only until we almost docked that I could make out Ireland as it emerged from the mist. Mind you, we could see where we were on the television screens that displayed navigation information so it wasn't that much of a suprise.

Before we docked they had us return to our cars so that as soon as we got there we were able to unload – arriving only about 10 minutes late, at 1:00 pm. When we walked into the car park to get into the cars they had us walk through heavy disinfectant-soaked sponges. As we drove off the boat they had us drive over more disinfectant mats then we had to queue (get in a line) for a under-car spray where they had people from the ministry of agriculture asking people if they had any meat or dairy products (and, suprisingly, a few people were actually silly enough to have some with them – even, one would assume, knowing about the foot and mouth situation). After that we passed through customs where they asked about food again (“A few apples and oranges” was my answer, to their amusement) and then finally through an area where two people in protective clothing were hand-spraying each vehicle (yes, motorcycles too) with more disinfectant – I did not ask them if they did wax as well…

We left the terminal at Rosslare and headed out onto the road. I quickly realised a few strange things about driving here – the speed limits are given in miles per hour but distances are in kilometers (!). People, much like in England, ignore the speed limits as well and there are half-lanes running along many of the roads separated from the main lanes by dashed lines that you are supposed to pull over into to let faster cars (pretty much everyone in my case) pass you. The roads are not in terribly good shape which made driving in my new car quite interesting as it bounces all over the road – since it is the GTI version (it is a Peugeot 206) I am told it is supposed to be a bit sensitive to the road.

I followed the signs as I headed west to Waterford. I am staying tonight in Dublin but since it is so early I figured I might as well see a few things first. Waterford is only about 80 kilometers from Waterford so the drive was quite a short one as I travelled through a bit of the countryside – passing through only a few small towns. I was suprised to see the amount of cattle in the fields – many sheep and cows which I do not really see around at all in England since the outbreak.

Petrol (gasoline) is very cheap here - the cheapest I saw was 60p (Irish) or about 54p (UK currency) where it was about 76p when I left the UK earlier.

Waterford is quite pretty as it basically sits on the one side of the River Suir. It has a number of older shops side by side all along the road running along the river with big car parks on the other side of the road right beside the river. I made my way through a small traffic jam as I passed through the town, passing around the remains of the city walls and towers. I headed south on the Cork road and turned into the Waterford crystal factory. This is the one (and only) thing I know about Waterford and I felt it was worth a visit (even if I do find their product a bit gawdy).

Beside the River Suir in Waterford

As I pulled into the car park I was once again suprised to see disinfectant mats and we had to walk on them before we entered the visitor centre. I was happy to see that I had not missed getting a tour nor was there a big queue for them. We hopped on a bus that took us right into the factory area where they first gave us a audio-visual display about the crystal ball that they created for the millenium that dropped in Times Square in New York. They even had a replica of the ball which is covered with a few hundred crystal triangles all with (I learned later) a seven pointed star representing each continent and together indicating cooperation and hope for the future.

Next we were led into an area where they were blowing the crystal as well as forming it into various shapes (using simple molding techniques). They used wood tools soaked in water to form the crystal which is provided in exact measurements for shaping. After shaping it is just dropped onto a conveyor belt where it is boxed so it moves onto the next stage of production. I was quite surpised at how the craftsman were able to quickly form the shapes they needed on the end of long poles and then just tapped the pole to release the formed work onto the conveyor that is moving VERY quickly.

The next area they demonstrated the way they added handles to pitchers (and how they added the lip). They heat up the pitcher so that it can more readily accept the handle they they take a blob of molten crystal and simply drag out a length and fit it to the side. The artisan showed great talent as he quickly formed the handle and lined it up correctly. Some of the kids were given small cross-shaped samples of the crystal…quite nice. The guide was also very interesting as she explained what was happening.

In the next room they were separating the pieces from the “mountings” (as I would call it – don't know what the right term is) that they have been formed with – for example, the bowls are blown as a hollow shape then the one end is cut off – in this room. They use a system where the piece is slightly scored then a sequence of hot and cold air is blown onto the piece so it breaks along the score. Very ingenious.

