Trip Report: Bus Tour of the Emerald Isle
Thursday, June 20 through Monday, July 1, 2013
Introduction: Lynn always seems to be the one to come up with the ideas on where we should go for vacation then I do all the detailed planning. This trip basically followed that formula, but there was a lot less detailed planning as this trip would be our first real guided, group bus tour (our second attempt at one, but Lynn and I were the only ones on our “private tour of Belize”).
Lynn heard about this tour on the radio. She had started listening to the classical music station, WCLV, and they were sponsoring a “tour of Ireland.” I reckon it was about a year in advance that she heard about this tour and after a short discussion, we opted in. Lynn has always been more interested in visiting Europe than I was, but this seemed like an ideal way to get an introduction to overseas travel. Plus the price was right; $2800 per person for a very interesting 12-day itinerary (including the travel days), that also included the airfare, lodging, many of the meals, admission to all the attractions on the itinerary and ground transportation.
Since this was a tour package, I did not do a lot of research on things to see and do as most of that was already set. The exception was that we had some free time in Dublin so I did some lurking on Trip Advisor, but really got most of my information from Keith Scherer, a former DE for Dublin. He gave us enough stuff to fill at least a week in Dublin! I did do a little study, however. The Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park, the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway piqued my interest the most, particularly the Cliffs of Moher.
A note on my journal: Get ready; this is a long and rambling report. That’s my style I reckon. I write these long reports primarily for Lynn and me, so that we can remember all the details of the trip. But I also hope that the reports will be of use to future travelers in planning their adventures. Since the trip is so long, it will be split over at least a couple of linked pages rather than just make one really long page. There are also a good selection of photos and other images (maps and a few scanned artifacts) included in this journal, but there are many more photos from the trip and access to the best from each day is provided via links to the SmugMug galleries at the end of the narrative for each day. I’ve collected the links to each section of the report as well as to the photos for each day below for convenience.
The Tour: The tour was booked through YMT Vacations. This was our first dealings with this outfit but they seem to be on the ball and very professionally operated. They did a great job with the planning and set up of the tour and as we saw during our time there, they also did an outstanding job with the execution of the plan through Kavanagh Coaches. The itinerary that YMT developed was jam-packed but covered a lot of very nice places and provided a great overview of Ireland. I have listed the detailed itinerary on a separate page, but the abridged version with the major highlights (at least the things that I was most interested in) is shown below along with links to the photos:
Day 1: Travel day from Cleveland to Dublin. Overnight flight.
Day 2: Arrive Dublin. Transfer from the airport to the hotel is arranged. We have the afternoon to explore Dublin on our own. Meet-and-greet dinner this evening.
Day 3: Exploring Dublin. Driving tour in the morning, then we were on our own in the afternoon and went to the zoo.
Day 4: Dublin to Cork. Stops at the Rock of Cashel and in Cobh.
Day 5: Cork to Killarney. Blarney Castle then Muckross House in Killarney National Park.
Day 7: Killarney to Galway. Bunratty Castle and the Cliffs of Moher.
Day 8: Galway to Bundoran. Tour through Conamarra and a visit to Kylemore Abbey and Gardens.
Day 9: Bundoran to Belfast. Ulster American Folk Park.
Day 11: Belfast to Dublin. Titanic Experience.
Day 12: Travel home.
As our guide Peirce would say, "Busy, busy, busy!"
I created a slideshow that has many of the highlights from the trip along with an Irish score.
The map above shows the route that we took on the bus (more or less). The overnight stops are boxed in green. Some of the key tour stops are in dark green text.
This page covers days 1 through 5. Page 2 covers days 6 through 9, and Page 3 has day 10 through 12 and the final thoughts for the trip. Enjoy!
Day 1, Thursday, June 20th - Heading to Ireland
We had most of the packing done; starting over the weekend getting everything laid-out then packing the past couple of evenings, so we were not rushing around this morning. Really it was like a standard work day for the most part, as we did put in a full day of work then headed straight to the airport for our 7:15 PM departure. It’s nice working next to the airport as we can usually get one of the gang to get us to and from the airport, thus avoiding the parking fees (a great reciprocal arrangement as there are a few of us in the “taxi pool”). At five ‘til four I hit shutdown on my computer and called Lynn. Before the phone even rang I hear her exclaim “I’m ready to go!” We went over earlier than we needed so that we could grab some food before our hop to Dulles from where we’ll catch the 10:10 long-haul to Dublin.
We cruised through check-in and security. The only glitch was that I could not figure out how to scan my passport on the check-in kiosk. Doh! Even with that we were redressing on the departure side of security by 4:20 – had to be a record! After hitting every Hudson bookshop between security and D Concourse (Lynn did finally find a book), we settled in at Obrycki’s for a beer and a snack. OK, we’re heading to Ireland so maybe a Smithwick’s pale ale would be appropriate. Eh, just not hoppy enough but still the first beer of vacation. The crab cake sliders were excellent, particularly the one with the cocktail sauce (or whatever the spicy read stuff was).
Still over an hour before boarding, but that’s OK. Just time to relax…and check those last few emails before slipping securely into vacation-mode. As we were sitting at the gate, I starting doing a little people-watching, wondering who else sitting in the area would be on the tour? Maybe the guy in the utility vest? I reckon I’ll find out tomorrow when we land in Dublin.
Day 2, Friday, June 21st - Arrival in Dublin and Staggering about the Town
Talk about an easy flight. Was I really flying on United? Not only were there no delays (not even in Dulles!) but we had a nice tailwind and were ahead of schedule. While the flight was easy, I just did not get much sleep, just catnapped on and off. I was awake for the dinner service…wish I had been asleep! Similarly for the breakfast snack. But it was better than starving…I think.
But I did get to enjoy the sunrise from seat 37A as we flew east over the Atlantic. The port side wing made a nice silhouette against the rainbow hues. There was a low cloud deck over the ocean which gave the impression of snow cover, particularly due to some random breaks in the clouds that reminded me of tracks in the snow.
I also got an introduction to some Irish folks as there was a young couple sitting next to me, and their traveling companions were just across the aisle. They looked as if they were returning from a beach holiday, as the guys were in tee-shirts and shorts and the young ladies were still in their beach attire. My first thought was that it will be chilly when we land in Dublin and the girls in particular seemed a little under-dressed for the weather. Seems this was just a bit of foreshadowing. But it also stands to reason that folks from Ireland would be accustomed to the weather, so it would probably not be a big deal for them. Besides, they were just kids!
