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Emerald Island Escapades; Week 3 of 5

Dingle to Westport, May 24 – May 30th.

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After having such a delightful time in Dingle, and getting to visit with my friends Eileen and Victoria, we begrudgingly packed up our gear into the car and continued our journey northward toward Doolin on the 24th of May.

Along the way we stopped at numerous places; Ardfert Cathedral ruins for example.

We also visited Ballybunion; a nice little holiday resort seaside village where we stopped for a nice picnic lunch overlooking the beach.

Then we continued until we crossed the River Shannon via a ferry  near Tarbert making our way to Killrush on the other side.IMG_6818IMG_6819IMG_6822

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From there we meandered along country roads continuing to hug the coastline as much as possible until we reached the Cliffs of Moher later in the afternoon.

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Just a wee bit further north and we arrived in the cozy little hamlet of Doolin where we would spend a couple of days in a darling and cozy hostel called the Aille River Hostel.

The next day we took a ferry from Doolin over to the Aran Islands and spent one night at Aonghasa’s Walker’s Lodge on the big island of Inishmohr.  What a wonderful experience that was!

We landed at the cute little harbor, grabbed some lunch, did a little shopping…

…and then boarded a shuttle bus which took us around to the various sites on the island.

The big highlight was Dun Aonghus fort; a VERY, VERY ancient dwelling, fortress and sacred spot perched on the edge of a cliff.  Impressive to say the least!

The highlight of our day however (as if it could get any better) was when we were able to take a pony and cart ride back out to our lodging near Dun Aonghus after the rest of the tourists had taken the ferry back to the mainland.  We were just riding along with our fantastic driver, Tom and his spirited horse, watching the sun slowly set as we lazily clopped along the beautiful scenery.

The next morning we left that beautiful harbor and took the first ferry back to Doolin. We explored Doolin a bit more visiting its many cute and quaint shops and finished the day off by taking in some great traditional music at a local pub, James Griffins and lived it up.

After that wonderful stay in Doolin and Inishmohr, the next day we continued our journey northward, winding our way up through the Burren, visiting many sights, including Kilnefora Cathedral & Poulnaborne Dorman, an ancient and sacred burial tomb.

A little further up the road near Ballyvaughn we found a cool little castle, Newtown, and the Burren Art Centre.

Continuing northward to our final destination for the day, Galway,  we came upon Danguaire Castle with some really cute thatched roof cottages which were being restored.  We decided to take the tour of the castle, and were so glad we did.

Saw and experienced quite a fair bit that day, and luckily we only had a short distance to finish our days’ travel to Galway where we would stay put for a couple of days.

We stayed in a small and nice holiday resort town, Salthill, just minutes from Galway in a 2 bedroom apartment. We went to a local market, bought some food and enjoyed the view from our balcony while we ate.  Phew!  What an exciting day!

The next day, May 28th, we walked into Galway from Salthill and began exploring and enjoying it’s many sights and culture for a couple of days.

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From Galway we starting driving north again through the Connemara stopping halfway at a lovely remote hostel called Ben Lettery for one night. Before we arrived at the hostel however, we visited several interesting places, starting with the village of Cong with its Abbey and very posh castle!

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Cong is small, but really packed with a pow.  Ashford Castle is a 5 star hotel now and the guard wouldn’t let us go across the bridge without paying 10 Euro each.  Oh well…

We ambled through the woods back to the car parked at the Abbey and continued our journey through some pretty incredible landscapes.

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The next place we found was another castle!

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We had traveled quite a bit and decided to stop at the store in the very small town of Recess to get some groceries before heading the last couple of miles to our remote hostel. What you see behind the sign that says “The Connemara Giant” is the totality of the town of Recess!

The Ben Lettery hostel sits at the base of a rocky Ben without anything else around.  Pure peace and quiet.  Our host, Sam, has a famous Connemara goat and a rescue dog, Chantel.

