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September 20th 2012
Published: September 20th 2012
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Ireland 2012 Blog 2 Cliffs of Mohr to Old Head

Thursday 13 Sept - set out to walk the Cliffs of Mohr in very windy, showery conditions. Luckily the showers cleared and we had lots of photographic opportunities at this beautiful place. On our previous visit to these cliffs in 2007 we had seen a lady playing the harp on the walking trail beside the cliffs. As we were driving to the cliffs, we joked about maybe seeing her again and sure enough there she was. We purchased another of her CD’s. We walked right out to the end of cliffs passed the “do not enter” sign that everyone seemed to be ignoring and took loads of photos of the breath taking views. We then headed to the visitors centre for a well-earned lunch.

In the afternoon we drove out to The Burren, one of Ireland’s famous national parks. It is a truly amazing place that is often described as having a landscape like the moon. The smooth rocks shine in the sunlight and look really spectacular. Many species of plants and ferns grow in the rock crevasses and added to this are the stone dwellings of people who
Cornerstone pubCornerstone pubCornerstone pub

Pub looked so tiny but had a lot happening inside
lived in the Burren for the past 7,000 years. There are stone villages and burial sites all over the place all helping to make it a very interesting place to visit.

Later in the evening we called in at the Corner Stone Pub in Lahinch and enjoyed the pub's craic - craic is the local Irish word that means the pub has good food, good atmosphere and good music. Three young brothers and their sister had everyone in the pub tapping, clapping and joining in with their fantastic traditional music. Then Mara sang and everyone just sat in awe of her beautiful, crystal clear voice. It was a great night and the pub finally tossed us all out at 1am. Amazingly this tiny village was still humming at 1 in the morning - the local fish and chip take-away was open with tourists and locals waiting for food to be cooked.

Friday saw us heading off to Doonbeg, a little village about an hour’s drive from our B&B to play golf on an Irish links course designed by Greg Norman. Driving there we were thinking what would he know about designing courses in Ireland – it turned out he knew quite a lot and has designed a really fantastic course and accompanying resort which has become a favourite place for American golfers.

We played with a really lovely elderly gentleman from Boston who had some very interesting business interests in the US, Ireland and Europe. He was a very good golfer but had to play with hire clubs because his clubs did not exit Irish customs as planned. The views to the green on the 1st hole really made you feel you were playing on an awesome course. Both of us played really good golf – Leanne managing to play a round 4 under her handicap (a very good score). The course views were great and we left thinking Doonbeg was a good course - challenging but fair and a good test of Irish golf.

Saturday -we farewelled Sheila at the Sea Haven B&B in Lahinch to drive to Ballybunion, a few hours down the road. We drove to Killmer to put the car on the ferry to cross the Shannon River inlet – this saved 120 kms of driving. It was nice to spend 20 minutes taking in the water views. After getting off the ferry we drove to Tralee and then headed around the Dingle Peninsula, one of Ireland's famous ring drives - the weather was so good and we had heard that the Ring of Dingle was a really beautiful drive.

Dingle was a lovely mixture of rocky slopes, steep cliffs, sea views and a visit to the bee hive shaped, stone huts of people who lived in the area about 7,000 years ago. Everywhere you go in Ireland there is so much history.

We arrived in Ballybunion very late in the afternoon and received a nice surprise - an upgrade to a lovely suite at our hotel. It was a very spacious room overlooking the 1st hole of the Cashen Course! We headed into the town of Ballybunion for dinner and quickly realised this little town was doing it tough with lots of businesses closed. There were two good places to eat but most of the locals were either in the pub or at the local fish and chip shop, smoking and drinking and looking fairly worse for wear. There was the contrasting scene of the Ballybunion Golf Club car park which was full of very expensive cars and Irish
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Irish Burren landscape with a Dolmen tombstone in the background
and America businessmen throwing around lots of money in the Pro Shop and at the bar.

Sunday - a lovely day and we had hoped to play a round of golf on Ballybunion’s number 2 course called Cashen. We were quickly told that it was member’s only day and we would not be able to play until Monday. It was so frustrating because our hotel room looked over the course and we counted 8 members out for the afternoon – what a waste of a lovely sunny day in Ireland.

Monday – tee off on the Old Championship Course at Ballybunion at 7.24am. Yes you guessed it – overnight the rain had come in and we teed off in wet conditions and it was only just light enough to play. Unfortunately the further we went the worse the rain became and we got to play a very tough links course in less than ideal weather. Somehow Graham revelled in the conditions and played his best game to date – a net 74 and a birdie on the 11th hole which had an index of 2. Leanne played a mixed bag of golf and just kept thinking how nice it would be to see this beautiful course in sunshine rather than mist and heavy rain. We then spent the afternoon drying off our clothes, shoes, golf bags, umbrellas and rain gear in front of the heater in our ‘spacious suite’. Thank goodness we had a big room!!

