Written by MilwVon on 14 May, 2012
Talk to any tourist anticipating a vacation in Ireland and you're sure to hear about their hopes to see sites of history and folklore. Throughout the country, regardless of where you go there is a good chance you will stumble upon unnamed ruins mostly…Read More
Talk to any tourist anticipating a vacation in Ireland and you're sure to hear about their hopes to see sites of history and folklore. Throughout the country, regardless of where you go there is a good chance you will stumble upon unnamed ruins mostly of old stone houses or perhaps a castle or church. We had seen several during our first week of driving, but many who travel to Ireland do not rent a car and leave the driving to a tour company such as Galway Tour Company (GTC).Worked into their "Cliffs of Moher and The Burren" day tour, GTC includes some sights that visitors might not otherwise see. Counties Galway and Clare are rich with historic sights and incorporating them into this trip works out very well, providing passengers with a brief leg stretching opportunity.The first stop after leaving Galway CIty was the Dunguaire Castle, a 16th century "tower house" and is considered to be one of the finest restorations in Ireland. Today a medieval dining experience is offered to visitors featuring Irish music and poetry reading. A quick search on the internet produces a website with more info, including pricing (a whopping €51 for adults). For us, the stop provided essentially a photo op as we didn't have time to enter the castle Visitors who are traveling independently and have the time and inclination to stop for a more involved visit, be advised there is an admission fee of €6.00 for adults (discounts apply for seniors and children). NOTE: This site is not managed by OPW and therefore is not included in the Heritage Card.Next we paid a visit to the abandoned ruins of the Corcomroe Abbey which are located within the first miles of the Burren. Built around 1205, this Cistercian Abbey is in remarkable condition given that it stands in the relative middle of nowhere and is not part of any formal historical or preservation group. During our stop here, we were left somewhat to our own devices in looking around here. Now that I'm home and researching a bit more of some of these ruins, this is one I wish I had a bit more time to explore and photograph. That said, we had about 10 minutes and off we were to the next stop.Fairy forts were next on the itinerary as we stopped at the Ballyalban Fairy Fort. We learned about the beliefs regarding the "little people with orange beards and green hats" who live beneath the earth's surface in a tunnel system. The best way to describe the "fort" itself is that is is a circular area of raised ground (perhaps as much as two feet) that creates a "bowl" like center. On the outside of the ring of raised dirt is an outer ring of trees, thought to have been planted by the inhabitants to create seclusion and protection from outsiders. There is an actual entrance down into the inside of the subterranean surface, but today most of these have been filled to keep people (especially children) from entering and having the ground above them collapse.The actual purpose of the thousands of ringed structures that exist throughout Ireland are not actually known. They have been dated back to pre-Celtic. Rich in mystery and folklore, today many Irish still believe in the fairies and the superstitions surrounding them. During our time spent at such a circular ring fort, we learned how the arrival of Christianity clashed with these beliefs regarding the fairies. Still today, it is against the law to damage a fairy fort as they are protected under the "National Monuments Act" and this particular location had a prominent sign declaring as much.As an aside, Leprechauns are thought to be a unique type of fairy known for their shoe cobbling abilities and according to folklore, the keeper of the mythical pot of gold.Kilfenora was our last stop prior to lunch and the Cliffs of Moher to see the high crosses at the Lady Chapel at the Cathedral. They were under the shelter of a greenhouse like glass roof so as to protect the limestone from erosion due to rain. The most well known and now restored is the Doorty Cross which depicts "a bishop in high relief carrying a volute crozier representing the Roman Church. Beneath this are two more bishops thrusting their croziers into a winged creature below. One is tau shaped representing the Coptic Church and the other signifies the Celtic Church." (Cited reference: http://www.megalithicireland.com/High%20Cross%20Kilfenora.htm .) There are also a couple of other high crosses located here that are protected under the glass roof.Kilfenora is another place that I wished I had more time to explore and learn about. Having returned home and done further research, I learned that there is another high cross that had fallen and was imbedded in the yard.All of that said, I'm glad that we had what time we did to learn visit each of these four areas with Galway Tour Company as otherwise, they were far enough off our scheduled path that we would have missed them altogether. Close
