Ireland – The Conor Pass

cynireland2013-362

The Conor Pass is said to be the highest mountain pass in Ireland. The road is quite narrow in places and passing oncoming traffic can be harrowing. I wanted to drive over the pass on the way to Dingle rather than taking the easier route down the main highway from Tralee. Cynthia was nervous, but agreed to cross if the weather was good. As it turned out, the weather was good and so we crossed. It should also be noted that we crossed on Friday the 13th. Cynthia is a little superstitious, so this was significant.

We were fortunate that there was not a lot of traffic on this road on the day we went over.

Here is a video I shot of our crossing using a GoPro Hero 3 Black mounted to the outside of the rental car. You can see the truly narrow point about midway through the video.

This drive offers one of the most dramatic and scenic ways of entering or leaving Dingle.

View from the top of Conor Pass

Conor Pass Waterfall

View from the top of Conor Pass

Ireland – Day 13

Today is our last day in Ireland before flying home tomorrow. We’re tired and we’re pretty much out of clean clothes.

The sun was out again today and we enjoyed walking in the good weather.

Our first visit was to the Trinity College Library to see the Book OF Kells. There’s no photography of the actual book, but you can take photos of the magnificent Trinity College Library.

Trinity University Library

Trinity College also has one of the Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera con sfera) sculptures like the one we saw at The Vatican Museums when we visited there last year.

Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera con sfera) Trinity College

Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera con sfera) Trinity College

From there we walked over to tour the Chester Beatty Library which has an amazing collection of books, documents and other artifacts. No photos in there, but the sun was shining brightly on the Dublin Castle and the view from the Dubh Linn Gardens was quite nice.

Dublin Castle

This little courtyard contained the Garda Memorial Garden which pays tribute to police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Dubhlinn Gardens Garda Memorial Garden

We’re going to take it easy the rest of the day. Packing and relaxing before our early, early flight tomorrow morning.

This trip has been amazing. Cynthia and I both agree that the rural part was much better than the city parts, though both were great in their own ways.

Ireland – Day 12

mygoodness1

Today was a good day. The sun was out and we took the opportunity to wander the city in search of things to see. We made our way to the river and then walked over to see the Molly Malone statue. It was good to see, but not so great to photograph as there was a lot of construction going on all around her.

We decided to walk over the the Jameson’s Distillery and take the tour. As it turned out, the distillery is not actively producing whiskey, it’s just a museum now.

Aging Process - Jameson's Distillery

We took the tour and at the end the guide informed us that 8 members of the group would be selected for a whiskey taste test that compared Jameson to a scotch and an American bourbon. First he asked for women to volunteer. Only 3 raised their hands. Cynthia, who hates whiskey decided to step up and be the 4th. After the ladies were chosen the guide asked for 4 male volunteers. Of course all of our hands went up. I was chosen as one of the four so Cynthia and I got to both participate.

Cynthia drinks whiskey for the first time

Cynthia ended up actually enjoying the experience, and learned a bit about whiskey. We both received certificates as souvenirs to take home with us.

After the distillery we walked over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and enjoyed the gardens

The tired travellers at St. Patrick's Cathedral

From here we caught a cab to the Guinness Storehouse which is also just a museum, but an interesting tour nonetheless. After walking around and learning of the history of Guinness and seeing how it’s made you go up to what is called the Gravity Bar where you get a free Guinness and 360 degree view of the city.

Cynthia and her Guiness

jayguinness

After these tours we were pretty beat and we went back to the hotel. This evening Cynthia took it easy while I met up with a friend to attend the Roger Waters concert at Aviva Stadium.

Fountain @ Guinness Storehouse

Ireland – Day 11

First full day in Dublin and it has been raining all day. This has dampened our spirits a wee bit. It doesn’t help that we are also getting very tired. The whole trip has been so fantastic, but also very exhausting at times. We busied ourselves visiting the National Museum, the National Library and National Gallery. Admission was free to all of them, so that was a bonus.

I did get some interesting photos inside some of the spaces so I am happy for that. I was particularly mesmerised by the elevator/staircase in the back of the National Gallery

National Gallery - Dublin

National Gallery - Dublin

Cynthia enjoyed the reading room in the National Library

National Library - Dublin

National Library - Dublin

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is looking very good with sunshine predicted for the day. That means we get to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, ChristChurch and many other sites in the glorious sun (fingers crossed)

The

Ireland – Day 10

Ireland - 1

Today we left the charming and wonderful town of Dingle and drive to Dublin for the final part of our trip. Things were going well but the GPS kept wanting to take us down the N7 when the M7 was clearly the better route. Apparently the Garmin from the car rental place had some rather outdated software.

