Ireland -Oct.2006-

It almost felt as unfair, having been so many times to England, but never to Ireland...
This was corrected in 2006, when during a week we caught a first glimpse.
From Amsterdam we flew to Cork with Aer Lingus, the usual waiting game at airports: security, passports, more security... horrible! But the only way to get anywhere quick so we controlled ourselves, comforting ourselves with the thought that the flight was a short one.
Having not made any reservations and arriving late in the evening, we had a little trouble finding an hotel in Cork. We managed to get pint of Guinness at the hotelbar, in spite of the time (23:30) and wandered outside for a first impressions and some photos...
Your vacation starts with your first beer at your destination!

Cork by night...
Don't ask me which church this is, we just took things on 'face value' tonight.

Walking the quiet streets, colours seem to come out differently by night.

The busstation was bright lit, for obvious reasons; I liked the difference in light between the modern busstation and the old building on the right (a warehouse?).
The river is the River Lee (North Channel), We stayed in the Metropole, north of the river. has maps of the town and area.
View from our room, by day

Clonakilty We left Cork and took highway N27 to Clonakilty.
We arrived here while schoolkids went on their lunchbreak: those schooluniforms never cease to amaze me!
Clonakilty in County Cork is a very nice town with many photo opportunities: small alleys, houses painted in a full array of pastel colours, interesting shop fronts, historic churches and those signs over the shops are fabulous too.
Plenty to see and enjoy here, as we found out on our stroll in the city center.

Michael Collins Michael Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader; he was shot and killed in August 1922, during the Irish Civil War.
He was born in Sam's Cross, near Clonakilty.
Liam Neeson unveiled thsi statue
Clonakilty Just another photo-opp... Clonakilty This Church was not in use by the clergy anymore, if I remember correctly it was in use as a Post Office.
Clonakilty After a stroll and a lunch we took a short cut to the parking lot where we left our car; a scenic route in its own right: a look behind the facade but notice that unobstructed view these people enjoy, into their hinterland !
Clonakilty on

Silver Sea We were heading to Mizen Head, Ireland's south-westernernmost point, and we had the good fortune to enjoy a bright and sunny day.
Soon we found ourselves on narrow winding roads, but I seemed to adjust well in driving on the 'wrong' side of the road in my rental car, with the controls on the 'wrong side' of the car...
Who said two wrongs don't make it right!
In the end we were too late to visit the lighthouse at the Mizen Head, the gate closing at 16:00.
Deserted beaches
Beautiful beaches, but chilly in October.

We saw plenty of these abandoned houses.

Abandoned houses We found our drive to the Mizen Head more beautiful than the actual destination and soon turned around to find a Bed & Breakfast for the night. We found one, in Durrus, on the road to Bantry. This photo is the view from our room: another abandoned, overgrown house.

We never had any problem finding a B&B, most experiences were very positive with friendly people and satisfying accommodation.

We continued our way, first to Beara Peninsula (crossing the Caha Mountains). We came across this lovely spot which included a cemetery and a small harbour.

Gradually the scenery took on a more grim and barren look, driving through the Caha Mountains.
Small roads but hardly any traffic around here to make driving a hazard.
The (Tim) Healy Pass is a beautiful mountain pass. It crosses the Beara Peninsula and it has a definite Alpine look and below you see two of the fantastic views from here. Info on Healy Pass
The roads here are not as heavily travelled as some of the other peninsula's (Ring of Kerry!).
The road is named after Tim Healy, the first Governor-general of the Irish Free State, who was born in nearby Bantry; it was constructed during famine times with no mechanically driven machines, meant to provide people with work and income, fighting off starvation.

Just one of those things I like to take pictures of...
Things abandoned get overgrown fairly quick and it came to no susprise to us that after a beautiful, sunny day the weather had turned wet!

This was in Kenmare, where we bought a few books in a secondhand bookshop and visited a fleamarket; we had to run for cover when it started to rain again, taking advantage of the situation to have lunch and a pint "of the black stuff"...

After lunch we started our drive on the Ring of Kerry.
Again many abandoned houses and this one definitely deserved to have its picture taken. Notice the grim background and approaching dark clouds!
Fortunately we had plenty of bright spells, too.

Quote of the Week (my son's) upon my frowning at the weather and making the remark: "I don't trust that weather!"
He said: "My father has strange enemies... "

Rounding Iveragh Peninsula (County Kerry), one gets a glimpse of the famous Skellig Islands

The north side of The Ring of Kerry we found less appealing, but maybe we were tired of a long day; I stopped counting tourbusses at 23, passing was a bit tricky sometimes but I never saw the coachdrivers hesitate (I did !).
The remains of this castle of which I have no name and don't recall its exact location except it was not far from Killorghin (an unassuming, unattractive town) , where we stopped for the night.

When we woke up we found rain and wind howling around "the Manor Inn", our B&B accommodation in Killorghin and best avoided...
We decided not to visit Dingle Peninsula, expecting the weather to be worse on the coastline.
Instead we drove north and came across Ardfert Cathedral in Ballyheigue and inspite of the weather and lack of information (it was not attended at the time of our visit) we enjoyed exploring this site.
The earliest building dates from the 12th century, with additions made in the 15th century when a small transcept was added and battlements were constructed. The fine Romanesque door (below, far right) is also from the 12th century and seems to be quite unique.

