Tag Archives: ireland

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.

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Co. Kerry::Killarney National Forest — Day 4

View from Muckross House - Muckross Lake (?)

View from Muckross House - Muckross Lake (?)

We awoke late again this morning. We ate a late breakfast of eggs, potatoes, beans and toast. Then drove to Killarney National Park. I wanted to see the yew forest. I’d asked about the yew forest earlier in the week, but the woman at the tourist office desk was vague about its location, but suggested that if we went to Muckross House we’d be fairly close. I also mentioned it to Áine, and she didn’t offer suggestions on its location, probably because she didn’t know exactly where it was either.

Muckross House Through the Roses

Muckross House Through the Roses

We drove to the park and toured Muckross House, a huge mansion built in the Tudor style and decorated in the Victorian style because the queen herself once stayed there. The folks who owned Muckross when Victoria and Albert and some of their children visited did so, in part, because they hoped they would be given more land or a title after the visit. Unfortunately, however, a few months after the visit Albert died and Victoria went into mourning. She forgot about her visit to Muckross House and the owners, who had sunk a small fortune into the preparations for the visit, ended up in poor financial state.

Muckross Traditional Farms -- farm house

Muckross Traditional Farms -- farm house

We also toured the tradional farm, which is like a small Williamsburg, near Muckross House, then headed along the Muckross Peninsula to the Yew Forest.

I’d seen photographs Reenadinna Yew Wood online and really wanted to experience it for myself. I felt a little guilty, because tourism is actually killing this magical place, and it is one of only three existing yew woods in Europe. I kept on reminding Dean and the kids to be careful and not step on the fragile roots of the trees.

Yew Wood

Yew Wood

As we walked along the Muckross Peninsula I saw what looked like the photos I’d seen, and every so often I’d exclaim, “I think this is it!” Then we’d walk on some more and I’d proclaim we’d found it again. Finally we saw a grove of evergreen trees upon a mossy hill and I knew we’d found the yews. Someone noticed a cave within the grove of trees, and despite my warnings about killing the trees by stepping the roots, Dean, Clare and Andrew all headed towards the cave. After some cajolling, they enticed me to the mouth of the cave, but I refused to go in. Soon my family disappeared into the cave and I fancied the fairyfolk might take them away to fairyland to be slaves.

No such luck.

Mouth of Cave in Yew Wood

Mouth of Cave in Yew Wood

Soon I heard excited voices on the other side of the hill and was distressed to see them STANDING ON THE ROOTS OF THE YEWS in this ancient yew grove. Their excitement got to me, so I tried to go through the cave once again, but before I could get into complete darkness, my claustrophobia forced me to run back out the way I came in.

After a few more times in and out of the cave, my reckless family stomped on even more yew roots and wandered deep into the yew forest while I wrung my hands and apologized to fairy folk under my breath.

Eventually they returned and we continued our walk along the peninsula. Farther down the yew wood was even denser and mossier, and thankfully fenced off so the roots were protected from wandering American feet.

The cliffs

The cliffs

On the walk back to the car we found a detour with steps leading into the forest. I was tired, but the kids ran on and came back with tales of water, more steps and cliffs overlooking the lake.

We drove home and thought we’d eat dinner at a pub — but the pub in town didn’t serve food and even though the publican told us how to find a place that served food, we chose to go home and cook a chicken we had in the fridge. We made coq au vin.

Dean and I drove to the pub while the chicken was cooking and spoke to a local who old us the weather might improve tomorrow and that the houses in town were all owned by folks who couldn’t afford them and never went to the pub because they couldn’t afford the cost of a pint.

Back home we had dinner — not bad — and then played cards.

More Day 4 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.

Airplane — 5:45 GMT — We’re almost there

Sunset or sunrise on the way to Ireland

Sunset or sunrise on the way to Ireland

The kids took photos of the sunset (or sunrise).

Dean had a little nap. I did too, on the pull-out tray and even began to dream, but now my neck hurts.

According to the flight info, we’ve got about a half hour to go. I don’t know how Dean is going to be able to drive the five hours to the house.

More airplane photos on Flickr.

Airplane — 2:15 am GMT — Dinner and a Movie

Dean on airplane

Dean on airplane

Clare’s dinner turned out to be vegan. She didn’t eat much.

Andrew, Dean and I had the beef entre. Reminded me of the time I returned to the US from England and began eating meat on the plane — Beef tips. It wasn’t good, but not awful.

Watching “Be Kind, Rewind” Not bad.

Airplane — 7:45 (Eastern Standard Time)

We had a nice surprise in that we expected no in-seat monitors and we got an airplane that has them, so we will be entertained.

I left Rupert at home. Simply forgot him. He wasn’t even on my to-do list, although I did think about it at least one time this week.

Airport — 5:20 pm — Waiting at the Airport

Andrew and Clare discussing literature while playing cards.

Andrew and Clare discussing literature while playing cards.

We’ve gotten snacks and are waiting for 6:10 when we can board. Clare and Andrew are discussing second-person narrative style and iambic pentameter.

David Weatherer drove us here. Good ol’ David!

Other airport photos on Flickr.