Ireland in twelve days

Ryan-Air zoomed the six of us across the English channel to Dublin in a few hours and we moved from the humidity and high 20°C’s of northern Italy to the bleak cloudy rainy weather of the Irish summer. We HAVE seen the sun and blue sky on some days, but never have our plans have been terribly disrupted but the weather.

Ryan-Air zoomed the six of us across the English channel to Dublin in a few hours and we moved from the humidity and high 20°C’s of northern Italy to the bleak cloudy rainy weather of the Irish summer. We HAVE seen the sun and blue sky on some days, but never have our plans have been terribly disrupted but the weather.

Somewhere down there you might be able to see England on the right and France on the left

Hiring the van in Dublin SIXT went okay. The desk operator said we had a nice new Renault Trafic van as per the order. When we picked it up, it had unrecorded damage on several panels. ALWAYS check the car over and NEVER assume the hirer has logged damage. If you sign for it being right, you’re likely to be stuck with it. Once we’d photographed that and had it recorded, we set out onto the highways – this time driving on the left of the road. This morning I was driving on the right of the road in Italy, this afternoon it was all opposite.

Drogheda was our first stop at a pre booked Air B&B and were welcomed by the friendly host. It was daylight despite it being 10:00pm at night. Up the narrow stairs with our cases, around the tight corner and up a few more stairs – this was something we were going to get used to doing over the next weeks. Quick to bed and a plan to meet at breakfast at 8:00am.

Drogheda Aaron Vale

This duly happened and we enjoyed a nice cooked breakfast before heading out onto the road with a plan to drive a few hours north past Belfast to a place we found near Cloughmills. The promo photo reminded us of Keeping Up Appearances. In reality, they were warm and genuine, like everyone we’ve come across in Ireland.

On the way we passed through Belfast and spent a very pleasant couple of hours at the Belfast Titanic exhibition before finding our way past Ballymena towards Ballymoney and onto Coleraine near the coast where we found a lovely looking restaurent by the river. It served excellent chinese cuisine and was packed for Fathers Day. Filled, we returned to Drumadoon House for two nights.

The Giants Causeway and associated cliff drives were on the agenda, but first we had to get Jenny’s asthma and allergy to pollen seen to. The pharmacy first, then a quick visit to the hospital to book an appointment for the afternoon and we were on our way.

So was the rain.

The driving was quite spectacular, both scenery wise and also skill wise …. haha, as the roads got narrower and the cars coming the other way got wider.

One little village had enormous canopies and grandstands being built around its windswept treeless, a links design apparently, little country golf course. Then the signage confirming that it was the British Open was going to be played there in a few weeks. What a huge event that will be for the town. Best to get out I’d imagine. Later in the week we came across the venue for Irish Open and Irish PGA so the golfing world will soon be focused on Ireland.

Second stay was at the small seaside village of Portsalon up on the north west coastal area for one night.

Third stay was at Loughrea, not too far from Galway for two nights. One the way we dropped into a delightful ceramics factory at Belleek. Pretty and refined work of reasonable prices, it’s apparently quite collectible.

The non travelling day in the middle saw us pile back in the Renault Trafic for a jaunt out to the Cliffs of Moher. These were spectacular cliffs, but I was having my worst cold/flu day with little energy to walk and explore. I couldn’t help comparing where I was a year ago in Svalbard gazing at higher cliffs that stretched for ten kilometres and was home to millions of birds. I’ve been fortunate to gaze on these wonderful locations.

Fourth night was near Bantry down in the south west region of Kerry for two nights. The house was only a few years old and very large and spacious. Plenty of rooms and the kitchens in the last couple of places have meant we can self cater for as much as we like.

Our outing day was a tour of the Ring Of Kerry. This scenic drive covered over 250km of tight roads, mostly coastal but also including some tight mountain roads complete with tunnels and one lane bridges.

From Bantry to Borris on Sunday was a miserable drive. The rain started before we got out of bed and didn’t let up all day. With the driver not feeling very well for the last few day, it’s not an easy time when the conditions make things so much harder. We did however find an absolute gem of a little pub beside the road in Dungarvan – Marine Bar Dungarvan – a small fire was going, no one else in the place, hot soup, apple pie made by Mum and sandwiches as we chose. A small bus with nine Canadians pulled in and as they were finishing their lunch, the owner came out to sing for them, and us. It was delightful, utterly delightful.

Everything a small country Irish pub could be
Yes, a fire on a rainy miserable day, hot soup and apple pie that Mum made – plus live music

We also called into the Waterford Crystal display factory for a little tour around their small workshop. I’m sure they make actual stuff here, but with only a handful of cutters and a few others making the basic shapes, the throughput would have been minimal. The end products look nice but don’t have the same appeal as the ceramics place from a few days before at Beleek

The farmhouse at Borris was another charming discovery by our accommodation experts, Barry and Kerry. A 300 year old converted horse barn was warm and silent. The host family chats are always fun at these locations.

I’d also needed to use my old faithful cable ties, brought from home just in case, to repair the plastic undertray of the Renault. A previous hirer had damaged the bumper, displacing the under engine plastics to the point of rubbing along the road and eventually catching on anything.  Larry and Janet were able helpers as we drive the car onto some blocks, discovering it was front wheel drive in the process, to give some space, and then reconstructing the plastic sheeting so it wouldn’t flop around. Job done successfully.