At one point I decided to leave the M7 for the route the GPS was suggesting and that is where things went horribly wrong. While the drive was more scenic, it was not the direct route of the M7 and was going to take much longer. We were probably 50 or so miles from Dublin when we hit a pothole. A few mikes down the road the car indicated we had low pressure in the left front tire.

I pulled over and sure enough, the tire was flat. Fortunately the rental had special tires that let you drive, even when the tire has lost all pressure.

We pulled into a service station and they gave us directions to a tire shop. Sadly, this shop didn’t have the right kind of tire and they directed us to another shop about 15 kilometers away. The directions were complete crap and after stopping at another service station and a car dealership we finally located the Healy’s in Naas, Co. Kildare. This shop had the tire and we were back on our way in about 45 minutes.

We were delayed by several hours, but we had no real plans for this day so we were simply inconvenienced. Lesson learned, though. I will always rent a car with this kind of tire if I plan to drive in remote locations.

Ireland - 2

Ireland – Day 9

Cynthia on Slea Head

For our last day in Dingle we opted to drive around the loop again just to take it all in. The weather in the morning kept us in the B&B, but around noon it started clearing up so we took to the car to have a look around. It was not as beautiful as it was yesterday, but it was still very nice.

Danger!

Slea Head

Slea Head

Slea Head

We wrapped up the day by going to the O’Sullivan’S Courthouse Pub which is owned by a couple by the name of ommy & Saundra O’Sullivan. Tommy is a singer songwriter from Dingle and his wife Saudra is from Houston. It’s a great pub and the music is very traditional.

Courthouse Pub - Dingle

Tomorrow we make our way to Dublin.

Ireland – Day 8

Today we set off to drive the Dingle Loop around Slea Head. We knew it was going to be a good day when we spotted a double rainbow over the Dingle Whiskey Distillery.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

This drive was, hands down, the most beautiful and scenic drive of the entire visit to Ireland. The sun was shining brightly and the skies we blue with few clouds. The sea surrounding the peninsula was sparkling with waves crashing on the rocks. The road was quite narrow most of the drive and became exceedingly so at various points along the way.

road2

road

We drove for hours and hours, stopping frequently at many scenic overlooks just to take in the view. Cynthia was a little worried about some of the more adventurous photo opportunities I was taking.

risk

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

Every turn, around every narrow corner brought us to another fantastic site. Fortunately, there were plenty of places to pull over and park so that we could enjoy the view and take some pictures.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

We wrapped up around 5:30 back at the B&B and took a short nap before heading out in the evening for some food and to listen to some live music. We ended up having dinner at Murphy’s Pub and got to see a local Irish band called Tintean.

Tintean - Kerry based Irish band

They were quite good. They played many of the songs you would expect, but also several we had never heard before.

Tomorrow looks a bit cloudy and rainy, but we hope to make the best of our last day in Dingle before making the trek back to Dublin

jayandcynthia

Ireland – Day 7

galwaydinglemap

All photos in this post are by Cynthia. She’s getting some great shots this trip so it’s her turn to illustrate the update.

Today we drive from Galway to Dingle Town. 152 miles in total. We departed Galway around 9:00 AM and arrived in Dingle around 5:30 PM. It was a long drive and the weather was very nice. Clouds, but no rain and some great periods of beautiful sunshine.

cynbh1

Along the way we visited Dunguaire Castle before turning west and north to see Murrooghtoohy, the place where The Burren meets the sea.

From there we headed south to the Cliffs of Moher, a must see on any visit to this region of Ireland.

rocks

From the cliffs we proceeded down through the town of Lahinch, and on towards Killimer to catch the ferry across the River Shannon over to County Kerry. I hadn’t done any ferry research and didn’t know how often they ran, but as luck would have it we drove up just in time to catch one going across.

jayferry

We landed in Tarbert and proceed through Listowel and Tralee. This is where we had to decide if we would go the easy route to Dingle, or drive the Conor Pass. Since the sun was shining and the weather was so nice, Cynthia agreed to drive the Conor Pass.

conorpass

The Conor Pass is a very scenic drive up the side of a mountain. The pass is very narrow in places and the drive can be rather harrowing. We made it to the top without incident. The views from up there were just staggering. Cynthia even found some sheep way up there

cynbh2

The drive down the mountain and into Dingle Town was very easy going, compared to the drive up from the other side.