Tuesday – Cashen Course tee off at 8.45am. Well we spent the night trying to sleep through a howling gale and it was still blowing when we teed off. Walking to the first tee we could hardly drag the buggies up the hill – but on a positive note it was not raining!! We found it a struggle playing golf on the holes that faced into the wind but managed to hold the game together. It was like a really bad windy day at Gungahlin Lakes. The sea views were really lovely and the 40 knot winds had really whipped up the white caps on the sea. We managed very respectable golf considering the lack of sleep and tough conditions.

After the two days of golf at Ballybunion we headed further south to spend 5 nights at Kenmare on the Ring of Kerry. Our B&B hosts (Ann) was a great
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Excellent par 3 with very little green to hit
Irish lady from a family of 9 – she had a heart of gold and kept us entertained with amazing stories about growing up in a very patriotic Irish Catholic family back in the 1950’s and marrying an Englishman.

We had 2 days of golf booked at Waterville Golf Course with 9am starts both Wednesday and Thursday. Imagine our surprise when Ken (Ann’s hubby) told us it was a 90 minute drive to Waterville – while it was only 60kms it was a very windy narrow road (still a speed limit of 100kph that you could never reach). That meant a 6am wakeup and a quick breakfast.

Imagine the panic on Wednesday morning when Leanne woke up and we realised it was 7am - slept through the alarm!! We dressed so quickly, grabbed a banana and took off for Waterville in the fog and light drizzle. It was still reasonably dark and Graham drove the mighty I40 Hyundai up that road like a rally car driver!! Once we had reached Sneen (about 25kms), we realised we were making good time and we made Waterville in just over the hour – teeing off in a mixture of sunshine and sea mist.

Waterville was another great links course. We were lulled into a false sense of security by the easier front nine holes. The back nine was in the large sand dunes and was much more difficult. We both played very good golf keeping the ball in play and out of the rough. We were just starting to feel that we were learning something about playing the Irish links courses. We now also understand why Irish golfers are doing so well on the world scene. To play these really difficult Irish courses you have to be a very good golfer. Rory, Graham McDowell, Darren Clark and Pardraig Harrington have all had to develop every skill known to golf to succeed at their level on these courses.

After our first round at Waterville we decided to finish driving around the Ring of Kerry. The Ring is 170kms of narrow, windy, rough road. You have to continually avoid cars and buses on the wrong side of the road, judge the blind, single lane stone bridges and also try to find parking spots to take photos of the stunning sea views. We had planned to take a short cut over the
Ballybunion golf courseBallybunion golf courseBallybunion golf course

18the hole at Ballybunion
mountains back to Kenmare but it was so windy and narrow it would have taken much longer than continuing on the main road via Killarney - even though this added another 40kms to the trip. We arrived back in Kenmare and headed straight to Foley’s Pub for dinner – the local oysters were awesome!!

Thursday - our second day of golf at Waterville saw us play another round of good golf in dry but windy, dull weather. After golf we headed down to Skelligs where you catch the boat to the Island of Skellig Michael, an 11km boat trip. Skellig Michael is a world heritage site established in the year 450 by some amazing monks. The monks cut a staircase with 950 stairs into the cliff top on the island and built a monastery at the top. They say the stairs are still in amazingly good condition. We were too late to catch the ferry and the sea was turning quite rough – decided to give the trip a miss. On our way back to Kenmare we stopped in Sneem which is a beautiful village high up in the mountains. We found a great restaurant called Sacre Cour which catered well to Coeliacs - yummy gluten free bread and the best roast lamb we have ever tasted.

Friday - after 4 days of golf we needed a rest so we headed for the beautiful Killarney National Park. The park is wild and beautiful – there are glacial lakes set in huge slate rock formations amongst high rock covered mountains. We did a one hour walk to the Old Weir Stone Bridge built in the 1200’s, walked to the Torc Waterfall and then drove to the beautiful grounds of Muckross House. We really enjoyed the tour of Muckross House. It provided a real sense of history to visitors because the house has all its original furniture, furnishings etc – it was given to the people of Killarney by the Vincent family in the 1970’s. We finished off the visit with a bit of retail therapy in the weaving shop – just had to get a few local souvenirs to load into the suitcase.

At the end of the day we just happened to come across the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club. It turned out there was a spot free to play golf there the next day (Saturday at 11.40).