The next and final sequence of areas is where the design was marked then cut onto the crystal. They use markers to mark on the crystal what design to cut then artisans cut the piece 2/3 of the thickness into the crystal (in the deepest cuts). All of the people working on the crystal had to do 10 years of apprenticeship before they could do commercial work so they really “have the eye”. Interesting to hear that the marks are a “guide only” and it is up to the individual to correctly put the design on the piece. They use a machine to mark the simplest objects (like wine glasses) automatically but many of the others are marked by hand. Each artisan memorizes the design and cuts required for each piece. Every day they can do hundreds of pieces.

In one area they showed where they can create pieces using moulding (injecting liquid crystal into a mould) and also crystal carving. We were told that Waterford is the largest creator of hand-crafted crystal in the world. I must admit that I was surprised to see the amount of hand-work they did there. They had a good display on a number of reference pieces that they keep for “special” production – such as trophys (Wimbledon and the like). These references are created for each “special” they make in case they need to re-make it.

The last section we were able to talk to an artisan that worked on the millennium ball crystal and he discussed how they now have a certain design for the crystal triangles for each year – leaving a section of the previous year on the ball for the next year. The design for this year was one depicting the wish that industrial countries would forgive third-world debt which I found a bit ironic carved into crystal…

They finished the tour in a large store that they had on the site with a few floors selling crystal and a small display of trophy's they had created as well.

I returned to the car and was happy to see that it was still fairly early – I had arrived at the factory at 2:30 and it was still only about 4:00 so I had plenty of time to look around the town – well, for a bit at least.

After parking in a ridiculously expensive car park on the river I wandered through the rather medieval town. Again I wondered at the disinfectant mats which were at the entrances to malls and large shops.

I had just enough time to visit Reginald's Tower which is one of the oldest towers in the town with history dating back to Viking times. They have a small museum there that offers guided tours so I was told about the history of the town and how it was always seen as an important port by invading armies. We were guided through the four stories of the tower with displays on each floor. Of course, the higher floors are a lot more recent and created using different techniques than the lower ones – the lower floors have arrow slits while the top ones have cannon holes. The whole tower is quite small inside but with massively thick exterior walls (useless in defence against cannon though).

Finally leaving after the town I headed north to try to find Dublin and my room for the night at a local B & B. Easier said then done as I had a bit of trouble finding the correct road but eventually I was on my way. My little detour had only added about 1/2 hour to my journey and about two hours later I finally arrived in the outskirts of Dublin.

The B & B I had found on the Internet and I had been given very accurate directions by the manager who had put odometer settings on the directions (reset your trip odometer in the car and follow the directions, “at 2.0 miles, turn right” etc). It worked quite well and I was able to find the place with not much bother, pulling up my tired car at 8:00 pm with 540 miles on the odometer – it was only 125 this morning. A LOT of driving.

The owner and his wife are very nice and they showed me to my small room on the upper floor. I hadn't had dinner so they suggested a local pub – closed because of it being Good Friday. Actually, I have noticed a lot of religious sentiment around with a number of virgin mary statues in Waterford. The car park at the pub was packed with cars for the church next door. The next place they had me try was also closed so I eventually found a place on the main road that I had followed from the south.

The meal was quite good and the restaurant reminded me a lot of the restaurants in Canada and the US with good service, and food. It was quite nice to be able to sit down and relax after so many hours on the road (a total of about 9 hours of driving). I enjoyed my rather large T-bone steak (medium rare, please) and rather good home-made mandarin cheesecake. It was a bit Irish in that it was Irish beef (don't know where they got it though…).

Finally at 10pm I arrived back at the B & B and was able to chat briefly with the owners before heading up to bed. I will sleep well tonight. Busy day tomorrow with the whole of Dublin to see!

Saturday, April 14, 2001

Dublin - Sandyford

Today was my first full day at the bed & breakfast here just outside of Dublin. My room is quite small so much so that I had to watch my head in the washroom since the ceiling is at an angle (because of the pitch of the roof!). Having said that though, a shower is all I need and I do not have to have a large room, I am only using it for sleeping and for a place to put my things.

