Ireland – Day 7

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

Ireland – Day 4

Today we made the drive from Donegal to Galway. One of longer drives of the trip. 3 hours if driven straight through, but we are not ones to drive straight through. As we were driving along about to enter County Leitrim we noticed a mountain and had to stop for photos.

Road To Galway

While we were pulled over on the side of the road we met a nice German couple who were visiting Ireland and spent some time swapping travel stories before moving on.

As we drove on we saw a sign for Glencar Waterfall and decided to have a look. We ended up going several kilometers down a very narrow, winding road that was quite harrowing at points when encountering a car or van going the opposite direction. But it was well worth the effort as the waterfall is quite beautiful and gave me the opportunity to do some long exposure shots using the ND filter I have recently acquired.

Glencar Waterfall

We spent a few hours on this little detour and then proceeded to Galway.

Arrival in Galway was a bit jarring. We were so accustomed to the rural experience that the big city was a bit unnerving, especially having to drive and find the hotel.

We did locate the hotel, but parking was not immediately obvious so we parked in a public, multi-story garage nearby before discovering the hotel did have their own parking. We moved to their parking pretty quickly once we found it.

The hotel is very nice. It’s not the #1 hotel in Galway, but it’s up there. We figured we deserved to splurge after all that driving.

We got checked in and freshened up a bit and then went exploring. We didn’t have lunch on the drive so we had a late (lite) lunch in Galway. After that we went back to the hotel and rested up for a several hours before heading back out to find a proper dinner.

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Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’re off to Inishmore, the largest of the Aaran Islands. This will be a full day adventure featuring bicycle rentals and wild Irish hares.

Ireland – Day 3

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Today we drive from Portballintrae to Donegal Town via Londonderry. 85 scenic miles of twisty and often narrow roads.

We stopped off in Londonderry to visit historic walls.

Via Wikipedia

The Walls were built during the period 1613-1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile (1.5 km) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (4 to 12 metres), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. They provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance style street plan. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total. Historic buildings within the walls include the 1633 Gothic cathedral of St Columb, the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the courthouse.

Canon on The Walls of Derry

We stopped at a coffee shop and the climbed the walls and walked them the entire way round. It rained a bit and was sometimes cold, but it was good to get out of the car and walk around.

From there we drove on to Donegal and found our bed and breakfast and got checked in and then found our way to the city center to get a late lunch and visit Donegal Castle.

Donegal Castle is a quaint wee castle, but not much to look at, really. We poked around and then just wandered the city for awhile. We were both pretty tired from the day’s journey and headed back to the B&B. We rested up for a few hours.

It was during this time that something very interesting happened.

Outside our B&B window is a small flock of sheep in a neighboring field. Cynthia noticed one one of the sheep nearest to the B&B hadn’t moved since we checked in. It was just laying there while the other sheep grazed in the field.

This was causing Cynthia to be a little concerned so I went outside and climbed up the hill behind the B&B to have a closer look. That is when I noticed that the poor guy was trapped in a thorny bush and couldn’t free itself.

I was about ready to climb over the barbed wire fence to try and free him and then thought better of it. Last thing I need is to get tangled up in barbed wire out in the middle of nowhere.

Going back inside I found the B&B owner and asked him if he knew who owned the flock of sheep in the back and he said he did.

I told him what was going on and that the poor guy was stressing Cynthia out a little. And it was stressing me out, too…if I’m honest.

The owner said he would ring up the owner of the flock and let him know. About 30 minutes later we saw the owner of the sheep come over the hill and free the poor, stuck little guy. As we watched the sheep rejoin his flock. We thought that was that and were happy for a happy ending. But that was not the end of the story. As we watched the owner tend to the flock a rainbow appeared over the field. It only lasted a few minutes, but you should have seen Cynthia jumping for joy. It was Cynthia who captured the moment in this fantastic photo…

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Now THAT is a happy ending.

After that we decided to go back into town and find some dinner. We stopped at The Olde Castle Bar & Restaurant and enjoyed some pub grub. We went in search of some live music, but didn’t find any and decided to call it a day,

Tomorrow we’re off to Galway.