So the good news was that we touched down at Dublin International Airport about an hour ahead of schedule. The bad news was that there was no gate available for us, so we waited on the tarmac. But we were still about half an hour ahead of schedule when we did start to deplane, so a bonus of sorts. The long line at customs evaporated quickly and our luggage was practically waiting for us , as was our YMT contact, John Joe. Turns out that there were 12 folks for the tour on this flight; I think all of us originated in Cleveland. We all quickly converged on John Joe who dutifully herded the cats to the bus.
Sure enough, I recognized most of the folks in the group from the gate back at CLE. A good sign of things to come was that everyone kept pace and we were quickly loaded on the bus and ready to go by 11:15. John Joe was expecting one other couple from another flight, so he made a pass back through the terminal to find them, but it seems they had some trouble with their flights so our group of 12 was all for this ride. We were heading to Dublin at 11:30 AM.
We rolled into the Hotel Belvedere about noon, and while John Joe was warning us of a potential 90-minute wait for our rooms (since we were arriving well before check-in and there was another group already in the queue ahead of us), Lynn and I must have had some of the luck of the Irish. When we made it to the YMT check-in person, Trish, we found out that we were one of the lucky few whose room was ready. Up one level to the first floor…huh? Interesting layout to the room; it had four single beds! Plenty of space to sleep but not much else. We ditched our stuff in the room, had a quick break as Lynn desperately needed caffeine, got our bearings from Trish and set out at 12:30 for a walking tour of the city. We had all afternoon to explore as our first scheduled event is our meet-and-greet followed by dinner with the rest of the group.
Now, you might ask “what are you doing going out exploring? When are you going to get some sleep?” Great questions, but we are going to follow the advice received from several folks and stay up as long as we can today rather than catch a nap now. The idea is that if you stay up today, even though you might not have slept on the flight, and go to bed at "local bedtime” then you will avoid being up at 0200 this morning, should get a full night’s rest and ideally will be “with it” tomorrow and certainly by the day after. That’s the theory anyway. Now to put it to the test.
We had received a lot of great ideas for things to see and do as part of walking tours of Dublin from my friend and former Dublin DE, Keith. Due to the lack of sleep, we decided to not have a set plan but rather we went into meander mode so that we could see whatever looked interesting along the way. We turned left as we left the Belvedere and headed toward the main drag. Forget about street names, as they seem to change at the drop of a hat, but we were heading to O’Connell Street. The street that fronts the Belvedere is a little beat up, but provides a nice start to the walk as it is lined with the colorful doors and provides a nice view of the Abbey Presbyterian Church across the intersection.
Once at the main intersection, we crossed the street immediately so that we could visit the Garden of Remembrance (so the northern portion of Parnell Square). This is a lovely and tranquil little park, dominated by the sunken water feature in the form of a huge cruciform. The park is dedicated to the men and women who have died in pursuit of Irish freedom. The Garden of Remembrance marks the spot where several leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were held overnight before being taken to Kilmainham Gaol. There were a few folks having lunch in the park, but mostly folks just seemed to be enjoying the peaceful surroundings. We walked around the water feature to the large sculpture at the far end of the park depicting the Children of Lir, an Irish legend about three children who were turned into swans by their jealous step-mother. After 900 years, the curse was lifted and the children were reunited with their father and mother in heaven (well, that's one version anyway).
We continued south, shortly reaching O’Connell Street, and this is where things got interesting. Talk about masses of humanity! And diversity. If you want to do some people watching, this is the place. We walked this stretch of road to the river, just enjoying the sights and watching folks go about their day. We made a short detour along Henry Street to see the shopping area. Sort of reminded me of the large, outdoor malls in Cleveland or, more likely, the Miracle Mile in Chicago. Just a lot of retail stores, the same stuff we have in the US. We walked into an old arcade that opened on to Henry Street; again similar to the old arcades in Cleveland.
Back on O’Connell Street heading south, we just took in the sights and sounds, except for a quick peek in the Post Office. Once we got to the River Liffy, we decided to see the Book of Kells then, depending on how we felt, the Chester Beatty Museum, again based on suggestions from Keith. These were both places that are on the “must do” list when visiting Dublin, so we figured it would be good to get to them early in the program. So off to Trinity College we go. No problem getting there, well, except the traffic signals…more on that later.
Now remember, I’m running on fumes by now. Physically the walking is helping and I feel pretty good, but mentally, I’m just trying to take in what I’m seeing and the commentary in my journal sort of reflects that, so just go with it for now.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, Trinity College and the Book of Kells. We got in the queue about 1:30 and had a short wait (10 minutes or so), paid our 9 Euro each for admittance and off we went. The displays and exhibits on the history of the book are very interesting and well done. Seeing a book that old is pretty cool, albeit a bit of a chore as there was a crowd around the book (the exhibit hall area prior to where the Book of Kells is displayed was pretty easy to mill about without interference). I peered over the shoulders of a couple folks for a glimpse of the book and moved along to the Old Library. Yeah, it is an old book (a friggin’ old book is what I scribbled in my journal) and while it is beautiful and historic, it really did not hold that much interest for me. That was really the case as well with the Chester Beatty Museum. I reckon I have to be more with it mentally for that much culture. I guess the periods of history and kind of art that inspired Chester Beatty were not as big of a draw for me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We were greeted by a docent at the desk in the entry way. He was a friendly old fellow and gave us some pointers on what to see in the museum and give us the general lay of the land. He was a hoot as he gave us a resounding “OH!-hi-OH!” once he found out where we lived. He must have been waiting for weeks to use that line.
So we meandered along a couple of narrow streets, each lined with shops and pubs, then past St. Andrews church to Dame Street. Too bad we were minimizing our alcohol consumption today as part of the jet lag reduction regiment as those little pubs were so inviting. But Lynn had us pinpointed on the map so we kept moving toward Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library. When we got to the Castle, we found out it was closed to the public as Ireland was the current home to the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (who knew, right?). But we did make a quick pass through the visitor center and then through the garden before going into the Chester Beatty Library. The buildings in these area were an eclectic mix; old stone masonry fortress and towers (that now house the GARDA Museum) alongside some gaudily painted boxy structures all overlooking the formal garden. As this was a nice sunny day, there were many folks lounging about the lawn in the middle of the circle walkway. We took the long way around the loop to enjoy the flowers and sculpture then walk over to see what treasures Chester Beatty had to share.