Saturday - Killarney was a fantastic golf course - it was the venue for the Irish Open in 2010 and 2011. As well as being a really good course it is also one of the most scenic courses we have every played. The beautiful fairways are set alongside lakes that are backed by mountains covered with pink and red heather.

We played with two young blokes from Killarney both were fantastic golfing partners and great fun. They told us about the difficulties of making a living in Ireland now as carpenters in the middle of a major recession. Both had limited work - only managing 3 days a week. They said that back in 2007 as carpenters they couldn’t get the work done fast enough and were working 7 days a week. Both had kids and knew lots of friends who had immigrated to Australia to work.

Sunday – left Kenmare to drive to Kinsale via the Ring of Beara. As usual the trip started out in misty rain but as we got closer to Kinsale the clouds lifted and the sun shone. We arrived late in the afternoon and rung the B&B for instructions on where to find it having forgotten to add the address to our itinerary folder. Imagine our shock when the lady said she had no booking for us and didn’t know we were coming….’not to worry’ she said, ‘I have a vacancy anyway’. By the time we got there she admitted to having lost our booking, was really apologetic and did our washing for us to make amends. We were happy and got the best room in the place.

As it turned out Catherine was a great host and such a character. She left for Mass every morning immediately after getting our breakfast organised and each day she told us that she prayed for good weather for the golfers. We ended up calling her St Catherine because we had great golfing weather every day after that!!

Monday- Golfing at Old Head.What an amazing course set out on the cliff tops of Old Head at Kinsale. All we can say is this place has views that are just stunning – every fairway could be on a postcard and the greens were the best we have seen anywhere in Ireland. But oh my gosh the wind here is shocking. We played
Old Head Golf CourseOld Head Golf CourseOld Head Golf Course

Hole 4 - Razors edge
in 40 – 60 km per hour winds with the flag bending, our hats flying off our heads, the balls moving and the wind gusts buffeting us on the tees and the greens – but the sun was shining!!! The caddies (with the Americans – not us!) said this wind was not unusual and then told us how Phil Mickelsen and Luke Donald had played a round in the wind and the best score of the pair was 85. On one of the par 5’s Mickelsen hit driver, driver, then three wood to reach the green. So us little Aussie hackers did well today with Graham hitting 99 of the stick and Leanne had 109. On the first nine we 3 putted most holes cause they were like lightening and the wind made it really hard to putt.

Tuesday - driving day to Bray via the coast road. This was a very long day as we chose to avoid the freeway. Also called in at New Ross where we had a little excursion to the docks and visited a replica of an Irish Famine Ship. These ships took thousands of Irish people to America and Canada in the 1850's.
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View of light house from the club house
Arrived at our B&B in Bray feeling very tired. Found an awesome Italian Restaurant on the sea front.

Wednesday - Golf at the European CLub - a half hour from Bray. What an experience this turned out to be. This course was built about 20 years ago by Pat Ruddy, an Irish golf designer who decided he wanted to build his own golf course where you could paly golf for its own sake rather than be a 'gentleman's club where you do business'. There are hardly no members and in designing the course everything is understated - no sign posts, just golfers out there on the tee using a card to tell you what you are playing and 1 little post with a hole number. As a result we missed the14th hole but no matter cause this cause has 20 holes and we played 19.

His son (also called Pat) manages the place and he had was very chatty and told us a lot of things about growing up with an eccentric, impulsive and clever dad. He told us how his dad came home one afternoon and told his wife that he had sold their house. She said
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Hole 12 Courcean stage - the green is at the end of this peninsula - no wild shots here
when are we moving and he replied 'now, we have to be out tonight'. He said it was chaos packing up four kids that night but they were out.

When he decided to build the golf course the dad came home and said you kids are helping me build a golf course this summer so no school holidays - they went down to the paddock the next day and his dad turned up with a bulldozer and they started clearing the bogs and cutting the wild grass that morning. Pat told us that to this day his dad still does things like turn up with a tractor to change something on the course - Old Pat was recently offered 45 million euros for the course but to young Pat's disappointment he said no - he said he couldn't sell his dream. Young Pat was already planning to order a Porsche but his dream was gone for now!!

Next week will be our last week in Ireland and much of the week will be spent touristing in Dublin and resting before heading to Hong Kong on Friday.

Enjoy the blog and we look forward to catching up with
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Hole 12 tees - no room to overbalance
everyone when we get home in early October.

Xx Leanne and Graham

Additional photos below
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Old Head Golf Course

Note the wind blown grass - 60 kph sea breeze

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