Breakfast was quite leisurely at 8:30 as I was all alone at the table as I chatted with the owner about my car and his motorcycles. He made quite a good breakfast – a full “English” breakfast. Funny being in Ireland and eating that but it seems that this is the norm at B & Bs.

I got some directions from the owner and drove off down the road hanging a left at the ocean and parking by a “DART” (Dublin Area Regional Transit) station – I was surprised to hear that it was free to park there, mind you, it was a bit of a dive…

The price of a return ticket was not that expensive but the trains are quite old. I learned that this service is the world's oldest suburban transport system and it looks like some of the trains have been around since it started – just kidding but they are VERY old. The train followed the ocean north into the centre of the city, passing by the rather mangy looking stadium and a number of abandoned lots full of rubbish. After finally passing through the dock area which looks to be under re-development I eventually got out at Tara Street Station – along with half the train. Exiting the station I was in the middle of a large city though with no skyscrapers but lots of buildings about 4-5 stories high and many older buildings.

I headed west along the River Liffey attempting to find the Tourist Information building where I knew I could get onto a bus tour of the city – I like to get on the “hop on, hop off” buses in many large cities since it gives me a good overview of the town – not especially a lot of historical information but enough for me to figure out how to get around and give me ideas of what I want to see. In this case, I really did not have any idea of what I wanted to see in the city so this tour was really essential.

Eventually I found myself in front of the main entrance to Trinity College where I was able to wait on board a parked tour bus (the “Dublin City Tour” company) while we waited for the next bus in service to come along. It was a bit cool and miserable outside so it was nice to be in out of the cold for a few minutes. Once the bus did arrive I immediately headed upstairs to get a better view of the city as we headed around.

As we made our way around the city I was struck with how small it was and how very European – lots of older buildings being used for newer companies. Many narrow streets and a lot of people running around a lot in cars and on foot. There are a number of different areas of the city, from the historical area around the house of parliament (Leinster House) to the rather trendy (a la SoHo in London) Temple Bar area. There are also the distinctive shopping areas such as O' Connell Street to the north of the river. Dublin sits on the north and south sides of the Liffey river just a stones throw from the Irish Sea.

There are the two major cathedrals: St. Patrick's and Christ Church which we passed on our clockwise tour of the city. The biggest thing in the city by far is the Guinness brewery which occupies a large area to the west of the city centre. The brewery has just been hit by a strike but it was busy as we stopped at the front door – they offer tours of the “storehouse” including a sample at the end with magnificent views of the city from the top of the 6-7 story building (we lost a lot of people from the tour here where they eagerly made their way inside). There are not many such high buildings, as is typical with so many European cities.

The new Civic offices on the south side of the river are really an exception to all of the older buildings in the city – being extremely modern. Evidently when they were building it they found a large number of Viking artefacts but this did not stop the building from being built. Evidently this was not to the approval of the tour guide (nor many on the tour).

Guinness Brewery

The tide in the river is quite severe and it was rather unpleasant to see the rubbish in the mud (shopping trolleys, discarded bikes, etc.). It seemed to me that this is very much a party town with a lot of young people around and a LOT of pubs. They do seem to like their drink, that along with the brewery just around the corner…

O'Connell Street - Shopping on the north side of the Liffey

The tour buses were really starting to get busy when I got out at the end of the circuit where I had started – Trinity College. I wandered in and was struck by how similar and yet so different it is to the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. Similar in that you go through a main entrance into a courtyard, different in that the courtyard was quite large and mostly cobbled. The college also seemed to be a lot more used – there were many local bills for student events on the walls. The college is quite old with the requisite classic buildings, statues and ambiance.

Trinity College

I passed by the small queue for the Book of Kells which was being exhibited in a small building off to the side of the main courtyard. In case you are unsure as to what the Book of Kells is – it is an ancient illuminated manuscript. The exhibit shows two copies of the books open to illuminated and non-illuminated (text only) pages along with information about how the books were written and where they came from.

After wandering through the campus I made my way back out and stopped for a quick snack at a natural food restaurant (very nice, 100% natural vegetable drinks and sandwiches).

