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Ireland 2017 – Day 5

July 10th, 2017 No comments

Monday, May 8, 2017

Today takes us to many sites and quicks stops along the drive. The first of which is the Skellig Michael Experience which is just across the harbor from The Moorings. Skellig Michael is a nearby island that is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is possible to visit the island during certain times of the year and is highly dependent on weather conditions. Unfortunately, the island is not available to tourists right now due to bird nesting season. The conditions on the island are harsh – to put it mildly. But the monks persevered to build a monastery and live in isolation. On the island are 6 beehive cells, two oratories, and a church. The date of origin for the monastery is unknown but dates back to perhaps as early as the 6th century. More recently, the island is known for being the location for the filming of the last scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Here is the link for the <drive> for the day.
 

Ballycarbery Castle

The Ballycarbery Castle, dating to the 16th century, was a lot of fun as we were able to roam about and climb over the ruins. The overgrowth and the ruins provided an interesting backdrop for our pictures.

Ballycarbery CastleVicky and Jason playing peek-a-boo at the Ballycarbery Castle.
Ballycarbery CastleVicky taking a moment to relax at the Ballycarbery Castle.
Ballycarbery CastleChris sitting around at the Ballycarbery Castle.
Ballycarbery CastleChris standing tall at the Ballycarbery Castle.
Ballycarbery CastleFamily photo.
Ballycarbery CastleAnother family photo.
Ballycarbery CastleVicky exploring the castle
Ballycarbery CastleBallycarbery Castle

 

Cahergall Stone Fort

A short drive takes us to the Cahergall Stone Fort dating to roughly the 8th century. The base of the walls are 10-12 feet thick while the staircase remind me of an Escher painting. This is an excellent example of a defensive homestead that was common during this time period. The location, construction, and inner stone house all indicate this was the homestead of someone with high social status.

Cahergall Stone FortJason and Vicky at Cahergall Stone Fort
Cahergall Stone FortCenter ring at Cahergall Stone Fort

Cahergall Stone FortCahergall Stone Fort (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

Cahergall Stone FortCahergall Stone Fort (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

 

Colaiste Ide Ogham Stones

Our next stop was outside the town of Dingle on the Dingle peninsula. From Dingle you can drive the very picturesque Slea Head loop along the coastline of the peninsula. First up are the Colaiste Ide Ogham Stones. These turned out to be exceedingly difficult to find as there were not in the Garmin GPS navigation system. Fortunately I had looked up the location on my phone via Google Maps while we were at the B&B. I don’t have cell service here so it was just a stroke of luck that I had the information on the phone. I soon learned that I could download maps, locations, and driving instructions to the phone for offline use later. This saved us numerous times when the Garmin didn’t have the information we needed. Next time I need to bring my dash mount the phone so Vicky doesn’t have to hold the phone the whole time we are driving.

Colaiste Ide Ogham StonesJason and Vicky at Colaiste Ide Ogham Stones

Colaiste Ide Ogham StonesVicky at Colaiste Ide Ogham Stones

 

Fahan Beehive Huts

Down the road we stop to the Fahan Beehive Huts, also known as Caher Conor. It is unknown how old these structures are, but they are believed to date back to the 12th century. The stones are placed so that they angle slightly downward on the outside so the rain is shed, keeping the inside of the hut dry. The ring of stones grows smaller and smaller until the roof is actually enclosed.

Chris was really taken by the sheep and the baby lambs – despite the fact that they are everywhere! The owners use some type of spray paint to mark their sheep. I suppose this is better than branding since that would damage the wool production. I am not sure if the paint is just bleached out during processing.

Beehive HutsBeehive Huts (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

Beehive HutsBeehive Huts (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

Beehive HutsLamb at the Beehive Huts (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

 

Viewpoint

A stop at a viewpoint provides a spectacular view of the nearby Blasket islands and sheer cliffs dropping to the ocean below. I found the ocean particularly fascinating as I watched an iridescent blue sparkle in the waves below. I was mesmerized by the light show in front of me. When I mentioned it to the family, they all looked at me like was crazy. I pointed and they looked, but couldn’t see what I was talking about. I decided to take a picture, but when I removed my sunglasses, the blue sparkles were gone! They had been replaced with a yellow white reflection from the sun. The polarized lens on my sunglasses had been playing tricks on me. Once I realized what was happening, we passed around my sunglasses so everybody could partake in a pseudo-psychedelic moment.

ViewpointViewpoint

ViewpointViewpoint (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

ViewpointSeagull at Viewpoint (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

ViewpointShrine at Viewpoint (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

ViewpointShrine at Viewpoint (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

 

Reask Monastic Settlement

There are no building remains at the Reask Monastic Settlement other than some very low walls and a single standing stone.