What an amazing collection of artifacts. And admission to the museum is free. That just makes this so much a more of a must see attraction. Now as I mentioned, my mental faculties were not quite up to snuff, so I was just skimming the surface of the exhibits. This was becoming “old manuscript day” between the Book of Kells and the Asian prints at the Chester Beatty Library. The library is not a huge place, but that’s OK. It has a more intimate feel which just enhances the charm of the museum.
We were back at the Belvedere about 4:00 and went downstairs to the lounge to wait for the meet-and-greet to start. If we had stayed in the room, we would have both been fast asleep. By the time we were done, we had walked around for about 3.5 hours, but only covered about 3.5 miles as we looked through the museums and a few shops.
The map at left shows the route we took (best I can remember) of our first walking tour of Dublin. It was a nice stretch of the legs particularly after all night in the back of a 757.
Dublin is a very walkable city, well except for the traffic lights. The crosswalks are a disaster (this was the case in every large town we were in; I never did figure it out). No one waits for the lights; the lights don’t seem to be in sync with each other or with traffic; we stood at several intersections where no one was moving, no cars from any direction and no foot traffic. It was just odd.
The meet-and-greet started at 6:00. We got the overview and the rules of engagement from our guide, Pierce Kavanagh. We were also introduced to Bill O’Connell from WCLV; by the way, he was the guy in the utility vest from Hopkins.
Then it was time for the group dinner in the hotel. Good food and attentive service, albeit a little slow due to the number of folks in the dining room. I had my first beer in Ireland, a Guinness of course. A good pour, but still a bland beer, in my opinion. Lynn opted for a Dungarven Copper Red Ale, which she thought was good but not nearly hoppy enough. We sat with Mike and Lynne and Ron and Terry and had a nice time getting to know them and talking about the trip ahead.
After dinner, we hung it up for the night. It was about 8:30 PM by now I reckon, so we still needed to stay up for a while. We both dozed a bit in front of the TV, but the room was still too warm to sleep comfortably…sort of a good thing in this case. Opening the window cooled the room, but also brought in noise from the street and the bar below us. Limited options on TV; we ended up watching an old Richard Widmark western, “The Last Wagon.” Sappy, but it kept us awake just long enough so that we could hopefully ward off the jet-lag.
Here's the photo gallery from Day 2.
Day 3, Saturday, June 22nd - Dublin City Tour and the Dublin Zoo
I woke up refreshed – hooray! But a little stiff; between the overnight flight in steerage then walking around yesterday I guess I should be a little stiff. I got cleaned-up while Lynn snoozed a bit more. I headed downstairs to the lounge about 6:40 as there was no place to hang out in our room (four beds, remember, so no place to sit, and I just hate sitting on the bed in a motel room…just another of my many quirks).
So with a good night of rest behind me, I must say that I feel a lot better this morning. I also have a better appreciation for the sights that we saw yesterday during our walk around Dublin. However, my general impressions of the Book of Kells and the Chester Beatty Museum are unchanged; both are interesting and well worth seeing, but I don’t think either will be in the highlight reel for this trip.
So the plan for today is a morning driving tour of Dublin starting at 9:00 then we have the afternoon to again explore on our own. Dinner is on our own as well, so we’ll have to look for some recommendations.
Lynn made it down for breakfast about 7:20. The buffet was interesting. Scrambled eggs and several varieties of meats, but not a lot in the way of fruit. I opted for ham and eggs for something different. Lynn was not quite as recovered as me, so we got a quiet table for two in a secluded part of the dining area. She’ll be fine once she gets her coffee. We discussed our walking tour from yesterday and had the following observations:
- We did not see any one out walking their dogs. Granted we were more in the heart of the city, but still you would figure someone would have a pup on a leash.
- There were a lot of smokers and several folks were rolling their own cigarettes.
- Lots of diversity in the folks we saw, particularly along O’Connell street and the shopping areas. Tourists of all nationalities; seemed to be a younger crowd (or maybe I’m just getting old).
- Lots of blue eyes.
It is a nice looking morning; a bit overcast but it seems to be clearing.
Once on the bus for our 9:00 tour, Pierce introduced us to our tour guide for this morning, Maureen. She was a pistol! She had a lot of great stories and really helped to bring the city and its culture to life. The tour was a bit of a whirlwind affair, but it hit a lot of the highlights:
- As we were heading out of the park, Maureen told us a bit about the horses in Ireland and the grand stud farms for which Ireland is well known. She told us a tale from when she was leading a group of journalists at one of the farms so they could see the grand stud. This horse was reportedly worth $40 million dollars! Maureen remarked to an Australian journalist that the cost worked out to $10 million per leg. “Maureen, weren’t you listening” the man said, “it's what's between the legs that is worth $40 million.”
- After leaving the park we passed another of the many sculptures that adorn Dublin, the “Floozie in the Jacuzzi” which is what the locals call the reclining woman in Croppies Memorial Park.
- We did a drive by of the Guinness Brewery on our way back to the city center.
- Of course we cruised past several government buildings as well, including the home of the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
And finally back into town for a tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral which was just an amazing collection of history and stories in a beautiful and somewhat eclectic church. Quite an assortment of legends and stories.
As we were coming out of the Cathedral, I overheard Maureen talking about the weather and how warm it had been the past few days: “Dublin natives start throwing off their clothes at the sight of the sun, showing bits of skin that really should not be seen.” I think there was a lot of truth to that, at least from my observations the past day or so.
The tour ended at Trinity College. While the rest of the folks went with Maureen for a quick spin through the grounds of the college (where we had been yesterday), Lynn and I bailed and headed to the Archeology Museum (part of the National Museum) to see the bog bodies, human remains that had been dumped into the bogs 100s of years ago and recently recovered, as recommended by Pierce and Maureen as a great place to visit as part of our afternoon exploration.
The weather had been great up to this point, but on the walk to the museum, we got a bit of a downpour. It didn’t last long, but I wished I had a hat. Fortunately we were almost at our destination, so we did not get too wet. The museum is only a short walk away from Trinity College so we were there in just a few minutes. It is a very nice facility and houses a wide variety of exhibits and artifacts from Ireland and around the world.