The goat had its back leg mangled and it had to be cut off at the knee.  A french doctor has made a prosthesis for it so it can walk.  This goat, and Sam, have become quite well-known.  People come to the hostel just to see the wild Connemara goat turned tame!

The next morning, we had to leave, although we really enjoyed getting to know Sam and her animals.  Quite the young lady, managing that hostel all by herself and taking care of rescue animals as well.

We started our drive through the rest of the Connemara starting with a tour of Ballynahinch Castle which was just down the road from the hostel.  We went there specifically to get a sneak peek preview of the place for our friend Maureen back in Oregon. She will be lucky enough to get to stay there later this summer with her sisters! Lucky ladies!

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After the castle we drove a bit down the road to the coast and found the picturesque seaport village of Roundstone, some gorgeous beaches at Gurteen Bay and Dog’s Bay.

We also visited the Marconi sight where the first trans-Atlantic telegraph lines came to shore and also where the first trans-Atlantic flight landed by Captain Alcock.

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Up the road a bit further and we came upon, and visited briefly, Kylemore Abbey.

 

 

 

 

 

Then we meandered along the Asleagh river and to its falls…

…through the Doolough Valley at the base of the Bens where the Famine Cross stands.

Lastly, near the end our day we came upon the pilgrimage trail that leads up to the top of Croagh Patrick, and across street was the Coffin ship; a monument to the people who suffered from the great famine. Unfortunately, many died on the ships on their way to America from starvation and disease.

Soon afterward we arrived at The Old Mill hostel in Westport.  Menora, our host for the evening, was such a great gal, she took good care of us, set us up with a great room, made some bread and we had a real nice meal and then slept like babies. A perfect ending of our third week in Ireland!

Next post will be all about our adventures from Westport to Donegal, Londonderry, Glenveagh National Park, and the beginning of Northern Ireland!  Until then… hope you have enjoyed this installment.

 

 

Emerald Island Escapades; Week 4 of 5

Westport to North Antrim; May 31st – June 6th

Like the previous 3 weeks of our trip, this week offered up many an adventure.  As usual we headed northward toward our next destination, Donegal.  It was a bit of a drive that day and saw some beautiful sights.

One of our first stops was at the town of Sligo where one of my 3rd great grandmother’s was born, Mary Finnigan.  She is through my dad’s mom side of the family, Hannah Elizabeth Clapp.  Of course I had a look around in some churchyards, but never saw any sign of Finnigan headstones anywhere.  We visited St Mary’s Cathedral, the Abbey, and came across a very nice courthouse that looked a bit like a castle.

 

After we strolled around town a bit, we took a little detour in an eastward direction to visit Parke’s Castle.

 

 

The tour inside the castle was quite interesting with some very well done dioramas set up depicting the people, what their life was like and the furnishings of the period.

 

Afterward, we went back to the main road and traveled a bit further when we came across another interesting church and churchyard.  Although I never did find any Finnigan headstones I did come across a very interesting headstone, that of W.B. Yeats!

 

The church at Drumcliffe was also quite outstanding and the grounds included an ancient high cross and round tower as well as a striking view of Benbulbin from the graveyard.

 

Our next stop was a drive out to Mullaghmore Head complete with a castle and some outstanding views across the bay to the north at Donegal.

 

Not much further and we arrived at our wonderful hostel, Donegal Town Hostel, with its wonderful hosts, accommodations and location.

 

The following day, the 1st of June, we continued our adventures heading toward Londonderry.  In the morning we made a diversion west to see Slieve League cliffs, and oh was it ever worth it.  Far better than the cliffs of Moher in my opinion…

 

 

The remainder of the afternoon was spent driving the rest of the way to Londonderry, where we stayed in a lovely B&B, the Saddler’s House. After checking in, we walked a couple of blocks to the walled city and walked around top of the walls taking in the sights.

 

We walked across the Peace Bridge to  a new brewery, The Walled City Brewery.  We tried a flight of their specialty brews. They were quite yummy!