Temple Bar Area

I wandered through Temple Bar and my initial impressions from the tour bus were confirmed as a few rather trendy clothes stores and a large number of small restaurants serving, it seems, everything but “Irish” food (though there are the pubs…). I wandered through the small streets and eventually crossed back over Dame Street and into the area known as Dublin Castle. Not really much of a castle, more of a series of administration buildings and their associated “apartments” though quite impressive itself with a large cobbled square in the centre of the area. The tours were not being held at this time of day so I got back on the bus and got out at St. Patrick's cathedral.

Dublin Castle

St. Patrick's is definitely one of the places I had to visit when I was here – I was surprised to learn that Johnathan Swift was the dean of the cathedral and is buried inside along with his beloved Stella. There is a lot of history here with legends about St. Patrick. There are a lot of monuments in the cathedral as I wandered around. The sun was just starting to come out so it showed through the stained glass high in the nave. Quite a peaceful view – if it wasn't for the tourists. I made my way around, looking at the various monuments and memorials to the various army regiments before heading out into the attached park to the north of the cathedral. I managed to get a few pictures before the clouds started to come in.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

From the garden at St. Patrick's I headed north to the back door of the Dublin castle again where I relaxed in a garden for a few minutes (watching more tourists). An interesting Celtic design to the garden in a large circular lawn with a pattern of curved lines of paving stones criss-crossing it.

I headed back down South Great George's Street where I once again stopped for refreshment (seems one thing it is VERY easy to do here) at a Japanese place (nope, no Irish yet…) I had seen advertised while on the tour. Quite a pleasant meal, quite light.

George Street

I headed across the street into the George Street Arcade and was reminded of similar arcades in London and Leeds (in England). A few small shops in an large enclosed small “street”, very old shops too. I wandered around but was disappointed that the things for sale were fairly typical and nothing that really interested me. This is definitely the “high street” area of Dublin – where the people that live here go to shop – as there are many of the big chains and stores all along the street.

I found myself at the Tourist Information booth which is actually housed in an old church that was going to be demolished. I always make an effort to get to Tourist Information places for ideas about what to see and do. This time, I was disappointed and only picked up a few brochures (around the hoards of people there).

I wandered town Nassau street past the Molly Malone statue (selling her “cockles and mussels”) – “the tart with the cart” as she is known locally (according to the tour guide). There is another statue on O' Connell street of a long haired lady-figure in a cascade of water that is known as “the flousie in the jaccussi”. Very colourful language.

Nassau street contains some very exclusive older businesses which I peered through the windows of – fancy clothing, chocolates, etc.

Eventually I picked up the bus from St. Stephen's Green to the south of Nassau street and headed back to the castle once again. I found out that even though the tours were on I would have to wait half an hour for the next one so I gave that up and headed down the street to “Dublinia” instead. Dublinia is a museum about medieval Dublin with life-sized scenes on the main floor that you follow with a tape recorder audio guide before heading upstairs for a series of static displays. It was quite interesting, especially the information about the street merchants and the plague that got to even this fairly remote part of Europe. In the top of the exhibit – which was housed in yet another old church – they were giving a demonstration of sword fighting with volunteers from the crowd – very amusing to see the kids trying to keep the helmets from falling over their eyes. I wandered around and up the bell tower to get a view out the narrow windows of the city all around. It was quite a walk up but really quite worth it.

Christ Church Cathedral

As we headed back down and out of the museum we were able to go into Christ Church Cathedral which we walked to across a bridge over the street. I just had a few minutes but managed to get around the church and even visited the undercroft – I believe this is the first time I had ever been in an undercroft. This one was well lit, very dry and no bodies lying about, but very much used by the church as it was set up for a service to be held later (or so I assumed). Strongbow – a famous figure in Irish history – is buried in the main part of the church.

I headed back to Temple Bar and by now the pubs were starting to fill up. On this long weekend, it was an even better excuse to go out, it seems, for many in Dublin. I managed to find what I thought would be a good place for an Irish meal above a pub. I was a bit disappointed to see it run by a number of French people (not that I have any problems with French people, but I was looking for something a BIT more authentic). The food, it must be said, was quite good as I helped myself to a large bowl of Irish stew (with BIG pieces of potatoes).

As I left the restaurant the 1st and main floors were hopping with the sounds of a few Irish musicians which made for quite a show.

