Tirty tree and a tird.
We left Belfast early in the morning to catch the bus to Dublin. Not too bad, 12E each so far better than the train. We arrived in Dubiln and walked to the car rental agency to get our fancy car. I admit, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer is nothing to write home about, but compared to the Toyota Tarago van we've been driving for the last month it's heaven! Half the size and twice the power, now we can overtake people and fit down these single lane roads far better. We passed on the sat nav to save some cash and it's been OK for us so far... It's easy on the major roads, just some of the citys' are a pain in the arse to navigate.
We left Dublin around lunch time and made it to Galway in about 2.5hours. It was a pretty straight run and we found the B&B no dramas so we were happy. After we checked in we decided to walk to the nearest Irish Pub, Tom Sheridans. It's a beautiful 3 story bar with great food and good Guinness, so we were both pretty happy. We had our grub and beer and made our way back to the B&B in the misty rain.
One of the best sirloin steaks we have had on this trip; lamb shanks; figs tarte tatin (Michelle's dessert) and Guinness (Blake's dessert)- a very satisfying meal
Blake's hill- near where we were staying in Salthill:
The next day was quite busy. We decided to go for a drive around Connemara National Park. We've worked out the best way to do a driving tour in an area is to get a brochure from a tour company and drive the majority ourselves. We skip some of the obviously boring sections but can spend extra time in the better places.
So we started off at Ross Errily Friary: a 14th century Franciscan friary of Ross Errily Abbey. It is apparently the most extensive & best preserved of all Franciscan friaries in Ireland. It was really nice to see the place entirely empty... Nobody was working there and nobody else visited whilst we were there so it was like having our own little 14th Century Abbey.
We then headed into Cong Village which is a quaint little town but with the most amazing castle called the Ashford Castle which has been turned into a luxury hotel, surrounded by a golf course. Sounds like a perfect holiday spot for us next time, once we can scrape a bit more cash together...
We drove through the Lough Nafooey valley. Lots of mountain, lake & valley scenery. At one point we wondered if we were actually on the road that the tourist bus would take as people were driving sheep down the single lane roads...
Then stopped in the most Irish of Irish pubs in a small town called Leenane. They were watching the gaelic football and they don't even speak English!! Just so happened that a local rugby club was having a few drinks there and they were an absolute crack up, when we could understand what they were actually talking about...
Finally the most beautiful place we have visited to date (in Michelle's opinion) - Kylemore Abbey. It is known as Ireland's most romantic building and built in the late 19th century. It is the home of the Benedictine order of nuns in Ireland. It cost money to go in the abbey unfortunately, and as per usual.. we didn't want to pay to go in. So we just admired it from the outside. I was gonna pick up some hitch hikers but Michelle thought they looked a little bit dodgy, plus we were still sight seeing for the next 2hours before we were going to head home.
Last stop on our self-guided tour was The Quiet Man Bridge: It is just a stone bridge- apparently it starred in the John Wayne flick 'The Quiet man'. We found it kinda funny that we were stopping to see a small bridge from a movie that we had never seen nor heard of.
The Connemara Giant: built for no apparent reason!! hahaha..
On our way to Dingle, we drove through the Burren to get to the Cliffs of Moher. The Burren is a really odd place that supposedly supports loads of rare irish plants and animals. All we saw were rocks and a couple of small shrubs. Still an interesting place though.
Cliffs of Moher
Recommended by our friends the O'Briens we checked out the Cliffs of Moher- Standing 214m high and 8 kms long along the coast. . The views were amazing. We went there on a rather windy & rainy day.. but the scenery is still breathtaking.
We also walked around the O'Brien tower just for you Jade (& Odhran) . Hopefully you'll forgive us for not investing in the O'Brien trust (it cost E2 each to climb the tower!!).
After a very long drive- it felt like forever.. we managed to get to Dingle. It was sunset by the time we got there and Blake wanted a drink after a very long drive, so we popped into town- only to find that most of them were empty (at 6pm)!! Oh well.. it least it warm and cosy next to the fire
The B&B recommended a restaurant in town called Half Door- they specialise in seafood. Apparently the seafood chowder is the best. The food was tasty. Unfortunately we went home with food poisoning. Luckily courtesy of my (Michelle) parents, we have 6 boxes of charcoal.. about time Blake stop teasing me about carrying a bag of charcoal around!! So that absolutely ruined it for us. What a way to celebrate our 200th day on the road .