The entry to the museum is through a rotunda fashioned building which houses the gift shop (of course!). Admission to the museum is free, so that’s a bonus. We just took our time and ambled about the place. The first floor exhibits focus more on Ireland and as such are the more interesting.
The first exhibit we really spent time reviewing dealt with a book that was found in the bog, the Faddan More Psalter. It is an early medieval Christian psalter or text of the book of Psalms, discovered in a peat bog in July 2006, in Fadden More in north County Tipperary. The book was seen by a sharp-eyed construction worker as he was digging in the bog with a backhoe!
The manuscript was probably written in about 800 AD in one of a number of monasteries in the area. A unique feature is that the inside of the leather cover is lined with papyrus, probably as a stiffening, an indication of the links between the Irish Celtic Christian Church and Egyptian Coptic Church at the time. After several years of conservation work, the psalter went on display at the National Museum of Ireland in June 2011.
The adjacent gallery highlighted metal work in Ireland during the medieval times. There were several beautiful examples of metal working artistry: chalices, bells, religious symbols. The featured artifact was the Cross of Cong which was made in 1123 to encase a fragment of the True Cross that was brought to Ireland and displayed in different places around the country. The cross is so-called because it was kept in the Augustinian Friary at Cong, county Mayo, for centuries.
We next worked our way over the bog bodies exhibit. It was gruesome, but fascinating. I don’t know why, but I just did not feel right taking any photos of the bog bodies…not that the remains were that photogenic in the first place. The bodies were from the Iron Age, dating from between 400 BC and 200 BC. Their stories were interesting, if not a little disturbing. There were three bodies on display, as I recall, each of which seemed to meet its demise in some sort of treacherous fashion, although the current thinking is that these could have been human sacrifices tied to the crowning of a new king. None of the bodies were complete, particularly the one missing its head. But what was still remaining was preserved in great detail. The bodies provide today’s archeologists great insight into Ireland's distance past.
The big central hallway displayed many artifacts from Ireland’s history and provided additional glimpses into her past. Upstairs were exhibits from around the world, focusing on ancient Egypt, ancient Cypress and Roman culture. But there were still ties to Ireland with a look at the time of the Vikings in Ireland. All-in-all, a grand variety of collections and exhibits.
We opted just to grab a snack at the museum café. We split a slice of quiche which was just OK, but the éclair that we shared was very good. We used this time to figure out our next move. I think that over the past two days we had seen a lot of interesting history, Irish culture and old churches, so we were ready for something else. Lynn had expressed a desire to see the Dublin Zoo before the trip and after getting a look at Phoenix Park I was ready for some time out of the confines of the city. So we looked at the map and figured it would be a nice walk to the park, which would also give me an opportunity to get a few shots of the sites that we saw from the bus this morning.
I guess we spent about an hour and a half at the museum, including lunch. While we did not read every placard in every display, we did spend enough time to thoroughly enjoy each exhibit, particularly those on the main level dealing with history in Ireland. We were on our way to Phoenix Park at 1:30.
I reckon it took us a little over an hour to walk from the museum to Phoenix Park. We only stopped a couple of times along the way. Lynn did a little shopping and we got a couple photos ops that I had noted from the driving tour (Ha’penny Bridge and “the Floozy”). Once in the park, I was sidetracked getting photos of birds, but we still walked into the zoo a little before 3:00. It did rain off-and-on during our walk to the zoo and our time at the zoo, which slowed our pace a bit, but there was always some place close to get some cover. The park itself it just a lovely setting. It is very well maintained, with wide paved walking paths, and plenty of well manicured landscaping. We noted palm trees in one area, which we thought sort of odd; this is Ireland, not a tropical island after all. But I guess the more temperate climate would allow for these kinds of trees to survive. There were some short but very hard downpours when we first got into the zoo, but the skies would soon clear and the sun was back out to provide a nice blue-sky day. I was on the lookout for rainbows given the conditions.
Here’s the short story on the Dublin Zoo: it is excellent. Lynn and I always seem to visit zoos during our travels, mainly because she likes critters, so we have seen a lot of very nice zoos and let me tell you that the Dublin Zoo is near the top of the list. There is a great variety of animals, the enclosures are very good size and in good shape, there is excellent access to the animals, and the setting is wonderful as the trails sort of meander around a couple of lakes.
There is a nice little opening scene once you come through the entrance; a deck overlooking a pond which has several varieties of waterfowl which are probably just local wild birds that are hanging out in the here. The birds were a common occurrence on all the water features in the zoo. We headed off down the path to the right and worked our way in a counterclockwise fashion around the first set of lakes and eventually made a figure-eight loop around the entire zoo. We stopped and enjoyed all of the exhibits, spending more time at some, but all totaled I reckon we spent about 2 hours in the zoo. By the way, the admission was 16 Euro for an adult ticket, so about $21. Perhaps a little high; for comparison, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo adult admission is $12.25. Still, the visit was well worth the price.
There were several highlights to the zoo. One of the first was the Kaziranga Forest Trail that provides access to the elephants. Our timing was pretty good here as the last of the rain showers hit when we were on this trail and the large overhanging leaves of the forest plants provided much needed shelter…and we were not the only folks hiding under these leaves!
I think my favorite area was the African Savanna with the Giraffes, Zebras, Scimitar-horned Oryx, ostriches and white rhinos. This is a very large, open area that gives the animals a lot of room to roam along with great viewing opportunities from the trail along the edge of the savanna. It was obviously dinner time when we arrived so the animals were milling about waiting to be brought in and fed, so we saw plenty of activity. The rhinos had the far end of the savanna to themselves. There was one calf in the group and it was just adorable and quite spunky. The little guy was running about and trying to get the adults to play, generally to no avail. At one point he must agitated one of his aunts a bit too much as she was getting ready to put the kid in his place. In comes mom who went nose-to-nose with auntie and backed her down. Just a very interesting set of interactions.
The Gorilla Rainforest was a truly remarkable habitat for these huge apes. Probably the best such enclosure that I have seen in any zoo. We later saw the old gorilla enclosure which was pretty good in its own right. The big cats and the wolves all had good size enclosures that provided room for the animals and good viewing opportunities. We were also lucky to see the otters frolicking in their pen. The bonus was the wild birds around the water features, most of which we did see later in the tour in natural habitats, but here we had a great opportunity for better views and unobstructed photos. I got some nice shots of a Grey Heron, Coots and Little Grebes.