Reask Monastic SettlementEric and Vicky at Reask Monastic Settlement
Reask Monastic SettlementReask Monastic Settlement

 

Gallarus Oratory

Our next stop is the Gallarus Oratory. The origins and age of the oratory are unknown. The Oratory is an impressive example of the stone corbelling that we saw in the earlier Beehive huts as each stone fits snuggly in place. There is even a small window in the back wall.

Gallarus OratoryGallarus Oratory
Gallarus OratoryGallarus Oratory
Gallarus OratoryGallarus Oratory

 

Church

The Kilmalkedar Church is a ruin of a 12th century church near the Oratory, a sundial stone sits in the cemetery outside as does an ogham stone.

ChurchChurch
ChurchChurch
ChurchChurch
ChurchCemetary Sundial

 

Sunset

We decide to head into Dingle for dinner at Lord Baker’s, which is the oldest pub in Dingle. The atmosphere is more like a nice restaurant than a pub and at 8pm we are in time for the early bird menu. This begs the question of when do things get hopping around here, after my bedtime I guess. After dinner we make our way back to the B&B where we catch a nice view of sunset – which does not occur until 9:30pm at this latitude this time of year.

SunsetSunset
SunsetSunset

Ireland 2017 – Day 4

July 9th, 2017 No comments

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The day starts off much better than yesterday with a Traditional Irish Breakfast including bacon, sausage, fried eggs, white pudding, black pudding, toast and a fried tomato. After breakfast, we settle up with our host and set off to the Blarney Castle before the tour buses showup.
Perfect timing, five minutes after opening and only a few people are in line for tickets. The skies are blue and flowers fragrance the air. The path takes us along a small stream where Vicky spots a small bird with a bright yellow chest fluttering among the brush. Other unknown birds are taking up the morning song as we walk. Upon our arrival we find that the castle is under renovation and scaffolding covers one face of the castle, but is seems we almost have the place to ourselves. As we climbed the stairs up to the top of the castle where the Blarney Stone is located, we take time to explore some of the rooms and read the descriptions indicating bedrooms and such. The castles had various surprise defenses. Yesterday we learned about “stumble steps” which were irregularities in the steps which would trip up invaders who would not be accustomed to the unexpected dips or bumps. Today we learn about “murder holes”, which are holes in the ceiling of passageways through which guards on the upper floor could pour down scalding water or pelt the invaders with stones and arrows. Arriving early worked out great as we were able to avoid the lines and be one of the first ones to visit and kiss the Blarney Stone today. Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone bestows the gift of gab, well I don’t know about that but it did seem like a fun thing to do. Approaching the stone, there is a staff member to assist with the process. You sit down with your back to the wall. Leaning backwards, you grab to bars to steady yourself and the lean way back to kiss the stone. You are now head first looking down from the top floor of the castle. The staff member holds one to you so you don’t fall through the opening. Upon closer examination there are a couple of horizontal bars that would prevent one from falling 37 feet to the ground below. I am not sure about the gift of gab, but I definitely had a head rush after kissing the stone – although I suspect I just sat up too fast.

The grounds and gardens of Blarney Castle span 60 acres. In hindsight, we should have planned an entire day here. The pathways wind through gardens and wooded area with waterfalls and interesting rock arrangements. The poison garden includes plants such as mandrake, wolfsbane, and wormwood which parents actually accidently poisoned their kids with in attempts to deworm them. We did get to spend about an hour roaming around before we needed to get in the car and drive to Killarney National Park.

Killarney is the first national park in Ireland and resulted from a land donation of the Muckross estate in 1932. The first stop in Killarney is Ross Castle where we will catch a boat ride at 12:30pm. There are several families enjoying the springtime weather and a number of boats are out on the lake for a trout fishing competition. The boat ride is a relaxing affair as the warm sun comes through the windows and irish ballads play on the radio. Vicky seems to know Too Ra Loo Ra Loo, an Irish lullaby, and yes my eyes are getting heavy. Following the boat ride, we take jaunting car tour around the grounds. The boatman says we are to meet “?” (some word which we don’t understand) up the hill. We ask him again and he spells it D-O-N-A-L-D. Oh, Donald, got it. A jaunting car is a horse drawn cart and Donald will be our driver. This wakes us up a bit as we clop clop along a wooded path spotting a herd of red deer as well as a lone doe.

Afterwards we drove to the MuckRoss House where we went on a nice hike to the Torc Waterfall. Large grass lawns have families out on picnic, with kids playing ball and chase. We spot several young ladies in beautiful white dresses celebrating their first communion. Hikers like us are on pathways by the lakes or off through the woods.

After the hike, we make the drive to The Moorings in Portmagee hoping to catch some live music. Unfortunately, the music doesn’t start until late and we are all exhausted. I’ll write more about driving later on one of our driving days. They drive on the left side of the road which adds a new twist to parallel parking. My first attempt at parallel parking was perfect – spot on! Except that I needed to move the car because I was in a no parking zone. My second attempt was quite was smooth. Oh well.