This was all I could really do today as the town was starting to fill with people for the evening. I made my way back to the busy train station (with someone who had had a bit to drink singing to the crowd) and then on to my car. I eventually found my way back to the B & B for an early night (which was fine with me – I am TIRED).

The B & B is in a small little village to the south of Dublin only about a 1/2 mile from the Irish Sea and a ferry service to mainland Great Britain. The driveway is rather narrow and a bit hard to find off the street, quite a ways in on the right of this drive (there are a few other houses on the drive as well).

The evening is a bit rough – I can hear the wind and see/hear the rain against the windows as I watch a few movies before heading off to bed. Tomorrow I have a long day of travel to look forward to.

Sunday, April 15, 2001

Killarney, County Kerry

As per normal, I beat my alarm clock this morning. I tried to time my visit to the table with when the people in the room next to me – 4 kids and their mother – where NOT there. The breakfast table had the requisite Easter eggs at each place which is a nice touch (especially with the kids).

I managed to settle up my bill and head off at just after 9. The owner had given my reasonably good directions to the motorway from the B & B so I made my way around the “ring road” (a two-lane affair with a lot of traffic lights and roundabouts) and through both residential and industrial areas. The roads are not in great shape so it was a bit of a jumpy drive.

I made my way heading west from Dublin through countryside a lot like Surrey in England – rolling hills, rock walls dividing the fields (yes, still a lot of farm animals about, sheep and cows). It was turning into a wonderful day with the sun just starting to come out as I edged towards Galway on the west coast. I passed through a number of small towns where it seems that everyone was in church with church car parks full and the streets lined with parked cars. I saw a number of small shrines to the Virgin Mary much as I had seen when I was down in Waterford.

Castle Gunguaire in Northern Clare

I turned south just before Galway then headed west again to follow a small road through county Clare. I was told by the B & B owner that this was a good drive and had quite nice scenery. After I left the main road heading the road rapidly turned into two – and sometimes one – lanes of very winding roads. I followed the coast for a few miles as I passed into an area of low mountains, with a lot of rocks.

Near Ballylongford

Near Ballylongford

The ocean was in view for quite some time and the sun was out so it was quite pretty. I did not have a lot of time so I headed inland – directly south again – and had a very interesting time driving along the extremely narrow and ill-maintained roads. At one point I came across a severe series of hairpin turns up a very steep hill. My new car definitely had a work-out today. The view from the top definitely made it worth it – looking out over a number of fields and rock formations. Not a lot of people in this area with only the occasional farm. I did not pass through a large number of towns at all at this point.

Lahinch on Coast of County Clare

I had occasional rain as I passed through Kinvarra, Lisdoonvarna, Kilfernora, Ennistymon and Lahinch where the landscape once again got flatter and I had a great view of the ocean once again (this time to the west of where I was driving). The cliffs with the crashing waves were definitely quite wonderful to see, with a small island just off shore and the crowds on the beach with a few hearty soles surfing – in wet suits of course!

Milltown Malbay on Coast of County Clare

Passing through Milltown Malbay and Kilkee (where there was a Sunday market on in the main town square). I made my way through Kilrush to Killimer. It seems that everywhere near the ocean was busy because of the nice weather. It took me a bit of time after Killimer to find where the ferry was – I had to follow a single track road for quite a few miles before I could find it. I had just missed the ferry – which travels on the hour – that crosses the Shannon Estuary to Talbert (in county Kerry). After all of the driving I had done today I relaxed for some time at the small shop there selling snacks and extremely tacky souvenirs. I put my car into the queue for the next sailing and sat back to wait in the wonderful sunshine.

Killimer - Tarbert Ferry (Looking towards Killimer)

You can easily see Kerry county across the water from Killimer. Eventually, at just before 4, the ferry came back towards us. It is just a small ferry with about four lanes of cars in the middle of a flat deck with raised walkways on both sides of the ship where people can get out of their cars and walk around. They even have a small canteen on board. The fee was a bit high (10 pounds) but it really did save quite a trip around the estuary and it was also an enjoyable way to break up the trip. The ferry was not quite full as we headed out, with an older gentleman going around to each car collecting the fee.