Our last stop was at the Meerkat restaurant just for a drink and a rest. We watched the meerkats for a while, finished our water and started the trek back to the Belvedere.
We meandered through the park a bit more, generally heading toward the exit and then retraced our steps along the north side of the River Liffy. There was again rain in the area, but we were always under sunny skies, so I told Lynn to watch out for a rainbow as we might find the pot of gold. Sure enough, there was a magnificent rainbow arching over the river. I think the best view of it would have been from one of the bridges, but unfortunately we were between the bridges and on the wrong side of the street, so by the time I got near a better vantage point the rainbow was fading. Still it was a nice sight to see.
We found the Winding Stair restaurant, per Keith’s suggestion, but the menu just did not appeal to us; besides it was too early for dinner. We cut through the farmers market then back over to O’Connell Street. Lot’s of folks out an about this afternoon. Maureen was right, even though the temperature was only in the upper 60s, since the sun was out there was a lot of skin showing, particularly on the young women. As a dirty old man in training, I approve! We also took the long way around Parnell Square as I wanted to try and get a few photos of the colorful doors that we had seen this morning during the bus tour. There were many red doors, but also a few in blue, green and even purple. Many were also further decorated with brass handles, knockers and mail slots. Finally back home, we hit the bar at the Belvedere for a beer; the Guinness was better tonight.
For dinner we tried Murray’s which is just around the corner from the Belvedere on O’Connell Street. We went there based on the recommendation from Mike and Lynne. It was an excellent choice. Lynn said she has a new favorite with the grilled shrimp, even with beets in the mix (she hates beets).
I had the fish and chips. I think this was the best presentation I’ve even seen for that dish. Did I mention that the “plates” were slabs of slate? So the slab of slate, a pool of a tartar sauce sort of dressing, two very nice pieces of breaded cod with cherry tomato halves over the top. The presentation was very appetizing and more importantly it tasted great (not necessarily the best fish and chips I have had, but still very good). The service started out great but petered out as there were only two servers for the whole place, and the joint was packed. But they kept up pretty well, so it was not too big of a deal. We split the brownie for dessert. A definite return date is needed here!
Quite a busy day jaunting around Dublin. We saw a lot and learned a lot. Here are some additional photos from our tours. The map below shows the route that we walked (best that I can remember), plus a few of the places that we saw during the morning driving tour (no way that I could remember all the twists and turns that Peirce and Maureen took us through!). I figured that we walked about 7.2 miles, including the path through the zoo. A very nice urban hike.
We were back in the bar at the Belvedere at 9:00 for a good-night beer. A few of others from the tour were also there. Then it was up to bed and “Die Hard” on the telly. Yippee-Ki-Yay!
Day 4, Sunday, June 23rd - On the Road to Cashel and Cork
Today is our first real day on the bus. Up at 0600, breakfast at 0700 and on the road at 0830. We had a three-hour drive to Cashel, so no time to dilly-dally. It was a pretty drive overall although generally an overcast morning. Pierce kept us entertained with the history of the places we passed. As we drove out of Dublin we went by the Kilmainham Gaol, were the leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising were imprisoned and some executed. Once out in the country, we saw many old ruins of castles and related structures, including many round towers. We also saw a few stud farms.
Here are a few of the other tidbits that we saw and heard about on the way to Cashel:
Roadside Sculpture: It seems that as Ireland was expanding their road system, that there was a government mandate that a fraction of road-building budgets should be devoted to the placing of art pieces along the roadside. Nice idea, as long as there are funds for it, and it seems that this practice started back when Ireland was eating high on the hog (not so much at present). We saw one interesting piece of art as we were leaving Dublin called “Perpetual Motion." It is a 30-foot diameter sphere plastered with the directional arrows that are painted on the road surface. There were several others that we passed; Pierce pointed them out throughout the trip. Occasionally there is one in the center of a roundabout, and if convenient, Pierce would just take a lap around it to give everyone a good look. He said that it might give the other drivers a bit of a head-scratch trying to figure out why we were driving circles in the roundabout, but that they would get over it.
Fairy Circle: A fairy ring is any free-standing circle of trees. In Ireland, most farmers will not cut them down even when they take up valuable space in a field. There is generally a mound in the center of the ring, probably the remnants of an old dwelling.
Devil’s Bite: Pierce pointed out a very prominent gap in the ridge line to the north. The legend goes that this gap was formed when the Devil took a bite out of the mountain and spat the rock at a Christian leader. The rock missed its mark and is now the Rock of Cashel.
Pierce also started to give us some of the history of Ireland. The island is divided into four provinces: Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht. We just came from Leinster and were heading into Munster for the next couple of days. There are also 32 counties in Ireland. Six counties are in Northern Ireland and 28 are in the Republic of Ireland. More on that later.
Since our destination today was in County Tipperary, Pierce gave us his rendition of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” He has a fine singing voice! And it seems that several folks on the bus were also very musically inclined as well (as I later learned, a few of the folks are affiliated with the music department of Baldwin Wallace College). Lynn and I sat silently and enjoyed the serenade, as neither of us can carry a tune in a bucket. Pierce rolled from “Tipperary” into “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile” and the bus just kept singing as well.
We arrived at the Rock of Cashel on schedule at 11:30. Pierce parked the bus as close as he could to the entrance; it was a short but uphill walk to the entrance. This was the first of many action packed visits during the trip as we were to tour the ruins then head into town to find some lunch and be back to the bus for a 2:15 departure; a lot to do in a little less than three hours. Again, busy, busy, busy! While we were unloading, he sorted our admission and alerted our guide. It was an overcast and blustery day. OK, let’s be real, the wind during the tour was brutal! But our guide, an older gentleman who had a lot of knowledge of the old church, did a wonderful job of finding the quiet corners out of the wind so that we at least had a chance of hearing. It was also a good thing that we donned our rain slickers as we exited the bus, as we did have a shower to two pass by and there was no roof on the old church!
Here’s some of the history of the Rock of Cashel that we got from Pierce and the Cashel tour guide:
The tour sort of ended at the College of St. Patrick. Our guide escorted most of the group out through the museum, but Lynn and I headed back out to the grounds to get some more photos of the ruins and the countryside. We caught a bit of a break with the weather as it seemed to be clearing, and got a few interesting shots of the ruins and cemetery markers with at least some blue sky in the background.