We located our bed and breakfast, got checked in and then found some food at a local pub.

Tomorrow we are off to explore the peninsula.

Ireland – Day 6

connemramap2

Today started off rainy again. But we were determined to head out and drive around the Connemara region. Our first stop was the small village of Cong. Cong is where the The Quiet Man starring John Wayne was filmed. We’re not big Duke fans, so we were not interested in any of that. We came for the ruins of the Cong Abbey.

Cong Abbey - 1

While it was raining, the rain had died down quite a bit so walking about the ruins and in the forest was rather pleasant. And in the forest itself we were shielded from any rain that was still falling.

Cong Forest - 3

As we walked the trail Cynthia and I heard some kind of animal shrieking periodically. Cynthia said “What is that?” and before I could say anything a falcon swooped down the forest path right past us and landed in a tree over our heads. Just then a man came walking around the bend and we quickly discerned that he was a falconer. He told us that the bird was a young Harris Falcon named Beckett and that he was raised by hand and was only about 4 months old. Cynthia captured this photo of the handsome creature

Beckett The Harris Falcon

We left Cong and made our way to Westport. The rain was coming down a bit heavier and we didn’t really care to stop here. I am sure it is a fine town and perhaps with more time and better weather we would have given it more of a chance.

We pushed on past toward Louisburgh before turning south to drive through Tawnymackan Bog and some of the most beautiful scenery we have every experienced. And to make it even better, the rain stopped and the sun started to show through the clouds. Things were looking up for us.

Connemara - 3

Connemara - 4

Connemara - 5

We drive down roads that were barely able to fit two cars passing each other, but most of the time we had the whole road to ourselves without another car in sight. We passed a waterfall coming off of a mountain and parked to take some photos.

Connemara - 6

As we drove down these twisty narrow roads we encountered many sheep just wandering around. Some on the road, some on rocks overlooking the road. All in all it was desolute, often moody with the changing weather and completely fantastic.

We wrapped up the journey with a visit to the Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

From there we set a direct course to Galway.

For this trip we started off at about 8:30 am and were back in the hotel by 6:30 pm. So that’s about 10 hours to cover almost 150 miles. What an adventure!

Tomorrow we make our way to Dingle.

Ireland – Day 5

inishmoremap

Today we made the trek to Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

The weather forecast showed rain for the day, but we went anyway as it’s our only real opportunity. We decided to take the tour bus tp the ferry landing which was about an hour. Another hour on the ferry and we were on the island.

We stopped at the Pier House Guest House for some lunch. As luck would have it, the entire island was without electricity due to some maintenance going on with the power line that feeds Inishmore from the mainland. It was still a good lunch and we felt fortified for the adventure ahead.

We opted to rent a couple of bicycles and find our way to the ruins of Dún Aonghasa.

Cynthia Bike

jaybike

Cynthia hadn’t rode a bicycle in over 20 years and was worried she might not remember how. She quickly learned that the old adage “it’s like riding a bike” is not just a figure of speech and soon we were on our way.

P1010932

P1010945

The rain was constant and there was a fairly strong headwind. We made it about 2 miles before coming to the realization that we might have bitten off more than we could chew with this bike riding adventure. We puttered around for awhile but eventually decided to return the bikes and hire one of the tour vans that circles the island.

This ended up being a much better plan. We went on to Dún Aonghasa and climbed the 20 minute hike up to the ruins. At this point we were especially glad we didn’t ride the bikes all the way here, only to have to ride them back.

P1010961

We explored the ruins, but the rain and fog spoiled the view of the cliffs so we made our way back down.

cyndunaengus

After the tour we stopped by the cafe and had some hot coffee before heading back to the ferry to catch the bus and the ride back to Galway.

The weather made photography difficult, so we don’t have many photos of the adventure. In fact, most all of the photos in this post were taken by Cynthia as I was reluctant to pull out my own camera in the rain. It was a good time nonetheless. Inishmore is a starkly beautiful place, even on the rain.

Tomorrow we plan to drive around Connemara and find the Kylmore Abbey. Hopefully we’ll have better weather karma.