The little drive in the non travelling day was to nearby Kilkenny. Sadly we missed on having a pint of Kilkenny stout in Kilkenny. A disappointment. Larry also investigated an old viaduct on his morning walks and took us there to check it out.

Now it’s Tuesday and we drove through the side roads once more for our final day in country Ireland, reflecting on how hard it is to see over the hedges, how risky they are for oncoming traffic but also the joyful scenes of country life and the tapestry of colours that make the Irish farming landscape. The stone walls and hedges, the quaint villages with their little houses along the road, the friendly waves, the self shedding sheep and the bitterness of the thin wind.

Dublin was a must do place with the tour of the Guinness factory on the list. It was also the place we needed to find accommodation close to the airport to make it easy for our travel companions to find their way to the airport. Unfortunately time ran short and options were limited to book for 6 people in our price range and we ended up in a most disappointing apartment. Perhaps it was better for the others, but Kerry and I took the mezzanine level and there was no blackout curtains, or fans, so the short time of darkness and limited cooling breezes and single shared bathroom and small living area became testing. Fortunately a much better option was found for our next night and away from the airport. 

We caught the local bus – a double decker with USB charge ports and maybe wifi for the half hour ride into central Dublin. We’d booked online for the next Guinness Storehouse tour and killed an hour or so at Cafe Notto on the way. 

The Guinness Storehouse was packed with people and is an unguided but interesting tour though the old factory. Plenty of video presentations and information boards led us to the place we all wanted to be – well, those who might like a Guinness anyway. And so eventually we went to the famous bar at the top of the building that gave 360° views of Dublin and enjoyed a pleasant pint. It was noisy and crowded in reality, so we escaped down the stairs to a better location to savour the lovely drop.

The gift shop had a visit before we made our way out and headed for the Jameson’s whisky factory. The idea of another tour didn’t appeal, but an Irish coffee DID appeal and oh my, that was a good move. With a significant double shot of coffee and Jameson’s whisky with cream on top, those that partook, ie me, was buzzing along for some time. 

With the afternoon still young, we headed off to relax in the parklands at St Patrick’s Cathedral and watched a young man, who was being carefully watched by many young women, practice his acrobatic moves. Their attention increased when he took off his shirt in the warm Irish summers day. 

More walking as we headed back to the centre of town via the pleasant St. Stephen’s Green, which many places today was packed with people enjoying the sunshine and being outdoors. It was about 25°C and indeed, quite pleasant. We DID walk a long way once we got going, quite likely over 10km for the day, so after walking through the grounds of Trinity College, dinner was found in the Restaurent of the slightly luxurious hotel, the Hotel Riu Plaza The Gresham. They didn’t have any charge points for iPhones though!

Before we sat down for dinner we realised we needed cash to buy the bus ticket to get home and somehow had successfully spent all our cash. The money changers wouldn’t have a bar of my request for change – “You get change by spending money”. The banks had closed – again we got tricked by the long summer days, and also the paucity of banks in anywhere but the Main Street. Eventually someone gave us a tip to go to the Post Office and the man was happy to hand over a bag of change in return for our €50 note.

This was our last night as a group of six, so once we’d made our way back to the apartment, arrangements were confirmed about getting an Uber to the airport the next morning for Janet and Larry as they made their way to London for the weekend.

For the remaining four, we eagerly planned our next day to get OUT of the city and into the comfortable surroundings of a quiet village somewhere.

Donabate was our location and the large house of our hosts was much like Barry and Jenny’s own Air B&B with pleasant company and good location tips. We were keen to find a proper steak and Guinness pie and so far had failed. Fortunately the Keelings pub in Donabate had the required and saved four for us to return in the evening. We spent the afternoon at the Donabate Beach with a light snack at the Shoreline Bar. There was lots of activity around and it was soon evident a wedding was booked. After a pleasant walk along the coast where we chatted to many locals, who like everyone we met in Ireland was interesting and welcoming to us, we came back to check out the wedding. The two brides were taking advantage of the change in the laws following the Irish referendum, much like we had in Australia, and as predicted the sky has not fallen in and the outdoors wedding was not struck by lightning, pestilence or other tragedy. The page boy, and dog, and flower girls did their stuff and I sent off my candid photos to the hotel to be forwarded to the brides. 

Kerry and I walked to dinner via the large estate opposite our accommodation and found the planning well under way for the Flavours of Fingal County Show, a major event in the calendar with free entry and heaps of traditional farming stuff going on over a few days. We got to wander around whilst they were still setting up and kinda pleased we were going to miss the expected crowds. 

Next morning we said our goodbyes to Barry and Jenny, the Renault van and Ireland, as we went our own ways. For Barry and Jenny, it was home after 6 weeks of travelling and then heading to Tasmania with grandchildren for a winter escape. For Tim and Kerry, it was to Vienna to meet Chris and head to the Grand Prix. 

One thought on “Ireland in twelve days”

  1. It all sounds amazing Tim. Love the way you right your stories and adventures….hopefully your flu has cleared up by now.
    Have a great time in Dublin…..a Hurling Match would be great.
    Take care.

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