Next we headed to the little town of Cashel for a look around and to find some lunch. We took the “long way” to town, not that it was very long. But we had zero luck in finding a pub in which to eat. The first place was full, the second was closed and the third that we tried did not start serving for another hour which was not going to fit the schedule. If we had gotten into one of the pubs, I would have been looking for soup to fight the chill in the air. We strolled the streets of Cashel for a bit – sort of the postcard image of an Irish village. Also by this time it was pouring, so we found some shelter in a covered alley way and discussed our options. Since Pierce had given us a quick drive through tour of the village before doubling back to the Rock, we knew that we were close to the grocery store and as neither of us were that hungry; we opted to see what kind of snack food they might have. Let’s check out Irish trail mix.
So we found the market and the snack aisle. No trail mix that looked interesting, but we did find a couple varieties of chocolate covered nuts and raisins. So we bought our snacks and some water and headed back out to explore the town. It was still raining, with an occasional downpour. But we stayed mostly dry between our rain gear and finding the odd overhang or covered alley. We eventually just made our way back to the Rock via the shortcut called the Bishop’s Walk. By the time we had returned to the parking lot, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Where was this an hour ago when we really needed it?
We still had some time before we had to be back on the bus. So we walked down to Granny’s Kitchen (a local eatery at the base of the Rock) and found a nice view over the Irish countryside. Then we sat on a wall along the parking lot and enjoyed our munchies. There were several Blackbirds flitting around the area. Then it was time to saddle up; we were back on the road per schedule at 2:15.
Our next destination is the seaport town of Cobh (rhymes with “cove”). We had about an hour and a half drive through the Irish countryside to reach Cork Harbor and the scenic little town. There was on-and-off rain during this stretch of the drive; Pierce described this as “spitty-spotty” rain. But by the time we arrived at Cobh, it was a beautiful blue-sky day.
Now before we get to the details of our time in Cobh, there were a couple points of interest from the drive to the coast. We drove by the Fota Wild Animal Park which sounds like the Irish version of San Diego Zoo Safari Park or The Wilds near Columbus. Pierce indicated that Fota is well known for their Cheetah breeding program. Lynn and I would have certainly enjoyed a few hours at Fota, but it was not on the schedule. Maybe next trip.
The other site was one from the history books as we passed another interesting ruin, this one a squat, round stone structure that Pierce explained was a Martello Tower. These towers were built throughout Ireland in the early 1800s as part of a defense against an expected invasion by Napoleon. The thought was that Napoleon would first invade Ireland and use this as a backdoor route to invading England. The towers were built as small forts, where about 40 feet high and mounted a single heavy piece of artillery. We ended up seeing a few others during our tour along the island’s coastal areas.
As we got closer to Cobh, Pierce started to fill us in on the plan for the visit, along with a little bit of history. The first set of factoids dealt with the name of the port which was first called "Cove" ("The Cove of Cork") in 1750. It was renamed "Queenstown" in 1850 to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria. This remained the town's name until 1920, when it was renamed Cobh. The next thing was to hope that there were no cruise ships in the harbor, as that would mean a potentially crowded situation for touring. Cobh is cruise ship central for Ireland with 80,000-plus passengers arriving here annually. Fortunately for us, there were no ships in the harbor today.
The main attraction for our visit was to be the Cobh Heritage Center, a museum that focuses on the seaport’s ties to emigration, the Titanic and the Lusitania…all sort of sad tales when you get right down to it. As we did not have a lot of time for Cobh, the thought was that most of that time would be spent at the Heritage Center, but Pierce encouraged the group to take a walk into town to see the other memorials and to enjoy the scenic little berg. But we would have to work fast as we had less than two hours in Cobh.
We arrived at the Heritage Center about a 3:45 and Pierce got our tickets sorted and we were off. I started over at water’s edge just taking in the views and got a photo of the statue of Annie Moore and her brothers. Annie was the first person to be admitted to the United States through the new immigration center at Ellis Island, New York on January 1, 1892. She and her brothers spent 12 days in steerage of the SS Nevada before arriving in America.
The Heritage Center was quite an interesting set of exhibits. I found it much more interesting that I thought I would based on first impressions. There was a great mix of topics and information. Here are the highlights:
Since we wanted some time to walk to the town of Cobh, we did not every detail of the exhibits in the Heritage Center, but I think we covered it in sufficient detail. It would have been nice to have had more time in Cobh, not only for the Heritage Center but also to look around town and check out some of the other historical attractions. This was one of the very few times during the time that we were a little squeezed for time, but still it was a good visit. We just walked down the main drag of Cobh and enjoyed the brightly colored boats and buildings. No real time for checking out the stores (many were closed since it was late afternoon on Sunday), but we got some nice photos of the colorful town. In fact the three photos arrayed here are some of my favorites from the entire trip.
While in Cobh we saw the monuments to the Titanic and the Lusitania. I realized after our return while creating this trip report that I missed one of the photo ops that I was hoping to get, the shot of the row of colorful houses with the cathedral in the background. I’m not sure that we really had time to fine the vantage point for that shot as it was up on the hill above Cobh (walking distance from where we were, but still we would have had to do some exploration to get the right vista). Oh, well, just another reason to return to the Emerald Isle..
Once back at the Heritage Center, we climbed the steps to the Cobh Museum, not that we had time to visit…beside the fact that it was closed. But we did get a nice view across the harbor from this elevated position.
Then it was on into Cork for the night. Just a short time, maybe 30 minutes on the bus as we drove along the River Lee enjoying the ever changing scenery. Much more of an industrial setting along the river. Once in Cork, Pierce called an audible and took advantage of the relative quite to complete our driving tour of the city. This tour was originally scheduled for tomorrow morning but Pierce snuck it in this evening to avoid the traffic on Monday morning and thus to get us on the road sooner to Blarney. Good thinking. Pierce pointed out the government buildings and sites of historic interest plus drove us through the main shopping area of the city. I guess I was getting tired by this point as I have no notes from the tour, but we did get a nice overview of the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland. We arrived at the hotel Maldron about 6:00.
Check in was again easy as Pierce and YMT had all the details covered. The hardest part was actually finding our room as the hotel was a bit of a rabbit warren, as Lynn put it. Just a maze of halls and corridors. But we finally figured it out and once we had the secret it was not problem (see, we were taking the stairs, rather than the elevator in the hotels, and to get to the section of the hotel where our room was, we had to cut through the game room on the first floor (second floor to us in the US since in Ireland the ground level was Lobby or Ground and the higher levels where numbered starting with 1. Just one of those little differences to figure out when on travel). The room was very nice, as was the hotel in general, although it was a little plain. But the room was ample size, clean and had a king bed. The bonus was the wonderful view of the city that we had from our room.