Written by Green Dragon on 13 Nov, 2008
Tuesday, June 27th: Stone walls and scary bus drivingWe were up early to catch the ferry, and drove a shorter route to Doolin (through Ennistymon). We had our tea, toast and fruit for breakfast, and got there around 9am, plenty of time to get on…Read More
Tuesday, June 27th: Stone walls and scary bus drivingWe were up early to catch the ferry, and drove a shorter route to Doolin (through Ennistymon). We had our tea, toast and fruit for breakfast, and got there around 9am, plenty of time to get on the ferry. The seats were plush and very comfortable, and inside. This was good, as the temperature and wind were very cold! Despite the clear skies and warm temperature on land, the sea are was biting cold with the wind.We could see Inis Oirr as we passed by, as well as Inis Meain. We watched an airplane land as we passed, and could see three large windmills on the far end of the island. K estimated that these could provide all the electricity needed for the residents, especially with the amount of wind that went through there.As we rounded the bay of Inis Mor, I noticed the differences on the big island - definitely more touristy and saturated with people. There were lots of jitney buses, but only one jaunting car left (and that was quickly taken before we reached it) so we decided that the jitney bus was the correct decision. We found one for the day, he charged E10 each. The driver's name was Bertie Flaherty, and he said they had over 2000 visitors a day on the island during the summer.Our first stop was Dún Aonghasa, an incredible ring fort on the edge of a 300 foot cliff. At the base of the cliffs were several shops and a couple restaurants for food. It was near noon already, so we decided to eat first. Bertie recommended Nan Phaddy's as having a greater selection and he was right. T had the tomato soup and loved it. K and I had chicken sandwiches, and she had a slice of Chocolate Guinness Cake that was to die for. I had a scone, and it was all delicious. We were lucky going in right away, because about ten minutes after we got there the hordes descended. Make the choice quickly!We went through the Dún Aonghasa visitor centre and up the path. It is deceptive at first, you can't see the path until you round the bend of hedges. Then you want to turn back! It was built by the pre-historic Fir Bolgs, a group that arrived on the island long before the Celts did. It is a very impressive triple ring fort, surrounded by a field of defensive spiked stones. Walking up the path took us over a half hour, and there are a great deal of slippery black stones (watch out for them!) and loose rocks on the uneven path. Not for the faint of heart or clumsy!We went up to the cliff edge inside, and I crawled to the edge to look down, get some photos and film, and crawl back away from the edge. I think K tried to as well, but T didn't like the openness of it, her agoraphobia taking over. Several teenagers were lying down looking over the edge, singing songs from 'The Little Mermaid' such as 'Under the Sea'.On the way down from that fabulous place, I only slipped once, and landed on my butt and camera. The butt was fine, and luckily, so was the camera (butt must have cushioned it somewhat). Near the bottom, we wanted to laugh at the folks just starting up, with no idea yet of what was in store for them. One guy was wearing a suit complete with jacket, and we laughed out loud. Ha!We shopped a little before the jitney bus got moving again with our driver. The roads were narrower on the far side of Dún Aonghasa, so we were treated to a wonderful ride of rock walls both sides, with no room for passing. We stopped at the Seven Churches to wander around some. The jitney wasn't concerned for time, we just hung around as long as we liked. Some got back to the bus sooner than others, but I felt no pressures. We saw some thatched cottages, miles and miles of stone walls, sheep, goats and cows, and houses ranging from famine ruins to ultra-modern bungalows. We could see the land of Galway north of us in the mists, and the sea glittered in the sun like sapphires and diamonds.Back at the port of Kilrona, I found a scarf that matched the shawl I bought ten years ago, same colors and pattern. I debated buying it though - I live in Florida. When am I ever going to need both scarf and shawl? I use the shawl a lot, but it's usually more than sufficient to keep me warm. I let the temptation pass, and only regretted it mildly later. K stayed shopping while T and I started around the pier back towards our ferry, as it was due to leave soon. K just made it back as we were boarding, and the trip back was hot, stuffy, and tired. We dozed a bit but it was very stifling. Back in Doolin, we were determined to find the smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna again, so we went up and got there just in time before it closed again. We bought some cheese with whiskey, some cheese with Dilisk (seaweed), some potcheen, smoked salmon/trout/mackeral, and some crackers for midnight