Friday, June 10, 2011

A Taste of Ireland

Cahir Castle


Cliffs, Dun Aengus, Aran Islands

Gap of Dunloe


Blarney Castle

The weather has not been kind to me. On most days the temperature, about 14’C,  has not been much above that in Dunedin where it is the beginning of winter. Added to that it has been showery much of the time. As one driver said, “Ireland’s weather can be described as rain between the showers. “ The countryside  is quite pretty when the sun comes out.

On two overcast days with a little bit of drizzle I walked around Dublin. One walk was led by Donal, a graduate in Irish history and language. I learned a lot about the Irish rebellions and he was very amusing. Another walk, usually led by students, was through Trinity College but I was fortunate to have one of the university dons who also had a very dry humour especially about modern student use of the library which I particularly appreciated.  This ended with a visit to see the Book of Kells and other historic books from early Christian times in Ireland. They were in what is known as the Long Library, an immense room now only used for the historic collection. I also visited both cathedrals and another Museum of ancient books and artefacts covering all religions. In the evening I attended a performance of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw who was born in Dublin. I thought it excellent and it was in the Abbey Theatre less than a block from my hotel.

I then set off on a train trip around mainly south west Ireland. First stop was Limerick where I rented a car for the day to visit Tipperary and more importantly the Rock of Cashel and the castle at Cahir.
The Rock consists of a number of ruined buildings mainly from the 12th and 13th centuries. The best feature, Cormac’s chapel, was closed for renovations but there are the remains of a cathedral and a large round tower. It was the seat of the Kings of Munster.
I preferred the castle at Cahir (Photo 1) which was also built in the 13th century but has been enlarged and remodelled since and was quite interesting to explore. The weather improved this day and the following day was comparatively hot, reaching 24’C.

On that day I travelled to Galway which was very lively at the beginning of a Bank Holiday weekend. (Photo 2 shows the river mouth). However the warm weather did not last and the following much cooler day was spent on a ferry to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran islands. We first drove through Connemarra to the ferry wharf. There are over a thousand miles of stone walls on the island.  We walked up to Dun Aengus, an iron age fort on the cliff tops (Photo 3). Some tourists were being driven around in horse and cart and there were many horses, donkeys and goats to be seen.

From Galway I travelled to Killarney which I thought was a much prettier area. On the first full day I took a “tour’ to the Gap of Dunloe. This involved a short bus ride but the bus broke down and we continued with a competitor company to the starting point of a 7 mile walk. It was just as well I did not realise it was miles and actually over 11 kilometres. Some people travelled by horse drawn trap. The road is bitumen but narrow and climbs about 200 metres to the top. It passes 5 loughs or lakes in a valley formed by glaciers(Photo 4). Then there is a steep drop down to the lakes and we were taken through three lakes in traditional open boats with outboard motors. At one point we had to disembark and walk as the boatman navigated through a very shallow section. Wind and rain squalls as we crossed the largest lake did not really add to the journey. I was surprised to see large areas of wild rhododendrons which apparently are a weed here.

My second day in Killarney was much easier as I travelled on a bus tour around the Dingle Peninsula.  There was some very pretty scenery (Photo 5)  and some narrow cliff side roads when I was very glad not to be driving.

Then it was on to the city of Cork. I discovered that Blarney castle (Photo 6) could be reached by the local bus company. I managed to climb the stairs of the castle but gave kissing the stone a miss. I escaped the inevitable showers by having some scones, jam and cream.

This morning in Cork had much more promising weather and I followed some self guided historical tours around the city and through the cathedral. Then this afternoon I returned by train to Dublin where it was again raining. In fact, I was lucky that I delayed my departure for a restaurant as we had a hail storm.  I leave early tomorrow morning for the ferry ride back to Holyhead in Wales then several trains to Manchester where I pick up a rental car for the next week.  I have added a photo taken at Dun Aengus wearing my new Galway hoodie.

1 comment:

Fran said...

As always, I love hearing about your travels. I would love to visit Ireland one day. Sorry about the weather though!