After the ordeal of finding the room, we dumped our stuff and headed back downstairs to the bar for a pre-dinner beer. We tried the local stout, Beamish, which I thought had a bit more flavor than the Guinness we had been drinking. I asked about local craft brews, IPAs specifically, but the bartender just looked at me like I had two heads. I’m beginning for worry that I will not find a really good beer on this island. I know they're out there; we must not be going to the right places.
Another group dinner this evening. We sat with Mike and Lynne. Again a home run on the meal; fruit for an appetizer, then roast pork with mashed tators and peas and carrots, and finally a nice piece of apple pie for dessert. While the beer has been a bit of a letdown, the food has been a outstanding.
After dinner we took a short walk down to the city. By this time on a Sunday most everything was closed except for a few pubs and restaurants. We just did a loop through the shopping/business area in the city but also walked up the hill passed the hotel to see the cultural center, the Firkin Crane. The Cork Butter Museum was also at the top of the hill plus we saw the clock tower of St. Anne’s Church.
Back at the hotel we had one more Beamish in the lobby bar, then headed off to bed. The movie tonight was “Two Weeks Notice” a chick-flick comedy with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. Not exactly my idea of a good time, but better than nothing. Fortunately the wifi was working in the room, so I entertained myself with the phone and knocked out a few emails and I caught up on my journal to document another fine day of touring through Ireland. Speaking of a fine day in Ireland, here are some more photos from Day 4.
Day 5, Monday, June 24th - Blarney Castle and Muckross House
Up at 6:00 and down to Breakfast at 7:00. Same fare as at the Belvedere, except that the eggs were way underdone…I don’t like runny scrambled eggs. So I went with an old standard and made a ham (bacon) sandwich and had some fruit. We ate with Brendan, very nice young lad. I complimented him on the driving cap as it was quite appropriate for this trip. I’ll have to keep a lookout for one of those; that could be my souvenir from Ireland.
We were on the road at 0900 heading for Blarney Castle. The weather was perfect. Getting there early put us ahead of the crowds. Brilliant! As we arrived at Blarney, Pierce gave us the rundown for the day and also mentioned that in the past the tour included a horse drawn trap ride from Killarney to Muckross House, but that this was dropped as a standard feature due to the chance of bad weather (if it rains, you will get soaked, and that would be a bad thing). But since the weather is ideal today, we have the option of taking the buggy ride, at an additional cost of 13 Euro per person. The entire bus opted in! Pierce made the arrangements while we were touring Blarney. So when we got to Killarney, there were five jaunting cars waiting for us. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Back to Blarney Castle.
This place is SO much more than the Blarney Stone. The castle is the centerpiece, but the grounds and gardens are beautiful and varied and worth the time to explore. Pierce’s plan of getting us to Blarney early paid off as there were no other buses in the lot when we arrived, so we had a relaxed and very uncrowded tour of the area. We were walking through the main entrance just before 9:30 and we had about 2 and a half hours to see the castle, tour the grounds, check out the wool outlet and get lunch. What was it Pierce said? Oh yeah…”Busy, busy, busy!”
Our first stop was the castle. It is a lovely walk from the entrance to the castle; this gave us our first glimpse of the wonderful grounds. We did make the climb up the 125 steps of the narrow, spiral stairs to the top of the 90-foot-high castle keep, but only for the views as we did not kiss the Blarney Stone. Not that I was going to kiss it anyway, but seeing how you had to position yourself, laying down and sort of hanging backward over the edge, well I knew that this was not for me and my concern of edges and steep drops. As we climbed up and back down the narrow, winding stairs, we stopped and explored all the levels and chambers that we could access. This is a ruin site, so the main part of the castle is completely open as the wooden beams and floors are all missing. But that provides an interesting perspective. The views from the top of the ruins were excellent and provide a 360-degree vista over the grounds and beyond.
A little background on the castle. The current Blarney Castle is the third built on this site. The first was an all wooden structure that was built during the 10th century. A stone building replaced this wooden structure around 1210 AD. The current castle was built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster. The keep of this third castle is still standing.
The castle was fought over and changed hands many times during its history. The castle and lands were purchased in the early 1700s by Sir James St. John Jefferyes, then Governor of Cork City. The Jeffereys built a mansion near the keep but it was destroyed by fire. A replacement was built in 1874, known as Blarney House. The house is not open to the public but you can walk right past the grand baronial mansion as you tour the grounds. The Colthurst family, who joined with the Jeffereys family through marriage in the mid-19th century still live in Blarney House.
Back to our tour…after descending from the parapet of the castle, with additional stops to check out the nooks and crannies of the keep, we checked the map and walked part of the grounds. We knew we did not have time for the longer trails and Lynn wanted to see the Rock Close, so we just cut through the arboretum, over to the Blarney House for a quick look, then back along the trail to the Walled Kitchen Garden and around along the pastures and the lake and finally to the Rock Close. There was a lot of variety throughout our abbreviated walk of the grounds.
Beyond Blarney House we came upon a set of HUGE shrubbery. Turns out they were rhododendron and they were absolutely the largest I had ever seen. The main branches on some of these plants were 6 or 8 inches in diameter and they towered probably 25 feet or more. Just simply ginormous! We’ll revisit rhododendron later in the tour.
Once we were out past Blarney House we had the trails almost to ourselves. The only folks we saw were the kids, Brendan and Hannah. We sort of leap-frogged each other along the trails until we got past the lake where they were out in front for the rest of the walk.
The walk through the grounds and gardens provided some good opportunities for seeing critters, both domestic and wildlife. There were a few cows out grazing in the large field behind the Walled Garden, that added to the bucolic imagery of the area. As we came around the lake to the other side of the pasture we saw some horses, including one mare with a foal. A sign on the fence told us that the mare was Colleen, one of the prize mares in the stable.
The grounds held a fair number of birds. Most of the songbirds were to jittery to get a good look, but I did get a couple good photos of Robins. There were also Rock Pigeons and the ever present Jackdaws. Over on the lake we spotted some Coots and a family of Mute Swans with several very fluffy cygnets. I think the only mammal we saw was a hare in the horse pasture....Colleen did not seem to mind sharing the space. We also spied the only butterfly of the trip, a Specked Wood flitting about near the lake shore.