snacks. When we got back to the B&B we called Mrs. Nagle to get directions to our rented farmhouse the next night. I got very convoluted directions to her house to pick up the key. Then T took out some postcards from her trip to Williamsburg, VA that she brought along to give as thank you cards to each of our hostesses. We filled out some comments on it and left it with the B&B fee in the morning.We decided to go into town once more for dinner, and found the Poet's Corner, which has been recommended to me several times. We ordered garlic mushrooms stuffed with brie for a started, and let me tell you, it was ambrosia. The best mushroom dish I've tasted in a long time! T asked what the soup of the day was and, glory be, it was potato! Finally, T could have her Irish potato soup (winter dish, my left eye!). T and K both ordered the Minute Steak and I had the Chicken stuffed with bacon and pink peppercorn sauce. All were delicious, and our waiter was very nice - I would highly recommend the place! World cup game (France vs. Spain) was on while we ate, but only a few people from the bar paid attention. From that I gather the rest were American Tourists!Once we got back to our B&B, we packed up, totaled up our cash and headed to dreamland Close
Monday, June 26th: Ferries and cliffs and Ceilidhs, oh my!Today our plan was to head for the Aran Islands. We got up and went down for our Full Irish Breakfast. We met another person staying at the B&B, Tom. Tom was English, and designed engines…Read More
Monday, June 26th: Ferries and cliffs and Ceilidhs, oh my!Today our plan was to head for the Aran Islands. We got up and went down for our Full Irish Breakfast. We met another person staying at the B&B, Tom. Tom was English, and designed engines for Caterpillar, and was very nice to talk to. We had our breakfast, and headed out to Doolin via Lisdoonvarna (the only route we knew so far). We had gotten hold of my mother yesterday, and determined that yes, the cards were still on my desk at home, and that yes, she could forward them to us before we left that B&B. Yay!!!We got to Doolin too late to get the only ferry going to Inis Mor for day trippers - it had left at 9:30am. So we decided we'd do the Aran Islands tomorrow, and headed towards the Cliffs of Moher. The drive up was actually very fun, and we saw a cow standing on the edge of a cliff on the side of the mountain road. They are currently constructing better access to the Cliffs of Moher, and an interactive visitor's centre, so there were construction crews and scaffolding all around. However, it didn't impede any wonderful views! We took the long, very steep walk up to the Cliffs. Part of it was steps, part of it was dirt/gravel path. All of it was crowded with busload upon busload of tourists. It was a beautiful, clear sunny day out today, and the views from the cliffs were absolutely stunning. Literally breathtaking - since the path had been so steep! I stopped several times to catch my breath. At one point there is a sign warning people not to go beyond that point. The sign was more or less ignored by all. The path beyond the sign was very narrow, and only about 2 feet from the edge of the cliff. It was a dirt path, no paving. We walked along it a bit, but not very far. 200 pictures later, we were on our way back down, chatting with some Irish nuns on holiday. We also saw some cute biker guys, and one caught Kim while she was taking a surreptitious picture of him - he started posing and exaggerating. We decided to drive down to Bunratty for the afternoon entertainment, and went into the Creamery to eat. The upstairs restaurant was closed, unfortunately, but we had a meal in the pub. It was less than stellar, but sufficient for sustenance. I had the shrimp open-faced sandwich with Rose Marie sauce, while T had Veg soup. K made do with just cider. I had called my credit card company just before lunch, as I'd been getting rejected (this is the one credit card I still had). They said it should be fine now, there was no problem with fraud holds, so I tried to pay for lunch - still rejected. I called again, and discovered the car rental company had put a $1500 hold on the card, and it would be there for another day or two. It was probably in the contract I signed, but I was so upset at the time I hadn't read it all - they certainly didn't mention it to me, even though they knew that was the only card I had. Since it had a low limit, I was stuck credit-less and had no debit card. Good thing I was with friends!!!We did some super-fast shopping (we wanted to get to the castle and folk park before they closed) at the woollen mills, and then found out from the visitor centre clerk that the soup T had been searching for - her beloved potato soup - was a winter dish, and unlikely to be available during this time of year. Imagine that, any form of potato being unavailable in Ireland! We were shocked, nay stunned, by this revelation. What indeed is this world coming to?We went into Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, and signed up for that night's Ceilidh in the Corn Barn. We were the last admission (4 pm) and just made it in time. The stairs up to the different towers were very narrow, spiral, and claustrophobic. I limited my use of them as I was not feeling good anyhow - the climbs just took all my energy and breath. I was really getting sick of this cold that stole my much-needed oxygen! How can I climb the sites without air?The banquet hall below was being set up for the nightly medieval feast, and the Earl's Kitchen was especially fascinating to me, hung with (replicas, I'm hoping) shanks of pork, chickens and sides of beef.We went on outside and went to the different houses in the folk park - a farmer's house, a day laborer's house, a tea room, a school house, etc. The village street had a pub (that served cider, yay!), a linen/lace shop, a millers. The set up was very nice, and reminded me of Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Farther on we came across two different mills (vertical and horizontal), a church, and a beautiful walled garden filled with incredible flowers. It had a little hobbit-sized door in the garden that reminded me of fairy tales and Rumplestilzkin. We also met several animals, including a donkey, some deer, goats, a horse and cow, and many sheep nursing their lambs. On our way back, we discovered that we had stayed too long - the gates back to the village area were closed and locked! We found one that we could fit under, and crawled back into the area we were supposed to be. The Ceilidh was due to start soon, so we headed to the Corn Barn with the other milling tourists. (they weren't milling at the mill, just in the street - go figure).Once inside, we were given a drink - our choice of mead or irish cream (O'Carolan's). I chose the mead, and we went to our table. We shared our spot with Bob and Ellen from Florida, and Brian, Paul and Terri from Virginia. They were all very nice folks and we really enjoyed the conversations. We got some of the extra drinks at our table, and I tried the irish cream - O'Carolan's is much smoother than Bailey's, it's my new favorite!The show consisted of songs, jokes, stories and dance. Most were very traditional fare, and the costumes were pretty - but the last dances were a special version of Riverdance-style that was quite polished and nice. One of the young men dancing was a champion dancer, and he was our waiter as well. Our dinner choices included Irish stew with lamb, and we had potatoes, salad, wine, apple tart, and barm brack (rings were in them for prizes). All in all, we had a wonderful night!We got back to our B&B in Ennis, and tried to tell Marie we didn't need breakfast in the morning as we were getting up early for the ferry (breakfast starts at 8:30am). She insisted on getting at least toast, fruit and cereal ready for us. We watched some late night tv, including Hong Kong horse racing in Irish. Close
Sunday, June 25th - Full Irish Breakfasts and the BurrenUp around 7:30am, we discovered that the radiator, which is RIGHT next to the toilet, is on in the mornings (and HOT!). It is almost impossible to sit on the toilet without touching the radiator. Makes…Read More
Sunday, June 25th - Full Irish Breakfasts and the BurrenUp around 7:30am, we discovered that the radiator, which is RIGHT next to the toilet, is on in the mornings (and HOT!). It is almost impossible to sit on the toilet without touching the radiator. Makes you VERY careful in the morning. We went down to our Full Irish Breakfast - egg over hard, toast, brown bread with butter and jam, cereal, fruit, bacon and sausage, black and white puddings, potato cake, grilled tomato, coffee, tea and orange juice. Whew! It was very tasty; K and T were pleased. T didn't like the puddings, and I don't like tomatoes, so we traded. We were headed to the Burren today. Our plan was to drive up to Poulnabrone, to Ballyvaughn, and along the cost to Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. Right. Well, we did make it to many of those. Luckily for us, the weather was bright, cool and clear for most of the day.We started out at the Kilnaboy church, which we explored and oohed and aahed at. It was a wonderful specimen of old church in the middle of a more modern town, right at the edge of the main road through. Many graves were well-kept and recently visited (per the flowers) while others were crumbling and becoming reclaimed by nature in all her power.Next we headed to Caherconnel - but not without first picking up a hitchhiker. Yes, we know, that was dangerous. But he was a little old man about 70 years old, and there were three of us. T is a police officer, she said she could handle him. His name was John Rafferty, and he was from Edinburgh, walking the lands where his father came from many years ago. He was on his way to Doolin, so we took him as far as we were going (which wasn't very far, unfortunately). It perhaps saved him a half hours walk, but we did our good deed for the day. He was a very sweet man.At Caherconnel, we got our first taste of old, ancient, crumbling and antique. It is an old stone fort, built on a fairly wide expanse and hill, very impressive. The wildlife and flowers