 

The next morning, after a very comfortable sleep, we had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with  none other than Pat O’Connell, the editor of Rick Steve’s guidebook for Ireland.

He was there checking up on the facts, making sure everything is correct in Rick’s guidebook. Such a nice guy and very interesting to talk to.  I personally felt honored to be able to share with him how they have inspired me to venture out on my own, traveling solo, staying in hostels and getting to know the locals.  It was a simply wonderful treat for me!

 

It was was such a pleasure and special treat to talk to him, share our experiences,  and was especially honored to have him autograph Lynne’s copy of the guidebook!

After breakfast we went for a ride west of Londonderry doing a loop in the stunning countryside around first visiting Doe Castle, then traversing around Muskie Mtn and visiting the Glenveagh National Park, which included a delightful tour of yet another castle – Glenveagh – with an added bonus of extensive gardens as well!

 

 

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What a fantastic castle; think it might even end up on my top 10 lists of my favorite castles!

On June 3rd we left Londonderry and headed east toward my good friend, Deirdre Frew.  We met her in the morning at Cloughmill’s annual fair.  It was a wonderful affair and before we knew it, we were recruited to help out in the food booth making buttermilk pancakes and Irish potatoes bread.  What fun that was!

 

The fair was put on by Cloughmills Incredible Edibles.  What a great place!  They have a community organic garden in an old mill site in the town of Cloghmill’s.  Deirdre’s brother, Patrick, is one of the main coordinators of this unique site.

 

There were so many activities to partake in for kids of all ages:  learning about herbs and their medicinal value, gardening, archery, fire starting, archery, bubblemaking, blacksmith skills, etc., etc.  we had such a great time.  There was live music, Irish dancers, and food galore!  Lynne and I felt really privileged to have the opportunity to volunteer and be part of such a great community effort!

 

 

What a fun filled day that was.  Afterward we headed to Deirdre and Roy’s house where we would spend the next 10 days or so as their guests in their lovely home with a wonderful garden as well.

 

The following day Deirdre, Lynne and I took a tour of the north Antrim coast including stops at Dunluce castle, a wonderful “wee” cottage, Bushmill’s Distillery, and the Giant’s Causeway.

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday we headed for Dark Hedges! It is a lane leading to an old Manor house lined with over 300 year old Beech trees.

 

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We finished the week with a wonderful get together of the “Frew Girls” for a geneaology night!  That is always a night filled with good Craic!

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Well, that ends week 4.  Next installment will be covering a bit more of Northern Ireland and then south to Trim and the city of Dublin to finish off our escapades in Ireland.  Stay tuned!

 

Emerald Island Escapades; Week 2 of 5

Kinsale to Ballinskelligs Week 2 of 5

Our second week of exploring the Emerald Isle begins in Kinsale.  In the map above you can see the route we took and where we stopped to visit along the way on just the first two days of the week!

After we left Kinsale, we happened upon Harbor view beach and took advantage of a breath taking vista.

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Our next stop was the Timoleague Friary.
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Not much further down the road we came upon an ancient stone circle….

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Our next scheduled stop after a bit of a drive through the beautiful countryside was a boat ride out to Garinish Island with seals basking on the rocks in the bay on the way.

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Once on the island, we were able to stroll around the walled gardens and pathways on this beautiful garden island.

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IMG_6208After soaking in the beauty of the gardens for awhile we boarded the ferry boat back to mainland to continue our explorations of the Ring of Kerry.  IMG_6203IMG_6204

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The road meandered through some more very picturesque countryside and we found ourselves climbing over the Healy Pass with some outstanding vistas to enjoy amongst the free range sheep.

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Once we cleared the pass in the mountains this gorgeous panoramic view unveiled itself to our amazement!

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Next stop, and not much further down in the valley we stopped to visit and take a walk through Dereen Gardens.

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After visiting Derreen Gardens we made our way to Kenmare to spend the night at Rockcrest House B & B.