Once past the horse pasture we came upon a very nice area of flower beds along the edge of the stable yard, and then we started down the trail for the Rock Close and Water Garden. This area is said to be the site of an old druidic settlement and therefore has mystical elements to it. I found it had a bit of a whimsical feel to it, but it certainly made for a lovely walk. The markers along the trail pointed out the key features. The story on the “Wishing Steps” is that if you walk the steps backwards with your eyes closed your wish will be granted. Yeah, I was not going to let “Grace” try that one! We walked most of the trails, but stopped at the Druid Circle rather than taking the Woodland Walk as we were getting short on time.
We continued on the main walkway past the flower beds and the stable yard before looping down to the bridge for an interesting view of the ruins then back past the castle and along the trail that took us back toward the entrance. A couple final photos of the ruins of Blarney Castle and then it was off to get some lunch.
Back at the shop area. Lynn went to the wool outlet and I went to get us some lunch. I bought us a sandwich and chips, I mean crisps, and a chocolate muffin, all to share and met her at a picnic table near the bus. The food was excellent. Most of the rest of the group was also congregating in the area, several of them also finishing their picnics, as it was just about time to mount up and head out.
I'll admit that I was a little concerned about the visit to Blarney Castle as I feared it would just be tourist trap that focused on kissing the stone. The little bit of research that I did prior to the trip mostly alleviated those fears, but there was still that little bit of doubt. However, after visiting the castle, touring the grounds and even seeing the adjacent commercial area, I must say that I was impressed. This is a well done and well run attraction. Yeah, it has some touristy attributes, but on the whole I found that Blarney Castle and the grounds and gardens made for a great visit. It is one of many highlights for the trip.
We had a short, scenic drive between Blarney and Killarney, just cruising through the Irish countryside. Pierce indicated that there is a Cadbury chocolate factory in the area as we were nearing Killarney (I later figured out that the plant is in Rathmore which is on the next road north). He said that often you can get a whiff of the chocolate, but there were no olfactory cues today. Pierce then went on to describe the Dairy Milk chocolate bars that Cadbury makes; more milk is used so they have a creamier consistency compared to a Hershey bar. Well, I’m sold. We are now searching for chocolate!
The weather as we pulled into Killarney was still gorgeous; warm and mostly sunny skies, so we were in good shape for the jaunting car ride. Sure enough, when we got to the center of town, there were five horse-drawn carts waiting for us. After a quick rest break, the gang started getting loaded up for the ride into the park.
Lynn and I got lucky in that we got to ride shotgun, sitting in the front on the bench with the driver with six of the ladies riding in the back of the car. Jerry was our driver and Tom was our horsepower (Tom and Jerry, get it?). Jerry’s shtick was that he is looking for a wife and was hitting on the ladies, particularly Betsy. It was a hilarious exchange, particularly when Betsy called Jerry “Tom” then the wedding was off. Then Jerry picked a flower for Betsy, so we figured he was trying to rekindle the romance. After he gave her the bouquet he said that it was poison. We were laughing all the way!
I reckon it was about a 4 mile ride from Killarney to Muckross House. The jaunting car was a nice change of pace for getting around. The route was scenic but the skies were getting more overcast so there were no great photos of the lake. The drive in was only about 30 minutes, including a couple short stops for photos, so we still had almost a half-hour before our tour of the house which gave us some time to look around the grounds and garden. Lynn and I used the time to walk around the flower gardens then down to the lake. This looks to be a pretty popular place as there were many folks out playing, picnicking and just enjoying the nice day on the open lawn area between the house and the lake.
At 3:30 we gathered for the tour of the house and were introduced to our guide, Sinéad. Lovely young lady; long dark hair, blue, blue eyes, erect, professional yet approachably friendly, and quite charming. And her voice (I can’t say accent as I was in her country), well, let’s just say I could have spent all day just listening to her read the dictionary. Oh yeah, we’re touring the house…almost forgot.
So the tour took about an hour, but we got to see a lot of the house. No photos were allowed except in one room, but that is understandable. Sinéad did a wonderful job of describing the history and simultaneously herding the cats.
Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colorist Mary Balfour Herbert. This was actually the fourth house that successive generations of the Herbert family had occupied at Muckross over a period of almost two hundred years. William Burn, the well-known Scottish architect, was responsible for its design. Building commenced in 1839 and was completed in 1843.
Queen Victoria visited in 1861. This basically bankrupted the family and they had to sell out by 1899. The visit was known about six years in advance and there was a lot of planning and building that took place for the event. The Queen’s visit was only four nights, although some say it was less, maybe two nights or it could have been that she did not stay at the house at all. Some furniture was built especially for the visit and a couple pieces took three years to build. We later learned from Pierce on the drive back from The Ring of Kerry that a church and the road up the mountain to the church and overlooks were built for the visit. It seems that all this expense was so that the Queen would give the Henry Arthur Herbert a title. But Prince Albert died shortly after the visit and the Queen went into mourning and forgot all about the title. So this was all for naught.
One of the last stops on the tour was the wool spinning demonstration and shop. We went back there after the tour so that Lynn could get a scarf and I bought a driving hat which I wore most of the rest of the trip.
We still had a little time to wander around before convening back at the bus at 5:15. Then it was on to the hotel, just 15 minutes away. On the drive from the park to town we saw two nice size herds of Red Deer in the fields adjacent to the road, but we were moving too quick for a photo. We arrived at the Killarney Oaks about 5:30 and were quickly settled in and in the bar shortly afterward. Murphy’s was the local stout, so we had that. Not bad. These folks did not have any hoppy beer either. The best I could do was Smithwick’s. Remember, that’s pronounced “Smiddick’s”; you don’t want to sound like a tourist now do you?
We sat in the bar with Nikki and Jack and Sean and Mary. We also sat with Nikki and Jack for dinner and had another drink in the bar with them afterward. Still an early night as we were back in the room by 9:20. It would still be light for a couple hours, but we would be out before the sun went down.
Another good day of touring. We saw a lot in beautiful scenery, got to investigate some great history of the area and also saw some wildlife. This bus tour gig is really working out well. Here are the rest of the photos from Day 5.
So that's the first five days of our trip. Our tour of Ireland continues here.