Seafood chowder; lobster bisque; duck confit; cod fish; apple crumble (the worst crumble i have ever tried ); panna cotta
The ring of Kerry
Despite our continuous symptoms of food poisoning, we still drove around the ring of Kerry (well part of it) as planned.
First stop.. Michelle was desperate for the toilet, so we had to stop at The Kerry Bog Village: an expensive toilet!! Small little museum showing the Irish way of life, kinda like St Fagans in Wales (but that was free entry, whereas this was 5E each!).
Irish wolfhound: Its huge!!
And onto the Ring of Kerry (we think the Cliffs of Moher were prettier). We really didn't give the ROK much of a chance and probaly only drove 1/3 of it. Looks like it would be quite beautiful if we both weren't feeling so crook. Next time I guess.
Here we are at the famous Blarney Castle. Legend states that anybody that kisses the stone will be endowed with the gift of the gab so we thought it would be a good investment. We thought we should get straight to the castle while the sun was still shining! Underneath is a series of tunnels leading into the dungeons. We had to almost crawl for a bit of it but most of the passage way is a bit over waist height so if you stoop low its not too bad. We then walked throughout the castle and up to the Blarney stone. It was nice to see all the signs saying "queue here, 15minute wait" and be able to walk straight up to the stone and plant a wet one on it. After that we strolled around the castle grounds for an hour or so then had tea and scones before heading into Cork.
Inside the Castle:
Michelle kissing the Blarney stone:
Walking through the castle grounds. These gardens were some of the best we'd seen at a castle. They weren't as grand or as prim and proper as some of the english or french gardens, but they had a certain air of mystery to them.
Cork City Gaol
This place was an absolute gem, when we actually found it... The signs to the jail pointed the wrong way up one way streets and into parks. They must have been for pedestrians I guess. Anyway, from the outside the place looked like a castle and on the inside it looked like the set of every prison TV show I've seen! Most of the rooms and cells had wax figures and they played eerie footsteps and old Irish whispers. At the end there was an audiovisual thing which showed some of the prisoners and their trials.
Cork Christmas Wonderland
This is the first christmas market we've seen that has its own Christmas Wonderland. It was good fun strolling around the christmas lights. We felt like kids all over again...
We arrived to a full hostel which was a bit unfortunate. It's always nicer when you can leave your stuff lying around and spread out a bit more... We arrived before check in so we dumped our bags and went for a walk around. We ended up catching the first hobbit movie which I thought was OK and Michelle had a quick nap during the movie so we were both happy.
The next day we went on one of the free walking tours of the city. It was a good tour except that it dragged on for nearly 5hours (when it was only meant to be 3)... He was interesting but after spending 5hours out in the cold we were quite over it. I snuck in a cheeky pint of Guinness so it was all ok with me. We walked through Trinity College which was beautiful. Didn't end up seeing the Book of Kells (A hand illustrated gospel book circa 800AD) as it was 9E entry. A bit rich when we could see the Chester Beatty Library for free, which had tons of really old books.
Trinity College: part of Dublin university:
Free walking tour:
Dublin castle; The 'wall of fame'- we don't know many of them?!?!
The next day Michelle went off for some retail therapy whilst I went to Visit the Archaeology building of the National Museum of Ireland. It was quite interesting to see the Ireland of Old Europe which was full of monks and scholars. I then went to the Chester Beatty Library, which has a collection of mostly hand illustrated books from as far back as the 4th century AD. After that my inner nerd was satisfied so I walked to the Guinness Storehouse for a pint of the good oil. The tour was 16E which isn't cheap but included a pint (which I poured myself) and a couple of small tastings of Guinness' beers and food with Guinness in it. I personally prefer the smaller brewery tours where you can see the workings of the factory but this was still good fun.
Blake's Guinness tour:
The Christmas markets in Dublin were rubbish. A small cup of mulled wine was 5E! It was 2-3E pretty much everywhere else we had been before this- so we boycotted the rest of the market. In fact Dublin was around 20% more expensive than the rest of Ireland. We didn't go more than 2km from the centre of town though so maybe all the cheap places are out in the bush.
For the last day we just walked around and caught a bit of Irish music at a pub with dinner and drinks. We didn't see any traditional dancing but the band let it all hang out. The guitarist held/holds the Guinness world record for playing the guitar for 114hours straight!!! We finished our trip of Ireland with some Sheep Liver and bacon speciality which went down a treat with a pint of Stout; And Beef & Guinness pie:
That's it for Ireland..