The holiday really started before we even left the country. As a flashback to the north Africa trip we went to see a show “Gadaffi - The Myth”. Without a doubt it is the best Asian-Dub-Foundation modern opera about an elusive dictator I have ever been to….
Leaving the following day we were so careful due to the UK security restrictions. We packed most things into the pack but put our books and papers into the carefully measured laptop bag to take as carry on. Frequently when we are off about places we just want a snack, not a full on meal and finally we remembered to pack the marmite for sandwiches en route. This was our downfall as it was in our carry on and was classed as a “paste”, and pastes are no longer allowed on UK outbound flights. So in the interest of security we had to give it up. At least the vegemite lovers of the world can sleep easy knowing the world is now a safer place.
Safely (sans marmite) in Ireland our first stop was Cork. Paul was driving and we had our first experience of Irish roads. In the rain. It was a matter of using “the Force” and really not believing any of the signs. We had arranged to meet Paul’s sister Mel at the hostel and after some tetris style parking we headed off for the first stout of the holiday to do some serious “planning”. We planned very well although it took going to several pubs to work out the stout drinking, err, I mean the vague itinerary.
Sunday was a sunny day in Ireland and we all climbed Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone before heading into deepest darkest Kerry (Killarney) where we watched the All Ireland Gaelic Football final on TV. Kerry’s team was in the final so the streets were all flagged in the local colours. As all the players were from within the County it made it a real local experience.
Monday was a long driving day, which quite suited the weather. We drove around all the bends of the Dingle Peninsular with all the jaged Irish coast I’d wanted to see. The outcrops and islands were just amazing. At one point we went to a museum all about the Blasket Islanders. One harsh life I wouldn’t want to live.
Exiting the peninsular proved interesting. I think that the Tralee tourism board must have a sense of humour as we drove in circles for some time, following the signs, before realising that someone had moved the one pointing north 180 degrees. Some Americans we met on the boat over the Shannon River also had the same troubles. Phew!
Our drive took us through the Burren in some amazing low afternoon light. Lots of limestone with nothing growing on it and castles and lakes perched randomly in it all. Not much stopping at this point though as we were trying to drive faster than the storm front was approaching.
Our refuge for the evening was in Spiddal. This would have to rate as one of the more unique places I’ve ever stayed - a thatch cottage by the sea. The old house had a lovely fire, some great sofas to read books on and some of the best soda bread ever. The owner also did soda bread making demonstrations (over the open fire) which added to the whole experience.
Paul had decided that he wanted to check out the offshore islands so we spent the next two days on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. With a permanent population of 800 we almost immediately felt local. Our B&B was being run by the owners’ son who sent us to some of the hidden Iron Age Celtic forts (the Block Fort) on the island and then entertained us for the evening at the local pub with his friends (who could down the Guinness like water).
Guinness must be medicinal as we were feeling fine the next day and headed off on a tour to look at the more touristy Celtic fort (Dun Aonghasa). If I’m honest I think we spent more time in the café hiding from the rain than scrambling over the rocks, but it was still rather impressive.
En route to dinner that night we chatted with the local music man (who was on his third or fourth Guinness in the hour we were chatting with him), who assured us that he was playing at a certain pub that night. We didn’t see him again until coffee o’clock the following day. He assures us he was at the hotel pub, but Paul and I had dinner there and never saw him.
On Paul’s birthday we left the island and headed for Tullamore over some bog country. It seemed like a good idea to do a little tour… yellow train in the peat… rather amusing and the highlight was getting to cut some turf ourselves. Later in Dublin we also saw a Body In the Bog exhibition showing just how well things can be preserved.
In Tullamore, while Mel was finishing her shift we checked out the Tullamore Dew Centre. Mel was a real star cooking us a roast for Paul’s birthday dinner. We then played in her office with stethoscopes and knee-hammers as we talked to Kay & Dennis.
Brenda had introduced us to friends of hers so we spent the last of the holiday in Dublin staying with them. Dublin was packed with visitors for the Ryder Cup so perhaps it was busier than usual but it was still good fun getting to wander in and around the city, Temple Bar, Trinity College, Meath Street and so on.
And, as a finale to the whole trip did - as all good tourists to Ireland should - the tour of the Guinness Storehouse.