were delightful, filling in nooks and crannies, elderberries growing in the gaps of the wall, and frogs jumping over the stones. The Poulnabroune Dolmen was a little more crowded, as we had tourist buses to contend with, but that was alright - they left after a while and it was much quieter. The Dolmen rests on an outcropping of limestone that appears flat from far away, but is riddled with holes and nooks and crannies from the glaciers that carved it. It was a fascinating exploration of the microcosm of nature. We took oodles of pictures, and found all manner of interesting things. After visiting the Dolmen, we headed farther up into the Burren, towards Ailwee Caves. When we came into views of the Galway Bay, it took our breathes away. The silver grey limestone mountain next to the crystal blue bay made the view sublime (ok, pun intended). The road curved up onto a mountain to the cave entrances. These caves used to house bears, and T just loves bears, so she had fun. It was an interesting tour, and I would recommend it for those that like caves (though it's probably rather simple for the expert spelunker). There is a farmer's store off the entrance road that had all sorts of neat snacks and foods, like blueberries in honey, chocolate caramel peanut fudge, mead, etc. We bought some gifts and snacks, and headed on to Ballyvaughan.It was approaching 4pm, so once again we were hungry. I had heard of Monk's, so we stopped there to eat. It also has a fabulous view of the bay, the pier, and the cute guys from Kilnefora that were hanging out on the pier. K and I shared a dish of garlic mussels and some pints. T had soup, but still only vegetable - no potato for her. K had thai curry coconut chicken, and I had a marvelous seafood platter, with prawns and Rose Marie sauce and smoked salmon with capers. After dinner we drove around the sea road, along the shore. We stopped at one point and went down to the beach/rocks to explore. Some locals were fishing for mackerel off the rocks. We tried to go play with the sheep, but they gave us disgusted looks and ran off. The melding of the sky and the sea was really fantastic as we looked out to the Atlantic Ocean. Next stop, America! We drove along through Fanore to Lisdoonvarna, and tried to stop at a castle we saw, but noticed that it was gated private property, so went away disappointed. There was a hotel next to it, and it looked nice, but empty. Instead, we tried to find the Smokehouse, which of course was also closed. Resigned, we walked back to the car, and chatted with a local (walking on the other side of the street) about the fact we brought the beautiful weather with us from Florida.As we drove down to Doolin for dinner and a pint, we saw an old church on a hill near the seashore. It had a beautiful graveyard, all overgrown with weeds and flowers. The church itself was quite tiny, and definitely unkempt. Those are my favorite kinds, that nature has reclaimed them as her own. As I was exploring it, I turned around and took a fright. Behind me there had been a large Celtic Cross made of black marble. The base was very wide, making it look like a head on shoulders. It startled me quite a bit!We went down into Doolin and decided to try out Gus O'Connors, as I had heard of that pub in my researches. We found ourselves a gift shop first, did some touristy shopping, and then found a table at the pub. First we had a little tiny table near the bathrooms, but the waitress came by and discovered we wanted dinner - so she switched us with a larger table. We shared starters of garlic mushrooms and goat's cheese, brown bread and whiskey/onion marmalade. It was an odd combination, but it worked. We decided that was all we were really hungry for, and had some pints. K tried a ½ pint of Guinness, and decided that she was right the first time, she really didn't like it. Music was starting up here and there, but after one song, evidently the musicians got pints bought for them, so they stopped. : We met some US tourists at the table next to us and chatted a while, but decided to go on to find another pub, perhaps closer to our B&B.We stopped at one called Biddy Early's in Ennistymon. They didn't have Bulmer's on tap, so we tried it in the bottle, not bad. They had no food (they had stopped a half hour before) so we couldn't have the dessert we were craving. We finished up our drinks, talked for a bit, and then made our way home. We had a midnight snack of chips & crackers, watched a show on the American West in Irish, and an Irish soap opera about a dying cow. The Irish shows were subtitled in English so we could follow along, it was very interesting! Close
We got through customs upon arrival to Shannon, and got our luggage. We went down to rent the car, and I made a horrible discovery, the first real frustration of the trip (we had realized we'd have a dash in Heathrow). I couldn't find any…Read More
