Category Archives: accommodation

Northern Ireland::Belfast to Dublin — Day 18

Dona in the window seat at Roe Loft

Dona in the window seat at Roe Loft

We finished packing this morning and while the kids packed I settled with Sarah. We had a nice chat about our Derry visit and life before peace in this area. She told me that she used to be nervous when she’d visit the area during the Troubles. She is from England and Feeny is mainly Catholic. She agrees with me that it is going to take a lot of work on both sides if the peace is going to last.

I spent a few moments writing a comment in the comment book of Roe Loft. I’d read some of the comments by guests that came before us, and found some of them moving. It’s hard to think of what to say in a guest book, but I managed to thank Sarah and Chris for their hospitality and tell them how special their home was.

Tara and Maggie

Tara and Maggie

Then we said goodbye to Drumcovitt House. Clare ran around taking photographs of the house and dogs while we waited in the car, setting up the GPS to get us to Dublin by way of Belfast where I wanted to stop and see the CS Lewis statue and Little Lea, the house where Lewis lived as a child.

The drive to Belfast was unremarkable. We were all tired and perhaps a little glad to be heading home. Well, Andrew was not glad since he had wrestling camp to go to a few days later.

Little Lea

Little Lea

When we got to Belfast it took a while to locate the two landmarks we were seeking. We nearly gave up on the statue — Dean seemed very uncomfortable driving in the city. We drove around for a while, then found the road where Little Lea was located. Dean parked the car and we walked past the house and back again to the car, snapping two photos of the house. Because it is a private residence, I was a little shy about loitering for very long. I remembered reading about Little Lea in Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. The house is supposed to be what he based Professor Kirke’s house on in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Dona at the C. S. Lewis statue

Dona at the C. S. Lewis statue

After seeing Little Lea, we drove around some more and eventually found the library where the C. S. Lewis Centenary Statue is located. We drove around for a while, then finally found a parking space but then we couldn’t find the statue. We drove around some more and then, because I’d already seen the statue as we passed and was about to give up on getting to actually touch it, when we saw that we could park behind the library. Whew!

I remember when this statue was dedicated — the year Lewis would have been 100 years old had he still been alive. I was on the now defunct Mere Lewis list at the time and heard about it there. I never expected to see the statue in person because, after all, it was in war-torn Northern Ireland. Or so I believed, not having heard the news about the peace agreement. (I think I should read the news more often).

C. S. Lewis statue in Belfast, Northern Ireland

C. S. Lewis statue in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Anyway, we took some photos of the statue, Clare and I even posed in the chair in front of the statue.

After the Lewis stops we drove towards Dublin on the biggest road we’d seen since we got to Ireland. We stopped for a picnic lunch in a dingy and depressing town of Newry.

We checked into our hotel, the Ardmore, and had a little rest. Then Dean and I had a drink at the bar while the kids stayed in the rooms watching television. After that we all went down to the bar for a decent and long dinner.

We’re staying in tonight although Dublin is not far away. I guess we are all travel weary.

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Roe Loft at Drumcovitt Barn, Feeny, Northern Ireland — Day 15

Parkduff Cottage and the 4 Ones

Parkduff Cottage and the 4 Ones


We left County Clare and Parkduff Cottage this morning with mixed emotions. On one hand, the house was dusty & cobwebby and had only the minimum of necessities (like forks). On the other hand, it was by the sea. Clare and Andrew liked the house better than Clare and I did. They liked the cottagey feel of it.

Along the route

Along the route -- this may be Yeates country

The drive to Feeny & Drumcovitt House was long and tiring. The countryside, though beautiful, was not a lot different than what we’d seen before — cows, trees, pastures, dry stone walls, sheep, and occasionaly mountains.

We stopped for lunch at a small town on the way and rested from the ride so far and for the ride ahead. Our GPS was set for the next accomodation and we finally arrived at 5:00 pm. There was really no indication that we were entering another country when we crossed the border into Northern Ireland. What difference peace and a few years makes!

Drumcovitt House

Drumcovitt House

Drumcovitt House itself is a lovely manor house with a round tower. It is over 300 years old and until a couple of years ago was a bed and breakfast. Now the young Sloan family lives in the house, and only the barn rooms are available for rent.

When we got to the house we were all ready for a nice rest, then dinner. I rang the doorbell of the office and was greeted by dogs barking. I tried again, but no luck. The owners knew we were coming and said everything would be in order, so I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. Dean was unhappy about this turn off events.

Drumcovitt Barn

Drumcovitt Barn

Clare was the one to notice a wet envelope on the pavement about two yards from the office door. She picked it up and saw that it had a name on it. She realized it was for us and opened the envelope. Inside was a note from Sarah, the proprietor, apologizing for not being there — they were celebrating their son’s birthday away from the house– and telling us to make ourselves at home.

