An Irish Christmas and a central counties road trip

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December 23rd 2010
Published: January 30th 2011
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Snow has been falling in Dublin constantly for the last 5 hours. It’s now 9:30pm and we’ve been stuck in gridlocked traffic at the N7 motorway junction trying to get out of the city for more than an hour. About two inches of the white stuff has settled on the road around us and what looks close to ten inches worth is on the footpath. And as we sit here the snow keeps on coming...

Lachlan’s never driven in conditions like this before and the 30 minutes which it took us to get here was quite fun to say the least. First gear results in wheel spin and no motion, so it’s off limits, and the brakes result in instant sideways action, so they’re off limits too.

We must admit it looked very Christmasy as we strolled around the city centre earlier today. It also provided a scenic white blanket over Dublin’s rooftops which we could see from the top of the Guinness Storehouse when we there this morning, but now, we’re not fans. Sal and Andrew’s flight into Dublin has been cancelled (because Dublin airport has closed), and we’ve got some real concerns as to how long it
Nell's FarmNell's FarmNell's Farm

The Dairy and old farmhouse
is really going to take us to drive to County Waterford tonight - considering that our average speed on the motorway so far has been only 20 km/hr.

To our relief we eventually start moving and begin creeping our way along the N7, heading south. The amount of snow is most evident on the roadside pine trees - their branches are sagging so much under the additional weight that they look positively strained. We feel that their branches must be about to break at any moment.

After an hour or so, the snow starts to thin and another half an hour later, all evidence of fresh snowfall disappears. Thank goodness. Now travelling along at an unprecedented 120 km/hr we make good progress south and we’ve had a phone call from Sal and Andrew letting us know that they’ve managed to get flights into Belfast tomorrow morning. Things are looking up.

The place we’ve booked for Christmas is a farmhouse on a working dairy just outside the town of Carrick-on-Suir in County Waterford. We arrive just after midnight and we’re met with famous Irish hospitality by Gerry (one of the owners) who shows us to our accommodation. We’re knackered but the open fire is going, so we pour ourselves a short sherry to enjoy in front of the crackling logs before crashing out.

When we wake in the morning we get the chance to have a really good look around Nell’s Farm. It is idyllic. Our fam house is cosy, the surrounding fields are covered in a thick frost and over the top of the dairy, the snow dusted Comeragh mountains are exceptionally close. Fantastic.

We pass Christmas eve by preparing some of the dishes for tomorrow’s dinner before driving into Waterford to pick Sal and Andrew up from the train station. A day later than planned, they’ve arrived and we couldn’t be happier to see them!

Christmas day starts late and Lachlan spends a good portion of the morning getting the fire roaring. As he does so, Ariana and Sal prepare a fantastic meal of duck, roasted parsnips, potatoes, shallots, pork and apple stuffing balls, and bean salad followed by trifle and pud. Ahh yum!

Boxing day (or St Steven’s day as it’s called in Ireland) passes without us even really going outside, although the next morning we’re up and prepared for a road trip. From Nell’s farm we head to Cashel where we spend a couple of hours exploring the fortified monastic ruins of Rock of Cashel.

From Cashel we head towards Kilkenny and Lachlan has the bright idea that we can just take single lane country roads without needing to backtrack along the main highways. The idea has merit until we miss one of the signposted turns and spend an hour driving around lost.

Luckily we recover and arriving into Kilkenny we park in the city centre and pop into the first cosy looking pub we see for lunch. It’s Sal and Andrew’s first pub stop of the trip so far, so we can’t pass up the chance to order some of Ireland’s famous drinks - Kilkenny (a staple of all Irish Pubs back home, but surprisingly rare in Europe), Guinness, and Bulmers Irish cider. Gotta love Christmas. After our meals we spend the next couple of hours pottering up and down the little cobblestone streets of Kilkenny city centre.

The next morning is our last at Nell’s Farm so we drop Sal and Andrew back at the train station in Waterford before turning around and heading west. Our aim is to make it to just outside Galway by night fall and from the map it only looks like a three hour drive along the main highways... so lots of opportunities for detours.

It takes Lachlan about an hour of driving before the highway becomes void of interest and he takes a left following a brown sign saying ‘scenic route’. Immediately we’re on a narrow one-and-a-half lane road which winds its way up out of the valley floor and along the base of the mountains. Assisted by some good directions from super friendly locals (the Irish are fantastic!) we really do enjoy following a series of quiet back roads into Tipperary.

Back on the highway we keep going west, skirting the edge of Limerick before turning off south near Ennis. Once we make it to County Clare’s Atlantic coast we follow it north west and the next three hours takes us past the Cliffs of Mohair and through the spectacular rocky coastal landscape that is the Burren. It’s well and truly dark by the time we reach the small town of Oranmore - just outside Galway - where we are staying the next two nights, and
Connemara   Connemara   Connemara

Dramatic in the winter...
after checking in to the B&B, we head to the local pub for a dinner.

The next morning we head down for breakfast at the B&B and have a lovely chat to the other guests - a middle aged pair of Belgians and a pair of photographers from Dublin. When we’re discussing what we should be doing today - given that the forecast is for almost constant rain - the Irish lads suggest that Connemara looks its best when it is wet.

So that’s our plan for the day sorted. We head into Galway city in the morning for a quick look around and then after a lunch of fish’n’chips we head off north towards Connemara. Initially we do a little loop through some of the countryside which we saw when we were over in the summer but then from Clifden we follow the coast south (back towards Galway). This is an area which we hadn’t seen previously and we’re impressed at how the rocky peaty countryside rolls its way down to sandy golden beaches. It really is quite stunning.

The next day is our last in Ireland and so from Oranmore we head back towards Dublin stopping off along the way to check out the famed monastic ruins at Clonmacnoise.

On the banks of the river Shannon, right in the heart of Ireland, Clonmacnoise was a Christian holy site founded in the six century. The place was raided by just about every invader (Vikings, Normans, Aglo-Normans) and even other Irish powers, and by the time the English trashed it in the 15th century - it never really recovered. With such a turbulent history it’s easy to understand the fashion for fortified monasteries - like that at Cashel which we’d seen a couple of days earlier.

With our rental car being due back at Dublin airport at 4:00pm we leave Clonmacnoise and get ourselves on the motorway heading east. We’ve got about two hours before we need to be at the airport and we try to pack in one more site. New Grange is a neolithic (neolithic = 5000 years old!) burial tomb just north of Dublin and we are very keen to try and pack in a quick visit before dropping off the car... but the last tour of the day doesn’t get back to the visitor’s centre until 4:30pm. So close, yet so far.

A little bit disappointed (just a little...) we jump back in the car and head down the motorway to Dublin. It’s our third holiday in Ireland and we must admit that the country never disappoints. It is true that it is a little expensive, but the people are pretty much the friendliest on earth and there is no shortage of great things to see and do.

As we sit on our RyanAir flight home to the Midlands we’re already planning what we could do if/when we come back.....


30th January 2011

'...what we could do if/when we come back.....'
What about a weekend in Paris ;-)
22nd February 2011

Love Ireland!
That's about all I have to say.....gee I love Ireland. Jealous you've been there 3 times!

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