We got through customs upon arrival to Shannon, and got our luggage. We went down to rent the car, and I made a horrible discovery, the first real frustration of the trip (we had realized we'd have a dash in Heathrow). I couldn't find any credit card but one. We looked through every piece of luggage I had and could only find the one card I had with my driver's license - which isn't the Platinum Mastercard I needed to rent the car with (and waive the CDW). I called my husband (who was still in south Florida) and asked him to search the car for the truant plastics - no luck. It was still too early for my parents to be up, but later I would call them and ask them to search my desk at home. In the meantime, the rental car fee went up from $220 to $550 due to the lack of that credit card. Argh! Expensive mistake!!!! But, as they needed the physical card (even though the reservation was made on it) and wouldn't take a different card, I was stuck. NOTE TO TRAVELERS: make sure you have your Platinum MC with you if you are going to waive that CDW!I was rather shaky after the frustrations (I still didn't know if I had left them at home or lost them somewhere) and angry at the massive amount this mistake cost me, so K drove the Fiat Punto out of the lot. It was large enough for the three of us and our luggage, but only just. By the end of the trip, it was bursting at the seams!We headed north from Shannon Airport to Ennis, and K learned the joys of roundabouts and driving on the left. It wasn't too bad, as it is a wide National (N) road out of the airport, but it narrowed down as we entered town. The first vistas of Ireland panned out for my traveling companions, and I delighted to hear them comment on their first views of Irish sheep, Irish cows, Irish roadworks, and Irish loose chippings (gravel). It took us a couple of wrong turns to find our B&B, which was called Stone Haven , and was on Kilrush Road. We called our hostess, and she directed us in easily. We met Marie, and she led us to our upstairs triple. It had three single beds, an en suite bathroom with shower, and a dormer window facing the street. The traffic noise slowed down at night, but never really stopped. This was great for T who liked noise as she slept, but K and I had our solutions - K slept with earphones and CDs, while I slept with my beloved earplugs.We settled our belongings in our room, explored the amenities, and decided to go explore in town. It wasn't really walking distance, but there was close by parking to the downtown area, so we wandered. We found several pubs, and decided on Cruises/Queens Hotel Restaurant for our first taste of Irish cuisine. Since it was approaching 3pm, only Restaurants would be serving food at this point… pubs stop around 2pm.Downtown EnnisK and I both ordered the Irish Stew and pints of Bulmer's Cider. We also shared a starter of garlic mushrooms. T had a sandwich and pureed vegetable soup. She liked it, but it wasn't what she expected. She was looking forward to having potato soup, as that's her favorite, but it wasn't on the menu today. The stews were huge, so we had the leftovers put in a take-away box, and wandered around the shopping area. We went into Boots for some drugs (T needed some migraine medicine), K and I went into a local chocolate shop and got some unusual chocolates - made with lime, chili, and other unusual flavors. There was a neat new age store, but it was already closed by that time. We went and bought some pints of cider to try (different brands) and went to our B&B to relax. We watched some TV, had some drinks, and went to bed around 8pm, exhausted after a long day and night of travel and travail.We woke up around 9:30pm, talked some more, watched more TV, drank more cider, finished off our leftovers. We liked the Linden Cider, as it was sweeter, but I think my favorite was the Druid's. It was still twilight by midnight, when we realized we had better sleep now to get our bodies back on cycle. It wasn't too difficult. Close
Written by bri on 20 Feb, 2001
We were tired after a long drive and the brightly painted town of Kilrush seemed like a nice place to stop for the day. After finding a room, (see The Grove accommodation entry) we strolled along the streets. In a town of this…Read More
We were tired after a long drive and the brightly painted town of Kilrush seemed like a nice place to stop for the day. After finding a room, (see The Grove accommodation entry) we strolled along the streets. In a town of this size (approx 3,000) everyone knows everyone, and we Americans stick out like sore thumbs.
We wandered into a pub (unfortunately I can't remember the name of it, except that the owner is a woman named Carmel) where we made fast friends with a whole troop of local characters.
Funny thing I noticed about the Irish, they like to pretend to be blasé and uninterested, but really they can't help themselves and it takes about 30 seconds before they are introducing themselves, asking questions and in turn telling you everything they know. They are about the friendliest people on earth.
The law states all pubs must close at 11pm, so promptly at 11pm the shades are drawn and the door is locked - but no one actually leaves! "We're closed now ain't we!" Carmel says with a big wink of her eye and pulls perfect pints of Guinness for one and all.