Tara ourside Drumcovitt Barn

Tara outside Drumcovitt Barn

We walked around the barn and tried the doorknob of Roe Loft. It didn’t budge. I re-read the note and saw that Sarah mentioned a key she was going to put into the envelope. I looked in the envelope, but it wasn’t there. We went back around the barn to see if perhaps the key had fallen out. Clare did it. I did it. Dean did it and I think Andrew also looked. No key. Door locked. No one home.

I then noticed that Sarah had given me her cell number, so I made my first cell call in Ireland with my Sidekick (that I’d set up to use to make calls overseas). Sarah answered right away and after I introduced myself she said, in a sticken voice, “I forgot to leave the key!” She then apologized and said she’d have someone come around straight away to open the door for us.

Grounds of Drumcovitt House

Grounds of Drumcovitt House

A few minutes later a young woman in a car tore up the driveway, let herself in the house, then came out and unlocked Roe Loft for us.

The house is lovely. The kids especially liked the cable television — lots of channels. We unpacked and settled in. Dean and I went to town and bought some food for dinner.

Clare, Andrew and I went on a tour of the grounds. This is a working farm with sheep and cattle. We walked along the fairy trail, hoping to spot some fairies. While we didn’t see any fairies, Clare saw what she thought was the rump of a goat walking over a small bridge. We later discovered it was probably a badger.

Drumcovitt Cows

Drumcovitt Cows

We stood in the middle of the field. The sheep were curious, but then ran away. The cows just kept on coming closer and closer — and even licked our raincoats. We think they liked the salt from our Skellig adventure.

For dinner we ate pan fried steak, prepared chicken Kiev, vegetarian chicken nuggets for Clare and a salad.

The kids are watching television and Dean has gone to bed. I’m writing this from the bed that Clare and I are sharing. (this cottage only has two bedrooms so the girls are sharing a bed and the guys get the twin bedroom).

Because tomorrow is forcast to be sunny, we think we’re going to drive along the Antrim coast.

More Day 15 photographs on Flickr.

Co. Clare::Ennis and back to Parkduff Cottage — Day 9

The Clare Museum

The Clare Museum

Today we drove to Ennis to buy more groceries. Ennis is a market town and the largest town in the area. We also visited the tourist information office, hoping to visit the Clare Museum. No luck — on Sunday it closes at noon.

Outside the museum we met an ex-pat from the States who seemed to have picked up the loquaciousness of the Irish by association. She told us pretty much all there is to know about her life, but she also gave us some ideas on things to do in the area. It’s almost jarringly painful to hear an American accent while in Ireland.

Poor Clare

Poor Clare

After the tourist information office, we walked around Ennis for a while, taking some photos. We probably went overboard, teasing Clare about being in COUNTY CLARE. I think she got the point.

Ennis Friary

Ennis Friary

We then visited a 13th century friary, a bookstore and then found a pub/bar with food and ate lunch.  Finally, we bought groceries and drove back to Parkduff Cottage.

Andrew

Andrew

Clare

Clare

Dean and the two ones on the smelly sofa

Back at Parkduff Cottage we built a [smokeless] peat fire and made dinner. Gregory, the owner of the cottage stopped by to make sure we had settled in. We requested some more peat and more towels (we only had 3 when we got there).  He told us about some places we should visit, including a local pub called O’Looney’s. After dinner we watched a little television and then went to bed.

More day 9 photos on Flickr.

Parkduff Cottage, Co. Clare — Day 8

In front of Tralia House

In front of Tralia House

We bid farewell to Tralia House amid a small crisis of a flood in the laundry room. We hope the next tenants have a fine a time as we had there. Despite the flooding, Áine and Liam were gracious and accommodating. They snapped our photo outside the house and allowed us to take a photo of them, making us first promise not to put it on the Internet as they were outfitted for cleaning and not a photo shoot.

We drove north to the Shannon River, hoping to visit Glin Castle. We drove up and down the road, and only glimpsed at the castle. We are not sure how to actually visit it. (It seems that it is a hotel now)

Window at Parkduff Cottage

Window at Parkduff Cottage

We then took the ferry over the Shannon River from Tarbert in Co. Kerry to Killimer in Co. Clare and drove north to our next cottage. After a few hours of driving along the Atlantic coast we arrived at Parkduff Cottage. Gregory Rynne, the host of Parkduff Cottage sent me excellent directions in an email, but we were not sure how we’d meet up with him to actually get into the cottage. Luckily they are a trusting lot there in Doonbeg, because the key was in the door so we moved in and then drove to Quilty to buy a few supplies.