Here is the link for the <drive> for the day.

 

Blarney Castle

Jason at Blarney CastleJason at Blarney Castle.
A view of Blarney CastleA view of Blarney Castle.
Blarney CastleBlarney Castle. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)
Vicky exploring Blarney CastleVicky exploring Blarney Castle.
Vicky, Jason, and Chris exploring Blarney CastleVicky, Jason, and Chris exploring Blarney Castle.
Eric kissing the Blarney StoneEric kissing the Blarney Stone.
Vicky kissing the Blarney StoneVicky kissing the Blarney Stone.
Chris kissing the Blarney StoneChris kissing the Blarney Stone.
Blarney CastleChris kissing the Blarney Stone. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)
Jason kissing the Blarney StoneJason kissing the Blarney Stone.
Blarney HouseA view of the Blarney House from the Blarney Castle.
Blarney GardensA view of just some of the Blarney Gardens.
Blarney CastleFlowers at the Blarney Gardens. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)
Eric at Blarney CastleEric at Blarney Castle.
Eric, Chris, and Jason at Blarney CastleEric, Chris, and Jason at Blarney Castle.
Vicky, Chris, and Jason entering the Poison Garden at Blarney CastleVicky, Chris, and Jason entering the Poison Garden at Blarney Castle.
Oleander in the Poison Garden at Blarney CastleOleander in the Poison Garden at Blarney Castle.
Blarney CastleBlarney Castle.
A waterfall at the Blarney GardensA waterfall at the Blarney Gardens.
Vicky reviewing the map of the Blarney GardensVicky reviewing the map of the Blarney Gardens.
Vicky walking through an ancient rock dolmenVicky walking through an ancient rock dolmen.
Chris walking through an ancient rock dolmenChris walking through an ancient rock dolmen.
Eric, Chris, and Jason at a standing stone circle at Blarney GardensEric, Chris, and Jason at a standing stone circle at Blarney Gardens.

 

Ross Castle

Ross CastleRoss Castle.
Pride of the LakesPride of the Lakes.
Eric at Ross CastleEric at Ross Castle on a set of cantilever stairs.
Another view of Ross CastleAnother view of Ross Castle.
Chris and Vicky ready to goChris and Vicky ready to go.
Ross Castle from the boatRoss Castle from the boat.
Monastery on Innisfallen IslandMonastery on Innisfallen Island.
Vicky relaxing on the boatVicky relaxing on the boat.
Jason and Chris in the jaunting carJason and Chris in the jaunting car.
Red deer seeking shadeRed deer seeking shade.
Killarney landscapeKillarney landscape.
Lone red deerLone red deer.

 

Hike

Hike to Torc WaterfallHike to Torc Waterfall reminds me of the red woods in California.
Hike to Torc WaterfallHike to Torc Waterfall.
Rhododendron bloomRhododendron bloom.
Torc WaterfallTorc Waterfall.
Chris photographing meChris photographing me.
Chris photographing meChris’ photo of me photgraphing him. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

Chris photographing meChris photo of Mom, Dad, and Jason. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

MuckRoss HouseMuckRoss House.
The MooringsThe Moorings Bed and Breakfast

Ireland 2017 – Day 3

July 8th, 2017 No comments

Saturday, May 6, 2017 – Sometime in the middle of the night, Vicky wakes me up to tell me I am snoring. But as I am awoken, we find the snoring continues. Apparently the walls here are very thin and we can clearly hear the couple next door both snoring away. So much for a peaceful night’s sleep.

Breakfast is a bit disappointing as it was little more than a continental breakfast: toast, coffee, juice, cereal, yogurt, etc… but sadly, no hot breakfast. At least there is freshly brewed coffee, the skies are blue, and our boys are on their way to meet us.

After packing up and settling the bill, we go out to our Subaru. I walk over to the left-hand door and find the steering wheel is lacking. Ok this will get some getting used to. I turn out to the small road in front of the B&B “Stay on the left, stay on the left”. We backtrack and make our way back to Terminal 2 of the airport where we park in the rental area as directed by the rental agent the night before. This saved us a few Euros on parking.

As luck would have it, both Chris and Jason would arrive at the same terminal. However, it was taking a long time for them to clear customs as the lines were longer than what we experienced the night before. Not knowing this, Vicky was getting nervous – checking and double checking flight numbers and times against the information boards. Eventually Chris makes his appearance, tired but all smiles. We again begin our anxious wait for Jason. Finally Vicky announcing that she is going to the restroom, “they seem to bring your food in the restaurant, once you leave the table, so why not here?”. Magic or no, it did seem to work as Jason emerges from the door. Off we go to see Ireland.