People who know me and are aware of my fascination for aviation history, won't be surprised that the aviation museum in Foynes (on the river Shannon) was clearly marked on my map...

From 1939-1945 Foynes in County Limerick was the centre of the aviation world! Courageous pilots navigated the Atlantic and the celebrities who travelled with them. The Foynes Museum recalls this era with a comprehensive range of exhibits and graphic illustrations. And must sample an Irish Coffee here as here is where Chef Joe Sheridan made the first Irish Coffee to warm up some damp miserable passengers in 1942...

I dedicated a seperate page to my visit here.

The drizzle that continued to fall did not keep us from visiting these remains, when we spotted them driving on the N69, situated downstream from the small town along the River Deel.
This is the Askeaton Franciscan Friary, which was founded in 1389 !
St.Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), the founder of the Franciscan Order, expected a vow of complete poverty from his followers and objected them to building houses or churches. But by 1389 - when the Friary of Askeaton was founded by Gerald 'the poet", 4th Earl of Desmond - the order had become wealthy and powerful, though they still placed great emphasis on contemplation.
The church and buildings are arranged around a cloister where the monks walked, prayed and meditated.
Askeaton Castle, in ruins, is also located a short walk away, but we did not go there.

We had a lovely stay at a Farm B&B (Clonunion House) in Adare, which is a lovely town too. But the weather was dismal and, quite exceptional, I kept the camera in the bag.
The next day we went to Bunratty Castle, which offers a very interesting visit and... mainly indoors!

The charming hostess welcomed us at the door.

info on Bunratty Castle The site on which Bunratty Castle stands was in origin a Viking Trading Camp in 970. The present structure is the last of four castles to be built on the site. Robert De Muscegros, a Norman, built the first defensive fortress (an earthen mound with a strong wooden tower on top) in 1250. His lands were later granted to Thomas De Clare who built the first stone castle on the site. About this time Bunratty became a large town of 1,000 inhabitants.
In 1318 Richard De Clare, son of Thomas was killed in a battle between the Irish and the Normans. His followers were completed routed and the castle and town were completely destroyed. More...

Charming hostess welcoming at the gate
The hall
Not a good place to stay...
strong tables for rowdy dinners

We were told that in the past rich people would burn wood in their fireplaces and poor folk burned peat.
But peat has, besides being used for fuel, a great many other uses: it is also used to dry malted barley for use in Scotch whisky distillation; this gives Scotch whisky its distinctive smoky flavour (but some will say it is just another way of keeping warm )


Closed up We payed a quick visit to Limerick, a busy and bustling town, and very much congested by traffic which has to travel through town.
A cold wind had replaced the rain and we took shelter and comfort in... a bookshop! I bought a huge book on castles and ruins in Ireland, so I can plan my next visit here...
When we had a look at a large church, I found this closed up pub more interesting. Never realised a pub could go broke here!?!

Meet Tom McNamara, who playes a nice tune in Limerick. He told me he has a brother who looks a lot like hime and also plays music in the streets, except he does that in Amsterdam. So I keep a lookout for him, next time I am in Amsterdam.
Take care, Tom !

Other Irish music and/or musicians I came across recently:
Martin Hutchinson (of Irish ancestry, but living in the Netherlands)
Tania Opland & Mike Freeman (Tania is Lars Opland's sister, Alaska aviation historian among many things!)

Final destination that day: Rock of Cashel, which gives a whole new meaning to the word 'impressive' !

The Rock of Cashel, also known as Cashel of the Kings, is an historic site in Ireland's province of Munster, located at Cashel, County Tipperary.
The Rock of Cashel served as the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion, though few remnants -if any- of the early structures survive. The majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
We were fortunate to find accommodation at the foot of the rock, with B&B Rockside.
A look at surrounding countryside

Inside a pub Most pubs serve a decent meal and we enjoyed many a pint of stout: Guinness, Murphy's... hmmm... really smooth texture, creamy taste: lovely!

The advantage of the Bed and Breakfast places is that the people who run them like to volunteer advise on what to visit or what route would be the most scenic to drive; so today (and behold: the sun came out !) we drove via Cahir and a modest mountain pass, to Lismore and onward to friends in Donoughmore.

Blarney Castle... again the rain, but that wasn't the only reason why we considered this visit a wasted one!
The folklore around Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone seems to garantuee a steady stream of (American) tourists and there seems to have been made no effort at all to restore the castle with the proceeds; the stairs are hard to climb and could even be considered dangerous in this weather, making the stones slippery.
And kissing a stone (at an uncomfortable height and attitude) with so many people doing the same, seems distinctly unhygienic...
Kiss the Blarney stone...
No fear of heights!

We had another day of sunshine and used it to shop (ended up with more books) in Cork.
Late that afternoon we flew back to Amsterdam, gave a last look at the Irish countryside, knowing that Ireland beckons for another visit.... soon., I hope!

More photos on my account;
Cork,Ireland by Night
Ireland, Oct.2006