Monday, September 22, 2008

Southwest Ireland

Hi all,
Clare and her mum are back from their big trip round Southwest Ireland, so here are some photo updates:
flickr photo link: <Ring of Kerry, Sep 08>
flickr photo link: <Ring of Beara, Sep 08>
flickr photo link: <Sheep's Head & Mizen Head, Sep 08>
flickr photo link: <Cashel & St Kevins, Sep 08>
Enjoy. Bye.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Irish Pub of the Week #15

Irish Pub of the Week #15, "The Lobster" on the esplanade at Waterville, right at the end of the Ring of Kerry. We didn't have a pint here, but the sight of the giant plastic lobster clutching the creamy guinness caught my eye, so we had to stop for a quick snap. I trust they might do some good seafood here. Rock Lobster...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Ring of Kerry

flickr photo link: <Ring of Kerry, Sep 08>
The view from the road that runs along the ridge of Valentia Island must be quite good. So too, the view from the cliff walk, leading from the car park beside the craft shop where they sell the Skellig Chocolates. The view from the slate mine with the "Mary" grotto must also be great, perched high above the Atlantic. Yes, it must be quite a view. Possibly spectacular. But here on Valentia Island, along with everywhere else at this end of the famous Ring Of Kerry, we saw nothing. Nothing that is, but cloud, fog, mist & rain - in no specific order. I think the travelling preacher who ran the Old Schoolhouse B&B at Ballinskelligs summed it all up when he said they'd had one dry day in nine weeks, yes, that's 1 dry day in 9 weeks. Mmm. So between full Irish breakfasts outside Killarney & Ballinskelligs, then (Joe) making the 6.30pm Sunday train from Cork to Dublin, we saw lots & lots of rain:
pouring rain in Killarney while Clare searched for the "official" tourist office (and I parked on double yellow lines, but the Garda still ignored me);
easing rain as we drove around Caragh Lake (one of the most attractive parts of the Ring of Kerry we actually saw!);
light rain as Clare ran into the Centra at Cahersiveen seeking the free Bonnie Tyler CD from the Irish Daily Mail (the poor girl had no idea who Bonnie Tyler was);
increasing rain as we took the car ferry to Valentia Island before a complete whiteout descended upon us;
light rain (and fog), but who cares about the weather, as we tasted the Skelligs Chocolates with the other Aussies at the weenie little factory at St. Finian's Bay (mighty good!)
variable fog, cloud & showers most of the following day - Mary statue in the cloud; cyclists racing in the cloud; lush forests with dripping rain...
Clare and her mum have gone on to other parts south/southwest this week (and apparently the weather has significantly improved), while I returned to Dublin on the train and it rained ALL the way across Ireland... The train had dark blue reflective/frosted windows, but every now and then you could see the drips pouring down, and people standing at crossings and stations with umbrellas, as we flew past. And in Dublin - absolutely pouring; vast sheets of wet blasted at a sharp angle like special effects for Noah's Ark The Movie. More reports next week.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Lost in Carrickmacross

Mannan Castle required a lot of imagination. Perched on a hill above a golf course in Monaghan, it was nothing but a bunch of rocks, loosely scattered and smothered in vegetation, and some big ditches. More like Pan's Labyrinth than King Arthur. I half expected a stick insect to land on Clare and start making strange clicking sounds. Either that or a watery tart lobbing a scimitar at us from the "deep pool", the sight of which our guide tempted us with, but we never actually laid our eyes on. And me, I ripped my jeans on the barbed wire strategically placed at the entry gate. Yes, the golf course didn't seem too keen on welcoming visitors up here, but the 'clahs' (County Louth Archaeological And Historical Society) were a hardy bunch (of mainly pensioners) and we'd joined them on this Sunday afternoon of discovery around Carrickmacross.
Clare had tempted me earlier with "Do you want to go and see a workhouse?", to which I foolishly replied yes. Ooh, a spooky old workhouse... "Please Sir, can I have some more?..." and all that good old stuff. Little did I know that I would also have to: survey the stained glass windows at St. Josephs (2.30pm); check out the ruins of the local graveyard whilst listening to stories of haunting the local drunks (4.00pm); climb the hill to the forementioned Mannon Castle (5.30pm); then join the convoy of pensioners pulled up on the N2 as traffic raced past - but they had the sense to wait for someone to lead the way while Clare and I blasted ahead, and promptly got lost in Carrickmacross.
All the chocolate digestives had been snapped up when we finally made it to the workhouse around 7.30pm. The pensioners were already seated with their cups of tea while we watched a powerpoint presentation about the famine and all things history related. Of course the afternoon wasn't really supposed to go on this long, but the enthusiasm of this little historical society stretched things out rather. The workhouse wasn't at all spooky in the end, but rather a complete renovation job funded by the crossborder peace initiative. After the sobering stories of the famine and mass migration, Clare and I rushed back to The Lisdoo in Dundalk for some substenance in the form of beef & guinness pies, which they do rather nicely. Yes, things have certainly changed in Ireland.