Ahhh! The "perfect pint". I am a Guinness fan, and if you read about pubs in Ireland you will read comments like "The best pint of Guinness served in Dublin is pulled at the Brazen Head." or "At O'Rileys they know how to pull the perfect pint." I wondered, how can one pint differ from another, after all, it’s all the same Guinness, right? Well I was educated at Carmel's Pub.
First of all, where is the tank located? How far from the tap? Are the pipes copper or (egads!) plastic? What type of floor does the tank rest upon? Slate is best. What is the temperature of the room where the tank rests? And then there is a whole science on how to actually fill the glass with the liquid, how long to let it settle before topping it off, how are the glasses washed… and as luck would have it, everyone agreed that the perfect pint in all of Ireland is found at Carmel's!
They take their Guinness very seriously in Ireland.
We stumbled back to our room at 2am, after a wonderful evening of Irish wit, politics and history. What a blast!
Written by atherts on 24 Jun, 2006
On the road from Corofin to Kilfenora you may see the Killinaboy Church (12th century) if you are paying attention. It is closer to Corofin than Kilfenorah and is near a turnoff to the east. The church was built in the 16th century on the…Read More
On the road from Corofin to Kilfenora you may see the Killinaboy Church (12th century) if you are paying attention. It is closer to Corofin than Kilfenorah and is near a turnoff to the east. The church was built in the 16th century on the site of an earlier church and was repaired in 1715. The Irish translation being Cill Inghine Baoith (The church of the daughter of Baoith), Baoith who was a female saint to whom some holy wells are dedicated. The church has many fine features: A Sheela-Na-Gig over the doorway (a carved female figure in a provocative posture), and two rare crosses unique in the country; The Lorraine cross (a double armed cross) on the west gable, and a small Tau cross (a T-shaped cross), formally marking the boundaries on Roughan Hill, but now on display at the Clare Heritage Centre in nearby Corofin. The church was part of a monastic site named after St. Inghean Bhaoith (the founder and first abbess). It is on the right side as you head towards Kilfenora. Just past the church as it sits on a high knoll is a small turnout that you can park in. Pull out here and then walk back a small way to the step that lead up to a creaky iron gate. Resist the urge to walk back to the car to look for WD40 or other lubricants. Open the gate and walk into a piece of magic.To the right is the remains of a small round tower. To the left is the entrance to the church with a Sheela na Gig over the entrance. What is a Sheela na Gig you may well ask. Well in the interest of discretion I can only describe it as a female fertility figure in full exposure. Some figure may vary. I can only say if you do a search for it on Google, make sure your children are not standing in the vicinity.What this figure has to do with the church is only explained by the melding of Irish tradition with the Catholic tradition, which produced something uniquely Irish and in definite opposition with the more traditional Catholic church.Not withstanding, there it is! The rest of the interior is less controversial and more pedestrian. The alcoves and niches contain some interesting history, but nothing as overtly challenging as the figure over the portal.Exiting the interior and as you walk around the church there are a variety of headstone from new to old. Some are quite touching in their overt tribute to the departed. Some are a simple iron crosses, depicting an unbaptized baby or other undesirable in the Catholic tradition, and elaborately inscribed headstone with details of life and death.As you walk around behind the church, you approach the remains of a round tower. Only a few feet remain but it is obvious in its presence. The grounds are scattered with the varied headstones interspersed with fuchsia and ivy. Some of the headstones are still legible and some beyond discernment.The grounds are small, but the feeling of history and traditions hangs over you like a veil, obscuring your vision with the weight of it all at all (a chorr ar bith). Close
County Clare is on the west coast of Ireland, nestled between the Shannon River and County Galway. Looking west over the Atlantic Ocean, you can see small islands such as the Aran Islands, the last bit of Europe until you come to North America.…Read More