Andrew Loves the Beach

Andrew Loves the Beach

The weather was very mild all day and the sun shone brightly.  The house needed airing, so we opened up all the windows and doors. The previous tenants were heavy smokers.

Clare Loves the Beach Too

Clare Loves the Beach Too

Dean drove the kids to the beach (that was supposed to be walking distance away) while I made a meal of Irish smoked salmon, cream, leeks and pasta.

Dean picked me up and I went down to the beach with them. Andrew decided that we had to go to the beach to watch the sunset after dinner. We agreed that was a good idea.

Our first dinner at Parkduff Cottage.

Our first dinner at Parkduff Cottage.

Dinner was surprisingly good but Clare was not impressed. Ah well, can’t please them all.

Sunset in Doonbeg

Sunset in Doonbeg

We did watch the sunset (which ended up being the only one we saw all week) which was quite lovely. We ended up not going down to the beach, but watched the sunset from our sun room — the nicest part of Parkduff Cottage.

The kids loved Parkduff right away– in fact they liked it better than Tralia House. Clare liked the cottageness of it. I think Andrew liked being so close to the beach. They also liked the fact that the television had better reception than the one at Tralia House. Dean and I were uncomfortable with the dust and cigarette smells coming from the curtains and furniture. The house had not been dusted in a very long time and cob webs hung everywhere. Dean made a joke that I should email Gregory and tell him we’d settled in and named all the spiders.  We preferred Tralia House.

More Day 8 photos on Flickr.

Co. Kerry::Killarney National Park — Day 2

A Cathedral in Killarney

A Cathedral in Killarney

Dean and I got up at 10:00 am this morning — although I was awake from 2:30 – 4 am. Andrew was awake from 3 – 5. Clare and Andrew got up at 11.

We decided to visit Killarney today. It is only a 15 minute drive away and we figured we needed an easy day and drive.

We had to first visit Liam and Áine’s house because we were having trouble with the keys in the doors. The front door was impossible to turn (we didn’t want to break the key) and the back door lock was sticking too. We didn’t want to lock up and then not be able to get in when we returned.

Ross Castle, Killarney

Ross Castle, Killarney

They followed us to the house and after a few minutes and a few sprays of WD-40, fixed the locks. Then they lead us to Killarney where they’d planned to visit that day as well. We met the rest of their children — the twins, Evelyn and Ruth, and their toddler, Maeve.

Ferns in Killarney

Ferns in Killarney

In Killarney we toured St. Mark’s Cathedral, then walked to Ross Castle and took the tour there. Ross Castle was one of 3000 castles built during the 1500’s. It was restored in the 1970’s, thanks in part, to an Irish American from Philadelphia.

We walked back to Killarney by way of the River Walk. Along the river are primitive looking plants — horsetails and ferns.

Clare and Andrew playing Connect 4

Clare and Andrew playing Connect 4 in the lounge

Back in Killarney we stopped in a cafe for a mediocre meal, then we shopped for food at a Tesco and walked back to the car. We’d not realized that it costs money to use a cart in a grocery store nor the 22 cent (50 cent — usd) surchage they put on plastic grocery bags in Ireland.

Back home we played cards, then had a quiet evening in the lounge after the kids had turns at driving a stick shift and steering wheel on the right along the gravel driveway.

New birds I saw today were:

pie-billed wagtail
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
hooded crow

More Day 2 photos on Flickr.

Tralia House, Firies, Co. Kerry, Ireland — 12:45 pm — Day 1

Inside our rental car

Clare inside our rental car

We landed around 6:30 am, rented a car, got euros (not enough) and headed off to County Kerry and our first Self-catering accommodation, Tralia House. At the car rental booth we had a bit of a hassle about insurance, but I’d heard that renting a car in Ireland was tricky because they tack on so many extra fees. The explanation is that there are more cars about now and the roads are not very good, thus more accidents. The car rental companies don’t want to be stuck with large bills so they require renters to pay up-front.

The drive down to Kerry is better left forgotten. In retrospect we should have not attempted to drive 5 hours after very little sleep. Dean opted for a manual transmission, and of course the Irish drive on the left side of the road, so it all made for an interesting ride.

The road to Firies (pronounced fi-rees) from Dublin is beautiful. We saw a few ruins along the way and once I saw a fox in a green field.  I also saw wood pigeons, magpies and a swan.

Ballina, Co. Tipperary

Ballina, Co. Tipperary

We stopped in a small town called Ballina, which is on the southern tip of Lough Derg. Dean had a half hour nap, I had 40 winks. Clare took a stroll around the area.

