Since my Mum was a school girl it has been her dream to go to Ireland, and since it is less than an hour flight I couldn't let her leave the UK without making the journey.
|Countryside in County Kerry|
My leave was disappearing at an alarming rate so we decided Mum would leave for Dublin in the morning, and I would join her after work since I had already been there. It still blows my mind that I can say I'll meet someone in another country after work!!
Saturday saw us picking up the car, and with a couple of wrong turns we were on our way to Galway. As we got closer the hedges along the sides of the road and separating the fields became stone instead. We drove through the the sea and had really nice salad at The Wine Buff for lunch.
|On the road to Galway|
|Mum at the cafe we stopped at on the way|
Our B&B was called Dun Aoibhinn House, which I had to google the correct translation of. It was cosy and warm and the owner gave us a great information sheet where he had written everything you would need to know. It included how to get to town, which was just a short walk, where to get different kinds of food and see live music and other interesting places to go. We took his advice and had dinner at Sonny's Public House/The Front Door. It was a great pub with a good dinner special and we spent awhile there before wandering around the streets of the little town centre and ending up at the Spanish Arch where we were treated to an awesome live band. From there I met up with an Irish friend I had originally met in Vietnam over a year previously, and seen in Dublin around this time last year. Luckily he happened to be over in Galway for the night as well so they showed me around which was awesome.
|Lynch Castle in the middle of Galway|
|Latin Quarter of Galway|
|Love this kind of architecture!|
|Me and Oscar Wilde|
The weather had been pretty crazy with some high winds and noticeable high rivers and some flooding. Despite this we wanted to venture to the Cliffs of Moher on our way to Killarney the next day. There was a warning sign that the Cliffs were closed but no one seemed bothered and even the tour buses had bypassed the closed gate. They weren't kidding though. It was crazy!!! From the second we got out of the car we were blown across the carpark. Luckily there were walls set up so we couldn't be blown over the cliffs! Everyone was being blown all over the place and at one point we were stuck against a wall for 10 minutes and couldn't move.
|A castle on the way to the Cliffs of Moher|
|Cliffs of Moher|
|You can barely tell from this picture but it was insane!|
|Where we were stuck for ages!|
Continuing on our journey south we ended up just driving through Limerick since we couldn't see anywhere to stop. This actually worked in our favour because we stopped at a small village called Adare for coffee. Adare is a designated Heritage Town and the main street has several thatched roof cottages. We had coffee at The Good Room right near these. Their selection of cakes was amazing!
|Cute cottage in Adare|
|Thatched roof houses, B&B's and cafes along he main street|
Killarney seemed to be a really touristy town set up as the gateway to the surrounding scenic countryside. We were obviously travelling in the off season and there weren't great options for a cheap meal. I had a craving for Chinese and luckily we stumbled upon a takeaway place so that we could eat back at our B&B, Ardree House. The B&B was really nice with a good breakfast, my only complaint would be the ridiculously tiny 90s TV with only 3 channels!!
Our reason for stopping in Killarney was to use it as the gateway to the Ring of Kerry, a circular tourist route around a peninsula in the south west of Ireland. My Irish friend have sent me a detailed Facebook message of all the places we should stop and I used this as our guide for the day.
|On the Ring of Kerry!|
First up was Killorglin where we saw the statute of King Puck. Once a year the town crowns a goat the King Puck and then a young girl is named the Queen Puck. No one is entirely sure how this all started...
Next top was the Kerry Bog Village, where we got to see how people used to live and read some information about the Irish famine.
|Bog village. Note the small windows because they were taxed on window size!|
|Some of the amazing countryside|
We drove through several more pretty towns and stopped at Ballacarbery Castle before heading down to Portmagee to have some lunch at the Bridge Bar. Unfortunately there was a heavy sea fog and it was very difficult to see the Skellig Rocks out in the ocean. Monks used to live there in isolation, eating sea birds and some vegetables, before they were all killed by Vikings.
|An old Celtic stone fort|
|Countryside around Portmagee|
Further on we passed through Waterville, where Charlie Chaplin used to holiday and a statute has been erected in his memory.
The rest of the drive back to Killarney, going through Kenmare was really scenic and we stopped at the Ladies View, where Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting stopped.
|There is so much diversity in the scenery around the Ring of Kerry|
|Mary statues everywhere! Even at the top of random hills|
|Ruins and current houses|
|Awesome views of the river|
|Cold and windy!!|
|This is actually just up the road from Ladies View...I liked it better!|
I would definitely recommend the Ring of Kerry for a trip if you have the time. Even though it was on and off rain it's to be expected in Ireland and it didn't detract from the beauty of the area at all.
On Tuesday we were headed for Cork as our flight back to Edinburgh was that evening. I have wanted to go to Blarney Castle for awhile and it is not far from Killarney on the way to Cork. The castle was in the style of what seems to be quite typical for Ireland, narrow and tall. We were so lucky because it was a nice day and when we arrived mid morning there was hardly anyone there. We actually had the entire castle to ourselves while we were exploring. Mum wasn't sure if she was going to kiss the Blarney Stone but we both did it as we were the only people there! It's a bit nerve racking because it's at the top of the castle and you have to sit back and lean down through a gap in the wall. A man holds on to you so you don't fall and there are handles, but you're essentially hanging upside down from the top of the castle!
The legend of the stone is that those who kiss it will be given the gift of the gab, meaning they will speak with eloquence and be skilled in a kind of coaxing flattery. The stone has been at the castle since 1446 and a number of famous people have been to kiss it, including Winston Churchill, well known for his articulate speeches. There are several stories about how the Blarney Stone came to be, including that at one point it was brought to Scotland before being returned to Ireland and installed at Blarney Castle.
|One of the lower entrances to the Castle|
|The view of the front of the castle|
|Entrance to the Castle|
|The original roof in this room was gone so the fireplace was halfway up the wall|
|Looking out of the earls bedchamber|
|Crazy tiny stairs|
|Hopefully blessed with the gift of the latter!|
|Kissing the Blarney Stone!|
The grounds of Blarney Castle are really interesting as well. We saw Druid stone circles and the fairy glen. There are caves where people used to live, as well as lots of tales surrounding a witch in the area, possibly the one who first described what the Blarney Stone could do. If you can walk up and down the wishing steps with your eyes closed and only one thought in your mind (your wish) then it will be granted within a year.
|View from the top of the castle|
|This rock apparently sometimes moves for no reason|
|The wishing steps..actually quite difficult!|
We ended up just driving through Cork as well, since we couldn't see anywhere to park, the day was getting on and we wanted to go to Cobh which is just to the south. Cork looked really awesome though and I would love to go back there for a visit. Cobh, pronounce Cove and known from 1850 to 1920 as Queenstown, was the last port where 123 passengers boarded the Titanic before it set out across the Atlantic. This was the departure point for over 2.5 million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950 and also where a large number of people were deported to the colonies.
|The amazing Cathedral in Cobh|
|Annie Moore, first immigrant processed at Ellis Island in New York|
After that it was off to Cork airport to fly home to Edinburgh. A whirlwind trip but we saw a lot and Mum finally got to fulfill her dream of visiting Ireland!