Ireland and England Day 10

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Europe » Ireland
September 16th 2011
Published: October 5th 2011
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Day Ten: Nenagh, County Tipperary , to County CLare

After our day of cow pasture trekking and ring fort and church discovery, we awake to soreness of leg, hip, knee, and ankle. John was wearing shorts, of course, for our adventure and the scratches on his legs from trying to dive through the hedge are a mess. We make our bleary way down for breakfast and meet another couple from the US. We compare “Driving in Ireland” horror stories—John’s attempts at christening as many Kennedy Memorial Kerbs with the tires and wheel rims as possible, the other gentleman’s amazing record of blowing out a tyre only 15 minutes after picking up the car. We wives commiserate on the state of our stressed out and permanently hunched up left shoulders as hedge, trees, posts, and pedestrians come whizzing by so close to our windows. With all of this talk of difficulty, we decide that we won’t make a repeat of yesterday; there will be no search for the Kennedy Castle that was just “ a lane” away from yesterday’s site. Hmmm, really?…but we were so close….and we are in Ireland…..and when will we get the chance to try to find it again? We talk ourselves into a compromise. We will just drive in as far as the lane lasts and see how difficult the hike will be. And this is how difficult it is: drive right up to the castle and park. Someone has even put flags up outside—one for a football (soccer) team.

When the Vikings invaded Ireland, most farm holdings built castle keeps. They were not at all like the castles of fairy tales and knights in shining armour, but round towers built for defense against invaders. They would also be used to receive and house guests when not under siege. And we have found it: The Kennedy Castle Keep. Sadly the underbrush is far too deep to get close, but we have found it. There is a creek that babbles away to the left of the castle so picturesque that we are sure that it has been featured in a film. It is a lovely spot and we briefly entertain notions of trying to buy the land.

We drive on to our next stop; The Grange Stone Circle. We find it just along the side of the road: ancient and majestic, an obvious predecessor to the Neolithic sites we will be seeing as our travels unwind. We continue on towards Doolin in a We-Found-the–Castle and The Grange Stone Circle glow.

It is devilishly windy and cold as we arrive at The Cliffs of Mohr. John is debating whether he should wear his cap and then we watch a man have his hat lifted off his head and sent across the road into traffic. No cap—good idea. I am wishing that I had put on my long johns under my jeans and could remember where my gloves were packed. The cliffs are just that: Cliffs. But they are sheer and steep and battered by the North Atlantic. As it turns out, the wind makes for impressive pictures. Up at Brian’s Tower, which was built in the 1800’s, the winds come through at gale force speed. Groups of teenagers are making the most of it and posing for hilarious group photos. Everyone is sharing cameras so that they can get group photos. It is impressive beauty and hilarity all mixed into one.

We wander down County Clare’s western coast a short distance to Doolin, the self-proclaimed Tin Whistle capital of the world. The landscape here is brutally beautiful: so low and windswept that one would expect to find Catherine calling for her Heathcliff. We arrive at Daly’s House and we are greeted by Susan, our hostess for the evening. She is wide-eyed, charming and full of fun. Her family has owned this property for eight generations and the famous O’Connor’s Pub for five. She pours us drinks to “warm us up” from our drive and makes sure we eat some of her delicious gingersnap cookies. She also makes sure that we know that there are two sessions of traditional Irish music going on at O’Connor’s, that the shops will close soon, and that she will be happy to make us a breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon in the morning. What more can a visitor ask for?

Off we go back out into the weather to take the short walk to O’Connor’s. We stop first at the shops and marvel at how incredibly expensive everything is: $150 to $200 for a sweater, $75 to $100 for a scarf, $75 for a small bronze welcome sign in Irish. T-shirts are looking better and better.

Walking into
Driving into Doolin 1Driving into Doolin 1Driving into Doolin 1

Here's some of that rain, Bruce.
O’Connor’s Pub is like walking into a wall of sound and it is mobbed. This pub can hold an impressive 775 people and most of them are massed around the musicians. We are lucky and spy a group leaving a table in the room next to the musicians—close enough to peer in, but the tiniest bit quieter. This is fortunate because we have noticed a continual thread to Irish music performances: incredibly bad sound systems. John is looking nervous and says that we should have a drink and then try to find a place for a quieter dinner. Okay, I admit that we have walked in on a rousing sing-along, stomping, banging-the-table-with-cutlery rendition of Nancy Whiskey, but I am pretty much liking it. And, when the drink arrives, and the next song is not so rowdy, John begins to like it too. After a few calmer songs, John proposes that we stay here for dinner and it turns out to be a great choice. Whatever vitamins there are in mussels, smoked salmon, brown bread, and for me, Guinness, we are getting our fill. It is a great evening of sing along music that includes old people with wavering voices singing ballads, a dance number by one of the barkeeps, and lots more singing along, foot stomping, cutlery banging tunes. To top off the evening, we meet Frank, a recently retired gentleman from England who is hell-bent on introducing himself to everyone in the pub. We chat for 15 minutes or so, and them we hike home.

Ireland, what a great place!

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