We drove into town, but coming back was frightening. The narrow roads and parked cars (in the roads) and crowds of people walking (in the roads) caused much anxiety (a taste of things to come?).

We continued our journey to Tralia House and were doing fine until our GPS insisted we go through a roadblock. We avoided it, but she insisted we turn around. We ignored her the third time and then got very lost. Either the GPS was pouting, or the roads we traveled were not mapped. In any case we ended up on some very narrow roads that would have been scary to drive even if Dean wasn’t dead tired driving an unfamiliar car in a foreign country on the wrong side of the road.

We eventually found Farranfore, the small town with the roadblock again and asked for directions to Firies at a food store. The cashier, a friendly young woman, was very helpful and showed us, in-person — she left her cash-register, the road we needed to turn onto to get to Firies. She said the next town we came to would be Firies.

We returned to the car and drove the road as directed. Before too long we arrived at a tiny town (with lots of new development), parked in a pub parking lot called The Stands Bar (which used to be Johnny’s Bar — I’d seen a photo of it online) and phoned Áine (pronounced on-ya) to let her know we’d arrived. After a little confusion on the phone, probably resulting from my accent, I spoke to Áine who said she’d be right there.

Tralia House

Tralia House

After waiting a few minutes we saw her car (she described it as an Audi Jeep — but perhaps the Irish say Jeep when we say SUV?) and followed her the mile or so to Tralia House. When we turned down what looked to be a dirt road, but was actually a very long driveway, I was a little concerned, but when I saw the two story yellow house in person, the concerns disappeared completely. It was more beautiful than in the online photos.

Áine showed us the inside of the house, explained how the hot water and power shower worked, and told us about places to visit in the area. When we explained that we hadn’t exchanged enough money at the airport to settle with her, she immediately asked if we needed some Euros to tide us over! We said we had enough for a day, but thanked her for her offer — we just couldn’t pay for the house yet.

A cozy fire at Tralia House

A cozy fire at Tralia House

Áine’s husband, Liam, arrived then, with a bag of wood for the solid fuel stove. He also left a bucket of coal in the shed if we wanted to use it as well. He showed Dean how to light the fire. Áine and Liam stayed for a while, talking about places to visit. They offered us the use of their phone for when we needed to make reservations for places and encouraged us to “call [on] them whenever we needed to — their house was around the corner. Áine even offered to buy us a chicken to cook, or even one already cooked, for dinner — or drive me to the store to get one. We told her we brought some food from home, and were planning on having a simple meal, then going to bed.

Kitchen in Tralia House -- our first meal

Kitchen in Tralia House -- our first meal

We ate our first meal in our first house in Ireland — Annie’s Mac and Cheese with canned tuna. It felt like dinnertime, but was only around 3 pm in Ireland.

Áine and Liam are possibly the nicest hosts I’ve ever met. Later that evening Liam came back with a map and a handwritten note from Áine about some of the places we’d discussed to visit. He also brought his eldest child, a son called Patrick. The also brought two extra bicycles.

Dean, Clare and Andrew took a bike ride while I stayed at the house and looked at some birds.

I saw several rooks (that have a roost in the large tree behind the house — probably more than 20 nests). They are loud and when they loose their feathers (which they often do) the feathers fall to the ground like “whirlybird” maple tree seeds do).  I also saw a winter wren and swallows. I also heard a bird with an American Robin-like song, that may have been a thrush.

A curious cow, just outside our front gate

A curious cow, just outside our front gate

I watched the cattle walk from their field to get milked and shot a few photos and a video of them.

When the kids got back they showed me where they’d been exploring. We saw a pile of rubble that may have once been a house (or perhaps it was from the house we were now staying in — it had gone through a major renovation recently). We also saw a couple of old buildings, one looked like it was once a home — with two rooms and a fireplace. We disturbed the rooks, who were sent flying and cawwing.

Dean, at my request, had gone into town for a bottle of wine. When he returned we had a glass of wine, then I cooked some scrambled eggs and Irish rashers (which Áine had bought for us at my request) for dinner.

After dinner Dean went to bed and the rest of us took showers. I’d tried to take a bath, but the water never got hot enough to actually bathe and the radiator in the bathroom didn’t work. Too much cold for my taste.

The weather is reasonable. Sure, it’s in the mid- to low-60’s, but when the sun shines it feels warmer. We also brought plenty of warm clothing.

The kids and I went to bed after Dean. Andrew crashed at 8:30, I succumbed to my exhaustion at 9:15. Clare held out until past midnight (at which time, she informed us, it’s still light outside).

More photos of Day 1 on Flickr.