 

The next morning we still had a bit to drive to get to our next destination, Ballinskelligs, so we climbed back in the car passing the town of Sneem along the way and it’s beautiful waterfall and church.

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Further down the road we encountered some beautiful beaches and an ancient neolithic stone fort!IMG_6296IMG_6299

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At the entrance to the path to fort was this really cute little coffee shop to get coffee, tea, and some sweets. Just around the corner was the delightful beach at Castlecove with its’ crystal clear water!

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A bit further and we came upon Derrynane House and its’ woodland walks, harbor and the abbey on the cliffs on an island above yet another gorgeous beach!

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The rest of the drive continued to offer up beautiful vistas until at last we arrived at our destination for the evening at Ballinskelligs Lodge.
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IMG_6359  Once we were checked into one of my favorite hostels, Ballinskelligs Luxury Hostel, we headed straight down to the beach just about 1/4 mile away and went for a lovely walk along the beach, visiting a ruined castle and Ballinskelligs Priory.

The following day we took a ride around the Skellig ring, visiting the Kerry Cliffs along the way.

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stopping in Portmagee harbor to see if we could book a boat ride out to Skellig Michael islands the following day.  (I couldn’t show a driving route out to the island but Skellig Michael two islands are the marker out in the ocean to the left of the land.  We took a boat ride out to it, not the car!)

skellig ring, portmagee and ballycarberry castle road map Much to our surprise, there was a boat about ready to launch with 2 seats left for Lynne and I, so we promptly climbed aboard and we were on our way right then and there.

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First island we came to was Little Skelligs with lots of birds nesting everywhere.

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A little further and we were looking at Skellig Michael where the monks lived for a VERY long time during the Dark Ages, ensuring Christianity was preserved. We approached the loading dock where one literally has to jump off the boat the scale the 600 steps to the top but the water was too choppy and rough to attempt a landing. We did however get to get a close up look at the island, the steps leading to the top, the circular helicopter landing pad and a glimpse of the beehive huts and church situated at the top of the island where the monks lived for hundreds of years.IMG_2291

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When we returned to the mainland we headed a bit further up the road to visit Ballycarberry Castle and the Cahergall Stone fort to finish off the day.

 

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ballinskelligs to Killarney

On Friday, the 19th of May, we said our fare-thee-wells to Ballinskelligs and headed just a short way up the road to Killarney, where we would spend the entire weekend.  Along the way we visited another interesting garden, Kells Bay House & Gardens.

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We stayed at another hostel called The Killarney Hostel and we really enjoyed it.  It was located in an old Manor House and situated very close to some of the prettiest scenery of the nearby Killarney National Park.

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IMG_6490We shopped for Aran wool sweaters and checked out the town of Killarney; then we went out to the Muckross House & Gardens and enjoyed the wonderful grounds on the edge of the lake with the jaunting pony carts giving everyone rides around the National Park.IMG_6501

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We were going to hike the Gap of Dunloe and at the end catch a boat at the “landing” at Lord Brandon’s Cottage near the Black Valley, but it started to rain and get bitterly cold, so instead we drove toward Mol’s Gap, down into the Black Valley and made it to the landing just in time for Lynne to get to take the boat ride across the lakes back to Ross Castle.

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I drove the car back to Killarney to meet her when she arrived about an hour or so later.

 

 

 

 

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After having 3 wonderful days in Killarney, we packed up once again and traveled due west to the delightful and fun town of Dingle.

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On the way we stopped at Inch beach. Lynne found a darling little stuffed lamb in a souvenir shop to buy for her grand daughter, Lillian. She started taking pictures of ‘Lambsy’ visiting various sights along her journey.  When she returns home, Lynne plans on making a little book of Lambsy’s adventures in Ireland to give to her with the lamb.  What a great idea!

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We also stopped to visit the ruins of Minard Castle, starring Lambsy….IMG_6605IMG_6608

 

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Not too much further and we arrived in Dingle to spend another couple of days finishing off week 2 of our adventures.