Vicky is busy trying to figure out the navigation device, and I have emerged from the airport onto a super lane highway called the M1. Our navigation device is not talking to us and I am going somewhere relatively fast with lots of cars and trucks but I don’t know if it is the right way or not. I don’t want to be dumped into downtown Dublin and it appears my “Major” M1 road is coming to an end. Vicky? Vicky? Vicky hands the troublesome device off into the backseat where our capable sons can take a look at it, and she starts scanning the road signs just in time to direct me to take the M50 around central Dublin. I get in the slow lane behind a trailered boat and soon I hear the comforting voice of the navigation device.

Here is the link for the <drive> for the day.

 

Kilkenny Castle

First stop is Kilkenny Castle which was built in 1195. This castle only has three of the four walls as the east will was destroyed during the 1650 Cromwellian siege of Ireland. Parking is a challenge as there are no vacancies on the street near the castle and with the winding roads there is no simple way to just go around the block. We enter the parking lot of a grocery store which we figure is about a ten minute walk away, but there is nothing available there either. As we have already “reached our destination” the navigation device is again giving us the silent treatment, but at least we can reprogram it to take us back to the castle as we pause here in this parking lot. I make may way on the left-hand side of the street, around roundabouts, around parked cars which make the narrow streets even more narrow, back to sadly pass by the castle with no open parking places. Continuing on over a small bridge I find a pay lot which I gladly enter and find a spot. Vicky goes to get a ticket for the dash but it wants a 2 Euro coin and all we have are bills having just exchanged money. She is speaking with a couple of ladies to see if they perhaps can break her 20 when one of the ladies just gives her the coin to buy the ticket. That’s just over 2 dollars worth, wow that’s nice.

Vicky and Jason with Hurling StatueVicky and Jason posing next to the Hurling Statue.

Kilkenny CastleA view of Kilkenny Castle. The castle was inhabited by the powerful Butler family until 1967 when the castle was sold for just £50 to the Castle Restoration Committee. Originally the family surname was Walter, but the family took the Butler name reflecting their service as the Chief Butler of Ireland. This job entailed serving the kings wine. The payment for this service was that the family could take two barrels of wine from every ship that docked in Ireland. Where can I sign up?

Kilkenny CastleChris grabs a picture of Mom and Dad. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

Stone CarvingTaking a moment to look at the finer details, one can find some unique carvings.
The Long GalleryThe Long Gallery at Kilkenny Castle hosts many paintings.

Reading a storyVicky, Jason, and Chris reading about one of the paintings.

Aged glassNot sure how old the glass is, but I found the effect interesting.

 

Rock of Cashel

Next stop is the Rock of Cashel The cathedral here was built in the mid-1200s and was the home of the Archbishop. There were secret passageways behind the walls where the Archbishop could hear all the secrets of the parishioners without being seen. That certainly provided an all-knowing mystic to an already powerful man. The choir members were also quite privileged having the seal of the archbishop allowed them to obtain anything they wanted from the nearby village, but this was quickly abused and the privilege was taken away within a year. Donating enough money to the church could reward you with your face being carved into the stone pillars or archways inside the cathedral where with prayers and incense would surely guide your way to heaven. Well so it was believed. The Rock of Cashel was also a militaristic stronghold with its stone walls and tower high on the hill. Unfortunately this and the cache of valuable artifacts made it a favorable target and it became the site of a horrible massacre of Catholic forces and Cashel townspeople at the hands of the English Protestant army in the Irish Confederate Wars of 1647. Only the mayor and bishop survived by hiding in a secret room. But 364 years pass and a quiet breeze passes through the open windows as Queen Elizabeth II makes a visit to the rock in 2011. The staff here was very proud of this fact and show off photos of the event complete with snipers atop the tower.

TombAn 11th century beautifully sculpted stone sarcophagus inside Cormac’s Chapel.

Celtic Cross Traditional Celtic Cross in the graveyard at Rock of Cashel.

CathedralMid 13th century Cathedral at Rock of Cashel.

CathedralCathedral. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

Inside the CathedralRoaming around the inside of the Cathedral.

CathedralCarving. (Picture courtesy of Chris.)

MonasteryA view of the ruins of the Hore Abbey from the grounds of the Cathedral. The Cistercian order emphasized a life of manual labor and self sufficiency, a stark dichotomy to life up on the rock. However they were excellent brewmasters and the consumption of strong ale was definitely allowed.

We continue our drive to Blarney where we have accommodations at the White House B&B. The full address is: The White House, Blarney, Co Cork, Ireland. Notice there isn’t a house number or street name. Everywhere there is a small town feel, if you are in Blarney of course you know where The White House is, just ask anyone on the street. The best pub for dinner and a pint of Guinness is of course the Muskerry Arms down on the main town square. Fortunately Vicky has map and the navigation system is helpful this time.