County Clare is on the west coast of Ireland, nestled between the Shannon River and County Galway. Looking west over the Atlantic Ocean, you can see small islands such as the Aran Islands, the last bit of Europe until you come to North America. In the past, folk have told tales of islands in the mist, or Tìr na Nòg, the island of dreams, a place of the fairies.During our time in Ennis, we made trips up through the Burren, to the Aran Island of Inìs Mòr, over to Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, and down to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.Clare is a wild part of Ireland – full of stones and cliffs, small cozy towns and wide open fields. The people are friendly and open, as they are in all of Ireland. Bed & Breakfasts are the best way, in my opinion, of staying in Ireland, as it allows you to stay with a local and gives a wonderful breakfast!Don’t make the mistake, especially in the west, of attempting too much in too short a time! Ireland is a laid back country, and the people savor their lives. Do the same, and you will be well pleased with the results. Stop and explore that ruined church, unnamed and anonymous, on the side of the road. Enjoy your Irish stew, savor the tender chunks of lamb, and follow it with a pint of sweet, fizzy cider.Have a pint in one of the local pubs – after you’re there two nights in a row, you’re considered a local rather than a tourist. If you want to be part of the conversation, sit at the bar to drink and you will be included in the ‘craic’. If you would rather be alone or observe, go sit at a table after getting your drinks at the bar. The pub is more like a communal living room to the Irish, and they gather every evening for fun, for games and quizzes, and for a friendly sense of community. This is a precious resource, one that should be preserved and perpetuated! Close
The castle of Leimaneh, is situated also in the parish of Killinaboy. It is in a reasonable state of preservation. In 1580 it was the property of Teige, son of Murrogh (the Tanist, first baron of Inchiquin). An inscription is found over the entrance porch…Read More
The castle of Leimaneh, is situated also in the parish of Killinaboy. It is in a reasonable state of preservation. In 1580 it was the property of Teige, son of Murrogh (the Tanist, first baron of Inchiquin). An inscription is found over the entrance porch in the following words:—"This was built in the year of our Lord 1648, by Connor O’Brien, and by Mary-ni-Mahone, wife of the said Connor."Unfortunately you cannot get very close to Lemanagh Castle. It is on private land and the current owners don't allow public access. Tour buses stop in front, but rarely allow disembarkation to view the sites. If you are driving, park down below or adjacent to the directional signs and walk up to the castle. You can only view it from the road and the view from the front or from the adjacent side is the best you can hope for.The castle has an interesting history that you can pursue online or at the Burren visitor center down the road (well worth the visit, see my review). The castle was owned by the O'Brien clan and saw varied usage and owners. At one point it was owned by Conor O’Brien who was married to Maura Rua or Red Mary. He returned from battle in a state of extreme disrepair, she refuse him admittance on the grounds that he was dead. Disproving this assumption, he was allowed in and subsequently died shortly thereafter. Red Mary remarried to improve her position, but all was for naught as thing rapidly fell apart leaving the castle in the current state of decomposition.We found it an ideal site for IR photography, evidenced by the supporting images. Close
Written by DeniseRTW on 30 Jul, 2002
Ennis is the capital of Clare and is known for its winding streets, traditional Irish store fronts and laid back atmosphere. But don't be fooled, Ennis is a young vibrant town with much to do. During the day you can take a walk…Read More
Ennis is the capital of Clare and is known for its winding streets, traditional Irish store fronts and laid back atmosphere. But don't be fooled, Ennis is a young vibrant town with much to do. During the day you can take a walk through the streets. Abbey Street, Parnell Street, and O'Connell Street are the main streets and they are easy to spot since they all branch off from O'Connell's monument in the middle of town, which locals affectionatly call "the square". Every town in Ireland seems to have something named after the great Daniel O'Connell. However in Clare there is a special admiration for the famous Emancipator. Co. Clare elected Daniel O'Connell to the house of Parliament and he became the first Catholic to hold a seat in the English Government. So as you walk down O'Connell Street, make sure and capture a picture of the towering statue of him at your back.
Stop into Brogans for your lunch and experience the fine fare and local lunch hour (see the dining entry). If you have any of the delicious brown bread left, walk over to the river Fergus and feed the ducks and swans.
If you like to study architecture, you may want to visit the local churchs. The Church on the top of O'Connell Street, known just as "The Cathedral" is a beautiful old stone church with high ceilings and old choir balconies. The Friary, which dates back to the 13th century, is also a beautiful church that is worth a glance. You'll find 15th and 16th century sculptures carved from the abundant Burren limestone.
But best of all in Ennis is the local night life! There are many restaurants that you can dine in depending on your tastes, there is a great Chinese restaruant, Italian restaurant, and a Steak house in Ennis. However the local food is absolutely yummy!!
After dinner be prepared to pub hop and end up in the niteclub or as they call it in Ireland "the disco" after midnight for some dancing. The pubs and bars of Ennis are happening spots no matter what day of the week!