We stayed at a delightful little hostel called “The Grapevine.”  What great hosts and what a convenient location.  The place was great!

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Dingle was so much fun to walk around and explore.  Cute little shops at every turn, pubs on every corner…

We attended a traditional Irish music concert at this music shop one evening and had a wonderful time…

IMG_6680Another night we had the wonderful opportunity to get together with my friend, Eileen Walsh and her daughter Victoria, whom I met a couple of years ago on a previous trip to Ireland.  They live near Dingle and it was so great to see them both once again.

One of the best fish ‘n chips we’ve had so far was at “Reel Dingle Fish.”  It was super fresh and made to order right in front of us!

While we were there we took a drive out on Slea Head drive visiting many sights along the way, including a stone age fort, Blasket Island Visitor Center, and the Gallarus Oratory where we ran into a really nice French couple we had met a week earlier at Ballinskelligs Lodge!

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It was a VERY full week!  We saw so many things, followed every little finger of the Ring of Kerry, and made some great friends along the way. Even had the opportunity to visit friends I’ve made on previous visits to this wonderful island and that was one of the highlights for me!

The next blog will be all about week 3 of 5 – from Dingle to Westport, which will include our visit to Doolin, the Aran Islands, Galway, the Connemara, the Burren, and the charming town of Westport and all points in between.

(Currently I am in Northern Ireland staying with my dear friend Deirdre Frew and am concluding the 4th week in our adventure!  It’s everything I can do to keep up with our adventures!  My apologies for taking so long to keep you updated in a ‘timely’ manner!)

Until the next time… happy trails!  ~ Claudia

 

 

Emerald Island Escapades – Week 1 of 5

Lynne and Claudia in Medfordmedford airportLynne and I left Medford airport in Southern Oregon on May 9th with great anticipation of a grand time in Ireland together for 5 weeks.  We had great views of Mt. Shasta as we flew south to San Francisco to catch our next non-stop flight to Dublin.Mt Shasta

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About 11 hours later we arrived in Dublin the following day, got our rental car and found my friend Desi  who also flew in from Italy to join us.

First stop was just slightly south of Dublin at Powerscourt House & Gardens.

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Dbl Pegasus at pond

Desi strolling  dolphin pondfiddleheadspagoda & bridgeweeping willow

Afterwards, we headed a little further south to Glendalough where we would be spending the night for a couple of days in the beautiful Wicklow mountains. Glendalough is the home of a very old monastic city where monks lived and preserved Christianity during the Dark Ages.

tea towel of Glendalough

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Lynne and I walked around the Glendalough Park on its many pathways & enjoying its many vistas and historic site.  We also visited the Monastic City.

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Then we jumped in the car and took a nice ride over Sally Gap.  We saw a waterfall, a moor filled with Heather and came upon a glacial lake, Lough Tay, but more affectionately known as “Guinness Lake” because it looks like a nice pint of the yummy brown stuff!

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The next day we got in the car again and drove the back roads to Jerpoint Abbey where we visited monastic ruins at this 12th century Cistercian abbey with a magnificently sculptured cloister arcade.

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The following day we packed up and headed down the road toward our next destination, Blarney.  Along the way we stopped to visit the town of Kilkenny and the beautiful Kilkenny Castle.

Killkenny Castle

I had visited the castle a couple of years ago, so while Lynne and Desi took the castle tour, I wandered around the grounds and nearby sights.

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After their tour I met Lynne and Desi in the castles’ tea room and was drooling over all of the delectable delights they offered.

macaroons at Killkenney castle tea room  marzapan slice at Killkenney castle tea room  tarts at Killkenney castle tea room  cupcakes at Killkenney castle tea roompastries at Killkenney castle tea roomyummy things at Killkenney castle tea roomcarrot cake at Killkenney castle tea roomcustard slice at Killkenney castle tea room

 

 

 

 

cute little VW van in Killkenny

Then we strolled through town back to our parked car near St. Mary’s Cathedral and saw some interesting shops and sights along the way.

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