Half an hour later we pulled into Tarbert where we were unloaded quite quickly (catching me off guard!) and made our way around the shoreline and then I headed directly south to Killarney where I had booked a B & B (via the Internet again) in advance.

As I approached Killarney all of a sudden there were large mountains on the shoreline and a lot of trees – extremely pretty. Perhaps I will be able to use my bicycle in the back that I have been dragging along with me!

The B & B was relatively easy to find given the directions from the owner (again). It is a lot bigger than the one in Dublin and a lot more modern. My room is absolutely huge with a large double bed a TV in the FAR corner of the room (attached near the ceiling – squint and you can make out the picture on the screen) and a large bathroom (only a shower, alas). It was about 6 so I got a recommendation for a restaurant to visit.

I headed out and noticed that there were a lot of other B & Bs in the area that had spaces free – it seems they have been hit quite hard by the Foot and Mouth situation. The rather large Killarney National Park that is directly to the west of the town has been closed because of it. Killarney itself is mostly touristy with a lot of small, tacky, tourist stores though the there is a nice old cathedral that I passed on my way into the town (which was just letting out from the evening service). I parked on a side street and walked into the main area.

The town was quite busy as I found the restaurant that had been recommended to me which turned out to be associated with the American Legion (why is that I cannot seem to find Irish restaurants? Perhaps I should be trying the pubs…). Despite that they served some wonderful food as I helped myself to fresh, local, mussels (in cream and garlic) along with a wonderful steak (fillet) prepared quite well. I have definitely eaten very well since I have been here, none of the meals I have had have left me wanting more (not that this is a sign of a good meal, but the quality has been quite good). Finishing off with the strawberry meringue I staggered out and back to the car.

After the heavy meal I headed out for a walk – I could not just sit inside and watch TV even though the sun was starting to set. I headed west from the hotel which is the road that makes up the northern reaches of the “Ring of Kerry” a 100+ miles of road around Kerry that follows the ocean and is notorious for it's challenging driving conditions (and excesses of pubs) along the way. The views along this road are supposed to be second to none, perhaps I will be able to try a bit tomorrow, though, having to catch the ferry at 6 pm will make that a bit difficult…

I headed west, following the road, eventually crossing the road to walk along a path through the woods along the side of a golf course that is on the “Lough Lean” – a small lake directly west of the town centre. It is quite a spectacular view across the green of the golf course to the mountains in the distance, with the evening mist just starting to come in.

I said “hello” to a few sheep in a field as I made my way back to the B & B in the impending gloom of the evening, noticing the Foot & Mouth mats even here at the entrance to various businesses and farms.

This evening is a bit later than yesterday as I flip through the channels at the far end of the room, skipping over the channel in the Irish language…

Another tough day of driving ahead of me for tomorrow…

Monday, April 16, 2001 (well, now Tuesday)

Woking, Surrey, ENGLAND

It is VERY late in the night (or early in the morning, depending on your perspective) so you must excuse if the next few paragraphs are a bit more disjointed than normal.

Last night I had set my meal request for this morning's breakfast. I was not the first one at breakfast as I found a table in a corner of the breakfast room at 9 o'clock. Breakfast was the typical non-Irish meal what I would call a “Full English Breakfast”, the same as I had had in Dublin.

I managed to get the attention of the owner for a few minutes after he had started to clear up from the breakfast rush – giving me a bit of advice about how to best spend my time today as I headed for the ferry which I had to catch for 6:30 this evening. It was quite good to talk to him, one of the reasons I like staying at a B & B, he gave me a good insight into the area and things to do and see. I think that I have to agree with him that I will have to visit this area again, there is so much to see and do (it is really quite beautiful).

Interestingly, he said that he gets a lot of enquiries from the web site he has set up but very few bookings such as mine. I did not ask him to see if it was worth it…

I started the day by heading through the town and then taking a small side road to Ross Castle which is right on the “Lough Leane” lake. It was only a mile or so down the road, which was also populated with a number of horse-drawn carriages which are a popular way for the tourists in the area to get around. I managed to find a car park that was not sectioned off from the Foot and Mouth scare and made my way to the castle a short distance away. It is so peaceful there, with the castle right on the lake, with it's sheer walls just a bit in from the lake.