Ireland – Day 2

Today was a good day. The morning started off with thick fog. But as the sun came up, it burned off and we were treated to some very nice sunny skies.

Shooting Ginat's Causeway

Our first stop of the day was the World Heritage Site known as The Giant’s Causeway. There was still some fog around so it was a moody visit in terms of weather. We were quite happy that we remembered to bring our hiking boots. The terrain is quite rocky and treacherous. Though I suspect it would have been far worse had it been raining.

It is a fantastic site to see and we had some fun climbing around the site.

Meself On The Giant's Causeway

Cynthia On The Giant's Causeway

After hiking around The Giant’s Causeway we headed over to the Carrick-a-Rede, a rocky island connected to the cliffs by a rope bridge.

Getting to the bridge is a hilly climb, up and down the hillside. But the reward is a frightening opportunity to cross a bridge made of rope that spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below.

Cynthia on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Cynthia was petrified and said that she waited 55 years to cross this bridge and once was enough. When pressed, she said if she lives to be 110 she would repeat the experience. Must remember to set a calendar reminder :)

A Terrified Cynthia on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Meself on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Seriously, though. This WAS her idea. And it was actually a lot of fun.

From here we made our way over to Dunluce Castle to see the ruined structure before it completely collapses into the sea.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

All in all, it was a fantastic day. When the sun was shining, short sleeves were just fine. But when the clouds began to return in the evening we were once again glad we had our heavy coats.

Tomorrow we check out of our lovely hotel and make our way to Derry and on to dear old Donegal Town.

Ireland – First Full Day

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We got up bright and early and had ourselves the full Irish breakfast. Mmmmmm, blood pudding! Cynthia’s feeling much better after the whole incident with breaking my glasses.

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We only chose to stay in Dundalk because it wasn’t far from the airport and made for a good jumping off point to head north.

After breakfast we packed up our gear, loaded the car and headed off to drive to Belfast and then link up with the Causeway Coastal Route.

The first place we wanted to see was Carrickfergus. We stopped to see the castle and take in the view of the sea. It was a pleasant stop.

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The coastal route takes you along the upper north coast of Northern Ireland and is something to see. Beautiful landscapes along a winding, twisty road that sometimes gets down to a single lane for two way traffic. This can be quite intense as you drive along, having to yield to oncoming traffic with practically nowhere to go. To make matters even worse, there was a bike rally of some kind going on and we had to carefully and frequently pass cyclists along the way.

We made our way to Ballygally Castle around lunchtime and stopped to get some food.

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We also paused to take a few photos.

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Head of Ballygally Bay

Coastal Road Rest Stop

From there we continued to wind our way to Portballintrae where we had a hotel reservation for a few nights. We got checked in and cleaned some of the road from our weary bodies and went for dinner at the Porthole Restaurant. The food was fantastic. Be both had locally caught salmon and shared a bottle of wine to toast our success.

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For now we say goodnight to Portballintrae

Ballintrae Bay

Tomorrow we visit Giant’s Causeway, The Rope Bridge, Dunlace Castle and The Bushmill’s Distillery.

Arrival in Ireland

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We made it to Ireland safe and sound. We picked up the car, a shiny BMW 3 Series, and made our way to Dundalk to check in to the Glenngatt House B&B. We were pretty tired and took a short nap before getting up and finding some dinner.

Our dinner was at a place called The Left Bank and the food was fantastic, especially the baked mushrooms with bacon and cheese.

We went back to the B&B and even though it was only 7:00 pm local time. we decided to go ahead and go to sleep as we were quite exhausted.

Sometime around 2:00 am Cynthia woke me up and she was crying. She had to get up and go to the bathroom and somehow managed to knock my glasses off of the table and then step on them…

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I reassured her that it was no big deal as I always carry a spare pair just in case of such emergencies. She was able to calm down and we both went back to sleep.

We’re headed to Portballintrae today, via the coast highway. Sky is overcast and rainy but our spirits are high.