Killarney Castle

I stood on the lake a looked out across towards the distant hills. It was very quiet as I just stood and looked out. A few people were out walking their dogs, I talked to one of the owners “Quiet isn't it?” he asked “Yes” I agreed “No tourists”, “Unfortunately” he replied. In this area above all others it was obvious as to the impact of the Foot and Mouth crisis – All around the castle the paths are taped off from people, cars, horses and bikes.

Lough Leane near Killarney

From the castle, I followed the Ring of Kerry clockwise towards Kenmore. It really is what I was told by the owner – an interesting drive, with a lot of narrow roads but, again, wonderful scenery. I really climbed quite high into the mountains, stopping at “Ladies View” and “Moll's Gap” to take pictures. The mountains, rocks and ocean in the distance was quite something.

County Kerry Landscape

At Kenmore I stopped for a few minutes to wander through the town, picking up some postcards and souvenirs (beginning to feel guilty that I had not done any of this until now). The town is fairly small with a lot of small little shops but seems a lot less commercial, or touristy, than Killarney. I found a lot of local crafts here along with some really nice, helpful people. The town does not have any particularly old buildings though the church…I left at just after noon having arrived at 11:30, time was getting a bit pressing.

Macroom in County Cork

Youghal in County Cork

I headed away through Kilgarven and Cork, the weather being very sunny after this morning which started a bit on the rainy side. I have been really lucky in the past few days with the weather, it could have been raining all the time…as I have been told it often does in this area.

I passed once again through Waterford, past the crystal factory, in a bit of a hurry as I made my way to catch the ferry. Even though I was in a hurry I did take time to stop occasionally and take some pictures, oh, and enjoy the scenery as I went. Nothing quite as nice as in Kerry but I did see some great views of the ocean (St. George's Channel) to the south of the island. I passed through a few smaller towns, winding my way through the streets, attempting to find the road I was supposed to be following.

I have had a few problems with taking the wrong road and having to back- track or detour in order to continue but I have been sticking to the major roads – or obvious roads through the middle of no-where where there is no possibility of losing your way since there is no where else to go! Largely, I have had to pay quite close attention to the signs to see where I am going as it is not always obvious…

The drivers, as I have experienced most of the time, have been generally not too bad except for their apparent love of going fast (and wanting you to move on to the hard shoulder to let them pass). Mind you, I don't travel all that fast anyway, heck, it is my holiday in any case!

I managed to eventually arrive at the ferry port at 5:00 prior to my sailing at 6:30, considering I had travelled for about 7-8 hours, I was happy I was not late. I queued for a few minutes before they let us on to the boat, crossing over one disinfectant mat before entering. The sun was shining as I found a seat right near the window on the second level of the boat (the same boat I had taken a few days ago), with a table so I could spread out a bit (and have a bit to eat).

The crossing was uneventful with less people than the trip over the other day though there were a few more waves this time, but I had no trouble coping. I had some time to reflect on my travels so far, having travelled in excess of 1,000 miles on this trip and seen so much of Ireland. I really enjoyed my trip and hope to come back, perhaps next time with a bit less driving…I made do on the trip with just a two- page Ireland section of my Britain map, which I think is quite impressive considering the size of some of the roads I have been on…

The sun set on the ocean as we finally arrived back in Britain. As we got off the boat, the British were quite good with the Foot and Mouth precautions as they sprayed the car with disinfectant before I headed out onto the road to continue my journey home.

As the sun set, I made my way back through southern Wales, eventually finding the motorway and crossing back over the Severn. I arrived back in Woking at about 1:00 in the morning, calling work as soon as I arrived, leaving a message that I would be, shall we say, a bit late in the morning…

I have really enjoyed this visit, though I definitely have to return. I think I will stay clear of the big towns but perhaps a visit back to Kerry or Clare again…There is so much to see there, hey, maybe I will use my bike this time…

In Dublin, Steve stayed at Pinehill B & B. When in Killarney Steve stayed at the Woodlands B & B, see http://www.stayatwoodlands.com.